Part of every teenagers life in rural Ontario in the 70’s and 80’s revolved around getting a driver’s license and your first car. For some of us that meant getting our first job to pay for insurance and gas, and for many of us it meant getting a beater that we could make our own. Fixing you own car meant shop classes in high school and buying or borrowing tools.
My first car was a 1969 Oldsmobile F85 with a 350 c.i. V8. When I got it, it had no floor and rust had claimed a good portion of the body. I spent most of my 15th year and my hard earned money buying “White Lightning” bondo, pop rivets and metal to make the car road worthy. I was almost 17 before I could afford insurance and little did I know that my new found freedom would last only one day. One of the piston connecting rods would fail that evening, a piston would separate itself from the connecting rod and exit the oil pan causing the engine to seize.
Stories like this may be all that remains of those teenage dreams. I noticed with my own children that the drive to own a car is no longer part of the “coming of age” evolution. Teens don’t really have the same desire to understand how a car works and many rely on mass transit to escape the bonds of home life at an earlier age. Insurance and gas have become orders of magnitude more expensive and young adults have options like car sharing to consider.
If we add the possibility of self driving cars to the mix, we may all be facing a revolution that will make the motor-head a thing of the past. I can see a day where people who want to drive their own cars have to pay a premium for disrupting the orderly flow of city traffic. A friend of mine just got a software upgrade for his Tesla model S that enables hands free operation. I watched it navigate construction as it drove us to a customer site last Wednesday in east end Toronto.
I will appreciate the ability to be able to enjoy a meal, a few drinks and have my car drive me home, but I will also miss the rumble of an eight cylinder, big block Chevy with a tuned exhaust.