It's Hard to Love Cars at an East Coast Liberal Arts School

It’s not easy to have an unhealthy obsession with cars at a school like mine. I wake up every morning hoping to get into a heated argument about how the BMW 2002 is better than the 3.0 CSL, but am disappointed when the mention of a Hofmeister kink brings blank stares. I live in a type of limbo where the mere mention of an assembly line makes me salivate with apprehension, praying that someone will ask about Henry Ford or Charles Sorenson. My dream is cut short by a monologue explaining how the assembly line remains one of the most tragic products of the industrial revolution, followed by a plug for marxism.

How can this magnificent cheese wedge not tingle your loins?

How can this magnificent cheese wedge not tingle your loins?

It doesn’t help that I come from Northern California – literally the best place ever created by mankind (I kid, but not really). At home, no matter where I am, it takes little effort to identify a gearhead in my general vicinity. At school, though, I have to reach far and wide to have a good discussion or debate about cars. Last year, for example, I went into Philly to get dinner with Doug DeMuro – who has recently become the editor of Oversteer – and it nearly made my year. Off of the top of my head I can identify 4 people at my school that are genuinely interested in cars – out of 1500. There is no automotive related section in either of my school papers, which doesn’t come as a surprise. I considered writing a column in the school paper about current automotive events and culture, but quickly realized how difficult it is to straddle the line between informative and entertaining. How do you make a joke about stance culture to a group of individuals who associate camber to aeronautical engineering rather than a wheel’s angle? How do I explain the basis of my opinion about electric car infrastructure if the majority of the school associates the name Tesla with a dead Serbian-American electrical engineer and physicist?

Silly, stanced little M3. Photo credit to Stanceworks.

Silly, stanced little M3. Photo credit to Stanceworks.

The predicament I find myself in stems from the fact that most academics – especially those in my age group – don’t have time to care about cars. Those who do find time to talk about cars do so primarily in an academic setting. While I am more than happy to discuss cars in the classroom, it’s not an easy task when the opposition is explaining that the VW AG scandal indicates how cars are ruining our world, and that car culture is an extension of such excess. Another common theme I’ve come to notice in East Coast cities is the general hatred of cars that so many people feel. It’s a point I discussed at length with Doug last year, and one that stands in stark contrast to California’s thriving automotive enthusiast scene.

In the end, I am reduced to silent contemplation and occasional discourse with one of the other four like-minded people on campus. For now, though, the internet is my savior. I drown myself in blogs and pages of local craigslist and cars.com listings, dreaming about a day when I can buy that “super-clean, unmolested, low-mileage, one-owner Supra” for only $5k.