There are a million reasons for why owning an exotic, enthusiast or custom car could appeal to someone. It gives you attention in the form of people gratifying your investments to keep the car on the road. Whether it's monetary, your time, your labor, or whatever else it may have required to get the car running again to the point where you could drive it again. These people want to enjoy seeing it, taking pictures of it, and short of anything else, saying how jealous they are.
Is this jealousy really what we want in the automotive industry? As long as it's for the right reasons, I fully believe that it is what we want, and it's paramount to make sure that people experience it. The best way to make another auto enthusiast is to share the experience with someone in such a way that they can take that experience and develop a true desire to feel it again and build new experiences of their own.
It's absolutely important for all of us to share our vehicles, no matter whether we consider them truly special or otherwise. Just because we've already developed our opinions doesn't mean we should be denying the experience to a little kid who has yet to really learn anything. It's the time to make things up and be silly with the little kids. You brought a Jetta TDI Sportwagen and parked it next to a Mercedes SLS AMG? Maybe your Jetta Sportwagen is red and the SLS AMG is Imola Grey. You're free to poke fun at the SLS and let the little kid sit in your car and tell him it's the fastest thing in the world because it's red, and everyone knows red cars go the fastest! But never forget, the cars themselves don't matter, your responsibility is to make that little child want to have a car, and want to go to car shows for the rest of his life, all because he remembers sitting in the fastest car in the world, a bright red wagon.
It looks faster because it's red, and the driver has a helmet on!
But what about the bigger kids, us "grown" auto enthusiasts. What are we to do about our automotive desires? Many of us simply aren't in a position to jump in the fire of owning our "dream cars," which leaves us with the annoying feeling of knowing what we want, and then knowing we can't have it. What should we do about it? Live with it, knowing that we're so close but so far from our own dreams whenever one drives by? Do we act on it, dropping our savings towards whatever means necessary in order to make ownership a possibility, even if it means our financial demise?
The HEMIWagon, my daily driver.
As adults, we face these decisions about just about everything. Buying a house, starting a family, buying things we need, buying things we want, and so on. So many of our purchase decisions are out of jealousy, we see things we want that someone else has, and then we make an active effort in order to get it ourselves, but is the automotive industry really the same thing? Do I need a new iPhone just because a commercial for the new one just aired? Why should I daily drive a 5.7L V8 when I could just as easily daily drive a Camry? I could get double the gas mileage, I could enjoy relatively cheap services, smaller cheaper tires, less oil for the oil changes, nearly everything about it sounds like a financial win. Less is more, right? Why be jealous of someone who has to buy $2500 tires?
The primary problem with jealousy or desire for a car is something is that you need to be mindful of because there's a huge difference between having the means, and simply wanting the vehicle. I could freely admit that I would love a Pagani Zonda, Koenigsegg CCXR, Mercedes Benz 300SL gullwing, Dodge Challenger Hellcat, Tesla Model S P85D, and all sorts of other cars that are positively lustworthy. The problem with saying that is that for many of the cars on that list, it's not just an issue of buying the car, it's the maintenance and the insurance and it's not something to scoff at. These costs are very high, and it's something too many people just don't even consider when they say they want these high end or truly exotic rides. It's not wrong to have dreams, but our dreams shouldn't just be to own a special car, it should be to take care of it, and keep it as proud as possible.
This is where we hit a small speed bump in the lusting over truly unique, special and exotic cars that we get to see at the concours shows or truly high end, once a year events. Those of us (because we cannot separate ourselves from other automotive enthusiasts) who can afford truly special cars too often view them as investments. Yes, they are valuable pieces of automotive history, and yes they have the ability to appreciate in value over time. So often, cars get cooped up which deserve to drive and spend mile after mile singing, no, screaming the song of their people. To deprive the car of that ability simply to allow it's value to appreciate is where we often question this jealousy of exotic ownership.
My personal opinion on this is simple. I'm not saving my cars for the next guy. I didn't buy them to stare at them, nor did I buy them to preserve every original nut and bolt for the next person. My Dodge Magnum will certainly go under the knife for many things while it's under my ownership. It will see coilovers, a new rear, and if I get my way, a bigger, badder motor. The next person may come along and love it, or they may come along and say I butchered the car. Is either of those opinions right? Different strokes for different folks, no? But what about my exotic? Is it something to be jealous of? It's a rear wheel drive, wide tired V12 behemoth with every ounce of German luxury that the 1990s could offer. What makes it special? Most importantly, the same thing that makes your personal car special. It's special to me, or it's special to you. Intrinsic value is often times unmatched by the paper dollar by an immeasurable margin.
So my own personal exotic is quite special, and I make sure I take it out often for other people to enjoy as well. There were 806 Mercedes Benz SL600 cars built in 1997. How many of them were Sport models, much less SP2 packages? How many of them are truly the same package? I may never know a more specific number. I know my exotic is powered by what I personally consider one of the most iconic supercar engines, because it was put into the competition. The Mercedes M120 V12 was stuffed into the SL600 with just a little bit of extra room to spare, with a comfortable "389" horsepower, if you'll believe that number. Jeremy Clarkson once said that putting the M120 into a car made it the fastest car of that type, referring to the even bigger, even badder SL73. Pagani took notice quickly, and before Ferrari and Lamborghini knew what happened, the Zonda was created, powered by none other than the Mercedes AMG M120 V12. Let's just step back for a minute, my SL600 Sport has the same motor the original Zonda was given. Look at how far that's taken Pagani, with so many special versions of the Zonda, now the Huayra. Would Pagani be the same had they chosen any other engine for their car? I'd like to think that the M120 is the piece of automotive history that I can own and share with other people, because no, Pagani wouldn't have become what it is now without the M120.
As I step off my soapbox, someone, somewhere is sitting on the other side of the screen thinking "I need to get me one of those." Well, I'll tell you that you aren't the first person to utter those words about the SL600 Sport. It's something that many people have said once they started asking questions about the car. It's a feeling I take pride in. Not to gloat or rub it in anyone's face, but to cherish for myself simply because I know that I own something that will one day be desirable. Am I going to leave the car parked in the garage with 99,960 miles on it, so that someone else can take away the joy of rolling it over 100,000 miles? Like hell I will. I'll drive the car like it was meant to be driven. Often and quickly.
After moving the car around the garage a couple weeks ago, it ticked over to 99,960.
But is it the end for me, knowing that I own a car that's special? No. There are cars that I believe are special, and many other enthusiasts will agree, but if you were to pull into a car show, it would be quite difficult to garner any attention at all, save for many one or two true fans. Is that the litmus test for whether a car is special though? Whether people are jealous or not?
A super clean Prelude journeys away from it's native habitat.
You're simply asking the wrong question. To expect attention at a car show is to be no better than the people who merely allow their cars to appreciate in monetary value while protected in a bubble, kept from the rest of the world, and worse yet, the roads they should be tearing up.
The question is not whether someone else thinks my car is special or beautiful or jealousy inducing. The question is whether I fell for the car because I found it special or beautiful or I just had to have it. To depend on someone else for that answer is to lack the awareness of whether you truly enjoy a vehicle. You need to be proud of your own car, and find it beautiful or special in some way, whether you drive a super clean Honda Prelude, a soon to be running Mercedes 190E, or you drive a mostly stock Ford Focus ST. They're all special, and they're all exciting and beautiful to someone. To just live a life of jealousy over a lack of attention or "I could have had X," is simply not how to be an automotive enthusiast. It's our responsibility to each other to make sure that we can all experience the luxury and the excitement of high end cars with as many people as possible. It doesn't matter if it's a three year old or a 50 year old, we're all enthusiasts in various stages of maturity about our automotive preferences, and we owe it to each other if we're able to afford having something special. If you're sitting there moping over not having something special, take a look back into your driveway and realize that you do have something special.
You have the ability to be a part of a culture, one that is not restricted by whether you have an exotic or a domestic, American Muscle or German Luxury. Car culture is about enjoying and experiencing. Experience all you can, and make the experience as positive as possible for everyone you meet, especially the youngest members who are most impressionable. It's supposed to be fun, let's keep it that way.