By on September 18, 2012

She is twenty-seven or perhaps thirty-one, long-limbed and lithe with clean blond hair pulled straight back – though not in a severe way – from a fine-boned, small-nosed face. That which is not honed by either Pilates or Bikram is flattered by the lycra of her Lululemon yoga capris, the fabric caressing as it flexes. As she bends over to soothe an adorable tow-headed toddler in a six-hundred-dollar ergonomic jogging stroller, I have just one thing on my mind.

Damn.

That is a really nice stroller.

Congratulate me: I’m a new father! And so, after a bloody, protracted labour that’d make the UFC look like a competitive backrub league, my priorities have changed somewhat. I have a child now. A daughter.

It’s the oddest sensation, to hear the first cry of a child and feel the poles of your life suddenly shift; to be handed a squalling life and feel the unimaginable weight of all that potential joy and heartbreak as it falls asleep in your arms. There was a Then, but this is the Now, and no matter how many platitudes or warnings you’ve absorbed over the years, you are utterly unprepared for the emotional gut-punch.

On the other hand, some things never change. Let’s go buy her a Hot Wheels.

What better sled to go toy-car hunting in than this, the Boss 302 Mustang? TTAC loves the ‘Stang with an – ahem – unbridled passion, and the Boss is perhaps best of breed, though it would certainly be eaten alive by the how-is-this-legal Shelby.

When I was not-yet four, I went on a similar shopping expedition with my Dad, just prior to meeting my little brother for the first time. I remember agonizing over what to buy my new playmate (a tank? a bull-dozer?), finally settling on a semi-trailer dump-truck which is now safely tucked away in some dusty box of old report cards and baby shoes.

In the same hospital where my daughter will be born some thirty years later, four-year-old-me scrubs up with strawberry-scented hand soap and waits patiently to meet another small boy with whom I will spend countless hours devising sandbox highways and vinyl-floor racetracks.

If only I could travel back in time, pull that small boy version of me aside, show him a picture of the school-bus yellow Pony and say, “Guess what? You get to drive one of these eventually.”

Really though, I’d have to bring a recording along as well, because half the charm of the Boss is in the simply outstanding racket it produces, bellowing away from the side-pipes in a glorious snarl that relaxes to the throaty grumble of a jungle cat when tooling around in the lower gears. No electronic exhaust baffles. No “ActiveSoundDesign” pants-stuffing.

As much fun as I’m having driving this thing, it could be argued that playing to an audience is half the enjoyment. Kids love this car – it’s what the Pied Piper of Hammelin would drive.

Adults don’t always turn to look, wrapped up in their own concerns and worries; when they do, you might get a grin, you might get a sneer for the skittle-shaded muscle-car. Not so with anyone under the age of ten – eyes widen, jaws drop, a little girl claps her hands over her ears. When I pull up in front of Granville Island Kid’s Market, a rubber-necking boy of about six or so has to be collared by his mother before he walks into a pole.

It’s magic, magic of the sort I first felt staring into a window like this one. The Boss is good at many things, but best of all is the way in which it mentally puts you back on the sidewalk, three-foot-tall and clutching a metal, wheeled talisman in a grubby fist as it rolls by and captures your imagination.

You tend to forget this feeling, alive for only the briefest of moments; the lifespan of morning dew on a summer’s day. Later on, you might see the car as freedom from teenage angst, a way to assert your dominance over your fellow motorist on the street or racetrack, an escape from the suffocating weight of adult responsibility, a badge of worldly success. The wonder is gone, lost in the everyday fog of speed traps and traffic and depreciation and fuel-costs and all the other little voices clamouring for your attention.

I don’t find exactly what I’m looking for here, so on to the next stop.

Given the modern electronic assault on imagination, it’s heartening to find two entire walls dedicated to Hot Wheels and Matchboxes inside the Toys R Us big-box. I’ve seen an exasperated father hand his boisterous sixteen-month-old an iPhone, and watched her swipe, tap and expand her way into a YouTube clip of Cookie Monster. You’d think toy cars couldn’t compete with gizmos, and yet here they are.

Remember the joy of rummaging through the pile of discards at the bottom of the rack, or flicking through endless repeats to find to one model that you’re after? I know what I’m looking for: I saw it hanging in a grocery store display months-back, but it’s not here.

My brother got married this summer, on the deck of the house where I grew up. In the interim between the ceremony and the reception, I wandered around the grounds, bemused at the change wrought by my dad’s unending landscaping projects.

On the top of a rack he’d built for drying firewood, I found this broken, soil-packed Majorette that dad must have dug up at some point; archeological relic of my childhood. Turning it over in my hands made me realize how few of these artifacts have survived the years.

With that in mind, when I finally find the right car, I buy three, one for now, one to go on my desk as a reminder and one to be tucked away safely for the future.

And here it is.

While facebook wags were quick to inquire if the choice of a Lotus Europa was some way of preparing my daughter for failure and disappointment (and unexplained fires), nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, it’s perfect because it’s a bit odd, and bright-pink, and – as it turns out – somewhat hard to find. Special.

So too, is this machine.

By the time 2028 rolls around, it’s hard to imagine anything like it will still be around. Communal motoring, choked freeways, electronically-surveilliance (mandatory and otherwise) – it’ll be a different driving world for her.

And maybe she won’t care. Likely she’ll have learned to just tolerate her father’s idiosyncrasies, will have matured into her own person with her own passions.

This morning though, I lift her out of her bed-side crib and she opens up her eyes to smile at me, briefly, for the first time. I understand that for a short time we will share everything, but that she will gradually grow away from me; it’ll happen sooner than I can imagine.

But I also know, that sometime far off in the future, if I’m lucky, she’ll pull down a cardboard box off a shelf, perhaps fishing for an old photograph, and she’ll find this little pink car, chipped and battered by the years. As she holds it in her hand, I hope the years melt away, and she is once again wrapped in her father’s arms, snug and safe, loved and loved and loved.

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39 Comments on “Kids...”


  • avatar
    pb35

    That was an awesome piece. Congratulations on your daughter; we had twins in 2010 and I am still recovering. No place I’d rather be at 8:30 every night than reading a book to my daughter, however.

  • avatar
    dts187

    Congrats on the kid and a very well-written post. It was good to think about my time with Hot Wheels growing up. My favorite being a yellow Ferrari 365 Berlinetta.

    It’s funny you mentioned relief at seeing Hot Wheels still available and in-stock. I got the same relief when I saw the massive amount of Legos available while trying to find a birthday gift for my girlfriend’s nephews.

  • avatar
    stephenjmcn

    Congratulations Brendan. Life won’t ever be the same again – it’ll be so much better.

  • avatar
    tmkreutzer

    That was BEAUTIFUL. As one dad to another, congratulaions on the birth of your daughter. Your article captured my emotions on the birth of my first child perfectly – that combination of hope that everything will go perfectly and the fear that it could somehow go so wrong – and the fact that no mater what happens, I am responsible.

    Almost six years ago I made that same trip to the hot wheels aisle, and I have made it many times since. We go to buy one car and end up with three or four because I feel like my son’s collection really needs the Datsun 510 coupe, the Mazda RX-7 and the 67 Chevy Nova.

    Last year when my son was in kindergarten he received a homework assignment where we counted to 100. The note from the teacher suggested beans, peanuts or other small objects. We counted Hot Wheels cars – and we had plenty to spare. You are off to a good start, dad.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    This really hit home. I ponder the very same things about my eighteen month old daughter. She’s old enough to love playing with Hot Wheels now, so I think it might be time for me to live out my childhood dream vicariously through her, and build a 10,000 foot Hot Wheels track. I’ll have to call the plant to find out what the volume discount is.

    “You tend to forget this feeling, alive for only the briefest of moments; the lifespan of morning dew on a summer’s day. Later on, you might see the car as freedom from teenage angst, a way to assert your dominance over your fellow motorist on the street or racetrack, an escape from the suffocating weight of adult responsibility, a badge of worldly success. The wonder is gone, lost in the everyday fog of speed traps and traffic and depreciation and fuel-costs and all the other little voices clamouring for your attention.”

    Man, this right here. After working with cars at work all day, then working on cars all night at home, it’s really hard to get that feeling back. Like that very first hit of the drug of your choice, you yearn for the same excitement, the same feeling that used to really turn your crank. Nowadays to get that feeling, the doses of speed and power have to be bigger…and ever more expensive.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    Awww….. Baby buggy bumpers. Say it 3 times fast. :)

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Congrats on your first child Brendan ! .

    I pre date Hot Wheels by decades , I remember when Matchbox cars were made in England and actually came in little cardboard boxes….

    You needn’t ever loose ” that feeling ” ~ I’m old now but I stil have it after a lifetime of being a Mechanic by trade .

    The cool thing is : you can use your love of things Mechanical and Car , to teach your Child many important life lessons regardless if she decides to b a GearHead or not .

    My son is now not only a Professional Racer of no small skill , he’s a Trak Instrucor at Willow Sprngs and make his families daily bread by being a Mechanic , not what I’d hoped him to do but life is uncertain .

    You sound like you’re going to be a very good Daddy indeed , keep up the good works ! .

    Nate

  • avatar
    Caboose

    The picture of the Boss set off against the backdrop of identical rental smart fortwos is both ironic…and not-at-all ironic.

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    This is a great piece.

    Our little guy is two months old today and just started sleeping all night. I was fortunate that my parents never threw away anything and I recently unpacked my old Tonka Jeeps to put on the top shelf in his nursery. I look forward to taking my son to car shows and browing the toy car aisles wghen we go shopping. I have a 1967 Thundebird in the garage and would love for him to have this when he turns 16.

    I try to make the most of every moment with my son because I know how quickly time passes. Once these moments are gone we never get them back.

  • avatar
    NN

    I wasn’t expecting to be damn near brought to tears from reading something so beautiful this morning. Very well done, and congrats. Writing like this is always one of the things that makes TTAC stand far and beyond other automotive enthusiast sites. As a father of a 2 (soon to be 3) year old boy and a 15 month old girl, I can affirm many of the sentiments both in your writing and in the responses here. My son has an absolute love of cars and trucks…he can identify vehicles on the road and even loves to watch Nascar (which I don’t). I haven’t pushed such interests on him, really…at least I don’t think I have much. It seems he was just born with the same level of enthusiasm for cars as I was. He would love a Boss Mustang, for sure–especially in yellow–however, out of the cars he is regularly around, his grandpa’s Suburban is currently his favorite. He just likes it because it is so damn big, he loves to jump up and down in the front seat and pretend to drive it. It’s a sentiment that I still have for Suburbans, also. In 2025 they probably won’t be around like that anymore.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Congratulations!

    Nice find on the Europa too.

    As to the whining about not having anything like the Mustang in 28 years – yeah right. That is what they said in ’73, and ’83 and on and on. And yet cars just keep getting better overall. 28 years from now we may have Mr. Fusion powered Mustangs with 0-60 times that cause a blackout.

  • avatar
    slance66

    Congratulations Brendan. Nice piece. My daughter is now 9, and I took considerable pleasure in watching her play (and joining in) with my old Matchbox cars, and of course couldn’t resist adding a few to what became her collection. Sadly, the Hot Wheels don’t hold up.

    As for the Boss, I love it, but priorities being what they are, new dads soon realize that (1) four doors are mandatory with child seats and (2) cars that might entice you to accept greater levels of risk should be avoided. You might say, I’ll only really put the Boss to the test when alone, but you’re more critical than ever now.

  • avatar
    Tinker

    I went to Wal-Mart on a shopping run, and found that (a) Wal-Mart has an ENTIRE aisle of cars, and (b) they sell Matchbox cars at 97 cents.

    So my wife and I shop a lot more frequently at walmart for our great-grandson. He is a year old, and LOVES cars.

    Some things never change.

  • avatar
    daiheadjai

    Congratulations on your little girl!
    Incidentally, that red Renault (I think?) hatchback you have in the 3rd pic from the bottom?

    I had a black one just like that.

  • avatar
    raph

    ”Eaten alive by this-how-is-this-legal Shelby” – Oh man, don’t let your fellow Boss owners see this, they will yank your title in a hot minute.

    Usually the short answer to a Shelby is ” I’ll just throw a —> insert supercharger of choice set to 2x.xx pounds of boost <— '' and completely blow your ponderous Shelby away with my north of 800 HP and superior Boss suspension''

    To which I reply '' You really don't get what makes a Boss tick do you'' to which I add '' The road runner is a great engine, the best Ford has at the moment, but at the end of the day, your engine and car was screwed together with 444 HP in mind'''.

    Anyways congrats on the newborn, don't ever get rid of or supercharge that Boss and I hope you and your child have many happy years to look forward to.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Congrats! I did the same with my 4 year old son when my youngest was born (now 5 and 18 months, respectively). And he did pick out a Matchbox for his brother, an orange Ford Raptor. Nice choice.

  • avatar
    daviel

    Wait! She’ll want a Hello-Kitty Mustang, if she wants one at all.

  • avatar
    gessvt

    Congrats from a fellow dad. The paragraph about the Majorette R5 hit home for me. Even though my parents have moved into a condo, some of my childhood belongings are still in their new basement, and my kids love to play with them when they visit. My dad comments that I should take some of my stuff home, but remarks just as often that the Milton-Bradley Star Bird that still resides there is super cool.

    To use a cliche, don’t take anything for granted with your daughter. Especially when she’s 9 and asks for just 10 more minutes of snuggling before she goes to sleep :)

  • avatar
    chaparral

    The driving experience in 20 years will be so much different from the one we have now. It’ll be so much better.

    Hop into your new Miata. It weighs around 1200 lbs and it has a 30-horsepower electric motor driving each corner. You get around 125 miles before you have to recharge; this’ll take around half an hour. Drive it down your favorite backroad. With tandem seating, it’s half as wide as cars used to be. Your provincial government installed the equipment needed to automate driving down the freeways, which now have twice as many lanes as they used to, but the cost was too high and the conditions too variable to do it for the back ways. As you reach the end of the off ramp and stop, three beeps sound and the electric steering motor declutches, and the brake and power servos shut off. It’s all yours, and it’s better than it’s ever been.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I could only hope to be dead before being confined to such hell on earth.

    • 0 avatar
      ZoomZoom

      I think this will happen.

      In fact, I think it MUST happen because we as a society no longer care about excellence when it comes to our personal driving skills. So we will agree to automation. We will agree to give up our personal liberties. We will give in to government.

      My evidence for that can easily be seen if you stand on a busy street corner and count all the cars making a right turn in front of you. 9 of 10 drivers will have a cell phone stuck to their ear. 7 will overdrift into the other lane and 1 will bump the curb as they round the corner. I rest my case.

      • 0 avatar
        chaparral

        The freeways and certain downtown areas will be cheap relative to the traffic volume to automate. Outside of town, the variations of route and driving conditions will make it more difficult, expensive, and less worthwhile to do so.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    You’d rather drop dead than drive a 1200-lb car with 10 lbs/horsepower? Really?

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Congratulations on the birth of your daughter! Our son was born in 1979 and our daughter, 1981, so maybe a son is next for you.

    I didn’t have Hot Wheels, and although young when they came out, I never saw the appeal…but when I was a kid, I had something lots better: Lionel electric trains!

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    Congratulations Brendan. I read this article with a big smile on my face as I can draw so many parallels with what you’re going through right now. I too became a Dad to a little girl just 3 weeks ago and have found my world (and sleep patterns) turned upside down, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
    I keep two Hotwheel cars on my desk, a ’67 Shelby GT500 and ’10 Shelby GT500. While before she was born I felt a tinge of sadness that I’d probably never own either car, now, after the little one has entered my life, I really don’t care that I’ll never own a Shelby – there are some things more important than cars!

  • avatar
    sastexan

    Great piece. I realize I have let down my daughters (maybe not in my wife’s opinion) with not enough Hot Wheels / Matchbox cars. I will remedy that soon.

  • avatar
    Monty

    Congratulations Brendan! Thank you for the very moving tribute to childhood. Although I’m almost thirty years removed from the birth experience, I still remember greeting my child for the first ever time – it’s indelibly etched in my memory.

    Read to her, play with her, and let her know every single day that she’s special and loved. Your investment in those few things will pay off handsomely when she’s older. Hug her, cuddle her, and most of all, try to experience the world as seen by her. It’s a marvelous journey for the next 30 or 40 years.

    Oh, and I had a FIAT Topolino Matchbox car when I was a young lad – it was given away to other children when I outgrew such toys, and I’m glad of it. It’s why I weep at the end of Toy Story 3.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    Our daughter is 33 now, and I must say that you’ve brought back a great many memories of her early life. She is a LPN now, working online to become a registered nurse, married to a great guy who’s a firefighter. I didn’t know whether or not to look forward to becoming a father, whether I’d be any good at it or not; but when I held her in my lap a couple of hours after her birth, and she looked up at me and smiled, I was a goner – I was hers.

    In one of the early photos we’ve saved, she’s standing by the wash bucket, sponge in hand, ready to help me wash the red ’76 Cheyenne pickup. Her yellow Tonka dump truck is stored in my shop – maybe her son or daughter will want it. Her first real boyfriend was a car detailer and taught her some tricks of the trade. It’s pretty cool to lend your daughter the car and get it back with the interior completely detailed. We still have the ’84 RX7 we got her when she was sixteen.

    Brendan, thanks for this piece. I know you’ll enjoy being a father.

  • avatar
    vicali

    Congrats Brendan, great post.
    Our little guy is already turning a year old in the next few weeks, it’s crazy how fast things go!

    Fun moment; When you accidentally teach you little one that they have to make the Brrrrm-Brrrm noise whenever they push anything with wheels..

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    my two duaghters are now into their thrid decade but are of the generation who lives at home and do not like cars…. yes there is a younger generation who prefer to hug a tree and ride bicycles than wonder about the engineering skill it took to make the machine they riding/driving in.
    Congrats and the pic of the truck reminds me very much of something you will now become very aware of the roads..poor driving skills of others.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    Nice article.

    So…is there an office pool on the date you sell your Mustang to buy a 4-door Toyota or Honda?

    I choose June 15th, 2013, and I say the decision will be yours, um, “strongly encouraged” by your wife.

    Have fun being a dad.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    You know, they do make Sparco and Recaro car seats…

  • avatar
    pb35

    I have 2 Recaro car seats in the back of my Charger R/T. It’s no Boss but my 2 y.o. twins love to ride in “Daddy car!”

    You don’t have to drive a Toyota or Honda.

  • avatar
    JKC

    Congratulations on the new arrival!

  • avatar
    nrd515

    Congrats! Do anything to keep from selling the Boss. If you do, you will regret it….forever. Of course, you can try to buy another one later, but it’s not the same. A friend was under a ton of pressure to sell his restored ’70 Roadrunner when his wife got pregnant with his first kid. It was probably worth about 90K back then, and he was definitely tempted as it would have paid for 2+ new cars. He found a Chevy Tahoe to drive when everyone (two 90 pound mutts too) needed to go anywhere, and the RR stayed. His brother cracked and sold his ’69 Charger, and grinds his teeth every time he sees it driving around.


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