Men don’t like talking about emotions.
They have a hang-up about discussing their hang-ups. If you want to get men talking, ask about their first car.
This tactic doesn’t work as well in mixed groups. Some women don’t care about cars. A few have never actually owned a first car. They’ve left car ownership to their boyfriends or husbands.
Cars seem to matter more to men. It’s a macho thing, I guess.
That first car was a rite of passage. An entry to the adult world. A portal to an alternate universe.
My first car, I remember, was a lemon-yellow 1947 Triumph 1800 with the steering wheel on the wrong side.
Number 137 off the assembly line.
As the British car industry sought to recover from the Second World War, the Triumph company cobbled together a sports car from its parts bins. And perhaps from some competitors’ parts bins too. And wrapped around that amalgam a voluptuous aluminium body that stole its styling from the early 1930s.
My car had its life shortened when a drunken driver in a Ford sedan tried to occupy all three lanes of a two-lane road.
I returned to the Triumph marque some 35 years later, with a badly beaten TR7 — the only car I have ever owned that ate piston rings for breakfast. Inside the car, it was hard to tell whether I was losing yet another set of piston rings or just listening to a Jamaican steel band on the radio.
My second car was a prosaic 1950 Hillman. With just enough power to maintain 40 mph against a headwind.
It always seemed to be battling a headwind.
When I eventually sold it, the prospective owner asked if it would be good for a family. I assured him it would. And it was — I used his payment to buy Joan’s engagement ring.
These musings were prompted by a book called Side Glances by Peter Egan, a long-time columnist for Road & Track magazine.
Egan has a gift for hyperbole. There hasn’t been much laughter around my house this last year, but his description of an obsessed car collector who cornered the world market for pastel-coloured Nash Metropolitans left me helpless with laughter.
Ditto for his numerous encounters with a Lotus 7.
You’ve never heard of a Lotus 7? It’s an oversized roller skate with a hyperactive engine and no luxuries whatsoever. Its designer, Colin Chapman, eliminated everything that didn’t make the car go.
Chapman also had a hand in designing the fabled Coventry Climax engine. Once, I almost bought a Morgan with an 1100 cc Climax. The engine was well named. It sounded as if it was having an orgasm at every gear change.
Then a mechanic warned me it was making more clanks and bangs than it had cylinders to make them with.
I suspect guys pick their first car based on what they’d like to be. They base their second car on what they can handle, financially and emotionally.
The same principle might apply to their girlfriends.
Typically, guys will say, “I should never have gotten rid of that car.” I wonder if they would say the same about their girlfriends… nah, men would never talk about their personal relationships….
Jim Taylor lives in Lake Country.