Do you remember the day your Dad told you about the one that got away? Oh, the twinkle he had in his eye as he talked about her. She had such style and grace, he said. Turned heads on every street corner. He knew it was true love the moment he saw her. Big love, he called it. The kind that hits you so hard in the gut, it damn near knocks you over. You know from that moment on, your life has changed. Just wait, he told you. Someday you’ll feel it. And you’ll never be the same man again. Sure, others will float in and out of your life. But none of them will compare.
Can you remember?
Now, was it a Charger? Camaro? Torino? Maybe it was a 442? Oh, that dream car—that’s what made an enthusiast out of you. That day, watching him dwell on the sweet memories of reckless youth, you decided you were going to find that car and reunite him with his first real love (without telling Mom, of course).
The One That Got Away
If you’ve been a car lover for long enough, you know this feeling. And you’ve likely let go of a few rides yourself. Sure, you’re always searching for that perfect dream car, but there’s one from the past that always tugs at the heartstrings a little. Like an old love who you think of with fondness and just a hint of regret. What if?
Why’d you let it go? Was it just too far gone? Did you trade up in the spur of the moment? Maybe the bills started to pile up and you had to make a tough decision. Years later, did you see her in a grocery store parking lot—awkwardly trying to hide behind a cart corral and unable to deny that she looked great? Better than when she was with you, that’s for sure. Or worse, did you hear through the grapevine that things took a turn? The next guy didn’t treat her so well, and Tommy down at the parts store said she was scrapped back in ’99.
Stiff Upper Lip
Don’t beat yourself up about the one that got away. That feeling? Heart pounding, palms sweating, stomach in a knot? We’ve been there. Listen, we’re hardwired to learn from our mistakes. Each build teaches us something new so that we can enter our next relationship stronger than before. You made the right choice by letting her go. (Unless you traded in a seriously rad dream car for some cheap substitute with a bad paint job—then shame on you.)
The truth is, other things come first. The roof over your head. Food and clothing for the family who puts up with your automotive obsessions. It doesn’t matter how much that car meant to you, life has to happen and you have to move on. You’ve grown; you’re a new man. It’s okay to let go.
The Way We Were
And yet… sometimes late in the evening, when everyone’s settled in for the night, you lay awake and think of her. Like taking a favorite old book off a shelf, you dust off the memory and wonder what more you could have done to make it work. You think back to that first drive—shaking with anticipation before the key even hit the ignition. You remember all the fights on the side of the road during a breakdown and all those horrible things you said that you really didn’t mean. And if you knew that last drive would actually be the last? Well, you would have taken it to the limit and made it one for the books. Now, all your left with are happy stories and sad songs.
It’s Better to Have Loved and Lost…
Sure, it’s possible that car is sitting somewhere it shouldn’t—alone in a field with only cat pee for company. But the industry is fueled by passion, and not everyone is a monster. It’s more likely that ride became someone else’s dream car. Maybe it rekindled a father-son relationship as a project car. Or maybe a mother and her daughter are driving it right now, with the top back and pedal down as they laugh and cruise the countryside. The point is, all those wonderful memories you had are now a major part of someone else’s life (it’s time to let go, son). And that’s something worth celebrating.
We all deserve at least one great passion in our lives. We all need something that drives us forward with the raw intent to satisfy our own desires. It’s a beautiful and complex thing to understand—but hey, so is life, right? Some days are full of great memories and others are spent in agony, nursing busted knuckles and wallowing in frustration. Our advice? Keep going. Find a completely new dream car that fits the bill or build one to remind you of that past love. Or get out there and find the old girl, damnit. Do whatever you have to do and bring her back home. Whatever you choose, just be sure to tell the story. Because that silly dream car you’ve been eulogizing for a decade? That’s the one that’ll inspire your kid. That’s the one that will help keep this wonderful, beautiful, insane sport alive.