I'm fairly new around here, new enough that I'm not really sure if anybody will even be able to see this (Update: As it turns out, nobody could, I didn't have authorship on Oppo when I wrote it. I didn't even know what that was). I really enjoy this place. It's far more civil than the forums I used to frequent in my younger days. The discussions are more interesting, and the people in general, seem a lot more intelligent. I have to say though, one thing has become quite clear to me: some of you think I'm some mix of a complete moron or a total wacko. How can that be, when most of you don't know I exist, and nobody has said a single unkind word to me? The answer is this: I am one of those people you see commuting in a full size pickup truck.
Yes my new friends, it is true. On most mornings I can be seen piloting my silver 2006 GMC Sierra crew cab to work, either by myself, or with my baby girl in the back seat. Nothing will be in the bed except an umbrella stroller, a few bungee cords, and a couple of pieces of firewood I keep forgetting to take out of there. The only tools in the truck will be the tape measure I keep in the glove box, and the 4-way lug wrench and Craftsman bottle jack that I keep behind the back seat, because the factory tools are woefully inadequate.
Why do I, somebody who calls myself an auto enthusiast, drive a vehicle with the steering feel and precision of a small yacht? And how can I possibly defend such a ludicrous use of daily driving a 5,200 lb beast of burden, that drinks fuel at the rate of 15 mpg (I once got 19.7 of the highway!)? I will defend my pickup in the same manner that I've seen many Jalops (rightly) defend the minivan. Practicality is where it's at. I am a shop teacher, as you probably figured out from my screen name, but I am also a carpenter. In the summer, if you don't find me working on my house, you'll probably find me working on somebody else's house.
You can haul expensive bags of mulch in your wagon, your SUV, your minivan. I can go to the landscape supply yard, and have them drop a yard of mulch in the bed for $18. You can haul all the 2x4s you need in your wagon. I can haul a helper, all my tools, and all the 2x4s at the same time. My truck may be underutilized on most days, but it does everything I need it to do, when I need it to do it. By the way, don't think for a second that I'm hating on wagons. I LOVE wagons. I want one badly, even though I have no need for one.
I loved all of my past vehicles, even the crappy ones. They all provided me with great memories. I loved my first car, an '89 Oldsmobile Toronado that I bought from my parents. It was glorious pile of late '80's styling, coupled with technology that was too ahead of its time (which is just a nice way to say it was cool looking at the time, and truly horrible). I loved the rusty '93 Subaru Legacy wagon that I bought to teach myself how to drive stick. It was so slow, that passing a car on a two lane blacktop required filing a permit with whatever county you were driving through. A female student of mine once called it my man-purse, which I thought was hilarious. I loved the '89 S-10 that was my hauler for a short time, even though it shed little bits of rust every time I shut the tailgate.
My Sierra certainly has its faults, but I love it. Even though it has all the steering feel of a hibernating polar bear on a morphine IV drip. It handles turns just fine. Bumps, no problem. Bumps AND curves? Just be ready for the rear end to hop to the outside a bit. It's been the noble steed by my side, as I've gone through some of the biggest transitions in life that one can face. It took me to work as I started my new career. It carried my wife to be and I on our first date. A date that lasted over 13 hours, and ended with her falling asleep on her Eggs Over My-Hammy. It drove us away from our wedding with a shattered front bumper cover flapping in the breeze and a smashed right rear quarter panel that I was too broke to fix (it has since been repaired). It has hauled all the material and tools needed to completely gut and remodel the second floor of our house (and all the side jobs it took to pay for it). I was honored to drive my mom home from the hospital in it, shortly before she passed away. I was terrified as I tore through town on the way to hospital, for the birth of our daughter. I was thrilled to drive my wife and baby home in it a few days later (and, of course, still terrified).
I'm not saying that you should all like pickup trucks. They are certainly not the right answer for most people. I'm just saying that perhaps we shouldn't judge each other for what we drive. The answer is not always Miata, but if it is for you, that's fantastic. Yes, most of the time, its just me and not much else in my big thirsty truck. But it does so much for me and my family. That small woman you see driving a giant Suburban by herself, she could be the woman who watches my daughter during the workday. She tows a camper on the weekends, and on weekdays is often hauling five little kids and babies around. The Suburban is the answer for her. There are as many answers, as are types of vehicles out there.
I think that what makes a true auto enthusiast is not what you choose to drive, but rather our ability to find a way to enjoy whatever vehicle life puts you behind the wheel of. Ever pull a hole-shot on a BMW while driving a minibus full of school children? Me neither, but I assure you its a blast. Ever pretend you're a big rig trucker, while moving in a diesel powered International 26' box truck you rented? It's stupid fun, if you haven't, you're missing out. One of the best drives I ever took, was in my Sierra. Four buddies, six coolers, and a pop-up camper driving the back roads to the Indy 500 in air conditioned comfort, all while getting 16.7 mpg (we discovered the camper had a dodgy tire on the way, so I took it WAY easier on the throttle than I normally do).
I humbly submit that if you love your vehicle despite its faults, and you enjoy driving it, then you are indeed an auto enthusiast.