Cars in My Life

Cars have always been my passion. From a young age, I cultivated my interest in cars by learning about combustion engines, working on my parents’ lawnmower, taking shop classes in school, and doing a science project on turbo versus super charged engines. Regardless of whether or not I was doing well in school, I always knew everything about the new cars on the market — their engine specs, their zero to sixties, and how they braked. I fed my obsession in a variety of ways.

When I was fourteen, my older brother got a job at Malibu Grand Prix, a place where three-quarter-scale indy cars could be driven around a track, much like autocross. While you had to be sixteen to drive these cars, they also offered a course which, if you completed it, would allow you to drive if you were at least fourteen. I took this course and logged hundreds of laps on their track.

During this time, I learned about things like tire patch, braking, apexes — things very few of my friends were familiar with when we finally got our driver’s licenses. They also had a two-seater I quickly mastered and would use to give rides to my friends. I have vivid memories from this time in my life of stepping out of a car after doing some laps and having rubber all over my legs from the tires.

A year later, I turned fifteen, and my brother taught me how to drive. We drove a 1986 Crown Vic with the HD package (HD stands for heavy duty — essentially this was the kind of car driven by cops or taxi drivers). In this car, I learned about controlling fish tales, working on stereos, and jumping cars.

When I was sixteen, my dad bought a 1996 Mercury Grand Marquis GS with the handling package. It had bigger sway bars and tires, air suspension, and dual exhaust. Right before my seventeenth birthday, however, I wrecked the car racing a friend around corner (something I did pretty often, pretty stupidly, when I was a kid). This car taught me a lot about how to drive within my capacity, both good and bad.

That same year my brother bought a 1986 Porsche 944. My generous brother let me drive this car about half the time that he had it. This car also taught me a lot about driving, as well as how car maintenance. As my brother did all his own work on the car, I’d  hand him wrenches and screwdrivers. He always complained I wasn’t quick enough with the tools.

Another car to which I must pay tribute is the 1983 Datsun King Cab pickup my grandmother passed on to our family. I learned how to drive stick in this truck, and each of the boys in my family used it as a daily driver at some point (even my dad). When I sold it to some guy on the side of the Drag for a thousand dollars in cash (the guy was in a primer gray El Camino!) it had over 240,000 miles of abuse on it — that should tell you a little something about how tough that little truck was.

Then in 2003 my dad gave me the 96 Grand Marquis after I sold my car, a 1999 Ford Taurus my parents had helped me buy, but which had turned out to be a lemon. I not only maintained the MGM, but I also started upgrading it heavily. From improving the intake to adding a turbocharger system, the MGM served as one of the exploratory outlets for my research into automotive culture. It has been with me throughout the entire journey of my dissertation, and I consider it an embodiment of my passion for this research.

Within the automotive section of my dissertation, you will find articles that resonate with my introduction and build on my embedded experiences within the central Texas car scene. When I began my journey into automotive culture, I never could have imagined that, a year into my research, I would have met so many people, made so many connections, and have a lifetime’s worth of stories to share and reflect upon. I have a great deal of people to thank for this — far too many to list here, but you can find all of them in my acknowledgments.

For now, however, please navigate away from this page and go explore my articles. Within them you will find more than just stories about automotive accomplishments. You’ll find life.

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