Almost every car conversation I have leads to the inevitable question, “So, what got you interested in cars?” Or its variation, “How long have you been interested in cars?” I never know quite how to answer that question. Although there are plenty of other things in life that are important to me, cars and racing are so central to what I love and enjoy that it’s as though the question was, “So, how long has your hair been brown?” Umm…I don’t know. Since I’ve had hair? (Which, to be fair, was at least a few months into my life.) Some people have said I should write about how I became so interested in cars, how they became such a big part of my life. Well, here you go.
Looking back now, I realize I had – if not a conscious interest – an awareness of cars from a young age. I could (and still can!) tell you what several of our neighbors and family friends drove, starting when I was about three or four. I didn’t even realize that until recently. But I’ve obviously been filing away all that data for years, waiting for the opportunity to make use of it.
The first car I remember, aside from our old Volvo, is the Bradley my dad built.
Note the gullwing doors – and a baby version of me popping up over the top. Man, I wish that car was still around.
Thanks, Bradley. Look what you started.
When I got a little older, I became very interested in the old Volkswagen Beetle. By the teen years, my dad was even contemplating a Beetle restoration project with me. Much to my disappointment, he decided against it, given the number of Beetles he had seen on fire on the side of the road over the years. Probably a good call, Dad.
Somewhere toward the end of high school, I read a New Yorker article about Jean Jennings, the editor-in-chief of Automobile Magazine. I had never heard of her or of Automobile before (nor had I ever read the New Yorker before). I remember thinking that her job – driving and writing about cars – sounded like pretty much the best job ever. I decided to subscribe to Automobile. (And to the New Yorker. I have been a subscriber to both magazines ever since.)
By my freshman year in college, I had created a computer screensaver of car photos. And yet, even at this point, I would not have listed cars as an interest. It was so inherent that I hardly noticed it, I guess. In the spring semester of my sophomore year in college, I got a part-time receptionist job at a local Volkswagen dealership. Given my old interest in the Beetle, this seemed very apropos. Watching the car business unfold from my little perch behind the switchboard, I became very interested both in the cars and in the operations of a dealership. I loved the atmosphere, but it was more than that. I felt at home.
A year later, I bought my first MINI. (Nothing against Volkswagen, but I did my research, and the MINI just ticked all the boxes for me. And still does). Somewhere from the Bradley to the MINI, I became an official car lover. All the experiences I have described above had been percolating in the back of my mind, without much if any awareness on my part, and finally I began exhibiting symptoms of acute car infatuation.
I worked at the dealership throughout the rest of college, and even into law school. For some reason, it never really occurred to me to explore a career in cars. But I remained interested in the business and the industry.
A couple of things in the last few years pushed me over the edge. In January 2012, I went with a dear friend and fellow car aficionado to the Detroit Auto Show. It was cold, gray, jam-packed, overwhelming. In other words, it was totally brilliant. I took over 800 photos, which is when I began to realize that I liked photographing cars. Then, in November 2012, Formula 1 came to my town. Walking up to the track, hearing the high-pitched roar/zing combination that only a Formula car makes, I realized my condition was not only acute, it was terminal. A month later, I was invited to join Jean Jennings’ “Group of Seven.”
And it’s pretty much been no-holds-barred since.
I started this blog in May, not because I think I have some special insight or perspective, or because people should naturally want to hear what I think. But I have so much to say, so much to noodle over and to talk with you guys about. This blog has really taken me to another level – the people I am meeting, the experiences I am having. With every great thing that happens, I feel surprise and appreciation in equal measure. At the same time, as I spend weekends at the racetrack or as I type this at my dining room table late at night, I feel – more than ever before – like I’m home.
It’s pretty cool.
Thanks for joining me on this journey. I’m pretty excited about the places we’re going.