McQueen Syndrome

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Between the ages of 13-17, we are influenced by the idea that having our own car means having freedom to go wherever we want. If you grew up as a Gearhead, then this idea became an obsession where getting a set of wheels was priority number one, and everything else came second. We all remember our first car, and for most of us, our first car was not factory new or freshly restored, but did we care? NO! The only thing that mattered was that it had four wheels, an engine and a working stereo. It didn’t matter if it was a brand new Z/28, a pass down from an older sibling or the family station wagon.

From the moment we acquired our first car, we developed a side effect, one that has stayed with us until present day. I like to call it, “The McQueen Syndrome,” named after the king of cool himself, Mr. Steve McQueen.

Side note: If you are from my generation and do not know who Steve McQueen is, or have not seen the famous Bullitt chase, you have homework to do! He was the godfather of car chase scenes and one of the most legendary Gearhead/actors of the 20th century.

The McQueen Syndrome” is the ignorant pride that we all display when we drive, wash or work on our cars. I use the term ignorant pride because if you own a car, and love it, you sometimes lose grip on reality and think your car is the ultimate example of automotive perfection. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 1963 Ferrari California Spyder or a 2001 Honda Accord, every now and then their respective owners will have a McQueen episode. This ignorant pride will cause them to think their car is cooler than a polar bear getting a brain freeze or more badass than Clint Eastwood shooting off a .44 magnum with AC/DC playing in the background. An episode can come at any time: admiring your mirror-finish wax job, hearing it start up on a cold morning, cruising down the street in the perfect weather or tackling a curvy road and not missing a single apex corner.

This side effect can be twice as powerful, or even permanent, if the car in question is one you have built or restored yourself. No amount of fact or logic will ever influence your opinion of your beloved racecar, hotrod or project car. Other Gearheads and normal people may try to make you see the real picture. They’ll say the car has chips in the paint and dents in every panel, and you will say it gives the car character. They’ll spot the surface rust eating away at the bare metal and you will say it has patina, Mother Nature’s paint job. They can mock the fact that some of the body panels are a different color from the rest of the car, and you will defend it saying it is rat-rodded. Hell, they’ll point out the car has no glass and your only response will be that “its weight reduction.”

If you cannot relate to this syndrome then I am truly sorry. The only comparable pride to is having a child.

This case of “McQueen Syndrome” is not one that requires a pill or a 5K run to find a cure, because if you can relate to this article then that means you truly enjoy what you drive. It also means you have not wasted thousands of dollars on an investment that you spent countless hours out of the year using to get around town. Like the saying goes, “If you do not turn back to stare at your ride as you walk away from it, then you have bought the wrong car.”