Ben Musu has spent most of his life in the food industry – as a café-operator and restaurateur – but has admittedly devoted more time to his passion as an aesthetic observer and simple car-nut. Recognition of cars and badges was an activity since before he started school, and a life noticing, admiring and driving cars has ensued. Through every stage, a concrete enthusiasm for the subject has never subsided…
I have learnt, in over three decades of being a pathetic car enthusiast, that being overly philosophical on the subject can be at best futile, and at worst a terrific means of boring the pants off your loved ones and friends who aren’t similarly taken.
We regard our cars as many things beyond their simple value as transport; sporting devices, status symbols, some of us even regard them as art (and sadly, in recent times more than ever, as mere appliances). I regard them as all of these things, and as a part of the moving, man-made environment, within which we can also place various architectural and design disciplines.
The problem with cars though, is that as a boy (or indeed, as a girl) you have the ability to fantasize about driving or indeed owning the cars of your dreams without having any idea of the financial constraints you’ll probably have several decades later once you’re actually capable of driving one. And this is often when you form your strongest desires. I’m not so sure it happens anymore, but as a boy I had toys and posters of the cars I aspired to, and as I grew into adolescence and adulthood the reality of the cars I could actually acquire dropped, in value. It didn’t mean that I lost any enthusiasm, it just meant that I had to think a little more Alfa Romeo, and a little bit less Ferrari V12.
That cars matter to children and then seem to have an enduring appeal into adulthood is what sets them apart slightly from other things. When you’re a child, you’re taken by the colour, the styling – perhaps the noise and the speed. As we get older we start to love them for where they take us, how they make us feel when we drive them, and for the memories they leave us with.
There’s something resolutely satisfying about driving a tremendous car like an Aston, or a Dino or a 911 and similarly some of the lighter-weight stuff like the small BMWs and Alfa Romeos of the sixties and seventies. The big, fast stuff leaves you feeling accomplished in that you can tame those beasts and feel like the hairy-chested racing driver of yore, while the dainty, lightweight cars reward you when you’re on the limit without almost getting killed you in the process. There’s simply no such thing as one car that ticks all the boxes – each design has its strengths and weaknesses, but many speak for a generation. In fact, many singular models have served to define their makers and the generations from which they were born.
The car for many of us is something to be celebrated; As a mobile sculpture, as a thrill-machine as a marker of time and certainly as a symbol of popular culture. Try and see what I see!
By Ben Musu