In warmer climates recently, I got to experience a joy ride in the passenger seat of a 1964 Jaguar XKE. The cherry red convertible had racing seat belts and I almost broke my tailbone dropping into the lower-than-expected seats.
And then we pulled out of the garage.
People were waving us down at stop signs to ask the year of the model. At red lights, the car got whistles from sidewalk bystanders, like a woman in a short skirt walking by a construction sight.
When we parked in a residential neighborhood, a woman immediately came out of her house; we thought she’d tell us we were blocking her driveway, or that alternate side parking was in effect, and we’d need to move. Instead, she lightly touched the hood, as if saying hello to an old friend, and proceeded to tell us about the Jaguar her parents had when she was young.
As she waxed nostalgic on using the family car for her driver’s test when she was sixteen (and almost failing when she had trouble keeping the speed down), I couldn’t help but smile.
And it wasn’t just other people ooh’ing and ahh’ing over this little vintage number – it was me. I appreciated the smooth ride, and the satisfying growl the engine gave as we gained speed, opening it up faster, faster.
Just like pulling on a beautiful new jacket, or lacing up a pair of recently shined shoes, riding in a beautiful car felt good. Like, really, really good. My companion and I looked at each other and laughed at a stop sign, after yet another fellow driver leaned out of his own window and, nodding at the car, shouted at us, “She’s beautiful!”
No one in my family could be reasonably called a “car person.” In Wisconsin, you don’t get to have pretty things like cherry red vintage convertibles, as they have a bad habit of being buried under snow in the winter. In high school, I drove a ’92 Elantra once I got my license, the same car my brother had driven before me..just a slight upgrade from the old Dodge Shadow that my sister before him had driven into the ground before heading off to college.
I always felt, if you can get from Point A to Point B safely, if the radio works, if you have power windows…wasn’t that enough?
It was, of course, and still is, but I finally feel like I understand the “second car syndrome.” The desire to own something that’s powerful, that’s elegant, that’s a hell of a lot of fun to drive…even if it’s not all that practical. I understand the appreciation for how a beautiful car can make you feel; it really is the same as how a custom suit gives you confidence, or a new haircut makes you walk a little taller. The car just makes all those feelings a little louder.
So I suppose this is my mea culpa to all the car people out there. I get it.
Great cars are, well, pretty great.
I don’t suppose this will be the last ride I’ll take pleasure in the journey more than simply arriving at the destination.