The Driver's Car: A Connection of Body and Soul.
What is it that truly makes a rewarding driving experience?
I was casually sitting in class on a Wednesday afternoon when a sudden realization hit me. Everything I had ever head about the connection between human and car smashed together and I had a brief glimpse of what the driving experience was all about (I know, kind of weird). To give some context, I have been exposed to cars my entire life and casually enjoyed them, but it wasn't until a couple years ago that my friends pressured me into diving down the never-ending rabbit hole of "cars."
So anyway, why did this come to me in class? Well, we were taking a test when I came upon an excerpt from "Walden" by Henry David Thoreau. In the chapter “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For” Thoreau describes why he gave up his regular life and headed out to the woods to live alone in solitude.
The narrator states, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Oddly enough, this is what triggered my connection to driving.
For us car enthusiets, we view driving as an experience in and of itself. While others may see cars as transportation to and from the experience, we have a deep belief that there is something in driving. Like Jeremy Clarkson famously laid it out, "People like you or I know we have an unshakable belief that cars are living entities… You can develop a relationship with a car and that’s what non-car people don’t get…" This is why we are always in search of the "driver's car." Of course, we each have our favorite companies, and rightfully so. Each manufacturer brings something different to the table. For example, Lotus focuses on lightweight cars with superb handling, Porsche has their RS lineup of racing-focused machines, Honda has their Type R badge, and Merdedes has the AMG subsidiary. There are also numerous one-off driver-focused cars like the McLaren F1 and the GMA T.50. The one thing these cars all have in common is the one thing we all desire in a car: the driving experience.
Elements of a Driver's Car
True driver's cars are usually simplistic in nature. Companies focus on removing distractions from the picture and providing the very best necesities. Comfort, infotainment, and sometimes even back seats take a backseat (no pun intended) to the essentials which are most commonly the engine, the transmision and drivetrain, the steering, and the suspension. Surely you're familier with the whole "weight reduction" thing. Even if it's a little inconsistant - like door handle straps right next to the power window switch - the effort is there, and you know the cars are paying homage to racing legacy or stripped-down driving in some way. Though every company combines these ideas in differnt ways, we drivers are always willing to sacrifice our comfort to step into a new realm of engagement. When we go for a spirited drive, we don't need the extras - only the human-to-car connections.
A Spiritual Connection
The connection when driving is a lot like how Thoreau put it. You leave the busy life for a stripped-down experience in solitude. In an attempt to renew your spirit, you go out alone for a while. And when you're driving you become one with the car. Each automobile, like Clarkson put it, is a living entity, so driving is like something of a symbiotic relationship. Your veins and sinews intertwine with the wheel, pedals, and shifter. You control the car with your mind, not paying attention what you're actually doing with your limbs. Think about it this way. Have you ever tried to heel-toe downshift while sitting in a chair at home? For me, at least, it's impossible to get it right because it's all muscle memory. This is why we drive cars with precise steering, stiff suspension, and manual transmissions. We want to be in complete control of the car, in body and soul. And the reward for perfectly executing a "spirited" drive (staying under the speed limit obviously) is unlike that of any drug. You come out of a drive remembering the feeling, but longing to be back in your complete form, one with your car. Our cars are our faithful steeds. We take care of them, name them, protect them, and of course drive them. And there truly is nothing in the world like a pure driving experience.
So why am I writing this when I have homework to do and finals to study for? I just wanted to share my ideas on the driving experience, combined with some other inspiring ways people have put it, in my first ever DriveTribe article. Please, go out and drive your car! After all, it really does take away your stress.