When Did You Get Into Cars?

Illustration for article titled When Did You Get Into Cars?
CountersteerYour true stories of good and bad things that happen in cars.

I didn't grow up loving cars. I didn't have any Hot Wheels or driving games or afternoons spent in the driveway wrenching with my dad. So how did this — all this — happen?


I started looking at cars probably some time around middle school, when the glowering headlights of old muscle cars in my home town started to stick out to me. Things got worse when I got sucked into a months-long quest to identify a Corvair that rumbled around my neighborhood.


How old were you when you started to get into cars?

Photo Credit: Raphael Orlove, the Corvair in question is pictured.

Contact the author at raphael@jalopnik.com.

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Bill Caswell

I didn't know I loved cars until I owned my first car...an e30 and started auto crossing and going to track days. I'm old, pictures required film back then. I still own both E30's in the photo and am pissed I loss the chance at owning the 2002. That summer with my friends Leo jr. and Matt was one of the best of my life and changed me forever into a car guy. A few years later we started converting the e30 on the left into my first $500 rally car based on a rally beater article that Dave Coleman wrote for Sports Compact Car. It took over a decade for me make that rally beater dream come true but man was it worth the wait. I spent that decade reading everything I could find about building and racing cars...until 2009 when I quit my job to race.

Before that E30 I did stupid things with my friend's cars and Im lucky to still be alive - I think. One of my friends did his lose his life in a 69 Camaro and I'll never forget it. It's pretty much when I stopped doing stupid things on the street. But until that point Im thankful I never hurt anyone or myself. I got lucky. In many ways Im not proud of the stories below. They scare the hell out of me when I think about the various nights and how lucky we got.

But it sort of just happened. One of my good friends in high school had a dad that collected cars(owned like 125 or so when I met him) and he couldn't drive stick - I think his dad was trying to avoid exactly what we did. Anyway, he couldnt drive stick so naturally I drove a lot of them. He had two different AMG Hammer deals(automatics but still difficult to drive fast). The really fast one stopped at 155 but the other one got up to like 167mph before my friend freaked out. Like screaming freaked out. Ive never ever been that fast again other than Bonneville(but I had a parachute strapped to me and nothing to hit, and the full straight in the Nurburgring felt pretty quick in the Audi RS4.

The Grand National GNX was the most ridiculous of the group. No one could touch us back in 1991. He bought it at some special car auction. It was supposedly the development car or something? Some collectors deal (but he believed in driving a lot of them.) So it was red. I know. they are all black. This one was red. It would whistle the tires to 90 mph and the rear tires were huge. But later it got some vacuum leak so it would stall when I went from full boost to nothing and then the steering and brakes were worthless without the engine running. I remember cutting thru a yard at warp speed one night the first time it happened. Couldnt stop or turn. The grass made it easier but it wasn't by choice that I cut the lawn. Oh it seemed like the rear end was welded solid making even harder to drive off throttle. It wasn't welded solid, but drove that way.

The Ferrari 308 was the most fun by far and easily the biggest pile of shit of the whole bunch. One solid night of flogging and it was out of brakes, clutch, and everything seemed to be loose and rattle. I felt bad about that one. and the tires on the thing were garbage. Like huge sidewalls and no grip. I get why the 308 was fun in the 80's with no power. it didn't hook up either so it was like driving on snow the whole time and that made it fun. It was also gold and disgusting to look at. but once inside it was all Magnum.

The 50's cadillac convertible with the huge breasts on the bumper showed me how far we've come with cars. I didn't really check the brakes and ran the first red light at like 20 mph still trying to slow 4 wheel drum brakes down. How the hell did they ever race with 4 wheel drum brakes.

The rolls was pile of shit too but it was the first time Id seen a bar in a car. And I can't remember if it was this one or this old mercedes but there was a locking compartment in the drivers door that held a crystal liquor bottle and two glasses. I was 17. I thought it was a pretty good idea. Amazing how stupid I was.

Jaguar XKE convert v12 deal was the death sled. Scared me every time we took it out. My whole body seemed exposed above a car constructed of tin foil. I know there was a frame down there somewhere but it never felt that way. And every trip felt like that scene from Ferris Buellers day off. wind in our hair, screaming, mad engine noises. It was awesome.

In the end the other kids got pissed that we showed up to race their normal cars in things like the GNX so we began taking out the station wagon. I was stupid fast in the mercury sable wagon. I dont really know why that was in the driveway, I just know it was always there and took that out one night as big FU and still worked people. Then it became way fun to punish in the wagon. And at the time, the town of Lake Forest was being massively developed with huge rolling hill subdivisions that had one gated entrance to protect the soon to be built mansions. But before the gates and houses went in, but after the road was paved, we had our own private little racetrack. It was one of the most dangerous things we found in high school. Made partying look like a night with coloring books.

It was crazy fun until I had a tire blow out at high speed and I put an Acura Legend thru a fire hydrant nearly killing me and my three good friends riding with me. I was spinning so fast I hit it twice. The first hit sheered the bolts and then the back came around and hit it like a baseball bat. I remember standing there thinking how did I hit it with the front and the back of the car? But we were spinning so fast I could barely make out the horizon. I was doing ok recovering from the skid but the tire ripped off the wheel and then the tie rod snaped and boom we were spinning.

So I guess I fell in love with cars without realizing it when I bought a beat up 86 325es(it was the only car that wouldn't crumble around me when I drove fast). But it was really when I started racing in controlled environments like autocross that it became fun. Thats when I learned to LOVE cars. I still have that first car from the pics above, fully gutted and ready for solo II this summer after I change the oil.

Actually I finally sold my first car this year at age 41. My E30 M3 and my 318ti rally car- its at Team Oneil Rally School so I can rent it back as needed. Better to keep living the dream than own cars I guess. I still have 14 more somewhere including one I ditched at the Nurburgring and is now somewhere in Berlin. Im going back in May to repair it for a run thru eastern europe in search of beautiful, eastern european women and super weird, but incredibly awesome car races.