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Smells Like Cars

By Edited Feb 12, 2016 1 0
power car
Credit: self

It’s springtime in Vancouver, and that means one thing to me; cars, cars, cars! I’m hard-pressed to think of anything I don’t appreciate about cars. In fact, I bet I could make a list of a hundred things I love about cars. 

Driving

I didn’t fall passionately in love with driving the first time I tried it. I tried to convince my parents that I was just going to ride a bike or use public transit to get around. My mother wasn’t having any of it and one night on a country road when I was almost sixteen she said, “Do you want to drive?” I hemmed and hawed a little, but I climbed in. That first sensation of being in control of something much more powerful than me was intoxicating, even at 15mph on a deserted country road.

Can you hear it?

I thought of creating a bumper sticker that says, “Unless I can hear your car, I don’t want to see it.” Sorry electric cars, but it’s exhilarating to hear eight cylinders roaring past me. I can’t imagine going to a drag strip without the squeal of tires and the guttural growl from a super-charged engine, the kind that shakes your body with sound waves so loud you have to cover your ears, or it will blow out your eardrums.

Hand me a flat head

I was my father’s little buddy growing up, so I naturally was the go-fer when he was in the garage fixing one of the family cars. I spent countless hours learning to read the mind of my dad and present him with the tool, just as he needed it. We didn’t talk much, but I learned my way around an engine, and I learned how to connect with my dad.

Look at me

curb appeal
There are all kinds of cars; grocery getters, race cars, police cars, taxis, etc. Cars can be engineered and whittled down that they become all function without form. I love unique cars, which have “curb appeal,” that’s when you park your car, and even though it’s standing still it looks alive, like it can’t wait to go for another drive. The cars parked beside it pale in comparison, and other drivers look at you with a touch of envy as they close the trunk to their minivan.

What is that smell?

The smell of a car tells a story, that’s why you will find me at a summer drive-in smelling the

blue car
interior instead of drooling over the engine (although that comes later). Cars that have lived some life have a mix of age, worn leather, cleaning solutions, and sometimes mildew or rust. All those odors combine to give life to the personality of a car. I wish they made a car air freshener that captures the scent of a mechanic's garage, it smells like heaven to me.

Make the shift

the gut
I bought my first manual car when I was in my mid-twenties because I was terribly embarrassed that I didn’t know how to drive one. I exchanged my little Geo Metro for a slightly larger Civic hatchback. My brother-in-law kindly offered to teach me how to navigate my new machine and took me to an empty school parking lot. I killed the engine several times and felt the eyes of anyone who happened by, then I had to drive home. Horror of horrors I was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the freeway on a Saturday afternoon. I learned quick to find the sweet spot to engage first gear and made it home feeling like a champion.

Windows

truck
The windows in my current car are powered by electric and while I appreciate the convenience, I sometimes miss the visceral feeling of rolling a window up or down. In my father’s old Chevy truck, there is no air conditioning and hot, black leather seats. We would travel back and forth between southern and eastern Washington during the summer to visit family, and it would get so scorching that you would sweat through your shirt. When this happened, my dad would tell us to lean forward, and he would angle his pillar vent window and a strong gust of wind cooled us off. Windows on older cars are essentially works of art, the way they curve and hug the contours of the body. They don’t make them like that anymore.

Treasure hunting

“I’m going to the junkyard,” my dad would say, “Take one of the kids,” my mom would respond. I was usually the lucky one chosen to go with my dad to the junkyard because before he pulled out of the driveway, I would be asleep. As an adult, I have pawed through the relics in junkyards for a bumper, head lights, and tons of other things to improve my own rig. It’s almost what I think grave robbing must be like except at a junkyard I pay for the privilege of fumbling through objects from the past.

I am better than you

corvette
There is nothing more fun than car rivalries, whether it’s imports vs. domestic, old vs. new, or domestic vs. domestic. My personal rivalry I pay attention to is the Corvette versus the Viper. I fall on the side of the Corvette because of the history, and the fact that it’s the original sports car of America, in my opinion, anyway. It’s so fun to see how people will modify or decline to modify their cars to be the best.

Okay, so I didn’t even get close to one-hundred reasons why I love cars, but I want to hear from you now. Do you have a car in your past or present that you’re embarrassed by? What was the first car you ever drove and who taught you? Let me know in a comment below and give this article a thumbs up!

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