Loving Obscure Cars: An Interview with Aging Wheels
"For a car to entertain me now, it has to be interesting in all kinds of unusual ways."
Contrary to popular belief, owning terrible cars is an interesting and entertaining hobby. If you don't believe me, just ask Robert Dunn over at Aging Wheels. The man owns a Trabant, a Wheego, and even a Reliant Robin. I'd tell you all about him and what he does, but I think it's better if you hear it directly from him. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Aging Wheels to the stage!
Q: You’ve been making videos for six years now. How did you decide to start a car YouTube channel?
A: Rather embarrassingly, the desire to make videos came from watching a lot of Top Gear and car reviewers on YouTube. My thought initially was that I could make car reviews that were more interesting to watch than the garden variety of YouTube car reviews I had been watching. I wanted to do a little more than just ramble to a camera about a car. I lost sight of that goal almost immediately, but that’s how it started out.
Q: So your claim to fame is buying some of the best worst cars, like the Trabant and the Wheego (R.I.P.). How did this wonderful descent into madness begin?
A: I like to describe it as an addiction. Someone with an addiction to, say, drugs, is going to always be on the lookout for the next best high or a way to replicate that original high. That’s how I am with cars. I’m never going to replicate that original enthusiasm I had at the beginning with a car that’s just fast or just fun to drive. For a car to entertain me now, it has to be interesting in all kinds of unusual ways. As I learned by getting a Trabant, terrible, and unusual is all sorts of entertaining all the time. It’s the kind of fun that isn’t fleeting. Even when the car isn’t moving, I can still get a kick out of it by just talking about it. You can’t get that from a Corvette.
Or maybe I’m just easily bored.
Q: Of all the cars you’ve bought for the channel, which one is your favorite and why?
A: I’d have to say the Trabant. It’s what really started this whole thing. I still love it after four years of owning it. It has the emotional lasting power that no other car has managed to muster from me. It encourages me to look for other odd cars that I can become equally attached to, like the Robin. If I had never bought the Trabant, and I had stuck with the 944 and Fiesta ST, I might not have figured out that unusual and not great are the true paths to vehicular entertainment for me. I love my Fiesta ST, but it doesn’t encourage me to seek out its like-minded brethren as the Trabant does.
Q: You seem to know your way around cars. Do you have any formal mechanical training or are you self-taught?
A: Self-taught. My only formal training is as a software engineer. I like to think that I have the engineering mindset, but I’m definitely not a mechanic. Cars like the Trabant or the Robin are quite simple and easy to wrap your head around. I enjoy that simplicity. It’s like taking apart a weed whacker with these things.
Q: This is more something I want to know but I’ll include it as part of the interview anyway. How's the Wheego and its dead battery?
A: Still dead. This isn’t official and could still not happen, but I have a line on a whole three electric car battery packs that I could have for free. There is definitely hope for the Wheego, which is good because I’m not going to let it die. It may be in a coma for a bit, but dead isn’t an option.
Q: What kind of future plans do you have in regards to the cars you already have? Fix 'em? Sell 'em? Not care about 'em?
A: I plan to keep the Trabant, Robin, Wheego, and my pickup forever. I love these things. Unless something unexpected happens, I ain’t a-gonna sell ‘em. Even if I did want to sell them, I might have a hard time finding a buyer for the Wheego. Even if it did work. The smart car I plan to sell very soonly. I think I’ve found a good home for it. I have no current plans to sell the Fiesta. I love it, but I could be convinced to sell it if the right replacement came along.
Q: Is there anything I didn’t ask about that you want people to know?
A: I also do woodworking on YouTube if anyone is interested in watching a weirdo on the internet make shop tools and things out of dead trees. I’ve contemplated combining this hobby with the cars hobby. Lots of people suggest a Morgan when I say woodworking and cars, but I think the bus project is that combination project. I get to make all the cabinetry and furniture that goes into a living space in something that also hauls cars around. I’m pretty excited about that. Speaking of which, I need to get back to work on that bus project.
Huge thanks to Robert for letting me interview him! I hope you guys enjoyed learning more about him and his channel and I encourage you to check out all his crazy projects on his YouTube channel, especially his latest one: a school bus.