What does your car say about you? The lines, the shine, the smell even – all say something about where you are in your life right now. Jackson Biko explains why cars aren’t just about locomotion…
One of the saddest moments in life is overhearing someone say, “I’m not one of those people who are fussy about cars. For me, if it can move from point A to point B, I’m good.” You turn your head sharply at the source of this poppycock and you stop yourself from walking over and sticking a thermometer in this person’s ear to see if they are running a fever.
The whole point of cars isn’t for locomotion. It isn’t about moving from “point A to point B” otherwise we would happily use an ox-pulled cart. Or a bicycle. Or use a boat, for crying out loud. The whole point of cars is the sheer driving pleasure of them, the smell of the leather under our bums, the power and throttle when you press the accelerator and it kicks its hind legs, the sound of the engine coming alive, like a beast awakening from a coma, hungry for something to devour, which in this case is hot tarmac.
The beauty of cars is how they gleam in sunlight. How they feel when you turn a corner, clawing into the road, keeping you earthed. The reason why men buy bigger cars than other men isn’t because they want to get from “point A to Point B”, it’s because they want to keep other men out of their lane, they want distinction, respect, applause. But mostly men buy cars for women. Because we love attention and validation. We love to be admired. Cars are statements; either we are telling ourselves something with the kind of cars we drive or we are telling others something by those cars. Don’t believe anyone who says they buy a car to get from “point A to Point B.” We buy cars that represent who we are and our dreams and aspirations. Cars also say where we are in life.
First job. Miserable job. You are earning peanuts. You fetch coffee for the boss sometimes. You live in a studio apartment, maybe some kindly lady sublets you in this old handsome house with a large chimney. Her kids are devilish sods, always touching your stuff.
You look at guys who drive and wish you could be them. You wonder what a man has to do to drive a car. Then you buy a car, a Toyota Corolla 110 or Nissan Sunny B15. The AC doesn’t work. The back window doesn’t work. But it gets you around. Your woman rides shotgun, giggling as you slap the car radio that keeps jamming. She has on a short flowery dress, that rides up her thighs when she sits there with one leg folded under her. You burn with lust as your engine burns and emits black smoke. You bought your car off some dodgy guy with six fingers on his right hand. It’s a fourth-hand vehicle. That night you didn’t sleep a wink.
The beauty? Guys saying, “Biko nowadays drives a car; have you seen him?” And when they see you, you have your elbows out the window, a cocky smile on your face. Kiss my butt, World!
Young, free & single
You wake up each day with these burning questions: “How do I get chicks to like me? How do I get my peers to say ‘you are the man’? How do I make the whole world kneel before me? How do I get noticed?” Because you want to make a statement, and you want to make it now!
So you make it in the loudest possible of ways. You get a Subaru Impreza WRX or the Subaru Impreza 1500cc with aftermarket exhaust, Chinese LED lamps and stickers on the driver’s door. You make a racket when you drive into the estate, housewives angrily stick their heads out of windows and shoot you disgusted looks but girls giggle when you pull over and say, “Hello ladies!” The younger men want to be you. Every evening you wash her, scrub the wheels clean and during public holidays you take a girl for an out of town road trip, with a functional music system that you don’t have to slap into life. You are convinced you are the man.
You quickly grow tired of trying to impress. In fact, you realise with horror that you can actually go to bed on a Friday at 10pm. You even stopped wearing your glitzy ‘Fifty Cent hat’ for a more sober one. You meet a girl who you like. She says what attracted her to you was how calm you are and how thoughtful you are. You want to laugh and ask her to talk to the housewives on your estate. Calm? Oh boy!
You go and get a sober car, a Honda CRV, a Nissan Navara or Nissan X-trail. If you are higher in the food chain you will be driving a BMW 3 Series, which says “I’m not all about that life anymore.” You drive for family functions, the wife seated to your left looking mysterious behind her shades. Sometimes you drive to an out of town lodge, where you park your car under a tree and it looks picturesquely sober. That’s who you have become.
The kids are growing. They need space – space to fight each other. You want a car that can fit everybody, the luggage, and maybe the dog, Skippy (that is if he learns never to poop in the back of the car).
You have become a responsible guy. At work you have a corner office, which you had to literally push someone off the 13th floor for. OK, we are kidding. But you fought for it. You get what you deserve in life. You work hard, you play golf every weekend, you run for at least 20km a week, you avoid deep fried food and when you pee you check if the stream is strong enough (please don’t ask).
You drive a Toyota Prado or if you pushed someone off the 20th floor then you deserve the Land Rover Discovery 3. Sometimes you drive the whole family to the village so that they understand that they aren’t entitled to cable television. Your car smells of fruits.
Oh, oh! So you almost ran off with some young girl half your age. Hang on, don’t make that face just yet. You don’t know what happened, but it happened so fast and it lasted for only two weeks. It’s the devil. This is how you knew you had entered into mid-life crisis; you met her at a cocktail party and she had a highball of something in her slim hands and she said, laughing, “You remind me of Duncan Smart,” and you asked her, “Who the hell is Duncan Smart?” and she said, “He’s my dad’s friend, very funny guy – you talk and kind of look like him.” You almost choked on your 25-year old whisky, which, come to think of it, was just about her age.
Two months later you buy a Mercedes SLK with top down. Then you start leaving one button of your shirt open. And you buy a thin silver chain. Just when your wife is starting to look at you with that worried disapproving look, you ditch the Merc (and the girl) and import a porsche boxster. Red. You dye your hair black. Or shave everything off and leave your white and pepper goatee. Even the family dog looks at you strangely.
You are a few years shy of retirement. The kids are all grown and out of the house, OK except one – mama’s boy. You have to find a way of pushing him off now that you have experience in pushing off people. You are still strong. You climb mountains. You went to the Alps last year. You want to see more of the world, maybe even choose a cause. You hug trees and collect whisky. You still play squash even though your knees hurt. Lately you even try some cigars which smell like baboon fur but it’s all good, all your distinguished boys are smoking it. Wait, is this peer pressure?
You drive around in a Land Cruiser VX or Range Rover Vogue. Both are solid cars that say, “Look, I have done well for myself, I deserve this.” Security guys salute you at entrances. Younger men look at you with a mixture of envy and jealousy. Because you are particular and because you can afford it, both have beige upholstery and come with your initials stuck on it. It’s over the top but what the heck?
You have become so mild and tame. You read a lot. You drink brandy by the fireplace. You watch polo (gulp).
During your free time you drive down to the country club and play a round of golf and talk about business and politics and how to make your grown son leave the house without the mother reminding you of the girl you almost took off with a decade ago (the boys chuckle at this)!
Maybe sometimes you go camping alone. You think more. You read more. You think before you answer. Your kids think you are cool because you really are cool. You are wittier than you have ever been and you sense of style isn’t too bad. Maybe you are writing a book. You are deep.
You also have several cars in the garage. OK, maybe two cars. Then you have an old sexy relic, the Mercedes 123 or the Mercedes 124. Maybe you even have the Peugeot 504 because it reminds you of youth and the excess of it all.
When you buy cars now you hinge your decisions on nostalgia. It’s a rickety relic that you spend lots of time and money maintaining and keeping in great shape, but it gives you such joy. Besides you have lots of time on your hands.