"Walk out to your car, keys in hand. Open the door, and take a seat. What happens next is not the product of a train timetable, a bus schedule, an airplane itinerary. It is entirely up to you. Each intersection presents four choices, and no permission is needed to choose any of them. The man on a train is mere cargo, sentient in dribs and drabs — the driver of an automobile is the captain of his own ship.”
Words of wisdom from our favorite book of the summer, Never Stop Driving: A Life Behind the Wheel edited by Larry Webster and co-written by Webster, Zach Bowman, Jack Baruth and Bret Berk, new from Motorbooks and now available to order on Amazon for just $22. It's part call to arms and part celebration in this age of self-driving cars and other technology designed to deaden the experience of actually getting behind the wheel.
The beautifully photographed book is divided into four sections: The Commitment, about buying cars; Peace in the Wrenches, about fixing them; the Joy of Driving, about driving them; and The Life, for, well, everything else. Along the way, there are contributions from the likes of Patrick Dempsey, Jay Leno, and Mario Andretti.
The automobile is "the most important mechanical artifact of the 20th century," Berk writes. "It strongly influenced the design of our modern environment of roads and interstates, bridges and tunnels, urban planning, housing, and retail establishments. Moreover, it impacted nearly every element of our national psyche, from our notions of independence, escapism, and adventure, to the plots and subjects of film, television, literature, and design."
Beauty is in the eye of the driver, and of course, anyone can derive pleasure from any type of car. But the authors note the particular pleasure to be had from vintage cars, especially those epitomizing great design such as the Jaguar E-Type, Porsche 356, Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing and the others pictured here.
"To purchase, own, and drive a vintage car or truck is to manifest enthusiasm in metal and glass," Bowman writes. "Those acts help us embrace the best parts of ourselves—the excited, curious, and gleeful bits that too many people abandon after childhood. The results are unquantifiable. You can’t attach a dollar amount to catching a glint of autumn sun off the perfect arc of a fender, just as you can’t for the happiness you get from food, drink, art, or song."
The book closes with an entreaty from McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty, the country's top insurer of classic cars from weekend cruisers to multimillion-dollar Ferraris. "It’s up to us to preserve and protect our collective automotive past," he writes. "It’s also up to us to create a vision for the future whereby the cars we love to drive are allowed to share the road with cars that drive themselves. The best way for us to do this is to come together as a community. There are a lot of us, after all. If we speak up, collectively and individually, then a driving future is ensured. We can also share our passion with younger generations and others to keep the love alive."
"Fix the family car together," he advises. "Teach your kids and the neighbors’ kids how to drive a stick. Take them to car shows and museums. But most of all, get out there and drive. And never, ever stop."