I'm back in the saddle, and it feels good. I wrapped up my NASA competition license last week with the gracious help of my friend Nick – thank you, and congrats on your first Time Trial win!
It's been a month since I last wrote here, and it certainly feels like forever ago. I'll have some updates on my #GLTC E90 and the upcoming race season soon, but in the meantime, I'd like to talk about a topic that is fresh in my mind.
"I hate it. I cannot find a way to make myself happy with this car. And when I say I hate it... I mean that I hate it. I don't want to drive it. I don't want to take it anywhere... I don't want people to see it."
His is an E36 that, by all measures, is one of the nicest out there – and it has been for the better part of two decades. In fact, it's better than ever, with a recent exterior and interior restoration, suspension refresh, and all sorts of stuff that you can check out on Mike's very successful YouTube channel.
In the video, Mike elaborates on his history with the car and offers advice for those struggling with completing or being content with their long-term project cars. As someone who has been there, it's all excellent advice, by the way.
As to his E36? He admits that he holds it to an unattainable standard – focusing on an idealistic outcome rather than enjoying it for what it is.
Cars As A "Tool"
When you've been into cars for as long as we have (it's been about 23 years for me), you're bound to have experienced this before. I've felt it on and off: an unattainable expectation defined my first few years of ownership with my #74 E30.
The cars I have built, whether for showing-off, autocross, or daily driving, have all been as much for flexing my skills, success, taste, or ego as they ever were about my enjoyment of the car. The first few years I owned this E30 were no different. I brought it to Cars & Coffee to show off a track car cleaner than the show cars, and I drove it on the track to show off a clean car faster than the track rats.
Did that bring me any joy? No. Did it impress anybody else? Heck no.
Somewhere along the line, be it having kids, maturing a bit, or crashing my E30 at Sebring, I finally started to understand that every car I've owned has been nothing more than a tool (in the sense that they help me accomplish something). The job they help with might be getting me to work, showing off in a parking lot, or racing around a track. Nevertheless, the car is the means to an end, not the end itself.
My E30 doesn't mean the same to me now as it meant even two years ago. My E90 has mostly replaced it, but that doesn't make it less important to me. I'm no longer afraid to use the E30 as a track-tool. I've embraced its flaws. It allows me to compete with and stay close to my racing friends.
I try my best to keep that perspective in check.
We're All Flawed - Even Our Cars
I couldn't help but compare Mike's video to the human condition. We are all imperfect beings, which is why many of us strive for perfection in our lives. Whether that be in perfect physical form (certainly not in my case), perfect athletic performance, or perfection in the objects that we own (including cars), we are trying to achieve something that, deep down, we know is impossible.
Just like we can be shattered when a close friend lets us down, we can easily be let down by the cars we build. When we're so deep into cars and racing that it becomes a large part of our identity, it will be difficult for the pile of metal and rubber to live up to our expectations.
I'm a Christian, and I believe we live in a fallen world. The anguish Mike expresses when he says he doesn't want other people (not even his friends) to see the car reminds me of the shame we can feel about our flaws, failures, and sins.
Now, whether or not you believe in God, you can probably agree that a lot of humans seek "god" in their lives. I don't necessarily mean that in the sense of God as a supreme being or any religious manner. I mean the deep desire, yearning, and seeking in life that I believe is within all of us.
It's up to you to decide what can fulfill that yearning, but if it ends up being anything material, it will probably let you down.
It's Not About The Car
We all have flaws that we don't want to expose to the world. Is it that surprising that we would want to hide the flaws that bother us the most about our "imperfect" project cars? Absolutely not. What Mike is experiencing and shared in his video is something I'd wager any "car guy" has dealt with.
Most assuredly, the flaws that bother you the most are unlikely to be given a second thought by anybody else. Don't let it eat you up. I hope this does not come across as dismissive, but there is more to life than cars and racing. Even within this life-long hobby, I have found much more fulfillment in the people I've met and friendships shared than I've ever had with the cars themselves.
Mike, if you read this, I hope you can find the beauty and contentment in the imperfection!