There’s a part of my soul that’s machine. It started early.
As far back as I remember, it was an integral part of my life. I grew up on the road, with 8-tracks becoming the first part of the soundtrack of my life. Later, cassettes. Later, CDs. Later, MP3s.
And even before I got my license, I was driving – to the consternation of just about everyone in authority, including a particularly patient Irving, TX police officer who was genuinely surprised that I had gotten a 4 speed, 81 hp Toyota Tercel up to 90 mph on a curvy road that someone had mistakenly suggested had a speed limit of 35 mph.
No ticket issued, by the way. He simply waggled a finger at me, told me to get my license, and had me park the borrowed car of a friend’s mother where he could check on it in her absence. That, by the way, is policing – as opposed to Law Enforcement, which could have gone a really, really different way. Thank you, wherever you are.
Every vehicle I’ve driven has become a part of me – from the sports cars to the 4x4s, from the muscle cars to the ricers. Each played a part in my life. Each one had it’s own character, it’s own special songs that fit the shifts – I rarely drove automatics. And I knew the mechanical aspects of every single one, enough to surprise mechanics. Later I would learn not to say too much or I wouldn’t learn more. And I managed to find great mechanics everywhere to help me.
When it came to the RX-7s, though, I was the only one to work on mine.
Restoring those first gens was always a special joy that came from my father and I building a model when I was about 5. Of course, I was full of questions – and he could explain piston engines to me, but when we built the RX-7 model, he explained to me that the engine was different – and when asked, he couldn’t explain why. That unanswered question made me fall in love with the Wankel. Beautiful and underappreciated cars, those old RX7s.
I’ve been fortunate with cars: I’ve always found the good used ones, and people have always wanted the ones I’ve driven – even modified, sometimes especially when they had been modified – but when the machine and I merged, they only saw the machine.
They bought what they had seen me do with a machine. Pulling out every little bit of horsepower, using inertia, understanding the flow of air, the engine, the transmission, the drive wheels, the tires, the feel of the steering – the machine speaks to you.
Some people can’t hear when machines speak.
And, a few times, she surprised me.
New tools are required.
A new vehicle awaits for a more sedate part of life.
Her new owner better understand her – she can be an unforgiving vehicle. But oh, she worked hard and did what so many thought were impossible.
Just like all machines can in the right hands, with the right maintenance.
They have the heart.
The soul, on the other hand, is always the operator.