How My Body Betrays Me When Choosing Which Of My Ten Cars To Drive

Screen Shot 2022 10 10 At 2.30.40 Pm

“How does someone with 10 cars decide which one to drive?” isn’t that interesting a question on the face of it. Obviously, practical considerations like “Which car is in the best shape?” and “Which is easiest to get out of the driveway?” play a role. Plus, people naturally choose the right car for the right conditions. If I’m heading out to the country, I’ll drive my Jeep J10 pickup; if I’m going off-road, I’ll drive my lifted Jeep XJ; if I’m cruising Woodward Avenue on a Friday night, it’s the ’66 Mustang; if it’s wintertime, I’ll drive my $700 beater Suzuki; if a long road trip is in order, my comfy Grand Cherokee will do the job. You get the idea. But reframe the question to ignore these practical considerations, and instead ask: “If you just have to quickly do an errand around the corner, and you’ve got your 10 keys right there, which one do you pick?” and things become a lot more interesting.

I get the question all the time, and for years I’ve always answered: “I just choose whatever I feel like driving.” And that’s true. When I consciously pick which vehicle I’m going to drive, I usually snag the keys to my Jeep J10 or my old Mustang. If I haven’t driven one of my other cars for a while, I’ll fire it up and cruise just to enjoy that novelty. Really, I choose based on what’s going to make me happiest that day.

But usually, the car I drive somewhere isn’t actually a conscious choice. Sometimes I have to rush to the post office or to meet a friend or to some kind of work function; in those instances, the “What car will I enjoy most?” consideration never enters my mind. I’ve got stuff to do; I just need a working car — I don’t care which one. But my body does.

This is a bit weird, and it’s only something I noticed because my unconscious choice is in direct opposition to my conscious choice, and if I’m honest, it didn’t take me long to figure out why.

My Hand Would Always Reach For The Lexus Keys

Screen Shot 2022 10 10 At 1.36.10 Pm

Screen Shot 2022 10 10 At 1.38.03 Pm

It all began last summer (the season during which my entire fleet is fair game to drive, as there’s no salt on the roads to worry about). A few months prior, I’d purchased a 2002 Lexus LX470 (see above). It’s a big, gas-guzzling luxury SUV that I really bought to act as a tow vehicle for a cool Jeep FC-170 project, and to serve as a winter beater. Relative to the rest of my fleet, it was boring, to the point where I would later go on to replace it with a 1965 Plymouth Valiant (see below) — a decision that would lead a reader to buy me a Chrysler Valiant ute in Australia, which led to all sorts of weirdness that I’ll write about soon). But once the summer came, there was really no reason that I would continue driving that Lexus. And yet I did.

Screen Shot 2022 10 10 At 1.31.52 Pm

To be clear: When it was a wide open weekend, and I had some time to consider which car to drive, the Lexus keys stayed in the house. But when I was conducting an errand, or running late to something, I noticed that at least 75 percent of the time, I’d grab the Lexus keys. Statistically speaking, given that I had 10 cars, this didn’t make sense.

I didn’t come to this realization until a few months in, when I was running late to a party at a Jeep-friend’s house, hopped into my Lexus, fired up the buttery-smooth 4.7-liter V8, shifted the four-speed slushbox automatic into reverse, and then remembered that all my friends at that party were Jeep fans. “What the hell am I doing in this car?” I remembered thinking, as I “came to” from whatever haze had overcome me and had put me in that leather driver’s seat so many times that summer. I ran into the house, grabbed my Jeep J10 keys, and shifted through that lovely four-speed stick all the way to the shindig. It was great.

As I mentioned before, I’ve sold the Lexus LX470, but there’s still a vehicle that I spend the vast majority of my time subconsciously choosing to drive to run basic errands — my 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee. There’s something about the Lexus LX and the Grand Cherokee that pierce into my subconscious and nudge my hand towards their keys. But what is it? I’ve been fighting this for a while now, but the truth is that I know the answer: It’s comfort.

But I Am Not A Lexus Man

I know; on the face of it “man tends to drive most comfortable car” hardly seems like a revelation, but since when do I give a damn about comfort? I don’t! I daily drove my 50 year-old Plymouth all of last winter! I drove a Postal Jeep halfway across the country (see above)! I off-roaded the crap out of a 1958 Willys FC-170 (see below) and got trenchfoot sleeping in the back of that Lexus.

I swam in the Baltic Sea after sleeping in a diesel, manual Chrysler Voyager; I’ve put myself through wrenching hell far too many times; I’ve driven in some of the worst road conditions with the worst traffic you’ve ever seen. I value soul and character and excitement, not comfort. I stay in cheap hostels, not fancy ones. I eat burgers, not caviar. I live in a shack in Troy, Michigan. I just spent weeks wrenching on a $900 rusted-out shitbox in a spider-infested garage in Australia.

I don’t need comfort. I don’t want comfort. Comfort is boring.

 

But something deep inside my brain is at war with my conscious self. It yearns for cushy suspension, leather seats, and an isolated cabin devoid of road or wind noise. It doesn’t care about my taste in cars; it doesn’t care which features I find interesting or boring; it doesn’t care how much I enjoy rowing a manual transmission. It wants to minimize all amplitudes — sound, vibrations, jerky drivetrain motions — all amplitudes.

And that’s an entirely normal physiological tendency. When a jackhammer is flattening dirt on one side of the street, you’re likely to cross over and walk on the other. When your shopping cart wheel has a flat spot, you’re probably going to grab another cart even if it’s no easier to push. If there’s traffic outside your apartment, chances are you’ll shut your windows. Humans like quiet, and we like still. That’s just how we’re built, and I’ve realized that these parts of my nature exist regardless of how much I love soulful cars.

Of course, this leads to the question: “Should I follow what my body clearly wants, and buy something comfortable?” I think the answer is “no.” I don’t see why I would do that. I sold my Lexus because, even though it’s supremely nice to drive, I just don’t value that aspect of any car. The Lexus is still a boring, inefficient, expensive-to-maintain, only moderately off-road capable SUV. I appreciate it for its excellent reliability and its quiet cabin, but at the end of the day, the cars I choose to keep is a conscious choice, and my conscious self says “To hell with comfort, bring on the soul. Ditch the Lexus.”

Screen Shot 2022 10 10 At 1.39.09 Pm

For this reason, I’ll be daily-driving an air conditioning-less 1958 Nash Metropolitan in LA soon enough. If I owned something newer and cushier, I bet I’d regularly find myself behind the wheel of it. But the fact that I don’t means I’ll get to enjoy bouncing on that beautiful red bench seat and listening to the buzz of that tiny British motor. Perhaps my taste will begin to fall in line with my subconscious desires, but until then, I plan to enjoy some of the coolest cars the world has to offer.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit

74 Responses

  1. With that many cars I think the choice would be the one doesn’t have another car parked behind it. I’m lucky enough to have a garage that will fit two cars and a motorcycle. Sometimes moving a car to get the bike out is just a chore. First world problem.

    1. This has most often been the convincing factor for me. Other possible factors have been, the car that has my wallet in it, or which car has enough fuel to accomplish whatever I need to.

      Comfort has never entered the equation, even when it’s hot and said car doesn’t have AC.

      I occasionally will move a car out of the way to get to one with a manual transmission. Automatics start driving me nuts after a couple days.

  2. I love the idea of a luxobarge but keep on getting bored and getting a little manual hatch as well. One of comfiest cars though was a 2013 Nissan Micra ST, manual 1.2l 3cyl but great seats even for fat (125kg – 240lb) me. But now its a case of run one car for a week and swap over, and try use the scooter as much as I can be be bothered kitting up and not leaving the house half asleep

  3. It’s simple man…you’re getting older. I’m 38 so I’ve been driving for approx 23 years. I’ve owned more than 23 cars in that time and they have progressively gotten nicer but more bland but I still have a decent garage:

    -2003 Ford F-250 Powerstroke modded and tuned to high heaven (only comes out to tow)
    -2018 Lexus GX 460 that’s definitely getting a light lift and bigger tires once the wife allows it
    -2017 Chevy Volt for the commute (and it does that very well)
    -1973 Jeep CJ5 (304) for the weekend spring-fall romps

    The Lexus is the go-to every time. It’s just more refined and a better “place to be”. I love the Jeep on the weekends because of how basic and liberating it feels to drive it. I spend 80% of my time in the Volt though :(….

  4. We have four to choose from:

    -2017 Volt (my DD)
    -2014 Cruze Diesel (my wife’s DD – black car, blacked out tails with LED bulbs so they’re actually brighter than stock, black headlight housings with Mini H1 projector retrofits, black wheels, a Trifecta tune and a short-ram intake for them noises)
    -2007 Cobalt LT (I’ve owned this since 2008, was my DD until 2014 and it’s heavily modified – M62 supercharger, ZZP header/downpipe & SS/TC exhaust, FE5 struts/shocks, SSC lowering springs, Direzza ZII tires, Powell rear 1.25″ swaybar, extremely nice sound system, G85 Recaro seats)
    -1981 Camaro Z28 (My uncle bought this new, I took ownership of it in 2016 – also not stock any longer. Factory 305 4-speed Cali car, now has a full upgraded suspension – Global West upper/lower control arms, Hotchkis front/rear springs and swaybars, longtubes, Pypes stainless exhaust, Dakota Digital HDX gauges.

    Almost always I take the Volt (I’ve even taken it to one of the Autopian meets set up by DT) because it’s virtually free to drive anywhere. It’s relatively fun to drive because of the low center of gravity, but because of that it doesn’t need to be stiffly sprung and rides well. When stuck in traffic you’re not wasting fuel. It accelerates plenty quick right off the line, heated seats/steering wheel – and it has a big ass hatch.

    We take the Cruze on road trips simply because it’s enjoyable basically never having to fill up until you get to your destination and/or have been driving around there for a while. We visit the in-laws in NC every other year or so and the ~700 mile trip is easy to make without stopping for fuel anywhere along the way. I’ll take this occasionally if she’s blocked me in somewhere.

    The Cobalt is my main “fun” vehicle, so almost every Woodward night during the summer I take this. The exhaust sounds like shit because it is a boosted four cylinder that isn’t a turbo (though the whine, when it isn’t drowned out by the extremely loud exhaust reverberating off any hard surface nearby, is intoxicating), but dammit, it’s fun as hell to drive. It’s quick enough (used to be much quick relative to other vehicles when I built it 13 years ago, not so much anymore), but the handling is really where it shines – great suspension and stupidly sticky tires. I’ve owned it for so long I know exactly how it likes to be driven and how it responds.

    The Camaro…well…any time I drive it I usually end up swearing at it and wondering why on earth I took it. It is currently on jack stands (which I put it on the week leading up to the dream cruise) because I need to replace the starter. It tried to strand me at a gas station two miles away last November after I had taken it out for one last drive and was filling it up to store for the winter – starter would turn but not engage. Couldn’t trust it after that. But the *computerized* Qjet doesn’t work right, the LF tire rubs on tight LH turns, I sink into the seat and the seat belt never retains tension. It’s cool as hell to look at and hopefully I make it more enjoyable to drive in the future, but for the time being, the answer is: never the Camaro.

  5. I know this feeling. I bought a 2003 Mitsubishi Pajero last December as a ‘Road Trip’ and ‘sand-driving’ car. It’s become my daily runabout. It gets awful fuel economy around town, but faced with cramming myself into my classic mini or climbing into the comfy, spacious leather seats with air con, i keep picking the Pajero. I feel judged by the mini for ignoring it, and then because it’s not being driven and aired out regularly, it got mouldy as hell twice this year with all the rains we’ve had. And then i feel even more guilty. Then I fill the Pajero tank and feel poor!

  6. Sometimes I think I should just get a sporty modern car but I’m cheap and pig-headed. I regularly drive a ’90 Miata, a ’64 Corvair, a ’76 BMW 2002, and a beater 2003 Tundra. And a well-preserved Infiniti G37.

    The Tundra is just too easy. It is comfortable and capable but I don’t drive it unless I need long distance comfort, towage, or haulage. The G37 is also really good but I leave it for the wife.

    The Miata has been my trusty companion for 32 years. It gets used often, especially on nice days, but it is cramped and my aging frame has to bend a lot for entry and exit. Mountain drives and takeout runs are perfect.

    The BMW is a great all-around comfortable car with A/C and room for 4 adults with luggage so it gets chosen a lot and road-tripped. I restored it 20 years ago and it really could be my only car.

    The Corvair is reliable and runs well but steers and stops like a 60 year old car. I drive it often because I rescued it from a barn and it makes me feel good.

  7. Dude, this isn’t a zero sum game. You can have soul AND comfort in a single car! Time to get yourself a late 70’s or early 80’s American land yacht.

    BTW, this article hits home. My fleet:
    2020 Toyota Tacoma (most driven)
    1992 BMW 325i convertible
    1983 Porsche 911sc targa

  8. What you’re experiencing is called, “getting older”. You’ve talked about a desire to have a life outside of wrenching on shitboxes…having a comfortable and reliable vehicle facilitates that.

    I also have to object to the Lexus being described as, “boring” and “only moderately off-road capable”. It’s a Land Cruiser. There are tons and tons of things you can do with and to a Land Cruiser that will make it extremely interesting and capable off road. With your wrenching abilities and commitment, it would not be difficult at all to turn it into an absolute monster.

    It’s funny that it’s an LX/Land Cruiser we’re talking about here, because I would submit that it is one of the best examples in the entire automotive world of the fact that comfort and reliability are not mutually exclusive with awesomeness and character. Sure, stock packaged as a Lexus it’s a mall crawler…but it is a short hop away from a really legit off-roader.

    We love your unusual automotive tastes and rust related masochism, it makes for great reading. But there are many opportunities to satisfy both parts of yourself. I had a Miata on coilovers. I was too tall and became too fat. I bought a C6…great ride, good handling, plenty of space, much faster and more character. I have a Toyota FJ that is moderately modded, and I get stopped on the street all the time by people asking what it is, saying that it’s modded to just the right level, etc.

    Hey, the FJ even has frame rust issues, it’s perfect!

    1. The LX’s lack of a manual and its geometry are what limit it in my eyes. The auto bores me, and the size/weight really limit its offroad capability. Plus, IFS limits lift -ability and articulation.

      It’s still very good offroad, just not quite where I want it to be.

      1. Makes sense about the manual. For liftability…there are some Land Cruisers with very big lifts and very big tires out there (see the photos I posted as a reply), unless you’re planning to do something really huge it wouldn’t have been a major prob!

        1. Yeah, those are nice lifts, I agree. But the LX weighs A LITERAL TON more than my XJ and it’s way, way bigger.

          Given how important geometry is in overall off-road ability, it’s just not a direction that makes sense to me. But of course, I’m a little more of a diehard off-roader than most.

  9. I definitely feel this. I picked up an E38 7 series (long wheel base) and drove it for a few years. The ultimate cruiser. My co-workers would fight over who could sit in the back when we would go to lunch. On the highway, even my 65 year old mom found herself naturally cruising at 90 mph. It just felt so right.

    When I got a job with an hour commute, and I got tired of fixing all the random stuff that would break, I switched to a Fiesta ST. An excellent daily that got near double the gas mileage. However the cheap fiesta was LOUD inside, would bounce over the constant Detroit potholes, intrusive wind and road noise. Every drive was a fun adventure, but the recaros, stiff suspension, and overall noisy experience would wear me out.

    Once I had a kid and realized we couldn’t really fit a baby seat in the Fiesta, I sought out another cruiser and landed on a 2001 S8. Even though I’m paying out the ass on gas, the comfort is worth it, and it still sporty, just in a different way than a Fiesta that better fits Metro Detroit’s ruler straight roads.

    The current car I’m lusting after is a 90’s bonneville SSEI. Pretty much no cornering prowess, auto only, basically a supercharged couch on wheels. Yeah I guess I’m old now.

  10. I have this fleet right now.
    – 2005 Jeep TJ- that belongs to the missus, and she always drives this.
    – 2008 Saab 9-3 Aero – need to sell this, but I still grab the keys to this one a huge % of the time
    – 2007 Honda Element 4WD 5MT – when I don’t drive the Saab I drive this, surprisingly fun to drive, and it’s our dog vehicle, they love it.
    – 2012 Honda Accord V6 Coupe – bought to replace the Saab, but as long as I have the Saab, it’s not getting used much.
    2005 Ford F150 – Just drive this when I need to use the bed. Never driven otherwise

  11. I own the same generation Lexus LX470 you had, and a 964 C2.

    As fun as the 911 is, I have no qualms with taking the Lexus for 95% of all drives. It’s such a comfortable, reliable, beast of a truck. Almost 20 years old and has over 200K on it now, but it looks great, the interior quality is top notch, and it rides better than most new cars I’ve been in (even if it handles like a pregnant hippo). It’s our family camper, cargo hauler, and winter beater.

    I love simple manual cars, but this thing sold me on the wonder of Lexus. Maybe I too am getting old, but now I’m dreaming of a LC 500.

  12. I only have two bikes and and some parts that may resemble a bike and two cars.
    I’m reformed though at one point I had 6 cars and 4 bikes.
    I will probably pick my Kawasaki Versys 650 it has bags for simple stuff and is versatile, the most fun of my present vehicles.
    My Ford Fiesta is the fun choice for a car it is a slightly modded slow vehicle you can drive fast with a smile.

Leave a Reply