I’m really not a car guy. If I were a car guy, my house would have a big garage, but it doesn’t. When a car guy makes a grocery run for a gallon of milk, it takes at least an hour because the auto parts store is right down the block. I’m back in about 10 minutes. A car guy watches “Hot Rod TV” on the Speed Channel. I watch “Charlie Rose” on PBS.
That’s not grease under my nails from changing the spark plugs, but dirt from transplanting hostas. I’ve never been to Lancaster Speedway or a NASCAR race, and going to either is not high on my bucket list. The car guy has a set of metric and English socket wrenches along with a small assortment of hand tools (including duct tape) in the trunk of his car in case of an emergency. I have a cellphone and an 800 number. And you were right to guess that I don’t have back issues of Motor Trend to read when I’m on the throne.
Being a car guy is primal. There is something in a man’s genetic heritage that will make the car guy lust after a brand-new Corvette or a 50-year-old Austin Healy roadster. It’s the reason I find it very hard to imagine a woman inventing the wheel. This is a true story: I knew a guy who spent more than $60,000 on a brand-new Porsche a few years ago and immediately took out a blowtorch and modified both the front and rear suspensions to better suit his needs. Now that’s a car guy.
I frequently attend the local car shows and gawk at the beautifully restored muscle cars, sophisticated old sedans and bare bones European roadsters. Why are they all lined up with their hoods raised like a nest of tiny robins waiting for mommy robin to return with breakfast? One hundred years of stellar automotive design spoiled because a car guy might want to see what’s under the hood.
I try to justify my failure to develop into a “real” car guy by telling myself I’ve evolved into a more sophisticated species: the automotive aficionado. I don’t wear a Quaker State baseball cap, but a wool pork-pie hat when I’m behind the wheel. And you won’t find an assortment of faded T-shirts with a picture of the late Dale Earnhardt in my dresser. My wardrobe tends to favor knit shirts with an embroidered club logo.
So if he’s not a car guy, you ask, why does he own a new roadster? Why does his second car have a turbocharger? Well, let me tell you a little secret. Even at 66, this old goat still has some residual testosterone in his blood. Even though I wouldn’t think of changing my own oil, I love to drive. I love the blue highways, gritty diners and mom-and-pop motels that were once a big part of the automotive world.
And I will confess that after working for almost 40 years as a field sales rep, the only thing I really miss in retirement is being on the road. Ask a dog if he wants to go for a ride in the car and he’ll jump up and down and wag his tail. His tongue will hang out, he’ll drool all over the rug and he’ll dance at the garage door until you are ready to go. That’s me!
I know I’ll eventually buy a new GPS to replace the old maps I pilfered from my father’s car when I went off to college, but not today. My bride of 43 years recently hinted at attending a quilt show in Paducah, Ky. Within hours, I had the 1,482-mile round trip laid out, including a brief stop in Bowling Green, Ky., to visit the Corvette factory and museum. But hey, I’m really not a car guy.
Dennis Klimko, of Orchard Park, enjoys frequent domestic and foreign travel. He is an avid, eclectic reader and a cultural volunteer.