Conversations about our own personal ideals can lead to some really interesting thought provocations. I've known this for quite some time, but while talking to a good friend of mine the other day, she learned something pretty shocking about me. My friend designs sewing patterns for a living, is a little older than me, is married, and has a five year old daughter. Imagine my surprise when she sent me a picture of a murdered out Ford Raptor crew cab and claimed it to be her ideal vehicle. After a few more exchanges, she asked what car I would want her to buy me if she either won the lottery or somehow became a millionaire. My answer shouldn't shock anyone who reads Jalopnik, OppositeLock, or any other Gawker Media entity: Volvo 240 Wagon.
This was her reaction:
I know the answer is "always Volvo 240" around here and being entirely honest, that is a car that I really want for some stupid reason I cannot readily explain. Truthfully, I know I am a little off about my taste in cars when compared to anyone else who spent their childhood infatuated by them. What I mean by this is how I would go to my friend's houses when I was a kid and see pictures of Lamborghini's, Ferrari's, and even a McLaren F1 in later years tacked up on their walls. Most of these friends grew up not caring about cars later in life, but were enamored by the idea of an exotic car enough to have images posted in their bedroom for their cognitive fixation at some point in time. Me, on the other hand? I was not like that.
I traded my baseball cleats for car magazines when I was about eight years old and never looked back, but what separated me from the other future gear heads I knew was that I found nothing impressive about supercars or modern technology incorporated into cars of more mass production. It took me a while to figure out what type of car guy I actually am, but I learned heaps about pretty much everything from sensors, chassis makeup, braking systems, forced induction, etc. in that process and am still learning to this day, at twenty-eight years old; because I love the education. Currently, I have owned about fourteen vehicles from muscle cars, to sports cars, Jeeps, and economy cars, simply because I could never settle on anything I wanted to keep for the sake of longevity other than my Mustang, which has been in my family since my dad was a teenager. What I have figured out is that while I really do have a working knowledge of most electronic, hydraulic, and mechanical systems in cars, what I really enjoy is mechanical simplicity.
Most people I know my age, or even ten years older than me are more enamored by modern advancements in vehicles, infotainment integration, heated and electrically controlled seats, and climate control among other bits. Heck, I don't even particularly like power windows, leather surfaces, or automatic headlights for that matter. For me, when it comes to my flavor of vehicles, I don't really want to own anything newer than myself anymore - so a few years ago I declared my vehicle purchase cut off date to the 1986 model year. Anything from the beginning of automotive existence to my birth year is fair game and something I probably won't need to plug into a computer to diagnose an issue. Part of the fun in having a car from my own experience is the adventure of bonding with it and anything I have owned which runs on an OBD system has taken away a little of the accomplishment knowledge I love and crave as a gear-head. Bonding with my cars is important to me because I am weird, and having something more mechanical which I have to learn the quirks of over a period of time is what I would call ideal. So, yes, if my friend or I won the lottery, I would want a Volvo 240 Wagon to drop about an inch, tint, paint, restore the interior, and maybe do an engine swap.
Then a few days ago I started thinking...
I wrote a piece last week about how I had already obtained my dream car (pictured above) and after my baffled Volvo 240 conversation with my friend, began wondering what other people who aren't gear-heads would say is their "ideal" or "dream car". Last week, I started asking people both online and in person that very question so I could get a grasp of what having a dream car meant to them.
I think there are a total of thirty-five people on the list I cooked up, which isn't enough for a case study, but enough for me to have a diverse range of perspective on the subject at hand. Some of the people I asked are high school students, some are stay at home moms, some are automotive technicians, golf professionals, business marketers, salespeople, bartenders/servers, and they are about half men and half women. Tallied up, eighty percent of these people are not gear-heads.
What I found in my "research" (Can we call it that? Yeah, why not?) has been that there is practically a 50/50 split between people who consider their ideal dream car to be something extreme as opposed to something obtainable. Living in a wealthy suburb in Atlanta (don't get it twisted, I'm not wealthy myself) I made the stupid assumption that most people would automatically throw down an exotic supercar as their ideal candidate, but I was a bit shocked to find otherwise. Actually, the majority of people who claimed the more expensive cars of the bunch just spouted off an expensive brand from some deep-rooted memory; meaning the Lamborghini people couldn't tell me what model they liked, nor could most of the Aston or Ferrari crowd. If it sounds expensive, it must be good, right?
The more shocking replies I received were from a high school senior who said she wanted a 1966 Mercury Comet, a restaurant manager who wanted a Jeep Grand Wagoneer, and police officer who wanted a Kaiser deuce and a half.
All of that aside, I came to another realization while asking my questions... Negating the few who were entirely clueless that Lamborghini and Ferrari made more than one model, practically everyone wanted to tell me why they had picked the vehicle they did. Some I spoke with said there was a sentimental value behind their choice and would tell me about the car their father, grandfather or mother owned which had stuck out in their mind as the perfect car for decades. Others would tell me how their perfect car was chosen for either personal fun, practicality, status, or any combination of the three before giving a detailed list of exactly why this particular vehicle fit into their lifestyle.
I guess what I actually ended up learning through all of this is that most people do have a little bit of gear-head in them. Most people may not take the same steps that we, here in the enthusiast universe do, but they carry somewhat of an interest nonetheless. I also figured out that asking a few complete strangers about their dream car is a great ice breaker and something that usually makes them smile just a little bit, which I think is pretty incredible.
This whole project started because I told my friend I wanted a Volvo 240...
The answer is apparently always: "Volvo 240".
Grace and Peace,