Note: The following is a re-write of my father-son road trip story for the JagMag.
How to carry the ideals and concepts into the future? This is the question heard often within the old car community, frequently in the guise of a pressing problem: declining club membership. “How do we get young people interested in old cars?” I wish I had a few bucks for every time I heard that question, as I’d be comfortably retired now with the full set of dream cars in my Garage Mahal.
The answer is simple: Engage the young directly.
Introduce them to cars the same way you were introduced to cars. Have them help you work on your car. Show them how things work. Make them a partner to your passion. Take them for a ride, or better yetâ€¦ Let them drive! Lose the idea that the car is a precious and fragile object, and remember that it is really your passion for cars which is precious and fragile. The passion is what needs preservation and care far more than the car itself. Throw away the “Do not touch this car” sign. A car is a multi-thousand pound industrial object made of steel, glass, and rubber, and it can not be hurt by being lovingly touched, or fervently used as its designers intended. However, without someone to carry on the passion the car (and the club) will inevitably vanish. The car will follow the passion as it is ignited in the next generation(s). So stop treating your old car like it is made of dragonfly wings, and start sharing your passion for cars with somebody young.
Like many, I came by my love of all things automotive from my father, a dyed-in-the-wool sports car nut. My childhood was filled with Mustangs, MGs, car shows, and trips to Can-Am races. This didn’t instantly turn me into a car nut, but it planted a seed. Like all seeds the “car guy” bent lies dormant while more pressing items of life are attended to. Cars become a secondary concern in young adulthood as education courtship, family, and career come along. Automotive desires are restrained, but always remain just under the surface. Now in middle age, resources are available to explore this passion personally, and like my father did with me, share it with my two sons. They attend club functions with me, Sunday drives, wrenching in the barn, rallies and road trips.
Road trips are quintessential journeys of discovery and there is no better way to take a road trip than in an old car. Old cars break down social barriers and invite everyone to be your friend. Stop for gas and people naturally come talk to you. They ask about the car, tell you stories of the one they, or somebody they know owned and wish they’d never sold. Sometimes old cars just break down, but even then I’ve always found that help is closer at hand than you would imagine – other hobbyists will often come to your rescue or assistance. The road is a car’s natural habitat, not the concours field, and seeing an old car traveling the back roads of America is an inspiration to everyone that captures a glimpse of it going by. How best to discover and nurture the seed of passion for cars than taking my kids on a road trip in their grandfathers old E-type?
A road trip we’ve always wanted to take is a tour of the West Coast, and we chose this summer as the time for this trip. My oldest son is nineteen years old, and my youngest is fifteen. In a few years they’ll be gone so, for events like this the time is now. But how to deal with the mathematical reality of a two-seater and me, plus two kids? Division of course! Can’t make one kid from two. Can’t add another seat to the E-type. But the trip can be divided into two parts. We’d acquire a pair of one-way tickets between Seattle and LA, one kid would go southbound, the other return on the northbound route. Our plan begins to formulate, with specific things to see and do along the way, people we’d like to visit, and our very own Rules of the Road (Trip):
Road Trip Rule #1: No Interstates, unless unavoidable.
Road Trip Rule #2: No fast food.
Road Trip Rule #3: Route follows whims, weather, and no fixed schedule (except the flights!)
Road Trip Rule #4: Travel light, travel cheap.
Interstates are great for getting somewhere in a hurry, but they are dull ways to explore as you are insulated from the environment. While traveling the superslab you are surrounded b noisy trucks, fast food places clustered around every off-ramp, acres of concrete and asphalt. No thanks. We’ll find back roads and twisty highways. We’ll read historical markers and take meals at “mom & pop” places. If the view is nice, we’ll stop and soak it in. If we’re tired, we’ll stop for the night. Our days will not be dictated by a timetable, except for the flights that trade the boys’ places in Los Angeles. We’ll pack a tent and camp out if it suits us. We’ll visit friends along the way. We’ll carry tools and spares and be as self-sufficient and self-determined as possible.
All the while we’ll savor the experience of being together, with this amazing machine. Sir William’s Sixth Symphony serenading our ears. The wind in our faces. The whole west coast to see in an old Jaguar! Stay tuned for next month where you’ll read about the southbound journey in Part Two.