You Do Not Need The Best Version Of Your Car To Have A Great Time

Photo credit BMW
Photo credit BMW

One of my beefs with car culture—parts of it, at least, not all of it—is the way it emphasizes the biggest and the best. Especially in America, where horsepower and quarter mile times are king. Everything has to be SS or M or AMG or V, top shelf, for it to be any good. This is the wrong way to think.

Advertisement

Here’s my advice instead: buy what you want. Enjoy what you have. Don’t worry about what other people say. And if your car’s not the best version out there, if it’s some lower-rung model instead of the top one, take pride in it anyway.

The latest Petrolicious video got me thinking about this. Turn on the subtitles to hear the story of Sébastien Defaux, 19, whose first car is this 1985 BMW 316. It’s an E30, sure, but the lowest rung on that ladder—about as far from an M3 as you can get. That one, with a tiny 1.6-liter inline-four, wasn’t even sold in America. Yet Sébastien was inspired to get it after a chance encounter with an E30 M3 he saw on the street, and you won’t find him lamenting his car’s not an M-car.

It reminds me of the 325e I owned until very recently, when I sold it because I wasn’t up for dragging it to New York City with me. That may have been a mistake. I’m not sure. I do know that even though my car had a garbage low redline, it was still a blast to drive, and I never felt bad about what it was.

I may need another one of these, and soon. But remember: if Sébastien can love the shit out of his humble 316, and show it off at car rallies he goes to, you too can take pride in whatever you drive.

Editor-in-Chief @ Jalopnik, 2015-2019.

DISCUSSION

bradleyland
Brad Landers

There’s a photography trope that says, “the best camera is the one you have with you.” The idea is that the best photographs aren’t always the ones that are sharpest, or have the most accurate color, or the most megapixels; but rather the best photographs capture a moment that moves you, and those moments pass quickly. This flies in the face of the cargo cult that is so endemic to photography culture, but it is absolutely the truth.

I think automotive culture suffers from a similar paradox. There is so much focus on horsepower, acceleration, and lap times, that the actual enjoyment of driving gets overlooked — or at least takes a back seat in the broader context. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that these objective metrics are straightforward to measure and publish in cool infographics. Meanwhile, the way a car actually drives requires expressive language. The latter is far more challenging to write in a way that draws in audiences.

The other major contributor to this dysfunction is that most people don’t have the opportunity to drive that many cars. At 40 years old, I’ve owned eight cars, but most of them have been of the similar types (2 Rabbits, 3 GTIs, 1 MR2, and 2 BMWs). I’ve learned a lot in the course of owning these cars, and my beliefs today are 180° from the beliefs I held in my twenties. I cannot, however, blame my twenty-something self for holding those beliefs, because I didn’t have the experience required to form more nuanced feelings.

So, my message to you, young enthusiast, is this: Drive as many cars as you possibly can. Save your money and get yourself to a racing school. Learn what it feels like to balance a car on the edge of grip. Armed with that knowledge, seek out an automobile that rewards your senses, not your ego.