The opposite of a ‘Car Guy’: I don’t even know what model I drive | Jack Marshall’s column

Family legend has it that my first words were “V8”.
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Far beyond the infantile realms of the traditional gurgled ‘dadas’ or ‘mamas’ of other children, my alleged first utterance was a cosmic glimpse into a future already moulded by fate. I’d be a mechanic, a racing driver, or an engineer. The road ahead was clear.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: rubbish. And I’m with you 100%; there’s no way a child, let alone me - my dad once accidentally hit me in the head with a garage door as an infant - could construct such a pronouncement. But my father is indefatigable. To this day, he swears I said it.

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By chance, my dad is a car guy. He fawns over how they look, spends weekends fixing them, and croons about what they feel like to drive. He revels in being behind the wheel, taking to the roads with relish just so he can be close to a shuddering engine. If you’ve detected a bias, well spotted: his first-born son’s first words were charmed indeed.

A gentleman fixing the oil sealant on his car's right carburettor or somethingA gentleman fixing the oil sealant on his car's right carburettor or something
A gentleman fixing the oil sealant on his car's right carburettor or something

I’m sure that little “V8” conjured images of us sharing grease-streaked spanners and mopping our oil-slicked brows with rags as we fettled with engines together, hunched under bonnets like pigs hunting for truffles. Alas, on that front, I’m a profound disappointment: I don’t care about cars and studied poetry at university.

When I noticed my car had acquired a generous scratch near the rear bumper whilst parked outside my house, I shrugged. When my dad saw, the blood drained from his face, fingers suddenly itching for the spray of polish. This is how we differ: I can’t tell you what model I drive, whereas he likely knows the exhaust pipe serial number by heart.

Recently, the MOT was due, so I took the car to one of my dad’s numerous mechanic mates who he’s known since I was a child. Perhaps aware of my fabled first words, he took the keys and asked ‘So, who works on the car, you or your dad?’ After a slight chuckle, I said I barely knew how to pop the bonnet. I don’t even know if it’s a V8 or not.

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