SOME people would say that the world would be a much more fulfilling place without all the technology that’s in it. While there’s some mileage in the sentiment I’d argue that cars and driving offer some of the purest enjoyment you can find.
The other morning I had to get up at 3am for a trip to Heathrow to catch an early flight. I was in a car not desperately well suited to motorways in the shape of a Hyundai i10, but with a bit of wildly inappropriate AC/DC coursing through the USB input port the trip became a complete joy ride; it was suddenly an adventure. I was, in my mind, pounding towards the dawn on an epic voyage of discovery; a pioneer of the early morning, just as unstoppable as the rotation of the earth itself. I hadn’t had as much fun driving on a motorway for years.
I’ll remember that drive for years; maybe decades, and all I did was sit on the motorway in the dark for 100 miles or so in a car that was frankly rubbish for the job. Driving isn’t about just getting from A to B, and with budgets being squeezed like they are it’s crucial to remember it. The worth of a car can’t be defined in drops of fuel or pounds in pockets; it can only be defined in the way it enriches your life.
I have a measure of pity for those people for whom their car is just a thing. A tool to get them around; expected to function without fault every day, punished when it falters and never thanked when it shines. They’re missing out on what cars help us to discover, or rather rediscover: our sense of youth.
Think back to your younger days and I bet there are at least a few happy memories that would never have happened without a car. Dates, first road trips, falling to sleep on the warm back seat of your parents’ Volvo after a birthday party with friends – the memories are as unique as you are. And a car was there every time.
There’s a romance within the idea of a car. A car gave most of us our first taste of personal space properly away from our parents. Cars were ours to customise as we liked, to decorate as we wanted and to fill with whoever we chose. And then came the best bit. Where to go?
Whether it was the nearest seaside town, the most distant destination you could get to before the bars shut, a friend’s university on the other side of the country or even somewhere in Europe, cars have given us our first real adventures as we stepped out into the world on our own, free to make (small) mistakes and discover the world on our own terms. It was – and is – genuinely exciting and for most of us there’s still so much to see and so many places to go.
Memories of life experiences are precious. They can’t be bought, and nor can money take them away. Whatever happens, whatever propulsion systems our children and grandchildren’s first cars run, we need to grasp the memories of past adventures with both hands to inspire future generations to get out there and live, the same way we did.
Fuel prices and taxes can take our internal combustion. But they can never take our freedom.