It’s been the strangest time in modern history. The liberties we all took for granted have been taken away and may not return for some time. A small percentage of the population is dying, but a far greater percentage will lose everything financially.
Whether we like it or not, it’s a time for introspection.
Against this historic backdrop, I welcomed a perfect son into this world during lockdown, which has been the greatest experience of my life. His name is James, which has nothing to do with a playboy Formula 1 driver from the glory days…nothing, nothing at all.
Despite this, with no ability to drive recreationally or to race at Killarney, I must admit that I’ve struggled to stay motivated the past few weeks. If anything, James’ arrival has highlighted how important my petrolhead life is to me.
I always dreamed of sharing it with a child. I can do that going forward, provided things return to normal. It’s inconceivable to think that motorsport in South Africa might not recover, or that nobody will have enough money to follow their petrolhead dreams.
On the assumption that all will be ok, I’ve embarked on a strategy of indoctrination:
All the clichés about “what really matters” come up at a time like this, for good reason.
When you face your own mortality or financial ruin, you tend to remember the things that really impacted your life both positively and negatively. Thankfully I’m facing neither currently, but my heart breaks for the millions who are. It’s sobering to realise that I could end up joining them – right now, none of us know what the next few months will hold.
So, back to what really matters.
This is one area where petrolheads are incredibly good. We are experts at chasing our dreams at almost any cost. It’s not always the smartest thing to do, but it’s better than taking your dreams to the graveyard.
Petrolheadism (if there is such a word) is a bug that bites and bites hard. One project car turns into another. Late night classifieds searches are an emotional rollercoaster that only your car mates could possibly understand. The searches usually end in misery, but we do it anyway.
Motorsport is the worst of the lot, because that’s an addiction for which there is no known cure.
Things are going to get tougher than they are today. Our budgets for fun will be under pressure like never before. For outsiders looking in, the petrolhead world is nonsensical financially.
I’m not sure this is the case, though.
Firstly, classic cars are decent investments. I acknowledge that once you consider storage and insurance costs, you can achieve better returns on the stock market (unless you’re collecting classic Ferraris in which case money is irrelevant anyway).
Importantly though, when you look back on your life, you’ll remember that you couldn’t drive your shares on a mountain pass with your friends. Classics aren’t just financial investments; they are lifestyle investments.
They also go up in value when the Rand depreciates, which is helpful. Have you seen the Rand lately…?
Secondly, business is all about who you know. Petrolheads are a tight bunch and many of them are highly successful people. It’s a terrific way to grow your network and connect with people in ways that could lead to other opportunities.
Carbs and Coffee, this very blog, is a perfect example of what happens when stupid petrolheads meet and come up with crazy ideas.
Finally, you cannot possibly hope to succeed unless you feel motivated to do so. If you have no dreams to work towards, why bother? I’m convinced that many petrolheads who made it big financially have done so because they have such a passion for this world of motorsport and incredible cars.
Having said all of that, one of the greatest things about cars is that you don’t need to be a millionaire to enjoy them. There are gorgeous machines available for reasonable prices, especially if you know what to look out for. Cars like my S2000 hold their own in any company and do so for a fraction of the price.
If you get your sums right, you can put an iconic car in the garage and run it for less than the cost of a run-of-the-mill hatchback. Those are the dreams you’ll look back on and smile.
As a community, we need to keep the passion alive through difficult times. These cars define our lives and we shouldn’t let a silly virus get in the way of that forever.
Stay safe out there. There’s light at the end of this tunnel…light, and a twisty mountain pass on a Sunday morning.