Tuesday, February 12, 2019

What is it about cars that makes us love them?



     This is my second piece from the special Chicago Car Show magazine that was included in Sunday's Sun-Times. 


     It was the sound.
     The growl of the 650 horsepower, supercharged V8 engine of the Corvette Z06 as I mashed the gas pedal, sinking into the red leather seat. All that power. From zero to 60 in under three seconds. The roar seemed to reach into my skin, grab my bones, and shake them.
     Of course, this being the 21st century, even that howl of raw power is actually under fine-tuned control. A few taps and the “Engine Sound Management” screen pops up, offering four modes, “Stealth,” “Tour,” “Sport” and “Track.”
     “Stealth is for when you are on long highway trips, and get tired of the noise,” said George Kiebala, owner of Curvy Road, an exotic sports car time share in Palatine. If you want the joy of driving that Corvette super car, without having to actually buy one, Curvy Road allows you access for a fraction of the cost.
     And why would anybody want to do that? Why spend $1,000 to drive a car that can go three times the legal limit for a few days?
     Maybe that is best answered by what Louis Armstrong supposedly said when somebody asked him to explain jazz: “If you have to ask, you’ll never know.”
     That said, let’s try.

                                                              • • •

     What is it about cars that makes us love them?


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Corvette Z06

9 comments:

  1. I can still see it, a pale orange/red Lamborghini creeping over the sanitary canal bridge at Howard and McCormick. He couldn't drive at a normal speed as it would bottom out on the rough pavement as he approached the Arco station I managed there to fill up on our low priced gasoline. Can't say if he'd bought it used or had it for some time but the paint finish showed some age. People would stop to look and talk to him about the car while I moved from car to car at our busy pumps, and would have engaged him myself had he been more open. I made the mistake of lightly leaning on the car as the pump ran one time. It was the pillar of the roof at the rear, near the fill opening, while guarding against overspill. He took quiet exception from my transgression and combined with his natural reticence, I decided not to ask him the question my logical side was dying to ask. Why would he own such a car in the city. It seemed to me that he was probably straining his situation to own the exotic vehicle; why not something more practical. I feel the same way about the street rockets you've featured, they scream for attention against our better instincts. I've driven an early 427 Vette and the power is incredible, but actually an impediment to city travel. Give me reliable transportation and high MPG any day, and permit me my seat warmers. Of all the cars I saw at the Auto Show, sports cars, muscle cars and luxury cars, I most remember the Citroen with hydraulic shocks that allowed you to replace a flat tire without pumping a jack. Too bad the car was so ugly.

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  2. Great columns on the auto show. Great picture of the 63 Volvo. You look like a real cool dude standing in front of a cool car. That's why guys dig cars. You're picture says it all.

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    1. No offense to Neil, whom I hold in high esteem, but to me that photo says "trying too hard." But perhaps Molly is at least in part correct, and this is signalling between men. I have certainly never heard a grown woman impressed with a man because of the car he drives.

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    2. None taken, Coey, and you are absolutely right, in that it was the most milquetoast of suburban guys trying to will his way into a kind of gritty cool. Which, I am obligated to point out, worked. Big time. It wasn't the car; it was the jacket. Or so my wife tells me.

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    3. I suspect it was neither; it was the man. I bet if you had been the guy you were trying to look like, she wouldn't have been interested. Or maybe she was into leather; no judgment.

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  3. Well said about the practical cars, John.

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  4. A few months ago, I watched a National Geographic TV show about the design and manufacture of a (I believe) Lexus, in which there was much ado about directing the engine noise into the cabin, for the ultimate driving experience. While I'm not immune to the allure of "hot cars," I tend to devalue the experience due to an innate snobbery that I'm not particularly proud of.

    john

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    1. No car with a catalytic converter sounds good.

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  5. Well, I guess I'll be the odd one out, nothing new. I am female, and I love cars! Always have, always will. I waited with eager anticipation every year for the Auto Show, so many sweet autos to check out! Dad would get preview tickets, and we went every year and drooled over the cool concept cars. I absolutely loved it.

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