Automotive enthusiasts come in a vast cornucopia of shapes and sizes. They range from the persnickety collector that keeps their car in an airtight bubble to those that jump at any opportunity to thrash. Why is it that some humans develop such a passion for their ride?
We’re going to delve deep into the throws of mechanical passion and find out exactly what makes people love what they drive so much. As a website focused on the broad spectrum of driving topics, it’s only fitting that we include some human interest pieces. These stories will paint a vivid picture of the trials and tribulations of having a relationship with something that can’t talk back.
Sit back and enjoy our new segment, called “I Drive A…” These will feature an interview highlighting unique automobiles and the people that love them.
I Drive A… 2003 Chevy SSR, featuring Dave Hamburg
David Hamburg, a performing classical musician and freelance autocrosser tells us a little bit about what got him seduced by his saucy yellow truck and delves into the difficulties around justifying your dreams.
Nikki Weed, Autoversed: Tell me a little bit about your background being an automotive enthusiast. Have you always had a “need for speed”?
Dave Hamburg: I have always been a fan of racing and have always appreciated hot muscle cars (but never owned one). NASCAR is my favorite, but I like anything that goes fast, including Indycar, F1, hydroplane, tunnel, open water boats and planes. My hero has always been Richard Petty. I still enjoy seeing the #43 in competition. I also followed Danica Patrick because she went to the same high school that I did. But maybe just a few years later than me!
N: Danica is a pretty special driver. I’m not sure she’s having the best effect on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers though. So, tell me, what sort of affiliations do you have with various racing or automotive clubs?
D: SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) is the only racing club of which I am a member. Our local chapter is the Great River Region in the Iowa/Illinois Quad Cities area. I always drove sensible small trucks (Datsuns and Toyotas) and never thought that I would actually race until my neighbor/friends hooked me into SCCA autocross by allowing me to run their Ford Focus. I’m guessing that this was the emergence of my latent “need for speed.” They started on this car and progressed to Miatas, which they still run. I won the Novice class a couple times and was hopelessly hooked after that.
N: I’ve got to say, you don’t see many Chevy SSRs around town, let alone on a track of any kind. So, why did you chose an SSR?
D: I’m not sure if I chose the SSR or if it chose me. I loved it from the first time I saw its picture.
N: That’s some powerful stuff!
D: At the time that I was just getting into speed, it was everything that I wanted — a fast truck that I could race and still use as a daily driver. Even better, it was fashioned after the 1950’s Chevy 3100 pickup. My Grandpa had an old, rusty-brown one for his farm truck. This was like a connection to his truck and to him.
N: How neat!
D: The Michael Bay Chevy “Car Hauler” commercial is also probably partly to blame for my SSR affliction. To this day, when I watch recordings of that commercial and it gets to the clip of three kids standing at a chain-link fence, every hair that I still have stands on end because I know that the next shot will be of a sexy bright yellow SSR in the distance.
N: Certainly, a vehicle with so much emotional draw has a name!
D: Ilsa. Ilsa’s name came from my favorite movie Casablanca. I’m sure that Ingrid Bergman and I could get along famously in another time, and her character in the film was Ilsa.
The Early Beginnings
D: I’ve never had a performance/eye-grabber until Ilsa came home. My wife’s cars were sensible American family cars that we bought used and drove until they expired. I’ve had four-cylinder mini-pickups like Datsuns and Toyotas for decades. I drove them until they expired too.
The yellow SSR was my fantasy vehicle ever since the hauler commercial came out. But it was a rich person’s vehicle, and I knew that it would always remain a fantasy. Shortly before retirement, my latent need for speed started bubbling to the surface. When retirement finally arrived, I started looking for something fast. And cheap.
Then it happened.
Ilsa showed up at a local high-end used car place. She gave me her best wide smile every time I drove by. I talked to the sales dude, but the price was way too high. However, at that point, Ilsa had me. She was in my dreams, and every time I thought about her, my heart would speed up. So I started doing all of the usual rationalizations and then discarding them when that price figure returned from the blurry background where I was trying to imprison it.
Then a miracle happened. My wife said the words that I will always remember, “Why don’t you make them an offer?”
I came up with a figure that I thought I could do after combining a few savings accounts and sat down with the sales dude. After I mentioned what the going price on eBay was and that there was an R in Chicago I wanted to see that was also in that ballpark, he knocked a significant amount from the price. That ended up within my “maybe I could make this work if I don’t eat for a few months” parameter. My heart started doing somersaults.
For those couple hours where they were preparing Ilsa for getting picked up, I just kept pacing around the house with my heart beating wildly. Later that day, I said goodbye to my beloved Toyota truck, “Ruby.” Then Ilsa came home. I couldn’t stop taking a peek in the garage just to make sure she was still there. I was pinching myself to make sure that she was real.
It was the beginning of a beautiful (and expensive) relationship, which I hope will never end.
N: Let this be a lesson for anyone on the fence about chasing their dream car, it doesn’t have to be an instant find! Sometimes the things in life that are worth waiting for aren’t right under your nose. The cars that give you goosebumps and speak to you through random commercials are well worth the daily scroll through Craigslist or Bring A Trailer!
Do you have a fun story about what you drive, what you drove in your youth, or what you’re shopping for? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you and pick your brain.