The Unlikely Petrolhead

For all intents and purposes, I should have absolutely no interest in cars. I shouldn’t be able to differentiate between the sound of a blaring V8 revving to 5,000 RPM and a Prius with a hole in it’s exhaust, but I (thankfully) can. A lot of petrol-heads that I’m friends with seem to have either picked it up from their dads, family members, or friends of the family. Either because of a car they owned, watching or going to racing events, or what have you. My family had no such interests. Hell, my dad never even changed his own oil let alone taught me how to do it myself.

I often hear about how their parents had awesome cars growing up when they were kids; Corvette Stingray, Porsche 911, GTO Judge, Hondacura NSX, and so on. My families car list? … Yeah, not so much. Before my family immigrated from Poland to the United States, they owned a Fiat 125p. That’s about as good as it gets, I’m afraid.

Once stateside, the first car we owned was a 1984 Ford LTD, followed by a 1989 Chevrolet Cavalier with a massive 2.0L inline 4 cylinder engine that produced a staggering 90 horsepower. My sister later bought a used 1993 Honda Civic. The next addition would be a 1998 Dodge Grand Caravan. Once the Civic had died, my sister grabbed a brand new 2000 Honda Accord which would eventually die in 2014 due to piston ring failure with nearly 180,000 miles on the odometer. Next is the 2001 Dodge Durango, which still runs but is currently on its last legs. There’s also the 2009 Honda CR-V that would be purchased along the way. My brother-in-law drives a 2010 Scion xD, and at least it’s a manual though he doesn’t particularly care for cars.

When I was in the market for a car a couple of years ago, my family would often say “Just buy a Honda and be done with it. They’re cheap and reliable.” Fair enough, but they’re also incredibly soulless. I wanted something that moved me not just in a physical sense, but emotionally as well. I was dead set on a Camaro, but that would prove to be a challenge in the brutal Chicago winters even with winter tires. A Chevy SS? Very tempting, and I nearly bought one. Then one of my closest friends had suggested I look into a Taurus SHO. It was AWD, had a twin-turbo V6, and was practical enough where I didn’t have to worry about cutting off my passengers legs to fit them in the back seat.

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This was it. This would be the first car I would buy, own, and maintain from the very beginning as its first owner. And since then, I fall in love with it more and more every day. But with my given history, why am I even interested in cars? Why am I a petrol head to begin with? I had absolutely no outside influence, so how did I stumble upon this glorious obsession?

My working theory is fairly simple; video games. I was an avid gamer in my formative years, as a teenager, in college, and even now as I play pretend at being an adult. I had played everything from Super Mario to Grand Theft Auto to Madden. I was your typical kid who enjoyed the rare supercar or odd-ball hot-rod, but it wasn’t until I had played the first Need For Speed: Most Wanted that I had learned an appreciation for different types of makes and models. Soon afterwards I was watching the Fast and Furious movie franchise, playing Gran Turismo, and Forza Motorsports.

What started as a casual interest soon began to consume my every day life. I was able to name the exact year, make, and model of not just cars I was interested in, but your average run-of-the-mill econobox as well. I would spend countless hours during the day looking up and researching everything from 0-60 times to gearing ratios, and everything in between. I was addicted to learning anything and everything I could about cars. Cars were my world. But it was a lonely world. None of my current friends had any interest in cars beyond getting from point A to point B.

It really wasn’t until I stumbled upon the Chicagoland Petrolhead and Car Spotters Facebook page that I had really been active in the car community. I had a friend invite me to the page and quickly found out that I still had a lot left to learn. It’s an amazing feeling, knowing that there’s still so much about cars I don’t know and there’s still so much left to learn. Many people from the group soon became like a second family to me.

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It’s been a weird and winding road to go from a family who’s owned some seriously crappy cars to being surrounded by amazing people and friends at amazing car shows that have everything from classic American muscle to exotic imports. Turning into a petrol head has been an absolute blessing for me in my life and has had an impact that I could have never foreseen.

My father and my family have never been big on cars in general. I’ve never experienced the joy of changing the oil with my dad, or him teaching me how to detail a car. That’s definitely something I’ll absolutely love doing with my kids if I ever have them in the future. You can count on that.

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