Birth of an Enthusiast

By Bruce McCulloch

11.02.2007

I’m sure it’s safe to assume that once as young ones, we all had childhood heroes. Some individuals had musicians or celebrities as their heroes, while the vast majority of us car enthusiasts had a certain automotive hero which we lusted for like few things else. You know what I’m talkin’ about, I’m talking about that one particular vehicle that from your childhood that was the car to have; it was a full obsession, something you talked about to friends and family at a seemingly endless rate and perhaps, even had posters of on your wall. It was even perhaps, the particular vehicle that made you the enthusiast you are today.

As enthusiasts we’ve all got at least one, or two of these vehicles. As for the particular vehicle, well, that’s certainly going to depend on two factors: one, your age and two, when you got into cars. My father for instance, also a rabid enthusiast, didn’t get into automobiles until he was about 24 years old. His passion for the automobile was born by his both his own father, and his sister’s husband. His father was an all-out car fan, and one who owned a whole host of American muscle – A pink (what was he thinking?) Pontiac 440 LeMans, a Dodge Challenger amongst a whole other bunch of crazy tyre shredders. And his sister’s husband was no different; he also suffered from an automobile obsession having owned such vehicles as a Dodge Dart, a Triumph and even a little BMW 2002. So then it should be no surprise when I tell you that he now owns two Mercedes-Benz products; an E500 4Matic and a ML320 Cdi.

Overall though, it is more than likely your age defines your childhood automotive hero. For those with childhoods in the 60’s and 70’s your automotive hero is more likely to be such a vehicle as the Ford GT40 or Chevrolet Corvette rather than, let’s say, one whose childhood was throughout the 80’s and who lusted for such vehicles as the Lamborghini Countach and the Ferrari Testarossa.

As for myself, I like to believe that I was born, as Bill Ford would say, with petrol in my veins – in other words, a car enthusiast from birth. Though, while I was playing with Hot Wheels from a very young age, it wouldn’t be a completely fair correlation to say I was die hard cast of my father from birth. It wasn’t until I was about 8 or 9 years old when I started to show real interest in cars.

Two of my greatest automotive passions, Toyotas and supercars (odd couple, aren’t they?), come from my very early years. My Toyota enthusiast genes were born from the fact that my father has always had affection for Toyota automobiles. And no qualms, he has always been a Toyota enthusiast. Throughout the ’80’s, he owned Celicas, a Supra and even, a rather rare Supercharged MR2. In the mid 90’s however, my passion for Toyota products had further been fuelled by my father’s purchase of an LS400 and shortly thereafter, an SC400. By the time I was about 9 years old, I was a fanatic and had the posters, the magazines and the car models to prove it.

Late ’95 was also quite a monumental time for me as it was the year when I became interested in supercars. And Honda, and their fabulous NSX, is who I have to originally thank. And of course, it didn’t hurt that my father also lusted after this Japanese wonder.

Though, my obsession with automobiles hit an all time high in 1996, at age 10, when a certain 350bhp 8-cylinder English supercar was released. It had been on the market for some two decades already, but had previously never been available with an 8-cylinder engine. Any guesses? Well, this is it:


Oh yes, the release of the Esprit V8 was something truly fabulous for myself. Any perceptions which I previously had about automobiles were completely blown away. It truly was love at first sight.

In my eyes, there was nothing greater than the Lotus Esprit V8 Turbo, and as far as I was concerned, it was the pinnacle of everything in the automotive world. It had everything I loved in an automobile: a sleek and edgy design; an interior which was fully dressed with leather amongst a sporty design theme; prestige and heritage; an 8-cylinder engine and mind-crushing performance all-around. The day I first laid my eyes on the Esprit V8, was the day my automotive enthusiasm became an entity.

But having lived – at the time – in a city which was certainly not known as the home of exotics, I did not get the chance to see an Esprit until 2001, and I had to move to a different country to see it! (from Canada to the United States). Admittedly though, I was a little cautious, especially as I knew that it was habitually recognized that meeting a childhood-hero was one of the worst possible things you could do – especially if it ended in disappointment. Anyone seen that episode of Top Gear where presenter James May gets his first drive in his childhood hero, the Countach? Suffice to say, it ended in absolute disaster. He found out the hard way.

Thankfully though, the Esprit was not a disappointment for me. I cannot remember being more excited than the day I walked into a local high-end dealership and sitting there, in all its shining glory, was a dark blue Esprit with a crème coloured interior. It looked, though as cheesy as it sounds, every bit as good as I had imagined. And it gets better – the dealer noticing my excitement, allowed for me to sit in the vehicle.

So then, with recent mention of Lotus reviving the Esprit model for 2008/2009, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that such a thing means a great deal to me. My apparent hero will be born yet again, but for love of automotive enthusiasts worldwide, Lotus, don’t screw this one up.

Overtly, writing this article has been a great trip down memory lane for me. But, you know, I’d love to hear how your enthusiasm of vehicles was born – your automotive heroes, etc. So, please do leave us a comment and fill us in. We’d love to hear about it!

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Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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7 Comments

  1. I’m showing my age here but when I was a small boy growing up in the North of England the more “exotic” cars were things like Lotus Europas, TVR Tuscans, Gilbern Invaders or maybe the odd Jensen Interceptor, spotted from the back seat of my dad’s Morris 1100. I could name every car on the road by the time I was 6 or 7. Italian exotics were very rare but I remmember being extremely excited at seeing an Iso Grifo – now a long-forgotten footnote in supercar history. Thanks for jogging my memory.

  2. Even though I was not born until 1978, my dream car was a 1970 Dodge Challenger with the 440. In orange, of course.

    I actually had dreams at night that consisted of nothing more tham me driving around in the car being seen by people I knew and having beautiful women achknowledge me while I was driving my Challenger.

    I never got one, and at this point, I probably never will, but learning more about that car made me learn more about other cars and that is what set me down the path of being a car nut.

  3. Well, it’s embarassing to admit it, but I thought the Delorean was was the world’s best car when I first saw it ( even though I ddidn’t know anything about that car or any other car). Something about the car just spoke to me. Later I found out there wasn’t a lot of oomph behind the stainless steel, but that’s the car that first attracted me.

  4. The Studebaker Avanti. I still love the way it looks today. I first saw one in 1980 when I was 10 and I fell in love with it. I wish a major company would do a retro design of a new car using the Avanti.

  5. The Ferrari Lamborghini Countach, of course. Still a wonderful car. Brutal yet elegant looks.

  6. Datsun 240Z – great looks, great price, great performance, and it didn’t leak oil all over the garage floor. Big change from the ratty Triumph TR4 I had passed down to me from my brother.

  7. The original first-generation Taurus SHO. Five-speed manual, Yamaha-built, high-revving V6, man, I loved that car!

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