Not everyone really loves cars, of course. Young techies seem to prefer a combination of the latest tech devices, their dogs and their bicycles. Older people tend to view cars in a more utilitarian way, something that will get them to where they need to be, giving them mobility at an age when their parents might have been housebound.
As for me, I grew up in a time of Corvettes and tail fins, endless chrome and a new model every year. New colors, silhouettes and especially gadgets. Imagine a car that will automatically turn on and off the high beams! When we were old enough to drive, cars gave us a new and exalted sense of freedom and independence, albeit briefly. Somehow masculinity and cars were bound together, even if the cars we were driving were our mothers’.
I distinctly remember my grandmother (who raised daughters and was astounded to find herself with grandsons; she was really a good sport about it when she wasn’t trying to instill some culture into us), taking me, age 12, to the Seattle Auto Show. The Pontiac salesman (who didn’t call her Little Lady but just about) was touting the advantages of its wide track and pointing out that whenever she drove down a dirt road, she would have greater stability. I burst out, “Dirt road? My grandmother, the fashion plate? She’ll never drive down anything unpaved. Ever.” My grandmother, ever the lady, shushed me for interrupting an adult.
Cars inspired a lot of passion in me then, and still do.
So how could I not be excited to go to the North American International Auto Show in chilly Detroit a few weeks ago? I went with a product manager from one of my organizational consulting clients, a manufacturer of car components. I got to see the show through his eyes as well as my own, sussing out the competition, looking for quality and innovations. He pointed to a part of a car (the same one he had disdainfully dismissed on other cars) and said, “Take a look at that. It’s mine and it’s good.”
I wasn’t exactly jumping up and down visibly, but the kid in me definitely emerged as we toured the show floor. I suddenly remembered lying on my stomach on the living room floor on a rainy Seattle Sunday, a kid pouring through car magazines and automotive want ads. The stuff of dreams.
I now live in an area where you’ve never seen so many Corvettes, new ones and beautifully restored vintage ones. All of those men who yearned for a Corvette for all those years and, now that their kids are all raised and gone, finally can afford one. Many of them are in my age group, still big boys who grew up dreaming of cars as so much more than transportation.