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I just want to drive. Those words reverberate in my mind, carrying me back to that scorching summer day in 1992. As a 4-year-old with an insatiable passion for cars, every opportunity to take the wheel was a moment of sheer bliss. My dad, understanding my unyielding enthusiasm, would let me sit on his lap… my small hands clutching the steering wheel while he controlled the pedals. We’d cruise down the dusty dirt road in the backwoods of San Augustine, Tx during one of our many visits to Grandma.

The vehicle: a 1989 Ford Taurus LXI Wagon… 

It might not have been a head-turner, not even in the slightest. But to me, it was nothing short of extraordinary. It was a custom order from my late uncle’s Ford Dealership in Los Banos, California, and it held a special place in my heart. At the time, I admired every inch of its design.

In today’s world, we’re surrounded by luxurious vehicles…

Even the economy models are loaded with cutting-edge tech. But back then, this Taurus was a marvel. It had a few basic gadgets that now seem archaic. But its most significant feature (the one that truly mattered to me) – it required you to drive it. No modern-day “nanny” driving aids or smart-systems to intervene. It was just you, the wheel, and the open road. And that was exactly how I liked it.

Cruise control, though rudimentary compared to today’s adaptive systems… 

Felt like a futuristic luxury at the time. There were only two airbags, and the 3rd-row children’s seat faced backwards… which made for some amusing moments with my friends & cousins. And there wasn’t a single spec of window tint to be seen anywhere on the miles of glass that wrapped around that Taurus.

In that era, none of the modern-day ‘safety & convenience’ features weighed heavily on our minds. 

It was a car, and you drove it. A sense of adventure with dad, and a connection with the road that truly mattered. The road was the focus. People don’t see ‘the road’ in the same way anymore. Especially as a child being encouraged to take the wheel from time to time… it only immersed me deeper into my love of driving.  

In my pursuit of all things automotive… 

There’s an undeniable charm in the manual control that beckons me. It’s as though the steering wheel becomes an extension of my very being, and the dance of shifting gears evolves into a fusion of man & machine. Fast forward a decade – and one of my favorite uncles enters the picture, letting me behind the wheel of his trusty manual ‘90s Tacoma. Those moments deliberately put me in situations that demanded patience, skill, and a true understanding of manual transmission finesse. It was just me, the Tacoma, and the clutch. No computerized aids… just the raw essence of driving.

1st gen tacoma

As I reflect on the vehicles that have accompanied me throughout my journey… 

My attention gravitates towards a select few that, despite their merits, were not without significant shortcomings. My old 2001 Ford Explorer Sport – a sturdy compact SUV, embodied an essence of simplicity that was truly captivating. When it first entered the American automotive scene, safety features that today seem essential were notably sparse, and the notion of those “nanny” driving aids was something out of science fiction. Yet, that’s what lent it an undeniable charm… even if it also meant a fair share of heart-pounding moments during rough weather. On smooth roads, it rode with a sense of grace, only to reveal its true character when a sudden curve emerged. Traction remained steadfast until the skies opened up, and the complete lack of any usable weight in its rear became all too palpable. 

2 door explorer

In my automotive journey, a profound affection blossomed not only for American-made vehicles… 

But also for Japanese craftsmanship… especially from the Honda/Acura stable. Both my Acura TLs were nothing short of technological marvels, a testament to their era. And they arrived with a price tag that defied their rivals, while winning over the astute buyer. It’s worth noting that these Acuras were unlike others; their lineup was concise, as the technological opulence that contemporary drivers craved was generously baked into their standard offerings.

The years 2001 & 2006 unveiled two Acura TL models… 

Each adorned with an array of airbags and a suite of safety features. Yet, due to their vintage, some of the modern “nannies” were conspicuously absent. Those shortcomings were compensated by a heavy German luxury car-like weight and unadulterated joy—right until the moment understeer disrupted the merriment. At which point, you were reminded that they were both FWD. As if sharing a common affliction, both models also grappled with the notorious Honda automatic transmission predicament, succumbing once their mileage crossed the 90,000-mile threshold. Even the 2006 TL, adorned with its resplendent elegance & meticulous upkeep, failed to escape the vexing cycle of VTEC solenoid replacements, a predictable demand every 30,000 to 40,000 miles.

There was the 1992 Mazda Miata… 

A true embodiment of the ultimate driver’s car. Its very name reverberates with the symphony of open roads & winding curves. What the NA Mazda Miata might lack in raw power, it compensates for in spades with an unadulterated driving experience. Every twist of the steering wheel, every gear shift, they’re all amplified in the Miata’s pure essence. It’s a car that forgives no missteps, yet rewards each successful maneuver with an unrivaled connection between driver & machine. While some might bemoan its modest horsepower, the absence of superfluous features is precisely what elevates it to perfection.

Then comes the 2009 Infiniti G37S manual coupe… 

A class in luxury that took on a new form under the hands of custom modifications, particularly in the power department. A small pursuit in the increase of horsepower turned it into a daily dose of exhilaration, albeit one that constantly tested my mettle. No matter the number of suspension tweaks, including an array of control arms, braces, and finely tuned coilovers sourced from both SPC and Megan Racing, the Infiniti G37S manual coupe remained a spirited adversary… dancing along the edge of control whenever I wanted to play.

This is just a glimpse into the ensemble of vehicles that have graced my journey… 

Each one, a distinct chapter in the ever-evolving narrative of my passion for the open road & being in charge of the drive. As I recount these experiences, I’m reminded of the fusion of exhilaration & challenge that defines the essence of driving. It’s a journey that continues to unfold, beckoning me to new horizons, fresh stories, and the thrill of the next bend whether on or off the road.

You might be wondering about the direction of my narrative…

What’s the purpose behind these vivid depictions of my automotive journey? The answer is straightforward: I am crafting a canvas, bringing to life a genuine and heartfelt narrative that resonates with every true enthusiast. And what is this narrative, you ask? Well, it’s as simple as it is profound….. I just want to drive.

Allow me to underscore that point for today’s automotive industry, the EPA, and the various governmental bodies that often overreach their boundaries. I repeat… with an unbending fervor, that all I truly desire is the act of driving. Along with the right to repair, and the right to customize. It’s a sentiment shared by enthusiasts far & wide… transcending regulations and bureaucracies. The open road beckons, and my heart responds with a resounding call – I. Just. Want. To. Drive.

Tesla tech

Steering slightly off course 

Considering my specialization not only in lighting but also in telematics, I’ve come to understand the rationale behind these “nannies.” They have emerged as a response to the prevailing norm of the modern driver—a norm often characterized by distractions & divided attention. The average driver’s lack of mindfulness, coupled with an apparent disregard for their surroundings, or even a deficiency in essential driving skills, has inevitably nudged automakers in this direction. 

But it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. A classic catch-22 scenario. Because automakers, while attempting to address the issue, have inadvertently exacerbated it. These vehicles are now laden with hundreds-of-pounds of amenities that, in the grand scheme of things, might just be superfluous. Screens for every conceivable function, an array of features that go beyond necessity. There are vehicles that not only perform the seemingly magical act of parking themselves, but they can also manipulate speed, and/or bring themselves to a halt. And – depending on the make & model, can even take control of the entire driving process. 

When you add this to the mix… 

Juxtaposed against the backdrop of a younger generation’s dwindling interest in the sheer joy of driving… it paints an intricate picture. Driving, once the quintessential symbol of freedom, has lost its allure for some. And for many, an Uber or Lyft ride seems more enticing. It’s as if they’ve forgotten, or maybe overlooked, the fact that these vehicles are not self-driven… yet.

Akio toyota leader

And now it’s time to steer this rambling journey back into focus 

I must tip my hat to the exceptional teams within various automotive manufacturers who swim against the current & defy trends… and dedicatedly craft vehicles that resonate with enthusiasts like myself. These are the vehicles that beckon us to grip the wheel and truly drive. Whether these cars are engineered to strike the perfect balance, or whether they overflow with power, or just embrace lightweight simplicity & strip away the excess… I’m thankful for modern vehicles that still preserve the natural joy in driving. 

And so it’s fitting to bring this to a close… 

With a nod to one of my most cherished possessions that still stands proudly in my stable – the Scion FR-S. This car’s journey began in Los Angeles, under the watchful ownership of one of my dearest friends. And it nearly faced confiscation & crushing by the CHP due to a series of modifications. To regain its legal standing, it was “meticulously” restored back to “stock enough” condition… a process that inadvertently resulted in a clock spring breakage and subsequent sensor damage controlling the ABS and Traction Control systems.

When I acquired the Scion FR-S, I made it a point to replace the clock spring while replacing the steering wheel with an aftermarket unit. Yet – I missed that sensor, and surprisingly, I don’t regret the oversight. Why, you ask? Because now, I find myself in possession of a car that essentially operates with only half of its electronic complexity.

Blessed with lightness & agility… 

And amped-up with a slew of suspension modifications, this FR-S hugs the pavement like it’s on rails. It’s a responsive beast that reacts to every nuance of the steering wheel. With just the right dance between throttle & clutch, it’s all too eager to showcase its wilder side when you throw it into curves. Yet – its finely-tuned balance bestows an air of control that belies its potential for chaos.

Sure, the Scion FR-S may be the slowest vehicle in my collection… 

And yeah, it’s also the smallest. As a larger individual, I admit there’s a touch of humor in watching me squeeze in & out of it. But compared to my fleet of speedier counterparts that could easily leave it behind in a straight-line race, the FR-S is the one I turn to when I’m in the mood for unadulterated driving. Behind the wheel, it’s just me and the distinct purr of the Subaru boxer engine. There’s an honesty in the driving experience. No fancy driving aids… just the simple joy of maneuvering & being in control. In those moments, what I truly long for, is to embrace the road. To feel the connection between man & machine that defines the art of driving. It all boils down to those five words –  I. Just. Want. To. Drive.

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