For the love of cars


Handles, my Renault Megane Coupe, who bravely endures my endless drives between Grahamstown and everywhere else. Photo: Sam Spiller

You are my ride, my wheels, my getaway driver.

A letter to the automobile.

He sits just outside your window, parked underneath a tree whose leaves never stop falling. She hides away in the left-hand-side garage, squeezed in between the lawnmower and the golf clubs that never tee off. He’s quietly rusting under a tarpaulin, left with the broken promise of being your weekend project. She’s forever parked on a red line, waiting outside the shopping mall for rich kids to hail her to take them home.

Many of us view the car as a mere object. Something that makes our lives a little easier. It is for the same reasons that people do not consider the car to have artistic merit. Art cannot serve a function other than itself, as the argument goes. The car serves a function, end of story.

And yet…

One can experience a level of desire that transcends just owning one of these magnificent machines, these chariots of innovation.

Fashion. One is best suited to drive an Aston Martin DB7 in ash grey to the opera gala.

Adventure. Dusseldorf to Dakar in a first-gen Toyota Land Cruiser will be a slow, but smooth trip.

Marketing. A sexy and shirtless fireman draped over the hood of a bright, red Ford Ranger Raptor.

Adrenaline. Speeding down Route 62 at 200 km/h, in a matte black Audi RS4.

Art. Yes, it is possible. The Disco Volante, in its signature shade of golden red, parked outside Notre Dame Cathedral.

Function. Have you ever driven a Citi Golf? It is quite literally bomb-proof.

Self-hatred. Any Lancia.

And, the greatest car of all time, in my opinion? The Porsche 911. But since I’m not in that tax bracket yet, Handles, my trusty Renault Megane Coupe, will do just fine.

Yes, we give them names. Handles, Doc, Tigger, Mumble. We personify them. We embody them with character. They do look somewhat like a person, don’t they? With the headlights for eyes? By that reckoning, never argue with a BMW. That glare will be the last thing you ever gaze upon.

And when you gaze upon a motor vehicle, what do you think of? What does it represent? What does it mean to you?

To me, and to many others, it represents freedom. It represents travel. It represents progress. For other, it represents status. It represents profit. It represents utility.

And some people just see an air polluter. Don’t worry, they’re working on changing that.

There may slowly come a time when we won’t have cars, or when we don’t have to drive them ourselves. Automated driving and improved public transport and all that good stuff.

But for now, they are here. They have a presence. They have meaning. I adore for everything they embody, and what they are capable of.

In the lyrics of Rascal Flatts, life is a highway, and I want to ride it all night long.

What better way to travel it than in a Mazda MX-5 with the top down.

By Sam Spiller

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