By Dave Herman
I was talking with friends the other day, showing them cars I have built from the ground
up for racing and others refurbished to original condition. They asked me how much
customers paid for my work; I thought I would shock them with the tens of thousands of
dollars people invested to convert their cars to racing machines or just back to
showroom condition. Instead of shock however, the consensus was "not bad." So I
decided Americans really do have an unconditional love affair with the automobile.
You never hear people cuss their cars; they cuss themselves, cuss the mechanic, cuss the
dealer or the manufacturer, but never the car. Then again. other than a boat, (basically
an automobile on water,) how many machines are given names by their owners? The
vacuum? No. The refrigerator? No, it calls me! The rifle? Yes. So, Iʼm such a thoughtful
kind of guy. I wonder why?
What do the gun and the automobile have in common? FREEDOM. Freedom
to protect yourself, freedom to go where you choose. Since Iʼm "the car guy," weʼll
talk about the car. The car is the place you go when you want to get away, yeah for
other things as well, but when you want to really get away, it is the car, ready, waiting,
and willing. Get in, adjust your mirrors, tune the radio, fasten your seatbelt, start the
engine, put it in gear, and you just know "Layla" will take you wherever you point her, in
the manner you choose, back roads or highways, in the style you choose, leather or
cloth, big, small, macho or chick, my choice, no one directing - at least not yet.
Then I wonder, if Americans are so into freedom and will drop any amount of money for their automobile, why is it they mind the cost of their doctor visit? After all, it is a body in good health, not dependent on drugs or machines. I often hear people say they wonʼt go for a test or even a general physical, "it costs a fortune and my insurance wonʼt cover it." I have rarely heard anyone say they arenʼt going to fix the car because it costs too much.
Women, donʼt think you are excluded from this analysis because I once had a customer
who owned a Porsche and a Mercedes Benz. She loved her cars more than her baby, or so it seemed to me as she actually complained one day about the cost of baby formula, and had switched to whole milk because of the expense! I tried to set her
straight, but she looked at me like I was the crazy person.
So I analyze it like this: it is necessary to keep the car running because, first, it is a large investment, and with or without a healthy body the car will take us anywhere, so of course we want to keep the vehicle in good condition. Our bodies however, a different story. They were given to us free of charge; why should we spend money to maintain them? To feel better about the cost of the doctor visit, we give control of our health over to the government to regulate insurance companies in covered and non-covered items, just so we donʼt have to pull out our wallets and pay that doctor, then the money in our wallets can go to our cars, or so it appears.
Anyway, I find it humorous people complain about the cost of a doctor visit, but not the
So again, I wonder about our love affair with the automobile and what will be the
end of it, and then I read about what "they" already have in he works: cars that communicate with each other. Playing on our fears to keep us safe, these unmanned cars have already logged over 300,000 hours on U.S. roadways. These vehicles are programmed to communicate with other vehicles, to function operator-free. Much as an airline pilot, the driverʼs mission is to get in and let it go...
Where I wonder?
Will that be programmed ?
Will this be the end of our love affair?
Will our automobile become our jailer, the reaper of our freedom?
Too spooky, but it is Halloween!
Trick or treat!
Before his retirement, Dave Herman ran one of the largest independent German service centers in Northern Virginia. He has built, raced and taught racing to Porsche/BMW drivers. He lives in Shenandoah County, where he has opened a driving school. Email your comments and questions about anything automotive to firstname.lastname@example.org.