I am a car guy.
Or, more accurately, I am an unlikely car guy.
I can’t explain how an internal combustion engine works. I can’t replace brake calipers or a radiator hose. Nope.
But I am still a car guy.
I’m not sure when it happened, this transformation into someone who likes the roar of an engine and the feel of a high-performance sports car.
Maybe it started decades ago, when I took a short car mechanics course. You know, one that taught me to change spark plugs and oil and tires–even a battery. Not that I remember how to do any of that today.
Or in 1982 when I bought at 280ZX and happily navigated the twists and turns of California mountain switchbacks. I loved that car.
Maybe it was a pandemic byproduct, when I found myself watching Drive to Survive with someone who really is a car guy and could explain all the ins and outs. And then found I’d become a rabid Formula 1 fan, never missing a televised race. I particularly like a few of these young, professional drivers but my guy is Lewis Hamilton, all the way, and his Mercedes team. Coincidentally.
I love his commitment to making a better world and he gives a good bit of his huge income to charities supporting young people. A really good guy.
But I digress.
When I finally had to sell my old BMW years ago I bought a Subaru Outback. I was never in love with it, but it was serviceable and a good basic, small SUV. After we bought our little second home in our hometown, Rochester, NY, it made sense to move that car there. So we did. It’s good in the snow and has only 35,000 miles on it. So there it sits, awaiting us.
I started looking for a new car and to be honest, I thought I’d buy another BMW or even an Audi. Mercedes have always looked cold to me, and the interiors so blocky and ugly. I hadn’t looked at one since 2001. But curious about what might be on offer now, I walked into a Mercedes dealership, and what should I see, but that car in the top image.
It stopped me in my tracks.
“What IS that?” I asked the sales guy.
“An AMG GT-43,” he said. “It’s Mercedes’ entry level high performance sports model.”
I’d never heard of it and never noticed one on the road. But OMG, that matte charcoal grey? The sleek lines? It was a sexy car.
The price tag. Not in my wildest dreams.
I brought my husband back to look at it. He is NOT a car guy.
“It’s nice,” he said. “If you want it, get it.”
I tried to remain logical.
“But I haven’t driven it.”
The sales guy interjects. “So we need to talk price, first.”
“I see the price,” husband says, knowing I would negotiate. “It’s her decision.”
“I haven’t even driven it, so I don’t know if I want it,” I told the sales guy.
He calls the manager, so he can announce we have to talk price before I can drive it.
“No,” I said, “actually, we don’t. I’m not wasting my time negotiating price on a car I don’t know I want. I need to drive it first.”
Hey, dude! It’s the 21st century!
Of course, the manager clearly did not believe it really WAS my decision. I am, after all, female. I was dressed in sweats. How could it be? I’d been in this situation before: in 2001, when I’d shopped for a car with a checkbook in my purse and not a single salesman approached me. Not one.
Not much has changed, apparently.
“It’s her decision,” my husband said, “she’s the car guy,” then left to do a conference call.
Very reluctantly, the manager let me drive the car and, well, wow—- that sealed the deal. He was quite surprised when I negotiated it myself and closed the deal. My husband wasn’t even there. I hope it taught the manager a valuable lesson about assumptions, but it probably didn’t.
So, the car. I call her Kitty, because she purrs.
I love to hear that purr.
It drives like a DREAM. It hugs every curve, takes ever corner perfectly, responds perfectly. I’ve never had a high performance sports car so it is a pleasure to drive, especially on California mountain roads.
M says he likes to be behind me on the road because my car drives like a slot car, low to the road, steady, no wobble at all.
Here’s the truth: I really don’t enjoy a lot of “things.” My desires fall more in the “experiences” categories.
(Ok, except for handbags. I do have quite a few handbags. But probably fewer than many women.)
We are into travel experiences and also give a lot away, especially to animal rescue charities, organizations serving the homeless and our entire estate is allocated to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Except for a bit to the Big Sur Land Trust. Although we may make some additions to that. Those are the things we enjoy spending money on.
M believes a car is simply transportation, so he’s different than I am. He wouldn’t buy a car like this. What I love about him is that he has no problem with me doing what pleases ME. (He is a treasure.)
Can a car make you smile?
But this car? Honest to God, whenever I open the door to the garage I smile and try to resist the urge to hug it.
“I love watching you drive Kitty,” my husband says, “because it makes you so happy!” He’s right.
Of course, with a car like this, well, I’m careful. If I take it anywhere, I suss out parking in advance and park in the hinterlands. I do not take it to urban areas. Even though I’d love to take it to my performance class in Berkeley, parking downtown is too risky so I take M’s car.
I still haven’t seen another one on the road. I see far more Ferraris and Teslas are a dime a dozen here in Silicon Valley. My car? I don’t think it’s that common out here in the South Bay. Or they only go out on special occasions.
Kitty does NOT go out in the rain. She does NOT go to a car wash, even “touch-less”, and since water restrictions in California prohibit us from washing our own cars, Kitty visits a detailer every once in a while for a spa day. After every ride, I wipe her down and use special spray for matte finishes for bird poop, etc.
Yeah, I’m a car guy.
Thankfully, M has an eight-year old Volvo SUV that is our primary vehicle. Or we’d be housebound.
One Saturday morning I had taken M’s car to class in Berkeley. Doing yard work, he cut himself badly on a palm frond. Because he’s on heavy-duty blood thinners it wouldn’t stop bleeding. He knew he had to go to Urgent Care but the only car he had access to was…KITTY. So he wrapped his arm in towels, held it up and drove Kitty one-handed, bleeding, to Urgent Care.
Now, I should tell you that he does not like to drive Kitty because he is NOT a car guy and driving her is nerve-wracking for him in a way it is not for me.
As I drove back from class he texted me about what had happened. I asked how he was, asked how they had treated him, etc. After I was assured he was ok, and only then, I asked the obvious question:
“Did you get blood on Kitty?”
He still laughs about that question. “My wife, the car guy, was most concerned about whether I bled in her car!”
Of course that’s not true.
He was number one. Of course he is always number one. I mean, he’s an incredible husband and human.
Both he and Kitty are important.
I am, after all, a car guy.