Friends, let’s go for a drive. Destination: Being the proud owner of a 50 year old Italian classic. Origin: Broke petrolhead student. I want to take you on this journey as it includes all the elements of an automotive fantasy: speed, curves, adrenaline and…. a big crash and many broken bones? You’ll see. This is a story of me first getting my feed wet with some actual horsepower, the addiction leading me to more and more……..
Where all petrolhead dreams begin
Let’s start off in the beginning. We’ve all been there. You go see one of the great auto shows, say Geneva, and find yourself waiting in line for ten minutes just to be able to stand behind a glass fence staring at all the new hot metal you’re not allowed to touch anyway. Especially when looking at new Italian horses you find yourself without a chance of actually getting inside the booth and having a peak inside those new poster cars. That sucks!
So once I got lucky. The year is 2005 and we find ourselves at the Frankfurt Motor Show. I was staring at the meteorite silver Aston Martin DB9 long enough to prompt the security guard to ask me what I was waiting for. When I told him that I was just admiring the car he opened the door and invited me in to take a closer look. Suddenly I was all by myself. Just seconds ago people were pushing each other to get a look and now I was right there, half a foot above them all, walking across the fancy wooden floor that Aston Martin had put up as a stage. I was nervous, so nervous! What if anybody found out I actually had no “right” being there, had no chance of – at least that’s how it seems when you’re still a teenager – ever being able to afford such a car in my life?
Well I managed across the floor without tripping and there it was – the original Aston Martin DB9. Before all the facelifts made its looks more generic, before the bamboo interior was killed from the options list. When you could still get a naturally-aspirated V12 with a manual transmission in a regular production Aston. Of course I knew how to operate and open the swan doors with the flush-mounted door handles. I’d read dozens of magazine articles about this car and had mail-ordered the brochures to my home, reading every sentence. If actually being there wasn’t enough of an adrenaline kick already, the next thing made my heart jump: she was actually, for real, unlocked!
My automobile deflowering – all alone with my dream car
The door swung open and up at the same time, revealing the smell of rich leather from the interior. I was quick to look around and check whether somebody had noticed me and had sent for the security guy to come get me because I had crossed a line, but nobody seemed to care. So finally, as gracefully as I could, I let myself glide into the driver seat of my dream car. Oh. My. God. This was actually happening. And then I shut the door….
Silence. Utter silence. A second ago all the noise from a busy trade fair was omnipresent and suddenly, the Aston clothed me in silence – my first experience of what automotive luxury feels like. I was forever changed. I had tasted blood and I was only going to want more. Time to take it all in. I let my hands reach for the steering wheel, feel the hand-made stitching and suddenly gained an appreciation for the work going in to produce a beautiful piece of machinery like this. The door handles on the inside and everything else that looked like metal were actual metal. The wood was open-grained and you could feel its imperfections – pure perfection! Being a British car, the DB9 also had its quirks: the hand brake lever was between the seat and the door and the dials famously run in opposite directions. But the view over the long hood, the materials, the smell – for me it was perfect. Power, Beauty and Soul.
Becoming an automotive junkie
At the same show I saw another car that would to this day remain one of my favorite cars, ever: the Porsche Carrera GT. Let me confess something right here, right now: I used to not get the 911. At all. It didn’t have the sex appeal of an Aston, the speed of a Ferrari or the luxury of a Bentley. I actually disliked it. The Boxster wasn’t quite what it is now and at the time and didn’t seem particularly appealing to me. That would all change when I first laid eyes on a Cayman, though, but that’s a story for a different time.
So in a sense the Carrera GT was the first car that made Porsche at all desirable to me. But: It worked like magic. The sound, playing on repeat the show, was like the first time hearing that T-Rex from Jurassic Park. You never forget the chills it sent down your spine. Shortly after the show, I was given another fix. The Carrera GT featured in the movie Fracture, aggressively sliding out of an aircraft hanger and laying its soundtrack over the entire theatre. Check it out:
I would never be the same. I had to go and see those cars again. I had to drive them. And: One day I’d have to own them. I was addicted.