I had little experience with cars.
Trucks and tractors have lots of torque and therefore, very forgiving clutches. If you idle and let the clutch go in first gear, it’ll just jump a little and go. Cars aren’t like that. And this was a skill I hadn’t mastered.
It was summer break from school, I was 14. My dad asked me to go to the local club’s party hall and hand a set of key to a friend of his. It was just 2 blocks away and I would go there in my bike, even though it had just rained and was still a bit drizzly.
My dad had a different idea, though. He threw me the keys to my our 1997 VW Santana.
This was one of the happiest and also one of the most terrifying moments of my life. It would be my first solo drive in a car. This was great and scary. It would be the defining moment to get my dad’s trust with me behind the wheel.
Leaving the garage I faced my first problem. The car was parked in reverse and our driveway was long and narrow. The house on one side and the fence on the other. I had to reverse what seemed like kilometers in my mirror, but actually weren’t more than a dozen meters.
It took me ages to get out of the driveway. The combination of
sucking not being very good with the clutch and having to reverse seemed like going one meter back and two metes forward. Or something like that. I had to go back and forward to try to get the car out. I was unable to manage it all in one maneuver.
I stalled the car all the time and had to correct my steering continually. But I managed it. I thought this would be the worst part of the trip and was happy that on the way back I wouldn’t have to reverse into the garage. It would be easier.
Then came the great question. The place where I needed to go was two blocks away. If I drove fast I would have a lot of fun, but it would be over too soon. If I drove slowly I wouldn’t have much fun, but it would be a longer drive.
So I decided to go there fast and come back slow. So I would have a bit of each.
Having left the field of view of our house’s windows, I put my foot down in 2nd gear. Quickly (in my perception) I reached 60... km/h. My vision tunnelled and the car had gone to plaid.
In seconds I was at the club’s hall. Arriving there, I didn’t expect that the people who were there waiting for me were kids from school. The ‘older’ ones. The 15 year olds. Holy shit! And they saw me coming DRIVING A CAR. I felt the king of the world trying to act cool. Probably looked like a doofus. Or a 14 year old skinny dude driving a car for the first time alone.
I parked the car between two trucks and stepped out to hand the keys to my dad’s friend who took them and walked off. The guys from school were still standing there in the parking lot.
Now I had a big issue in my hands. The way back was a slight uphill. Shit. I would have to start uphill. I could barely start downhill! I would have to go back and not get humiliated in front of a bunch of guys from school by stalling the car. It was a matter of honor!
I had to be quick. Staying for too long could also give away I didn’t know how to do a hillstart.
I tried using logic. I knew that to have enough power to do a hillstart I’d have to rev the engine a little.
A plan was required: Hold on the brakes and clutch. Put in 1st gear. Release the brakes while very quickly stepping on the gas to build revs and release the clutch at the same time so the car wouldn’t roll backwards. Easy, right?
Yeah. It didn’t work. I stepped in on the gas way too hard and was way too slow to release the clutch.
I did a burnout. The tires screeched, but the car didn’t really move. It probably didn’t stay in place for longer than a second, but it felt like ages. And I knew that it had to look intentional. I had people to impress. A lifetime of bullying could follow this if it ended badly. I had to prove something!
I had to commit to the burnout.
I kept my foot in deep. When the tire finally grabbed and advanced, I had gone to plaid again. The 112hp engine making the speedometer climb to what my 14-year-old, unexperienced eyes thought was just bonkers fast. This car didn’t have a tach. Instead, a clock that didn’t work (it was a $400 repair. Thanks VW). I revved until what seemed like the engine was about to spit its valves on the windshield. I clutched in, put into second, released the clutch and put my foot down the gas again. A short rolling burnout in 2nd followed.
This was all accidental. I had a slight idea of what produced a burnout, but had never even considered doing one. Tires are way too expensive.
A block away I took my foot off and started braking before I entered my dad’s view.
Back in the garage, I stopped the car and shut if off. My hands were shaking as if I had just consumed a double-espresso made with red bull instead of water.
It took me a while, but then I cheered on the inside for doing a sick and awesome burnout.