I’ve been writing about cars, specifically classics, for a long time now. I started in the industry in 2007, and since then I have worked for all manner of car magazines before ending up here. I’ve never done the new car review thing, as new cars hold little interest for me. Instead, I have worked on enthusiast titles like Retro Ford, American Car Magazine and MOG Magazine. I’ve also done freelance work for the likes of Retro Cars, Classic Ford, Max Power (no, really), Redline, BMW Car and many, many more. This post isn’t me saying ‘look at where I’ve worked’ though. There is a point to listing some of the titles on which you will find my name somewhere. And that point is that the cars within in them are not press cars on loan from a manufacturer. They are instead filled from cover to cover with cars owned by enthusiasts. By people like you, and like me. And the exposure to this world of unending enthusiasm led to an interesting discovery; not everyone is into cars for the driving.
I found this confusing when I was green to the industry. I’d grown up with magazines in which I would read flowing passages about how the owner loved to pilot their car. For pre-licence me, it was refreshing to read these words. It fired me up for the day the instructor gave me a big tick after a tense 45 minutes of driving a Citroën Saxo around Cheetham Hill. I just assumed that, like me, anyone who was ‘into’ cars was there for the thrill of the drive as well as the general ownership experience. How very wrong I was.
The first time I met someone who had little interest in driving was when I worked on Retro Ford magazine. The chap owned a frankly stunning Ford Escort (as in the 100E van-shape Escort). Hot engine, utterly stunning custom interior, banded steels, wicked stance. It was and still is one of the finest home-built cars I have ever seen. A real work of art, and a real labour of love for the owner. But as we stood around while the photographer did his thing, the owner told me he’d probably sell it soon. I was bewildered by this. But for him, his journey was done. He’d built it. Time for something else. A ‘done’ car held no weight with him. In fact, with no need to wield spanner within its immediate vicinity, it was more of a hindrance than anything. He had no intention of driving it any serious amount. In fact, other than to bring it to the photo shoot, I don’t think he’d done any driving at all.
And this is something I have seen a great many times over the years. Passionate, knowledgeable owners who live and breath cars, but have very little interest in driving them. I find that interesting, and I also think it goes to show just how diverse our passion for old cars is. Crucially though, it’s a clear indicator of why I like this world of ours so much. The cars mean different things to different people. One person may derive joy from a car in a way the next might not, but underlying it all, they still both love cars. In the world of interests and passions, is there another so versatile?
Me? I like a bit of both. I like jumping on the spanners when I can. I’m no mechanic, mind. I can do regular upkeep and some occasional upgrades and so on, and I’m always keen to have a go on my own cars. I wouldn’t dare touch anyone else’s though. I also like driving them. I’m not going to be on pole position any time soon, but I do like getting behind the wheel and going for a drive for no other reason than… because.
Going back to driving, I think it’s rather wonderful that some people can have a car in the garage and enjoy in its idle form. I think there is something wholesome and ultimately pure about it. A love for the design, the engineering and the form. Or it could be even more simple than that; I’ve met people who own them and that’s it. No spanners, no restoration. They simply derive their pleasure from the feeling that comes from having it. I know that if I don’t drive any of my cars for a while, it’s okay. I’m happy knowing that I just have them. It’s not about just driving them.
Driving a classic car is not the be all end all. That’s what people who aren’t into cars don’t understand. A classic has served its time, it has been ‘a car’ and now it has moved beyond that, to another stage in which it can be appreciated for other reasons. They don’t need to fulfil their original function, they don’t need to be cars anymore. They can be – and this is what’s so brilliant – whatever you or I want them to be. I like that.