The machine. Vehicles have always been a big part of my life experience. From buses to trains to ships, I've always had a fascination with the machine. It's the simple acknowledgement that cold steel, a big engine and a set of raised letter radials can transport you to a new area code or even to a new life. Years ago, when I joined the Navy I found out that there was a position called Quartermaster. The QM knew all about neat things like navigating by stars and anticipating weather patterns. Best of all, he was also the master helmsman, called upon to steer the multi-ton ship through the most dangerous situations. Well, deal me in. That's the job for me! My days in uniform are long past but even now, years later, I still find enjoyment by taking the wheel and facing the open road. The things that you see, the places and people that you encounter.....the comfort of coming home. There's a meditative state to be found in the mantra of eight cylinders. It's not about speed...it's about motion and emotion. It's a statement of who you are as well as where you're going. The machine can vocalize your values and your expectations. It doesn't matter if your favorite mode of transportation is the latest exotic import or just a hard working commuter bike. We all have our preferences about the vehicle that best fits our budget and lifestyle. Car guys can appreciate the beauty in all machines. The fact remains, the way that a man maintains his machine is often a reflection of how he maintains his life. This isn't science, this is life observation. Early on for me, there was the understanding that if you took care of your gear, then your gear would take care of you.
My last machine was a Dodge Challenger SRT. Every thing about the car is thoroughly inappropriate by mainstream standards of conformity. It's overpowered, the V8 engine can dish out 470 hp with reckless abandon. It's too big, the hood protrudes into another zip code and the trunk is cavernous. It's too flashy, with dual racing stripes adorning the roof and hood. In other words, it's perfect for those of us who can appreciate a comfortable highway cruiser that is reminiscent of a time when horsepower mattered. This car is often compared to other sports themed vehicles such as the Mustang and the Camaro but they aren't really the same driving experience. The Challenger is larger..much larger than the other two cars and is not really designed for carving around twisty curves or drifting through turns. It can accomplish those feats but come on, a heavyweight has to know his limitations. This is a big engine cruiser. Jump in, buckle up those heated seats, click on some early 70's era Santana and watch your troubles recede in your rearview . At 197 inches long and almost 75 inches wide, the Challenger is built on a previous generation Mercedes Benz platform. So, the car has a foundation that is characterized by composure and stability. Electronic traction control, massive Brembo brakes and excellent weight distribution are also factors that ensure a stable ride in every weather condition. It can easily carry four passengers, so road trips down the coast are mandatory. It's retro enough to be cool but modern enough for convenience and safety. Again, it's not about speed. Sure, the Challenger can lay down some serious stats on the race track but in my eyes it works best as a gentleman's grand touring car. Burnouts and tire screeching are kid's stuff. Respect the machine. Act irresponsible with 470 lbs of torque at the throttle and a terrible price will be paid. Respect. The. Machine. Some of you can relate to the things that I'm saying..the characters in my graphic novel, Afterburner:Tales of The Cool and The Wicked certainly channel that sentimentality. When the protagonist, Renfield Briggs calls out, "Let's Roll", he is issuing a call to arms for every car guy out there. Buckling up with the knowledge that he has taken care of his gear and that he can trust the gear to get him to his destination and back...no matter what. Any failure between those two destinations will be on the part of the man, not the machine. I'm a car guy and this is my ride.