I was sitting in my underwear playing Forza 4 the other night, and when I say playing I mean virtually exploring some of the world’s most exotic super cars in the rather cool autovista mode, when I realised something about myself. First thing was that I needed a shower, it had been while and I’d just exercised. But the second, and most important one, was that I really like racing sims, and – now don’t judge me for this – cars.
I sat there pondering what this meant for me moving forward, frozen in terror, fearing for what my future may have in hold. Staring at grid-girls? Talking about pistons and transmissions? Spending more money on my car than the damn thing was worth when I bought it? Did I have to start slurring my speech, drinking beer, suddenly forget how to spell? My mind spun at the possibilities. Was I going to become that horribly inaccurate stereotype above? I mean I don’t even really like beer.
Still frozen in terror I turned up the volume and virtually started the ignition of the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG again, it roaring as it reached maximum revs. The sound was sweet in that way that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.
I slapped myself across the face and turned the television down, fearing that I was perpetuating it all. ‘I went to university’ I told myself, ‘there is no way I can be a rev-head, a petrol-head, a bogan’. I suddenly felt calm. I turned the game off, had a hot shower and went to bed.
I grew up in suburban middle-class Australia where car ownership is a way of life due largely to the sprawl of our cities (particularly Adelaide and Melbourne where I grew up) but I think some part due to the car being ingrained into the country’s collective psyche. Documentaries have been made about Australia’s love affair with the car, first in 2009 by Hollywood star Eric Bana in ‘The Beast‘ which tells the tale of his love affair with the 1974 Ford XB Falcon, and then again in the 2011 in the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) multi-part documentary series ‘Wide Open Road‘.
As a teenager car ownership was a right of passage. At 16 kids could get their learners permit, and by the age of 18 they were out on their own causing havoc on the roads. In Adelaide it was all about the Australian born and bred Holden, with used 80’s model Commodores and stock-standard LC, LJ and LX Toranas being favourites amongst the kids I grew up with. The louder the better was the general sentiment, and some of those cars, particularly the V8 variants of the Commodores, were powerful little sedans. A friend of mine was the proud owner of many cars over the course of a couple of years, but nothing was anywhere near as special as his ownership of an LJ GTR-XU1 Torana. This car was a beast – a 2-door compact sporting one hell of a visual style and a straight six engine, which for a car of its size made it fast, furious and dangerous.
I was a bit late to the drivers licence party, not getting my provisional licence until I was 21, but eventually I too was the proud owner of a used car. While I enjoyed being in the company of these cars, I never really had the interest to own them and so opted for something slightly more modest, and for a cool A$2500 I purchased a Green 1982 Nissan Pulsar hatch complete with AM Radio, light brown interior and the most comfortable car seats you’d ever sit in. Sure it was older than me, but it was mine. So I purchased a car stereo worth half the value of the car, affixed a NO USE FOR A NAME sticker on the dash and away I went, a proud car owner. I loved that car and had it up until 2008 and it served me well. It drove me to and from work, to and from friends houses and on dates with my girlfriend who I am still with to this day. It was more than just a car, it was memories. It didn’t go very fast, it wasn’t great to look at, and it sure as hell didn’t turn heads driving around the streets of Adelaide – but it was my car and I freaking loved it.
My affection for cars is nowhere near as romantic as deep as what you see in film, or as obsessive as most people I know. But it is there nonetheless, as superficial as it is. I have memories of the hysteria that surrounded the Adelaide Formula One Grand Prix, which being a street circuit, closed off half the city making it almost impossible to ignore. I distinctly remember hearing the roar of the V12 engines from home – 25 kilometres away from the circuit – as they reached top speeds of over 300km/h. I have followed Formula One and Formula One video games ever since, starting with Microprose Grand Prix and ending with the most recent Codemasters effort F1 2012. Six years later I became obsessed with the first Gran Turismo. And today it is Forza 4 which I have poured dozens upon dozens of hours into.
And so a week from my revelation I sit here now comfortable in the knowledge that, sure I wear a suit during the day, drink fancy teas and talk about politics, but I am really just a car-loving bogan in disguise. And I am okay with that.
All images are sourced from Wikipedia.org.