By on April 28, 2013

Though it was only 6 pm, it was already dark out. The fall sent shivers to the Southern Hemisphere, and I ventured out to procure bread for my family. I got to the bakery shop, facing a small dilemma. All the parking on the bakery´s side of the street was taken. I drove around the block and parked on the other side. It’s a narrow two-way street and buses pass all the time, making it difficult for two cars passing at once. I worried about somebody hitting my car or smashing my side mirror. So I thought about it a minute and left the lights on when I exited the car, hoping that would be enough to alert our modern-day semi-comatose drivers. And that my friends is what makes me an enthusiast.

In an era of ubiquitous radars, crushing insurance for anything slightly sporting and obnoxious rice racers and ultimate car douche-bags, enthusiasm is not what it once was. I believe that enthusiasm nowadays is evidenced by thinking of your car. Granting it half a second of our overstretched attention. When I go to the mall, I inevitably bore my wife by driving around for a while looking for that “safe” space. One that affords my car some room to escape dings and scratches. Parking as close as possible to a column is part of my strategy. The other is avoiding mommy mobiles as the fairer sex is not known for respecting the doors of the cars parked next to them.

I also wash my car from time to time. I like to keep it neat and never leave anything in the trunk. I firmly believe a trunk is for the temporary transportation of objects and not an extra closet to store your excess junk ad infinitum. You wouldn’t believe my brother’s cars for example. Not only do they go dirty for weeks at a time, but pop his trunk and you’ll find old socks, tennis balls and rackets, stethoscopes, two-liter plastic soda bottles. The car of course has no feelings and is not offended, but such behavior is proof that he is not an enthusiast. It shows he doesn’t spare a thought to his cars.

I could go on (I get out of the car to watch over the gas attendant’s indifferent work instead of lazily sitting in the car), but my point is made. Modern enthusiasm is not about zero to 60 times, top speed or even engine size. It’s more about how the car fits into your life. How it makes you feel. Whether or not it gives you what you want from it. From sublime handling to icy perfection and boring, eternal reliability, whatever idiosyncratically rocks your boat.

In this vein, modern enthusiasm encompasses anything from the poster child of bland, the Toyota Corolla, to the epitome of cool, the Citroën 2CV. If you spare your car a half of second of thought throughout the situations you face going about your business, then my friend you are an enthusiast.

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134 Comments on “What Makes An Enthusiast These Days...”


  • avatar
    JT

    “Modern enthusiasm is not about zero to 60 times, top speed or even engine size. It’s more about how the car fits into your life. How it makes you feel. Whether or not it gives you what you want from it…”

    And the congregation says, “Amen.”

  • avatar
    motormouth

    Beyond the tips for preservation and general maintenance (call me a show off, but I have a little button that I can use to fold the door mirrors), I would say that the modern motoring enthusiast is further noticeable by their keen interest in what company makes the models they encounter, whether driving, walking or riding a bike. Rare is the day that I see a car that I cannot instantly name and while that’s judged to be geeky by some, such interest in what’s going by also helps as a basic accident avoidance tool.

    That said, for the amount of people that can drive, I am shocked by the number of people that don’t give a shit about what car they have or what anyone else has. I bet there’s a formula for the interest level in cars and how that is proportional to their driving skill, but that’s for another thread.

    • 0 avatar
      cargogh

      While shocking at how little most know, or care, about cars, it is equally rewarding to run across those who know as much or more than I. A few years ago, I had a helper that while 15 years my junior, was amazingly knowledgable about models. Every day on the way to work we were like kids playing I Spy. Like many of whom I consider enthusiasts, he had owned a plethora of beaters, including several with manuals, and would always offer to drive.

      I agree that it is safer to be able to recognize cars around me. On the interstate, a quick mental inventory of what’s on either side and in the rear view mirror is very handy. If a certain vehicle is out of view a moment earlier, I know it is probably in a blind spot very near me at speed. This is much more useful than the fleeting notion of “Oh, I thought there was 2 red cars behind me.” Not only for location, but knowing the vehicle and its characteristics is helpful. If I’m about to go left to pass, but something is approaching that is very fast, I’ll wait until it goes by. In the old days when the discrepancies were of a greater range of 0-60 than today’s 4.5-11.5, or braking distances not in the same field, this was valuable. Like having a Yugo in front in the fast lane coming up on a hill, or a Chevy Citation behind you at 70 approaching a stop in the rain.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Well, the subject of cars may not be interesting to someone, but s/he should know the make and model of his/her own car. Likewise, s/he should know that cars are not maintenance-free appliances. (“Oh, I was supposed to change the motor oil? But I thought it was a Honda…”)

  • avatar

    Marcelo, your prose puts many English speakers to shame.

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      Quite right.

      My grandfather spoke four languages, including Latin, German and Greek.

      Nowadays, it’s getting difficult to find Americans who speak proper grammatical English.

      But back on topic.

      I keep my car devoid of loose objects. A few items in the glove compartment and an atlas in the seat back pocket (yes, I AM that much of a Luddite) because I hate stuff rolling around while I go through turns. There’s nothing in the trunk but the spare, and it’s properly secured.

      My family, on the other hand, goes the Giant Mobile Junk Drawer route. Stray papers, fast food wrappers, jackets, shoes, receipts, water bottles – stuff that actually falls out when you open the door.

      I simply don’t understand it.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I’m definitely enthusiastic about my car…but the trouble with a 1500 dollar “beater” is lots of problems and little money to fix them.

    If I actually had the cash, I’d be doing all sorts of things to the car. Intake swap from a ’99-03 3100, throttle body swap from a 3400, new larger wheels and tires…just some little things that would make the car better without going completely insane.

    (car is a 1995 Buick Skylark with 3100 V6)

    • 0 avatar

      Hey!

      I don’t think it’s really about money. It’s doing the best you can without going all freaky. Once I was in the shop changing the badges on my (then) relatively new car, but had not withheld against the Brazilian sun. As I’m waiting for the guy to glue my new badges on, in comes a guy with a very beat up Ford DelRey. The car was very clean though banged up and the man was changing the badges just like I was. I bet 95% of people out there would think the guy crazy for doing that on such an old car. I however, felt a sort of kindred spirit for the guy and was rather proud for him. Here’s a guy, with a car with practically no value sweating something so small. I think he had pride in his ride and I can relate.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Oh, I do everything I can for my car with what I’ve got. Oil changes, air filter changes, taking note of what’s acting up for a future trip to the family mechanic…

        I genuinely care about my car and always feel bad if I go over a curb or ram into a pothole.

        But I just can’t help but want to make it a little more me-oriented…

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        I agree. How someone keeps their stuff impresses me way more than anything else.

        I sometimes see older cars that were cheap to buy but studiously maintained, and my day gets better. I sometimes see BMWs, and my day gets worse about 60 seconds later when the driver tries to boldly merge where no man has merged before. I respect the maintain-a-beater people much better, and would probably rather have a beer with them.

        • 0 avatar

          Hey Luke42! So true, so true! Just this week I saw a Fiat 147 on the road. It has to be almost 30 yrs old now. First impression was that it was in mint condition. Made me happy. I pointed it out to my Dad who was riding with me. He took an interest but was not nearly as enthused as I was. Oh well.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          I sound like a total infant when I say I can’t have a beer with anyone for three months!

          But I’m not your usual college age guy with a car, I would never bolt on a fart can or put in a “boomin’” stereo system. Though my Buick’s exhaust note is so quiet that the hard of hearing can’t actually hear the engine idling…this is why I like the 3800 cars, that engine has a nice rasp to it.

  • avatar
    JD23

    Completely agree with this column. An enthusiast is defined more by how he treats the car that he drives than by the type of car that he drives. Being knowledgeable about cars, maintaining a vehicle properly, and generally respecting his vehicle and those of other drivers is what differentiates an enthusiast from the hordes of indifferent drivers.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      JD23….+1

    • 0 avatar

      JD23, I second Mikey’s motion.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Totally agree. My 2012 Impala LTZ isn’t exactly an enthusiast’s dream, according to many TTAC commenters, but I love the thing just as much as my old 2004 Impala.

      I must say it’s a powerhouse and handles very well, so perhaps in LTZ trim, these are being overlooked and unfairly dismissed?

      I have added a customized touch by adding “IMPALA” and the emblem to the front doors a couple of inches below the rub strip, and that really sets my vehicle apart from all others. The nice added pinstripe doesn’t hurt a bit, either. As mine is Ashen Gray in color certainly helps in the appearance dept.

      What I DON’T do is add stick-on portholes, vents, pillar chrome and other such stuff that, except in VERY RARE cases, cheapens a vehicle rather than enhances it, but that’s merely my opinion.

      Oh yes… I keep my vehicle garaged and CLEAN! I also take good care of wifey’s 2002 CR-V, too.

      • 0 avatar
        JD23

        We all have different preferences for vehicles, but I respect anyone who cares for and maintains their car. We should be careful not to judge those who do not drive a vehicle that falls outside of a narrowly defined definition of what an enthusiast should drive.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        After they tried to give my rather large father a Chevrolet Spark, he ended up with a 2012 Chevrolet Impala LTZ, which was pretty nice.

        • 0 avatar
          mikey

          I bought a 2009 LTZ,with my retirement package from GM. At the time I truly believed that GM was going belly up. Figured I’d be driving it the rest of my life. I kept that Impala perfect. All detailed,it looked great.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      So say we all.

  • avatar

    Mommy-mobiles ? Yes, we have our share of dinged up late model Siennas here, but….

    The most egregious ding I ever got was from a guy, parked next to my car, who leaned on his door while strapping precious into a car seat. The pointy end of his door was on my quarter panel. Worst was he was a fellow dad from Cub Scouts. That I had a flawlessly polished up nice car and his Corolla had many dings (he appeared consistently clueless) was probably not the reason.

    No, I wasn’t taking up two spaces.

    The other major ding was an older woman, friend of the wife, who again leaned into the door to get something. I’d parked at the far end of the lot that day just to avoid such an event. (Yes, I too am a selective parker, which is why I have two dings in ten years.)

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      Ever see that old commercial where the nice new car is parked out in the middle of the great asphalt plain, and the old smoking beater deliberately pulls in too close next to it?

      I think it was for Advance Auto or one of the other car chains.

      More properly, that ad should’ve shown a nicely restored Chevelle or Dart sitting there minding it’s own business, and a dented, filthy Caravan sidles up alongside it, too close.

      Painful to watch, but more accurate.

    • 0 avatar

      Very thin ice here, but my very personal observations on “cars not to park next to”: anything German, anything very dirty, company cars, cars with baby seats, old people’s cars, minivans.

      It sucks to be me. It’s very difficult to find a place to park!

      • 0 avatar
        Carrera

        If I can help it, I like to park away from any two door cars. Most American 2 doors are the worst offenders. When one opens the door, past a certain point, the door just springs out with great force. I never park near previous generation Cameros. Their doors are “deadly”. I think Mustangs are the same, but Cameros really can do some damage to your doors.
        I also like to park where the chance of damage is only 50% where on one side of the car there’s a natural barrier (curb, hedges, etc).
        Of course the wife thinks I am crazy…

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        I have similar parking habits to you, Marcelo, that my wife occasionally mocks. I’m always looking for a worthy parking space.

        However, I’d posit that minivans actually aren’t bad to park next to most of the time. A sliding door (often power-operated these days) means that no kid is opening his/her door into your car.

        I cringe every time I let my cousin ride in my car. Inevitably, the guy opens the door into a concrete post or another car. But then again, the role modeling — you should see his dad’s car; it would put your brother’s to shame.

  • avatar
    AJ

    This reminds me of going to a Mopar car show at the Walter P. Chrysler museum where there were a lot of classic muscle cars on display, and a lot of people walking around them, talking… it was a big deal! Then off on the side, there were about a dozen shined up Neons… without anyone around.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m interested in practically anything. If I had been there, I’d would’ve first checked out the muscle cars, of course, but I would’ve checked out the Neons too. I always thought Neons look very nice (though the later Daimler ones look bad in comparison).

  • avatar
    slow kills

    My utter apathy regarding my car’s appearance must mean I’m more of a driving enthusiast than a car enthusiast.

    Any knowledge regarding specifications,maintenance, performance is indicative of an enthusiast nowadays. If you don’t know the engine displacement, you fail.

  • avatar
    racer193

    I disagree that your bothers car has no feelings!…. The car will show him how it feels one morning while running late as it sputters and coasts to the side of the road leaving him really late. I like to believe that most vehicles have a soul and know when being neglected and counter this treatment accordingly. At least my cars always seem to, even when only slightly mistreated.

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      Whenever I hit a really bad pothole I blurt out “Sorry!” to my car.

      Because, cars are people, too.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        @Summicron
        Wow! its comforting to know I’m not the only one.

      • 0 avatar

        Hey Mikey, Summicron!

        Though I don’t apologize to the car, I always curse myself a little for being so inept!

        I’m honored to have the king of Wisconsin and the man-who-realy-knows-what’s-it-all-about-from-the-inside reading my stuff!

        • 0 avatar

          Oi Marcello!

          Maybe just my head playing tricks but the car feels somehow different after a good wax and detail job, he knows!! ;-)

          On the parking spot issue, I do the same… Try to avoid those 2 door germans and mommymobiles, also try to stay away form anything that has the stucco look, after many days without a proper wash and with dinged bumpers or doors.

          I almost grieved for days when my usual passenger opened the door and a truck pinched it, not a biggie but the 307 was completly unscratched!
          Now, I know he has that repaired dent.

          Marcello this one is one of the best articles you have written so far, parabéns meu amigo!
          Grande abraço!

    • 0 avatar

      racer193,

      You know what, my brother has paid. Once he had drunk too much and I took the wheel of his top-of-the-line first gen Ford Focus Ghia (a very expensive car in Brazil, my brother has money). A dream car for me. Driving it, I noticed the car was braking badly and mentioned it to my brother. He said something like, yeah, I have to change the tires, they’re a little bald, but I don’t have the time, it’s a pain yadda-yadda-yadda. A week later he crashed into the back of another car…

      Yet his attitude never changes. I guess he just doesn’t care enough.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      As odd as I feel believing the notion of cars having souls, I’ve dealt with enough cars to know that some wouldn’t mind being your most loyal friend while others want you dead, not to mention that all of these cars have had unexplainable minor quirks.

      Then theres the few stories online of cars doing completley weird things.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    I believe the thought process when driving helps to define an enthusiast. My dear wife could care less that the valve timing is being changed as she drives, while I listen to ascertain when it alters the tenor of the motor. I’m not the hard-core driver I once was, as anything that took power away from the third member was the enemy. Air conditioning, power steering, automatic transmission, etc. I have driven my last manual steered car for this life, yet I still define myself as a gearhead. Also, I am more hands-on these days, as retirement allows me the luxury (curse?) of time to maintain my cars from stem to stern. And, don’t real grease monkeys of all ages sometimes attempt a car task that sometimes exceeds their ability? I especially remember each and every time I had to sheepishly take my latest project to the local car savant with carefully labeled pieces and most humiliating, propelled by towtruck. That is enthusiasm to me.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    I would like to think my enthusiast leanings sets me apart in my career field – selling cars. Believe it or not, most car salesmen are the most apathetic, disconnected group of people you’ll ever meet. Not only do they have no knowledge of what they’re selling (can’t fault a person for sheer ignorance; I learn new things every day), they have absolutely no INTEREST. Its all metal and numbers and back-end and points and gross. Couldn’t care less if the paperwork on their desk is for a F430 or an F150. And to this day, I cannot comprehend working in an industry of which you have absolutely…zero…passion.

    I know that my ‘car nerd’ is reflected in what I buy when I get the chance – an ’80 450SEL roadster, a late-model SAAB 9-3 with a 6-speed, an Envoy XUV, a Maxima with some weird option package – cars that otherwise make no sense to the average ‘used car guy’ jump out at me because I knew there is someone else out there who knows about that car and wants it. I remember buying a Saturn SL2 because it was low-mileage and had black badging. I paid up for it, too. “Why would you buy that?” everyone asked. I thought it was a Homecoming Edition car, verified it was, listed it as such, and a guy flew down from Virginia because he wanted THAT car.

  • avatar
    Summicron

    The way many women will drop everything and circle around someone’s new baby… that’s me around a new car; mine or anyone else’s.

    It’s a slice off the sausage of Human Progress.

    That 2CV is so totally “me”. Needs rear splashguards, though.

  • avatar

    Mercedes used to have a function where, once you turned off your car, you could push the turn signal to one side and it would leave a dim light on that side to warn drivers in narrow streets. Not sure if they still have it, but I used it only sparingly when I had MBs for fear it would deplete the battery.

    Marcelo – what do you drive down there in Brazil?

    • 0 avatar

      That kind of stuff is what used to make Mercedes enthusiasts!

      I did it in this case ’cause it was going to be an in-and-out deal at the bakery. If I were staying longer than say, 15 minutes, I wouldn’t have done it either. But your thinking it through shows me you are an enthusiast. You thought about what was best for the situation, didn’t go about your business mindlessly like most people would.

      Nowadays I have a Ford Ka. Search on TTAC and you’ll see why I have it. I like it. I like small cars. I like American, French and Italian cars. That’s me in a nutshell.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      I believe that, as of at least a few years ago and possibly still today, at least some Mercedes still had this feature. The way I’ve seen it implemented was with a setting on the rotary light knob on the dash, not with the turn signal stalk (not that I’m claiming that didn’t exist).

      • 0 avatar

        Fiats in Brazil at least have a similar feature. You can tell if a guy is an enthusiast if he knows about it. 99 out of 100 Fiat owners have no idea what that funny plastic ridge on the ignition is for. Chances are that if they ever hit upon said protuberance, they’ll shrug it off as “typical Fiat bad finishing”.

        I guess we are the crazy ones for knowing such things…

    • 0 avatar
      Beerboy12

      I think most German cars had that, well Audi did anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      If a newer Benz has that feature its probably incorporated in to the touch screen.

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    Ah, I story I can truly relate to!

    Several months ago I found sitting in the rear of a Toyota dealer’s used car lot a twelve year old Oldsmobile Alero. It was obviously very used, but it spoke to me, and so I bought it.

    It was scratched up, had a sagging headliner, cigarette burns everywhere, broken lamps and electrical issues.

    I brought the car home and realized that the car still had tons of potential. I have fixed most of the issues, replaced some of the burned upholstery, took care of the headliner, got the smoke smell out and this week it is going in to have most of the scratches professionally buffed out.

    It bugs me to no end that the girl that owned it obviously did not care about trying to care for it. I saw it as something that needed rescued. I stopped by the dealer last month with it and the salesman couldn’t believe how much love and work I had put into it.

    In June I am planning on taking it to Lansing, MI to the Oldsmobile Homecoming.

    It’s not perfect, but I like it, and it makes me happy. I think I qualify as an Enthusiast.

    -Richard

    • 0 avatar
      olddavid

      You, sir, define the term. Seeing the jewel through the flaws is not a quality everyone can claim. The journey to the Olds homecoming is the final chapter of your reclamation project. My hat is off to you. Perhaps your trip is chronicled on some blog? Like the Mustang project over on ABlog?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      A 50s yinzer couple in my building has a Final 500 Alero that’s starting to look like the one you described. I often turn my head when I see it hoping to see a “For Sale” sign on it.

      • 0 avatar
        supremebrougham

        I would love to have a Final 500. Every once in a while I see one for sale online, but they are always way too far for me to go and see. It’s probably for the best as I would get too excited and spend way too much to acquire it…

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    We all know what makes an enthusiast, the definitions are clear and as individual as each one of us. My thoughts often go to what makes a non-enthusiast tick. How can something as significant as the automobile be regarded with the same enthusiasm normally reserved for our refrigerators? How can our second biggest financial commitment be treated with indifference? They leave the house each day clean and dressed appropriately for the work day ahead because they known it’s important to project a certain image compatible with their positions in work and society, then get into their dirty disheveled “appliances” never thinking it too reflects the driver much like a suit of clothes. These people intrigue me to no end, but the one thing I absolutely cannot wrap my mind around are people (mostly women)who when they put a key in the ignition and start the car their knowledge of the automobile and all it’s intricate workings ends there. No knowledge of how an internal combustion engine works or how a transmission shifts gears,nothing. It moves, but they don’t know or care why.(scratches head) These “anti-enthusiasts” are the ones who I wonder most about

    • 0 avatar

      Hey lie2me,

      I had never thought about it that way, but that’s very true. Maybe they think about their cars like I think about my clothes. A half a millisecond before going off to do whatever I’m doing that day…

      • 0 avatar
        Summicron

        “like I think about my clothes. A half a millisecond before going off to do whatever I’m doing that day…”

        Brother!
        Clothes are just for keeping you warm in the winter and avoiding arrest the remainder of the year.

        • 0 avatar

          Lol!

          • 0 avatar
            Yoss

            Though my tastes tend to run counter to a lot of what I see at TTAC I still consider myself an enthusiast. You wouldn’t know it to look at my daily driver though, a ’99 Escort I bought 12 years ago during college. The exterior is pretty thoroughly thrashed thanks to the carelessness of others. The interior is looking pretty shabby too. Hey it’s a cheap car. I’d get rid of it, but it continues to be reliable and run disgustingly well. All I’ve ever done is fluids, filters and common wear items.

            I put the love and attention into my older vehicles I don’t drive all the time. Most new cars utterly fail to excite me. That’s just as well. I don’t think I could stand having something for my daily driver that I was actually proud of. Watching it acquire all the inevitable dents and scratches would just be too maddening.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      I certainly cannot identify with them but I understand the mentality. The anti-enthusiast considers their car as just another appliance, with everything the word implies. Like their washer, computer, or coffeemaker. What makes it tick is of no interest to them until it stops ticking. If it performs its intended function, that’s good enough. They don’t think of washing it any more than they would consider washing the subway car or the bus they may ride in. Their dress is important because coworkers and clients will naturally see that, but the car is anonymously sitting in a parking lot (hopefully never used to transport said coworkers and clients).

      This is the inverse of the phenomena in which a low income person buys the flashiest ride he can wangle for the reason that all of his friends and neighbors know he’s as broke as they are, but to strangers on the street he looks like a high roller.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    It constantly amazes my wife that I am willing to spend my money on a 22 yo truck and actually trust it on the road. It has never stranded me and the only problem is the yearly smog test that will last for another three years.

    I’m not sure I am an enthusiast for that reason but I am a nut to know what I can about cars. Being from another generation makes me have different tastes from most of you. Doesn’t matter, I enjoy hearing what you say.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Enthusiast = one who is excited

    My enthusiasm runs to just about all things mechanical. Just found out my parents are moving out of the country and into town this summer, selling the house I grew up in. I’ve been talking to Dad about his 67 Mustang but now I’m eying his 1973 John Deere 112 too! (Do I need a garden tractor? No! But hey it was the first thing I ever “drove.”)

  • avatar
    GST

    Great observation and writing! Thank you.

    I wonder if the people who get their cars cleaned up and customized on “Pimp my Ride” become enthusiasts?

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    The right editorial at the right time and the right place.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    A lot of so-called enthusiasts are “Stick-Shift Snobs”, having a manual transmission vehicle does not make one more of an enthusiast than the owner of an automatic. A true enthusiast prefers some, but appreciates all types of vehicles.

    • 0 avatar

      Hahaha! So true!

      Your “stick-shift snobs” reminds me of the BWD apologists. Or the diesel, brown wagon Shiites. There’s space for everybody!

    • 0 avatar
      Beerboy12

      So if the vast majority of enthusiasts prefer stick shift, is that not telling you something? As a “stick shift snob” I can appreciate, along with many other enthusiasts, a good auto box car. It is a luxury after all and that would mean that mostly snobs want automatics but I digress.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Great writing Marcelo. I own three cars,and my wife no longer drives. A six auto. Mustang convert,a fire breathing 2SS Camaro 6 speed, and a 2dr Cobalt. All three get lavished with TLC.

    My adult children are always on my case to sell one. I don’t golf anymore, I don’t have a boat,a cottage, or a camper. As matter of fact,due to other issues, I hardly drive anymore.

    Sometimes I feel sorry for myself. For therapy nothing beats washing,waxing and detailing my fleet. Other times we will pick a car and go for a 50 mile drive.
    All the Valium in the world doesn’t fix my stress as much as playing with my cars.

    When driving a Cobalt makes me feel good,I guess you could call me an enthusiast.

  • avatar
    BobAsh

    While I agree that caring for your car may be a sign of enthusiasm (or OCD), I strongly disagree with the notion that it is true the other way around. Case in point – the old 1988 Chevy Caprice I used to have.

    I’m pretty sure that driving 20 year-old American landbarge in Central Europe is a sign of car enthusiasm by itself. And I would even venture to say that equipping it with Edelbrock carb, a hot cam, headers, dual exhausts and other speed parts is further proof of not only car enthusiasm, but maybe even slight case of car madness. As is driving it to US car meets all the time.

    And yet, I hardly ever washed the thing. The trunk was full of junk and rear quarters dinged from boxes flying around the trunk when I was piloting the thing sideways through the intersection. The rubber pieces on bumpers were attached to place by duct tape, I parked wherever it would fit, not caring who may hit me, and sometimes even slightly hitting other stuff (lamp posts, walls…) deliberately, if there was not enough space. And I never locked it, knowing that no one would be stupid enough to steal a Caprice in NYC Taxi yellow livery in CZ.

    But even though I treated it like a rented mule, I loved it and I was deeply saddened when I had to get rid of it. The beat-up appearance, the ability to sustain abuse and raise hell were parts of the old barge’s character…

    There are many kinds of car enthusiasts…

    • 0 avatar

      Your situation is a tough one to call (and who am I to say what’s what) by my criteria. Guess you do qualify though as you thought it out before buying the Caprice and deciding that it met your specifications. Like I said in the article, “whatever idiosyncratically rocks your boat”!

  • avatar
    gottacook

    I would argue that becoming enthusiastic about cars as a kid (i.e., 9 to 11 years old) is a prerequisite to being any kind of adult enthusiast, whether one owns or only aspires to drive a particular car or type of car. The 1965 Bonnevilles were the first cars that stood out to me as special, and we had two of them at once, a convertible and a wagon. Three years later the GM Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild gave a presentation at my junior high school – later I learned it was the last year of the contest. I wasn’t a good enough modeler but have thought about car design ever since, in the sense that I know why I like what I like (and why I dislike what I dislike) about cars I see or drive.

    (I also had for many years, although in the U.S. and not Europe, a big old somewhat battered GM car – it was 26 years old when I finally sold it, a ’66 Bonneville convertible.)

  • avatar
    wmba

    Well written, Marcelo, well written indeed. So many memories flood back over the more than five decades I’ve counted myself as a car enthusiast that it becomes an almost disjointed mishmash of feelings. On this bright and sunny day I decided to luxuriate in old remembrances, sip a little malt Scotch and attempt to answer your question.

    You know, back in the fifties, sixties, people who didn’t really care about cars were FORCED to think about them. In 1959, the recommended oil change interval was just 1,000 miles. Chassis lubes were needed every 1,000 miles as well – yup, an honest to goodness grease gun was needed to ram thick grease into the typical 12 to 24 fittings on an average car. Detroit had not invented rubber bushings yet. If you had a good mechanic, he’d probably pop the distributor cap and check the point gap too. Those things gave up the ghost every 5 or 10 thousand miles. The points burned, pitted and charred, the condenser bulged.

    My mother had to arrange her schedule to get these services done on Dad’s family chariot while he was at work. She knew what a spark plug, points and muffler looked like. She had too. Her car needed servicing as well. We lived in the country but on a main trunk road, and so I spent a great deal of time down at Height’s Esso just half a mile away.

    Car ownership was not something that allowed you to forget the beast in your driveway. Everyone knew you had to make at least a half-assed attempt just to keep the damn thing running. Spark plugs lasted 10,000 miles, IF you were lucky, and mufflers and pipes two whole years, maybe. Lets not even talk about rust and wildly poor door, hood and trunk alignments!

    There was a knowledge base about cars in the general population, prompted not by interest, but need.

    The fuss, the uproar, the outrage when Ford introduced fully sealed ball joints requiring no grease on their full size cars in 1961! They’ll never last! It’s a Russian plot! Where’s the quality gone? Because of the utter disdain in which the general population held foreign cars, not a soul cared that the two English Fords in our family had sealed ball joints and rubber bushes (only grease fittings on the driveshaft UJs), MacPherson struts, and had been made that way for years with zero problems.

    So the sixties progressed. Detroit battled against disk brakes while happily fitting them on their English Fords and German Opels. Chrysler led the way on alternators and electronic ignitions, and gradually the public were dragged out of their conservative 1940s mindset, while still making snide jokes about funny little furrin cars. Grease fittings disappeared, oil change intervals increased to the 3,000 miles the rabid still observe to this day. Toyota and Nissan helped to change reliability standards. Pathetically-designed seat belts began to appear on Detroit cars, made to stop you even wanting you to wear them, while my parents’ 1965 Austin and Volvo had three-point easy-fit belts already.

    Then the big change in 1971 to unleaded gas. That ended fouled spark plugs, but was decried as usual as a change not needed. People just hate change, thinking it’s a plot to ruin their lives, initiated by dark forces or eggheads, none of which should apply to them. Pollution controls deadened engine response through the seventies except on VWs and Volvos with fuel injection, but cars were more reliable in general than they had been, required less servicing and people slowly began to forget about them.

    The wholesale adoption of fuel injection in the eighties, galvanized body by Audi in 1985, quite quickly followed by everyone else, general reliability increasing, all quietened down the dull roar that had been car ownership.

    So we entered the nineties, and since then cars have been pretty good. That time coincided with electronic fuel injection and stainless steel mufflers industry wide. The vast majority of people now never give much thought to their vehicles, simply because they do act like a refrigerator, ironically one from the seventies or eighties because newer ones are dreadful!

    With so little drama and involvement in cars by the general population these days, even friends from years ago with whom I could have a damn good no-bullshit chat about cars aren’t much interested any more. It’s all phones, apps, vacation trips, etc. Our local sports car club petered out years and years ago.

    So what is a car enthusiast? These days, it is the few individuals who have enough interest to participate in online car blogs, plus the usual hotrodders arms deep in wrenches and two valve V8s and the ethereal types rebuilding their dream 1967 Volvo 123 GT or whatever. It is also people interested in automotive technology now and for the future.

    Enthusiasts are now rather rare and thin on the ground. Car showrooms are filled with earnest people discussing finance terms rather than showing any real interest in product beyond trim and satnav options, mileage etc. The mundane. But time marches on and a person cannot decry the change. It is what it is.

    Out there, as with any moderately interesting product made by man, there exists a few people interested in the minutiae. If that interest involves cars, their role in society, their design or manufacture, their longevity, the need to keep their vehicle in good running order, well, these I call car enthusiasts.

    • 0 avatar

      Great, great post!

      I think this should be an article and not a post, it’s so good.

      BTW, I do hope you enjoyed your whiskey. Good things came from that bottle!

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        Thank you, Marcelo.

        I was lucky enough to spend 1969 through 1974 in London. It was there I discovered first, Glenmorangie, quite by chance, then other malt scotches. They were not sold everywhere.

        Almost twenty years ago by luck, good fortune and a friend from those university days, I got to visit many malt whisky distilleries. My friend’s wife’s cousin was manager of Ardbeg on Islay. I stayed with his family in the distillery manager’s residence. He arranged visits to every distillery on the island and Jura next door. Due to the laidback life of a distillery manager, he accompanied us himself since he knew everyone. Quite the week!

        Today was Laphroaig. Just a small correction. In Scotland, the drink is spelled “whisky”. The extra “e”, the Scots say with a twinkle in their eye, is to distinguish the also-rans from the real thing!

    • 0 avatar
      wstarvingteacher

      I agree with all you say but had to comment to thank you for the excellent post. I probably need what you’re drinking. Good job.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      Please tell me more about these 1960s Ford ball joints that didn’t have zerk fittings. I had a 1971 LTD (30 years in the family) and every single front suspension joint had one. I didn’t start to see sealed suspension components until 1980s Japanese cars hit our shores.

  • avatar
    Onus

    I own a pickup. I know there seems to be some controversy if people who own pickups can be enthusiasts.

    Well i don’t have a car but, i like talking about cars, pointing them out, and surfing Craigslist for the next deal.

    I also enjoy fixing my truck from time to time. Since something is always broken. I also learn in the process.

    My trucks a bit beat up dents everywhere, and rust on every panel. It does its job and a hard day of work is nothing new to it. It isn’t uncommon to see it filled with something on the weekend.

    • 0 avatar

      By the definition I supplied in the article, you surely are an enthusiast.

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      @Onus

      Dude, you are the BEST kind of enthusiast.

      You pay your own way, improve what you’ve got and are constantly learning.
      You’re an enthusiast if you feel enthusiastic. Pretty enthusiastic about your diesel, aren’t ya?

      • 0 avatar
        Onus

        Thanks Marcelo and Summicron.

        Its pretty fun. All 185hp and natural aspiration can give. This truck actually has quite the interesting history too.

        Probably the funnest thing was replacing the injection pump. I still can’t figure out why they still make the tools to time it but they do.

        You have to put a little clamp on the 1# injector that converts it to a inductance spark signal. It senses injection events from the slight expansion of the lines. Rev it to 2000 and set the advance on the timing light ( only one mark on the balancer ) until it lines up. Tun the truck off and rotate the pump as need ( nearly impossible with the lines screwed into the injectors ).

        Another method but the tools are hard to get in this day and age involves putting a sensor in place of a glow plug that detects the actual ignition event.

        On a side note these pumps were built by stanadyne corporation not far from my home here in Connecticut. It is actually based of the first ever rotary injection diesel pump the roosa master.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    The fact that a lot of us spend a good part of our free time reading about and experiencing cars and then seeking out sites like this one to talk to others about cars is a good indication that we might be enthusiasts…I enjoy this. This is 9 holes of golf for me

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    I guess that behaving like a kid in a candy store while studying what makes current cars tick also qualifies.

    I can only wonder at how they made them before CAE, CAD, CAM and all those other aids were available.

    • 0 avatar

      Sure does. I love insider stories. From people in the design studio to people working on the line, everything and anything they have to say interests me.

      I guess that before all the computer aids, conceptualizing, developing, testing, building a car was much more romantic. And probably more satisfying when done right.

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        Marcelo, when you see a person working on a CAD model you yourself will become a child.

        Or the vibration modes for a seat. Or a CFD simulation of a combustion process. Or the real stuff recorded with a camera. Or the software to make a calibration map for an engine.

        Go on youtube an search for Creo, ProE, CATIA or Solidworks. Then look for Abaqus, ANSYS…

        Cars are truly wonderful machines.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Hours and hours of hand drafting… but this sums it up well

        “Although CAD makes the work of designers much easier, there’s little chance that CAD will ever take away the job of the automotive designer. CAD, despite being sophisticated and invaluable in today’s automotive industry, is really just a software tool that brings innovative designs to life. It requires human intelligence, an understanding of the automotive marketplace, the drive to create — and, most importantly, a love for designing cars — to use the technology effectively.”

        -Jeffery Rowe, Ford

        • 0 avatar
          Athos Nobile

          Ditto Hobbes’ friend. Many times you still need a hand draft or sketch before going into the computer. And yet, a lot of people forget to develop their “HandCAD” (I have copyright on that) skills.

          BTW, Calvin and Hobbes is my favorite cartoon.

          Marcelo, the deeper you go, the more fascinating it is.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    I’m an engineering groupie. Cars have a lot of engineering and, the deeper I dive, the more interesting it gets. I think that’s cool!

    The business soap opera is entertaining, too.

  • avatar
    truffle_shuffle_steer

    Maecelo,

    I have to say I agree with you to a point. I love my cars- and I take care of them as best I can. But, I absolutely drive the s&@t out of them. I love driving. Weather it’s autocross in the a6 (lol tires) or off-roading in the jeep, I just can’t get enough. Yes I have replaced more control arms, ball joints, axles, tires and brakes than I would care to admit- but to me it’s so so worth it.

    Point is- every time I see a perfectly clean old jeep with no scratches or mud, or a lowered audi with fancy mods and no odd tire wear… I just think it’s a missed opportunity. Of course your speaking to a guy who learned to really heal toe in a type 3. I also have yet to drive a car I can’t make drift if I try.

    My question to you is this: my cars show some serious wear. The paint and tires and brakes are all worn because I drive them hard. Somehow I don’t think that makes me any less of an enthusiast.

    • 0 avatar

      Of course not. You are an enthusiast. If I ever get that old car that I’d love to have, I plan on driving it. No garage queens for me. I drive my car if it raining, I drive my car in traffic, if I really have to go somewhere, I squeeze it in whatever space I can find (not without some pain in my heart). I drive it on dirt roads (I love driving on dirt roads). I know a guy who’s on his 2nd 3 Series. He doesn’t do any of the stuff I mentioned above. When those situations happen, he has an old Chevy Opala standing by. He is not an enthusiast. My mother used to call his cars a “Bello Antonio” (if you know Italian movies, you’ll get the reference).

      Naw, that’s not me. I drive hard from time to time. I drive it normally. I do with it whatever I have to do. I don’t think driving hard disqualifies you. In fact, quite the opposite. But I am pointing out that due to the circumstances of the world we live in, driving fast and big engines is not the only way to express enthusiasm nowadays.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “But, I absolutely drive the s&@t out of them. I love driving.”

      +1. I share the same sentiment. I like to drive and I think it stems from a wanderlust that I’ve always had and will probably never quench. I love seeing what’s over the next hill or around the next bin. People, such as my wife, who see driving only as a chore have a hard time understanding.

      But I don’t comprehend her choice in television programming and why inane reality shows make up such a large percentage.

      Oh well. C’est la vie!

  • avatar
    Mark in Maine

    I enjoyed your piece, Marcelo – well said. Enthusiast – I’m that guy, I think. We had our first really warm spring day up here today, and after the yard work was done, I opened the garage door, dragged my folding camp chair out into the driveway, sat in the sun, and began reading from a couple of different Subaru shop manuals. But then, I looked around at the Camaro convertible sitting behind me in the shop. I decided to pull its tailights and clean paint overspray from the lenses, instead of doing a brake job on my wife’s Legacy wagon – I’ll do that some day next week. I hadn’t turned wrenches on the hobby car since late last fall (life tends to get in the way), and it looked like it needed the attention. Enthusiasts – I think that enthusiasts tend to look for that parking space at the end of the row. We can be depended upon to drive the extra distance to avoid certain traffic lights. We enjoy those trips to the junkyard, hunting for the missing bits and pieces for our new used vehicle. We do take pride in our vehicles’ appearances – regardless of what they may be. We enjoy the journey (to get corny for a minute), as much as the destination. It is why we are all here, hanging out and interacting on sites such as this one.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    @Marcelo de Vasconcellos
    What a fantastice piece. What made you come up this idea for an article?

    I do think people who look after their vehicles also gain more enjoyment from them. The vehicle tend to look after the owner much better as well.

    I can spend over half a day sometimes detailing my vehicle, and you stand back and say to yourself, it done alright and looks good after years of service.

    I take relatively good care of my vehicles and I just sold my 04 Kia Sorento. It was in very good condition, I didn’t want to sell it. But sometimes money and finances rules over emotion.

    It about attachment to a vehicle, you need to buy a vehicle you can relate to, then you will take good care of it, probably better than your wife.

    • 0 avatar

      hey big al. The little ditty about the bakery shop trip in the beginning. That really happened and as I entered the store I started thinking about my behavior and pondering as to why. I knocked it around in my head that night and the next day the article took less than ten minutes to write, almost like a stream of consciousness. Sometimes it just happens that way.

      Thanks for the very kind words.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Great article. Could not agree more. Enthusiasts are defined by the small details, enthusiasm and appreciation of the mechanical and engineering wonder that makes up a car. Maintenance by choice, washing and keeping clean are with out doubt a bigger indicators of an enthusiast.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    How’s this for what makes an enthusiast?

    I used to be a hard-core RWD kind of guy. But since I bought my current car (Volvo 850 Turbo), I actually fantasize about the driveshafts turning sideways between the front wheels like you’d see in a ghosted-out video animation, or how the engine leans toward the firewall just so, or the turbo spooling up, or how the stock-sized tires fill up the wheel wells perfectly, or the coolant cycling through the engine and radiator, or how a FWD sedan with a few suspension upgrades can be quite a lot of fun through corners.

    Weird, huh?

  • avatar
    cargogh

    Marcelo, I completely agree with you about liking small cars best. I got my license in 1979 and lived on a farm in western Kentucky. It was about pickups and large cars, back when a Thunderbird was an “intermediate personal-luxury car” at 217.7 in (5530mm).
    Against my dad’s protestations, I got a ’73 VW Beetle for my first car. “Well, it’s your cow money. Do what you want.”
    This was followed by a ’74 Rabbit (Golf), a ’76 Fiat 128, and a ’78 Fiesta S, a barely running ’65 Austin Healey Sprite, and then hitting my 20′s, two Dodge Omnis, and a Plymouth Horizon. Every one had a manual. My friends were cruising in Camaros and Mustangs in the recline positon with AC and an automatic trying to enjoy their buzz which was being killed by yet another upholstery smolder and the fact they’d gotten lost again.

    I absolutely loved flogging these cars, always with the idea I was becoming a better driver. Now I’m 50 and one of the most appealing vehicles to me is the upcoming Fiesta ST.
    Of course I had a framed poster of a black Countach, and a Boxer Berlinetta is still my favorite Ferrari (though the 360 looks sweet). This makes me wonder what would be on my wall now if I were young. I can muster no excitement for a Veyron or Aventador regardless of their automated, nanny controlled, exceedingly powerful glory.

    Cars indeed have feelings. Fifteen years ago I bought my dad’s old Dodge p’up that he got before I turned 16. When he had a gasket changed on the slant 6, somehow it started an underhood fire. He got another truck, so I bought it. While it’s parked in mom’s barn waiting on me to restore it somewhat, I drove it for a year. The only way the truck would stay running was by singing to it. It didn’t care I couldn’t carry a tune. By Christmas ’98, I would have been an asset to any group of carolers.

    Because of a long history of financial ineptitude, the degree of beat to some of my beaters was more than I would have chosen had there been a choice. This made it necessary on holidays to be extra kind to the vehicle if I wanted to visit family. “OK, baby. Your oil is changed, air filter good, new wiper blades, all fluids topped. Air pressure perfect. Interior clean. It is just a 500 mile round trip. We can do this.” That’s what I told the 300,000 mile Toyota p’up before heading to Sister’s last month for Easter dinner. That’s how I’ve always done it.

  • avatar
    packard

    Doug: Porsche has the same feature. Pull out the headlight switch and turn to the left there are two detents- one will turn on lights on the front and rear of the left and the other will control the right side- they are “parking lights” used to deal with the situation described in the article. These lights have dedicated bulbs and use very little power.

  • avatar

    Wonderful, insightful article Marcelo. You’re a man after my own heart.

    An enthusiast parks his 10 year old economy car at the far end of the parking lot so it can be “protected” by a wall.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Auto Enthusiast = One who’s enthusiastic about cars, trucks, semis, whatever machine gets them around. They understand that cars are far more complex than a simple toaster and they know that cars do far more for ones life than a toaster could.

    Performance Enthusiast = Someone who prefers good handling, 0-60 times, usually drives a RWD, and plays too many video games.

    Motorcycle Enthusiast = First definition but for motorcycles.

    I brought my 20 year old car with a few dings but I still park it away from mommy-mobiles, clean up up on a regular basis, so on and so forth.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    I was going to add something similar to what Ryoku75 posted. Instead I’ll piggyback on that post.

    To me an enthusiast means a desire to learn more about that which you are enthused.

    I’ve always had a fascination with transportation. Be it car, motorcycle, airplane, boat it really didn’t matter and that same passion holds true to this day.

    The thing is we all arrived via different routes. I’ve mentioned my interest in transportation. Couple that with a thirst for knowledge
    and a desire to see and experience a number of different activities and an auto enthusiast (as well as an enthusiast of many other things) is born.

    I must admit my first love is aviation but I’ve got room for multitudes of interests.

    As am aside, I’ve always thought that if tv exes and others who produce enthusiast programming actually listened and attempted to incorporate what the core audience wants we wouldn’t be subject to much of the drivel on TV today.

    I understand you need to appeal to as large an audience as possible but when you massively dilute content your audience goes away and you’re left kowtowing to the base desires of the masses which starts a dreary cycle that too often ends with a good concept ruined.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I thank those of you who’ve read my comment, I just wanted to differentiate the typical enthusiasts that you see in car crowds, too often we’re grouped together as being power hungry or whatever you call someone that demands deisel wagons (Better that than a hybrid CUV imo).

      With TV shows they should find a way to appeal to their core fans while appealing to the masses, make a show that teaches AND entertains rather than wastes my time with sub-plots and fake deadlines.

      I think that Top Gear UK has done a good job in being both entertaining and educational, the of so hated US version being quite a bit more simplistic though (I blame History).

  • avatar
    cartoon

    @Marcello

    One of the better TTAC pieces I’ve read recently. Auto enthusiasm involves so much more than the tangible things we ascribe to it (speed, cost, badge, etc). You have managed to capture that in your article. To enthusiasts cars are an art form–to be savoured, appreciated and respected. Thanks for bringing it home a bit.


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  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • J & J Sutherland, Canada
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
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