Us humans like to define ourselves in contrast to others. We look at people and decide what parts of them we want to emulate and what parts we’d be mortified to have as part of us. And for a lot of us, that also means we picked up our specific love of cars from a person or two along the way. So, who’s your automotive hero?
In my family, we grew up with motorsport and classic American cars, which definitely shaped my experience of car culture today. In a family of Michigan-based engineers, I was taught to love American muscle and reject the foreign stuff. That wasn’t really what stuck with me, since I bought a Mazda the minute I graduated college and moved to Texas.
Instead, it was the racing stuff that stuck with me. The first essay I ever wrote was on Mark Donohue, and I’ve maintained a massive respect for him ever since. For me, Donohue epitomizes one of the coolest eras of racing, where it was all about making the rules yourself. I still respect the fact that he was both an engineer and a racer, the kind of person who would work on his own cars and help design them and proceed to be the one to put those designs to the test. And, as many people have maintained, he was just a good, down-to-earth dude. He’s one of those people who shaped my early perception of automotive spaces in ways that I still feel today.
I know for other people, their car hero is a family member that taught them to wrench for the first time, or who passed on their car collection. My childhood was fairly chaotic, so I outsourced a lot of my heroes. But I want to know your stories. The ones about your mom or dad, or the racer you met when you were a kid, or the designer you watched on TV that showed you the art behind cars.