Like many of you, I grew up around cars. Most of my family was involved in the auto industry, and my dad had a Barracuda, a Mustang, and a Trans Am in the pole barn that I remember helping him work on for the earliest parts of my childhood. It was a point of pride for me that I could correctly identify the make and model of a Hot Wheels car faster than any of my male classmates.
I liked cars, but I wasn’t really passionate about them. It was kind of like being really into dinosaurs or rocks—it was cool when I was a kid, but as I got older, I got into different things. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I found the car that made me an enthusiast. A 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix Turbo.
I’ve written about the Grand Prix before, but basically, out of all the other cars we had, this was the car I spent the most time in. My whole family drove it, and when I turned 17, it was mine to drive to and from school.
By the time I got it, it was awful. Just a real hot mess. The power steering was perpetually shot, and the electronics only worked if you performed a blood sacrifice. If it got too cold—a big problem in Michigan—I’d have to jump start it. If it got too hot—a big problem any time it sat out in the sun in the school parking lot—I had to do the same. I couldn’t drive it more than a few miles without desperately fearing it would break on me and I wouldn’t be able to get it home.
But I adored it.
I learned how to drive in a series of nondescript cars and SUVs that were the four-wheeled equivalent of meh. They were designed to efficiently transport you where you needed to go, but they weren’t exactly fun. It made me think that driving was mostly just a means to an end, and I’d have to spend my life sighing my way from Point A to Point B.
And then I got to drive the Grand Prix.
Yes, it was a hot mess, but it was the first time I realized driving could be fun, that it was a thing I actually wanted to do more of. I couldn’t drive it far, but I could drive it fast.
I look back now and see it for what it is: a 17-year-old kid with her first taste of freedom and a pair of rose-tinted glasses firmly secured on her nose. But that Grand Prix is the reason I’m here writing to you now, and I want to hear your stories. Tell me about the car that made you an enthusiast.