By the time I was five years old, my status as a hardcore car enthusiast was already well established. My play life centered around Matchbox cars, and I had already expressed an interest in collecting higher-quality diecast models. This passion seems to have skipped a generation, however, as neither my five-year-old son nor my three-year-old daughter has shown signs of being a committed gearhead. True, both have small collections of Hot Wheels cars, and the boy went through a pretty serious Pixar Cars phase, but at this stage, they’re just into other things.
While I have no desire to force the kids to follow in their old man’s petrol-sniffing footsteps, I feel that I should make an attempt to explain to them the reason for their father’s monomania about cars, to see if there is at least a sliver of a common bond there. So, last Saturday we loaded up the Carriage House Express and headed south to Irvine for the weekly Cars and Coffee show at Mazda’s U.S. headquarters. As arguably the world’s greatest free-form weekly car show, Cars and Coffee represented a perfect opportunity to take the kids’ temperature on where they stand on “the car thing.” Here’s what I learned:
1. HAVE A PICTURE OF A HORSE ON YOUR CAR
“Dad, a horsey! Take a picture!” shouted Margot as she broke free from my grasp and made a beeline for this 360 Modena. I was happy to oblige her, hoping that I could turn this into a teachable moment about the specialness of Ferraris. My plan was thwarted, however, when her brother Elliott immediately found a row of FIVE horses affixed to the grilles of late-model Mustangs and promptly declared himself the winner. I didn’t know it was a contest…but I guess I should have.
2. PAINT YOUR CAR GREEN
“Green cars are really rare, Dad,” Elliott said. I don’t have the statistics to corroborate this, but I do know that as a family unit, this hot-rodded 911 was our favorite car at the show that day. I loved it for its slightly seedy aggressiveness and its singularity of purpose, packed full of swapped 3.6 and advisable roll cage. The kids loved it because it looked like Kermit. That, and the whole rarity thing.
3. DO SOMETHING RIDICULOUS
Your eyes do not deceive you: that is a BMW M4 wrapped in blue foil. At least, I hope it’s wrapped, and that it’s not actually painted that way. Whatever, the kids spent three solid minutes checking out their reflections in it. Not sure that was the sort of attention the owner of this splendid jewel was seeking, but perhaps it’s the sort he deserves.
4. DON’T BRING ANYTHING OUR DAD WOULD LIKE
Beautiful Healey, isn’t it? I thought so. Know who didn’t? The Margot and Elliott Show. They were equally unimpressed with the Lincoln Mark II, the Dino 246GT, the Mercedes W108 Coupe, the BMW E28 M5, and a half-dozen other cars that I wanted to stop to admire. Instead, they wanted to see the goofy VW with front-mounted Chevy 427, the Callaway Corvette with blue rims, and the rainbow-liveried Hamann BMW. I try to take consolation that, when I was their age, I thought flame jobs were the ultimate in automotive style.
5. BUT DO PROVIDE HIM WITH A MOMENT OF GRACE
The kids were starting to hit the wall after only fifteen minutes of browsing, and it was obvious to me that while they clearly had their favorites, the two of them just didn’t have an overwhelming curiosity about cars…and that was totally okay with me. They are very independent kids whose enthusiasms run strong, and that’s all that really matters, even if our passions are not shared. BUT, as we were starting to head back toward the exit, Elliott stopped in his tracks and pointed to the 991 GT3 pictured above. “Dad,” he said with complete seriousness, “I’m going to save my money and buy that car when I’m a grown up.” I told him I thought it was a good choice, secretly celebrating the aspirational power of a really great automobile, and I asked him why he wanted that one.
“Because it’s blue,” he said.
Because it’s blue. Not as rare as green, of course, but I’ll take it for now, kid.