I have been writing a lot on my facebook page about the adventures of my neighbour, and his obsession with his car. I am sure people think when they see this that I cannot understand the relationship between a man and his car. Au contraire, I understand the appeal and fun that cars can actually be. I don’t understand my neighbour who spends hours on end waxing his car, touching his car, and so forth. He went out this week in 35C weather (42 with the humidity) to wax his car, then the next day at 31C and the next at 27C. He doesn’t drive it much, he touches it.
But enough about his obsessive compulsive acts. More about cars.
I don’t actually own car at present, but have had one, a lovely 1981 Mercury Capri. I loved that car, it had removable roof windows, and a straight six engine. It was lovely. But cars and I go back way further than that. I grew up in a household that was quite honestly car mad. I will start with my parents.
Here is a picture of my mother with her car and her mom’s dog. I have quite a few pictures from a scrapbook that she kept with images of car rallies, hill climbs and social occasions around cars, which she went to when she was living in England. Now my dad was even more car mad than mom.
There are few pictures in existence of my father as a child. Mostly because he made sure that they weren’t kept after his parents died. Fortunately there are a few in the hands of other relatives, and they show dad playing around adult cars, and with a large toy car as well. Dad loved cars, and as soon as he was able, he had his own, and joined a car club. Mom’s first date with my dad was a car rally. They acted as a checkpoint, and then went to dinner after the event. Romance bloomed in the car.
Growing up my parents were members of the FIAT auto club of Ottawa, and then the Motorsport Club of Ottawa. They even served as president and editor of their newsletter. I have vivid memories of spending weekends at rallies, or at slaloms (held on the parking lot of St Laurent Shopping Centre). In the winter there was also ice racing. Cars played an important role in their social lives, and as a result, in my childhood.
I loved cars when I was a kid, and was so excited when I had the opportunity to get my learner’s permit when I was 13. Thing is I failed the test. There was a lot of disappointment in the house after that. Dad was upset the most I think, reflecting on his inate car relationship, which he was sure he passed on in equal measure to both children. When my brother turned 13 the next year we both took the test, and he passed it. I did not. My dad was heard to utter: “at least the trip wasn’t wasted.” And that is when I decided that cars weren’t my thing. I was a rebel without a car!
In high school my brother was able to borrow mom’s Renault 5L and he drove it to school all the time. I took the bus. In 1987 he got a job and bought a Triumph. My dad was so proud.
Two years later I was told at my work that if I wanted to be in management I needed a driver’s license and a car. So I went and passed the test, took lessons and got a car. My Capri. I was a traitor still to the family tradition, it was an automatic. But it was a car, and dad was pleased.
Here is the thing, cars were fun, they were meant to be taken out, and driven. They were the key to holidays, long drives to the maritimes, to New England. When we visited family in England, dad always rented a car too. They were opportunities to socialise, to go and meet with other enthusiasts, lift the hoods and make suitably impressed noises. They were cleaned, sure, but only when they were dirty.