By Damion Smy
Your opinion on shoes is not valid. Your opinion on washing machines hardly respected. Your political views silently opposed as smiling faces around you superficially agree. Yet everyone has an opinion on cars – for better or for worse – and while this can cause arguments, fractious relationships and clandestine societies, we can all rejoice in one common thing: the car is an invaluable source of identity, community and pleasure.
As we reach 2020, with all the talk of autonomous vehicles (they’re days away, you know) and electric cars, we’re at an amazing time in the history of the automobile. There are the Tesla faithful who see Elon as a deity (the same way Sir Alec Issigonis, or Ferdinand Porsche (who actually created the electric hybrid) are held up by many), his products innovative and verging on perfection, and as owners/drivers themselves part of an automotive paradigm shift.
They’re the segmentation of ‘traditional automakers’ that simply can’t keep up with Tesla, despite the company not turning a profit or with its making any significant change in the life of the common man who cannot afford Tesla entry. They’re at loggerheads with some traditional enthusiasts – the ones who wouldn’t dare criticise a Porsche 911 in the same way a Tesla-dite is blind to any imperfection or meagre criticism of a Model-next. Yet step back from both sides, and there’s a common passion here: passion for the automobile. Whether you’re flat-six, lithium-ion, rotary, V8 – the love for cars, and the pure enjoyment derived from them, is universal.
Spannering an old E-Type in a shed, spending hours on a minor detail that brings with it levels of satisfaction, accomplishment and pride is no different to the joy of plugging in an EV – be it Leaf, Zoe, Bolt or Focus – and moving you from place to place in comfort and ease with no emissions.
In Australian car culture, it used to be home-grown V8 versus Japanese; Summernats in the 90s would never have allowed a Datsun 1600 to take the Grand Champion title like one did in 20XX. Yet there’s the joy, the person, the life of the car. These are not pieces of metal, glass and plastic: cars are almost human; they have personas, spirits and even personalities between them. They symbolise a past version of oneself, represent a lost love or shine a light on youth now lost. They evoke a freedom, an individualism lost in a society of conformity and alienation like no other product – not even a smartphone.
So rejoice in Tesla. Rejoice in Ford Raptors. Rejoice in JDM Supras and BMW i3s; love the 911 and admire a Vel Satis, knowing that what your flavor of vehicle means to you is what another means to someone else. And that love is something that can be shared between ‘communities’ by simply going for a drive: whatever is attached to the steering wheel your hands are clasping, it’s why cars like 911s are built. No-one needs a car that’s any better than what currently exists but we will push for more, desire something that reflects our personality and our changing lives. So buy that Citroen DS. Book that track day. Bid on that E30 BMW at auction. Buy that last Aussie-made sedan. Because it’s more than a mere ‘car’. It’s what it means to you, and no-one else. That’s the utterly unrivalled joy of cars.