My first car was a 1951 Plymouth 4-door sedan. I acquired it, with the help of my parents, in 1959. The engine was a flathead six that burned (ahem) a “little” oil. (Translation: It could have produced a very useful smoke screen during the D-Day invasion of France in World War II.) But I was devoted to that car and kept it for about three years. I sold it so I could return to college for my last couple of semesters.
Since then I have owned or shared in ownership of about 18 more cars, vans or pickup trucks. The cars I liked most were said Plymouth, a 1963 Oldsmobile Dynamic 88, a 1970 VW Beetle, a 1974 Toyota Corona and my current ride, a 2011 VW Jetta. I didn’t dislike all the others, it was just that I liked these the best, for various reasons.
I never gave any of my cars names, but I cared for them, cleaned them, had two of them repainted, and kept them until they either wore out or there were other reasons to part with them— several, sadly, were wrecked. Why do we love our cars so much? And I extend that term “cars” to include everything from subcompacts to super duty pickup trucks. Automobiles have been around since about the turn of the 20th Century and have evolved from those very early powered buckboards to the sleek machines we love today.
I wasn’t around in the days of horse-drawn buggies, but to my knowledge people never had the same affection for their wagons, buckboards, carriages or other animal-powered vehicles. Now, the animals that drew them or were ridden by the commuters of the day were a different story. They got plenty of attention, and still do for those that fancy them.
What is it that draws us to love our automobiles? After all they are just a collection of metal and plastic parts held together by wires, hoses, and riding on tires and powered by some sort of petrochemical product. They are inanimate, but they do take on a personality, don’t they?
When a vehicle proves dependable to the extent that we trust it we do come to “love” it. Pilots love their airplanes, engineers on steam locomotives love their big, smoky, engines, and we love our cars. It’s human nature.
WARREN DOMKE is a columnist for the Pleasanton Express.