I’ve been scrubbing my hands for two hours straight, using a brush to get all the crusty motor oil and wheel bearing grease out from under my nails. I’ve scoured through all of my clothes for one — just one — shirt that doesn’t have a stain somewhere (yes, I’ve debated just dyeing a shirt in oil to solve the problem). I’ve been learning about the sports of golf, lacrosse, and stock portfolio management, plus I’ve picked up some books on air cooled Porsches and Delahayes. Vineyard Vines? I know what that is now. Hell, I even bought a shirt from “Bonobos,” whatever the hell that is. Like most shirts, it is made of cloth and covers much of my torso; unlike most shirts, it cost as much as a rebuilt alternator; I’m not thrilled about it. I’ve also been trying to condition myself to avoid using certain words and phrases, but as a man who has spent so much time watching YouTube wrenching videos and choppin’ it up with mechanics, I know I’ll say something like “Shoot a little Gumcutter down that Studebaker’s carb and we’ll smoke that thing up real quick,” and I’ve tried training myself to vomit at the sight of any vehicle sold in quantities over 1,000. But it’s all just no use. The people of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance — the fanciest car show on earth — will see me for the junkyard dog I am, and ask me to bring their car around or head to NAPA Auto Parts to fetch them a few bottles of wine. [Editor’s Note: Does David really think you can get wine there? Does David get wine there? – MH]
Back in 2009, my mom dropped me off at the Kansas City airport and sent me on my way to Charlottesville to attend college. It was my first time in Virginia that I could remember, and almost instantly I felt out of place. The University placed me in the rowdiest dorm on campus (which the students called “grounds”), where the kids were so “affluent” that they literally used the term “affluent” to describe their childhood neighborhoods. Plus they bragged about the boarding schools and other private schools they’d attended. “Yeah, I went to St. Paul’s” I distinctly recall one New Hampshire -ite telling a group of kids. “Well, I attended Thomas Jefferson,” said another. I had no clue what any of this meant. I also didn’t know what a cotillion was.
So many of the kids in my class hailed from “NOVA,” which I learned was short for “Northern Virginia.” Many of their parents worked in consulting, or for a firm whose belly always remained full from the endless Las Vegas buffet that is the U.S. government. I was from Leavenworth, Kansas, a prison/Army town, and I’d just graduated from Leavenworth High School, a 1,200 person public center of excellence that received more bomb threats than a Ft. Sill training ground and that did its best to mimic the prison with its frequency of fistfights. In truth, I actually really liked the school, and thought it offered some good learning opportunities, but the point is: I grew up in a totally different world than many of these kids at UVA. They knew it, I knew it. I wore cargo shorts, they wore pastels. I wore transition lenses that they made fun of, they wore Croakies. I drove a 225,000 mile 1992 Jeep Cherokee with rusted out rockers, they wouldn’t be caught dead in something that old or American.
Heading to Michigan after college was a breath of fresh air, I have to admit. And the freshest breath comes right around this time of year in the form of exhaust gases thanks to the Woodward Dream Cruise. It’s a car show for everyone — a Saturday during which tens of thousands of cars driven by people from all walks of life head up and down Michigan’s fabled Woodward Avenue. Families break out lawn chairs and picnic blankets, father-child duos stand proudly next to the vehicle whose engine they’d just installed the night before, and I — always unable to contain my excitement — walk from sun-up until sun-down until I literally can no longer continue. I talk with hundreds of people, from car manufacturing plant workers driving old Chevy Novas to executives cruising in shiny Ford GTs, and from them I learn about the incredible unifying quality of car culture.
But this year, in an act of blasphemy, my lungs won’t be taking in that glorious fuel-filled air of Michigan’s legendary Highway 1, for I will be attending, for the first time, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the swankiest car show in all the land. I’m fairly sure the tickets to attend this event are more expensive than most of the cars I own, and the average value of a car in the parking lot is almost certainly higher than that of all my cars combined.
I will not find any JB weld or zip-ties holding together body panels, Duralast-brand parts from Autozone won’t be anywhere in sight, and floorboards won’t be littered with old Rock Auto receipts. Rocker panels will not be of the “Wi-Fi” variety (this is what the kids these days are referring to parts that have rusted out); every exterior vehicular surface will be covered in shiny paint. That is to say: I will be deeply out of place, far from the Sterling Heights, Michigan junkyard that I visit pretty much every weekend.
I’m thrilled to have this opportunity; any car-lover should be. And though, in truth, I enjoy choppin’ it up with people from all walks of life and I’m excited to meet new people (especially ones with different experience than I), this event couldn’t be further from the car culture I’m used to. I don’t know what to expect, and I’m a little nervous. I have no doubt that, like UVA, there will be some awesome, down-to-earth folks there, and the pomp and circumstance will mostly be taken as a bit of fun while just a minority of folks take it all dead-seriously. Heck, who knows, maybe I’ll be inspired to up my game from $700 Chevy Trackers and $1500 Willys FCs to vehicles with a bit more, um, overall functional capability. Honestly, this could be the kick in the pants I need to live a healthier, less-greasy, less-rusty lifestyle.
Here goes nothing.
Top image credit: Marshall Farthing