The evolution of an automotive enthusiast

My ever-changing love for cars and everything that surrounds it



By George Kuruvilla

Published: Thu 13 Oct 2022, 10:02 PM

I don’t really know when my love for cars began, but I’m pretty sure it was a pre-adolescence passion, maybe even going back to kindergarten. Mine was a childhood spent quizzing siblings and cousins about which cars were the fastest and how famous brands were spelt. Back then, it was all about sleek and speedy sportscars, like Ferraris and Lamborghinis, fuelled by action-packed cartoons like The Transformers and Speed Racer. For many of you, it may have been other types of wheeled creations, like heavy-duty construction vehicles or motorcycles.

Early learning

Then from an infatuated young boy, I turned into an academic. These days kids have near-infinite access to car pictures, videos and stats, but in the 80s, all I had in terms of automotive material was newspaper and magazine cutouts of car news and reviews and promotional pamphlets and literature I collected from the few motor shows I attended. I used to byheart the specs for every vehicle out there without discrimination, be it pickup trucks or SUVs, while my proclivity for sporty vehicles remained. A few sets of Top Trumps cards, which were all the rage at school at the time, also helped me learn the numbers.

Along with my growing passion, so did my toy collection. I remember that red Ferrari Testarossa that I purchased in 1989 (I still have it), which I would just stare at for hours altogether, admiring every part of it. And there were many other die-cast models that came before it and several that came after that cultivated this habit. I’m guessing many of you have been there. I also added a few RC cars to the fray, but all met with the same fate. They all ended up as half-working models with plenty of parts to spare after a botched operation had been done to them. After all, knowing the underpinnings of a car, even a toy, was a hobby that came naturally to most kids.

My early teens went by fantasising about owning supercars, which were often the topic of discussion in school be it on the bus back home or during lunchtime, along with other important stuff such as superheroes and movies, of course. And helping dad out with the car, washing it, changing the spare tyre, and accompanying him to the local mechanic helped me learn a few basic, but technical things about cars, which gave me a deep sense of pride and enjoyment, quite different from toys.

Licence to drive

The next big step was when I obtained my driver’s licence. It was not just an ID card with my picture on it. It was a badge of honour signifying that one made it past the strict eye of the examiner whom many of my friends had trouble with. And to be known as a car lover and not obtain my licence would have become the joke of the century, at least within my circles. So, getting it at the first attempt, was of prime importance, which I did. More importantly, it came with the freedom of movement beyond the four walls of the house and from the clutches of my very liberal parents. And it was an invitation to explore the world at a pace that was my own, without relying on public transport. It mattered less, whether it was a rental Mitsubishi Lancer with a severely anemic 1.3-litre engine or a curiously competent Mazda6 sedan, I treated all cars with reverence, for they gave me the power and privilege to commute through the city.

Reality check

Then came the magical moment of buying my own set of wheels. At the time, I thought I was a ‘coupe guy’ and nothing else. There was no love for SUVs or estates and definitely, not hatchbacks. But with exposure to a wide variety of vehicles and driving experiences, the different aspects of what I loved about cars became clearer. Yes, I still fancied 2-door coupes with swoopy rooflines, but once I test drove the Volkswagen Golf R32 — which is a hatchback — I was enthralled by the grip its AWD system offered and intoxicated by its soundtrack. And just like that, I realised that hatchbacks are cars too and that they can also be loved with equal fervour. It also opened up my eyes to a whole world of square-back vehicles.

But my continued OCD-like affinity for speed and everything that could make my car go faster meant that I couldn’t make peace with the fact that the sunroof on my zippy R32 compromised its structural rigidity and therefore, its handling prowess. And with that viewpoint, only cars like the 911 GT3 and Lancer Evo, even with their bone-breaking suspension, were considered truly desirable, in my opinion.

As the years rolled by, the number of vehicles I drove went from a few dozen to a couple hundred. And while track-focused specials may look good in a garage or on the Dubai Autodrome circuit, out in the real world, after a few hours behind the wheel, they leave you with a bad back and ringing ears. Having learnt that from experience, I also started to appreciate more refined sports cars (or traditional GTs) like Aston Martins and super sedans like the Audi RS7, which very often are roomier on the inside and ride more comfortably.

Adulting

Life progressed and the single man that I was, dived into married life, and not long after I became a parent of one. In that new phase, my respect for road rules and general safety went up several notches. It wasn’t just about having to drive the car as smoothly and safely, as possible, but I also started looking for features and accessories like ISOFIX mounting points for child seats and tablet/phone holders in the cars that I rented or tested. And common knowledge points that I used to causally mention earlier, like the practicality of black interiors, became true first-hand accounts.

As I lean into my 40’s, I haven’t become a practicality-minded individual devoid of feeling. There is plenty of gas left in the tank. I still enjoy driving the heck out of hardcore sportscars on the track and I’m ready to drive a few hours from the city to share a view of a sunrise on a peak or a sunset on a dune deep in the desert. But I also have genuine consideration for the people who travel with me and the automotive community as a whole. My love for cars has grown from just an infatuation with supercars, to something that includes an appreciation for different rides that serve different purposes and how car culture impacts the planet in a big way. Hard-hitting questions that were put on the back burner are things I seriously ponder about daily, all in an effort to find a solution someday. After all, “Why does an individual who weighs about 75 kg need a 2-tonne vehicle to get him across town?” and “What will happen to those tonnes of batteries of electric cars when they are disposed of a decade from now?”

At the end of the day, my love for the automobile remains and continues to be nurtured. And while thunderous-sounding supercars that smell of gasoline fumes do still turn me on, even boring NCAP safety ratings excite me, but in different ways.

wknd@khaleejtimes.com


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