Recently, when walking through the streets of west London, I saw something which made me do a double take. There, in the plush streets of the capital sat a brand spanking new Maserati GranTurismo, donning a set of learner plates.
Now to those of you reading whose last name isn’t ‘Abramovich’, you will probably be with consumed envy, overcome by the green eyed monster. Certainly, my mates down the pub were not good at hiding their rage; “how could a learner handle that sort of power?!?” they moaned “What a spoilt little shit!” they cried. That sort of thing.
I, however, felt pity for the driver of the blue Italian beauty.
Sure, this person will likely have a Louis Vuitton lined life of luxury, their bed will doubtlessly make itself and they will have no concept of taking the bins out. Assuming they are of ‘normal’ learner age, I doubt very much they will have bought the car themselves, they’ll probably get a Lamborghini for passing their test. But it dawned on me that this person will almost certainly never experience the joyous journey of owning a cheap, underpowered runabout.
I’m guessing by this point you will either think I’m mad, lying or I don’t know what a Maserati is. But bear with me.
There are many advantages to starting your motoring life in a simple box on wheels. Aside from the cost, (a quick trawl of the internet suggested a service for a Maserati could be nudging two grand, while the average 18 year old drives a car worth £1,450), you probably won’t be able to reach high enough speeds to crash, so you’ll be safe. Besides, I feel it is cheating to do otherwise. These days people think that if they can stand on a stage every Saturday night for ten weeks and ‘sing’ (word used in loosest way possible) in front of a crowd of teenage girls and a panel of judges whose teeth are more dazzling than their musical ability, that they deserve to make it big in the music industry. Everyone wants to be instantly successful and famous, but I am willing to wager that the musicians who grafted for years on their unnoticed first and second albums until hitting success with the third are better musicians for it and feel more like they’ve earned it. I feel much the same with car ownership, while I wouldn’t stick my nose up at a luxury Italian sports car as my first, I would feel like a cheat, like I had bypassed some unwritten rite of passage that comes with owning a crap car.
While this sounds like unnecessary hardship, I must point out that I absolutely adored my first car which by all accounts was underpowered, uncomfortable and broken most of the time. While it was not the last word in performance, it was my ticket to freedom. I loved the way you had to rev and rev and rev to suggest any signs of motion. I loved the way the tiny engine popped and fizzed as the car bobbed and bounced along the tarmac. I loved the way I learnt all its niggles, like how to cure ALL the dials dying at any time leaving you clueless as to the actual speed you were going, making it very difficult to try and protect my young, precious licence from points. It provided just as much entertainment as the Maserati could, without the huge outlay. Of course, a Maserati is much faster, sexier, astonishingly beautiful and more luxurious with its massaging heated leather seats and a 30GB hard drive media centre. But all this is just a distraction from pure, undiluted driving, which is what you get with a lesser car. A seat, four wheels and an engine. That’s all you need.
Your first car is about more than the badge on the bonnet, it’s about having a passport to a whole world of opportunities. The sensations and experiences that you can get driving any car, is what makes driving fun, although desirable there is no need for anything flash, the novelty of being on the road is enough. When the Maserati had arrived at the party, I would still be enjoying getting there. The car I currently drive has rear wheel drive, infinitely more horsepower and numerous toys, all of which my old car lacked, but I never look back and smile when I park it up at night. I did before. I probably sound ludicrously nostalgic and maybe looking back through rose tinted spectacles has influenced my judgement. However, I can say hand on heart that I had more fun in my first car than anything I have driven since. Not all cars are good, but all cars can be fun and that is why I am not jealous of the driver of that Maserati.