Between the ages of 13-17 we are influenced into the idea that having your own car means having freedom to go wherever whenever, the power of gatekeeper on deciding who can and who shall not pass-enger in your car, and that it’s just plain cool. If you grew up being a Gearhead then getting a set of wheels was a number one obsession and everything else came second. We all remember our first car, and for most of us, our first car was not factory new or freshly restored, but did we care? NO! The only thing that mattered was that it had four wheels, an engine, and a working stereo. It didn’t matter if it was a brand new Z/28, a pass down from an older sibling, or the family station wagon.
From the moment we acquired our first car we developed a side effect, one that has stayed with us until present day. I like to call it the, “The McQueen Syndrome”, named after the king of cool myself, Mr. Steve McQueen.
Side note: If you are from my generation and do not know who Steve McQueen is, or have not seen the famous Bullitt chase, you have homework to do! No excuse in this age of instant information to not know about the godfather of car chase scenes or one of the most legendary Gearhead/actors of the 20th century.
The McQueen syndrome is the ignorant pride that we are all guilty of when we drive, wash, or work on our cars. I use the term ignorant pride because if you love your care, for whatever reason, you will sometimes lose grip on reality and think your car is the ultimate example of automotive perfection. Doesn’t matter it’s a 1963 Ferrari California Spyder or a 2001 Honda Accord, every now and then their respective owners will have a McQueen episode. This will cause them to think their car is cooler than a polar bear getting a brain freeze or more badass than Clint Eastwood shooting off a .44 magnum with AC/DC playing in the background. An episode can come at any time: while admiring your mirror finish wax job, after winning a street race, hearing it start up on a cold morning, cruising down the street in the perfect weather, or tackling a curvy road and not missing a single apex corner.
This side effect can be twice as powerful, or even permanent, if the car in question is one you have built or restored yourself. No amount of fact or logic will ever be able to influence your opinion on your beloved racecar, hotrod, or project car. Other Gearheads, and normal people, may try to get you to see the real picture. They’ll say the car has a chips in the paint and has dents in every panel, and you will say it gives the car character. They’ll spot the surface rust eating away at the bare metal and you will say it has patina, Mother Nature’s paintjob. They can mock the fact that some of the body panels are a different color from the rest of the car and you will defend it saying it is, “rat rodded”. Hell, they’ll point out the car has no glass and your only response will be, “its weight reduction”.
If you cannot relate to this syndrome then I am truly sorry. The only thing in the real world I can compare this to is a child. Parents can boast about their child until they run out of breathe and view them as the next president of the universe, even though the child in question is constantly eating crayons in class. It doesn’t matter if the child is not destine to become a rocket scientist or brain surgeon, because the parents will love him/her as their perfect son/daughter.
This mental disorder is not one that requires a pill or a 5K run to find a cure, because if you can relate to this article then that means you truly enjoy what you drive. Which also means you have not wasted thousands of dollars on a means of transportation. Like the saying goes, “If you do not turn back to stare at your ride as you walk away from it, then you have bought the wrong car”.