Anyone who has read much of my writings knows that I am a car guy in the most stereotypical way that any man can be such. I like looking at cars, I like working on cars, I like driving cars, I like reading about cars. I like talking about cars…to a fault.
I sometimes will take a chance to drive a particular car, just to say that I have driven it. The car doesn’t even have to be something cool or particularly interesting, but if I drive it I can check it off my list and say I have driven it. I subscribe to multiple auto magazines, and I read from them regularly. I have Jalopnik and Autoblog bookmarked in all of my web browsers. I also know all of the best YouTube channels on automobiles, and some of the worst ones too. When I travel around the country, I always look for opportunities to visit auto museums and race tracks, whether anything is going on that day or not. I am truly passionate about the automobile.
I have spent my entire career working professionally with cars. I studied automotive technology in college, and even graduated with a degree in cars. When my degree in cars wasn’t high enough to advance my career, I went back to college and got a higher degree in, you guessed it, cars. I worked for years as an automotive technician in a wide variety of repair shops, including new car dealerships and independent specialty shops. I spent years as at a community college teaching automotive technology to others, long enough to gain tenure. I had such a great time sharing my passion with young minds. I am current working for a major auto manufacturer in their technical training department doing similar things. You would think in all of this time I could have found another car guy to hang out with. Is it me? Wait, don’t answer that.
In my adult life I have never had any friends that were just like me. I’m not going to tell you my exact age but let’s just say I am old enough that I have been an adult for at least half of my life. I have had some fantastic friends, but I have never had a good friend that was a car guy. You would think that somewhere out there I would be able to find another human male with interests similar to mine that I could be friends with, but I have not. Maybe I am blind? Everyone seems to be into sports, or hunting, or fishing, or sports, or football, or shooting guns. That’s fine I like those things too.
Now before I get too far into this discussion I want to say a few things. I’m perfectly happy to continue through life doing all things car related by myself, or with my wife and kids. That’s why I have a family, so they can do everything I want to do whether they want to do it or not. I think it’s also worth noting that my wife would tell you the reason that I don’t have any friends that are car guys is because I’m pretty terrible at making friends in general. This is completely true. Part of the reason for this is I can never think of anything besides cars to talk about, except for maybe a little college football (see, I’m normal), and perhaps some musical theater (maybe not that normal), but I digress. Anyway, the point here is that you shouldn’t take this whole diatribe as a quest for pity or some such thing. I am simply thinking out loud.
So where are all the car guys? Where are all the people that comment on Jalopnik and subscribe to Motor Trend? Where are all the fans of Jay Leno’s Garage, and Top Gear? UK, US, or any other version for that matter, as I watch them all. Where are the guys that are at home on Saturday working on their project car? Heck, I would just like to know if there is any guy at home on Saturday working on their commuter car, just to keep it running right, and because they like to do it themselves.
I just spent a few days digging deep into my daily driver to fix a bunch of little problems that have been bothering me for some time. As I was working, I was wondering why I have never had any friends that would want to come over and hang out while we work on some piece of junk or another. I have had an occasional family member with me in such situations, and I enjoy garage time with my brothers, but they live thousands of miles from me. I have never had a friend from the neighborhood, or even one from across town who wanted to hang out and fix cars.
I have never had a friend that calls me up to say, “Hey I want to replace the timing belt on my wife’s car, do want to come over and hang out? Maybe we can put a race on the TV as we work.” I have never had a friend that I could take with me to a museum or a race track that appreciates it at the same level that I do. Maybe I just never asked the right friend.
Note: My wife is always the one that attends car shows, museums, and racing events with me. Many times we have left the kids home while we have traveled to some car event. She has been the best! She doesn’t go because she is into the cars, she goes because she is into seeing me happy discovering something cool. My wife is the best! She also stays perfectly calm if I put a camshaft on the kitchen table.
I think the biggest reason that I do not see car guys, or even know any is because there just are not that many of them anymore. I could be wrong, but it doesn’t seem that men, or women for that matter, take the interest in their own cars that they used too. They just want their car to deliver them to work, and to the store, and to anywhere else they want to go. They don’t care how it works, only that it does. They don’t want to touch anything under the hood, or even check the air pressure in the tires for that matter. They will put the gas in it and drive, and that’s it. I think this is the reason there is a big market for self-driving cars. To most people the automobile is a conveyance and that’s it.
People today don’t even have enough interest in their automobiles to stay loyal to a brand anymore. It used to be that a guy would drive a Ford just because his dad always bought a ford, and his dad before him. Or you might see someone who was only into German cars because only the Germans have what it takes to truly engineer the perfect car, or at least that’s what they thought. This kind of loyalty seems to have diminished. It’s still there but not like it used to be. All cars work well nowadays, and one is really not that much different from the next (to the unknowing user) so any loyalty that might be left is simply a matter of tradition.
Another part of the problem might be related to the complexity of the modern automobile. As far as the typical DIY kind of guy is concerned, it’s a little more difficult to work on cars today compared to the cars of the past. Many things on the automobile have not a changed at all, but the perception is such that the average joe cannot handle home auto repair anymore so fewer are willing to attempt it. I don’t think this is true by the way. I think anyone can learn to work on their car.
In reality, I have no idea where the car guys are. When I worked as a technician it was always surprising to me how many of my fellow technicians had no passion for the automobile anymore. I think most of them did at some point, but they lost it long ago, and they were now just stuck in their job wrenching on other people’s junk.
As I sit here and wonder where all the car guys have gone, I also wonder what’s keeping the automotive aftermarket alive. I have been to the SEMA show in Las Vegas and I have seen the market for things that only an enthusiast would care for. The car guys are still out there but where?
So what’s a lonely car guy like me to do? Who knows, probably nothing. I will keep dragging my wife and kids with me to car shows and such. I will be perfectly happy this way but I will always be curious as to who it is that’s watching all those cool car videos on YouTube that I watch.