Wednesday, December 21, 2016

In praise of Peter Egan.

He seeks adventure and invites us along.

 He has been a contributing editor to Road and Track and Cycle World for so many years. His column "Sideglances" has enriched my life as an enthusiast, and I would bet that many others have had the same experience.

I have never met the man but through reading his columns and articles over the years I believe that we are kindred spirits. He treats his reader like an old friend, sharing stories of his youthful experiences and automotive aspirations.

Mr. Egan  (Can I call you Peter, Sir?) is a bit older than myself and grew up during the mid Fifties and early Sixties. He dropped out of college and was drafted. He served during the Vietnam War. Upon his return he was employed for many years as European Car mechanic. He has raced sports cars and motorcycles, usually preferring British machinery. He has restored several race cars and European sports cars such as MGs, a Jaguar E-type, a Porsche 356 and others. His life story and experiences have provided him with a wealth of experience and fodder for his stories.

In his writing you will learn that like most of us, Peter couldn't wait to get a chance to drive. He learned his mechanical basics fixing the old lawnmowers that he used to earn  his spending money. Like most of older guys, our parents expected us to work and earn our own money. He did finally manage to acquire a go kart. I know that I wanted a go kart for the longest time. He was extremely attuned to the different cars that were driven by his neighbors. His recollections of the cars in his neighborhood are quite amusing. Back then the type of car you drove was a big reflection of the person you were. Not only were there Ford and Chevy people, there were Chrysler and even Studebaker folks. Brand loyalty ran very strong in those days, and ran generations deep.

After the service he returned home and began his career as a "foreign car" mechanic and as a sports car racer. Always a "hands on" kind of guy, he turned his own wrenches, learning many valuable lessons that he shares in a humorous and ironic manner. He can find the kernel of wisdom in almost any situation. It is obvious that the man really cares about cars and how they are an instrument that we can use to satisfy so many of our needs and desires.

He delights in the prospect of obtaining a new automotive project. He immerses himself in learning the background and lore surrounding a potential purchase. I find it so gratifying that he cares so much. Just like me, and I'll bet like you do too. He knows that a car is always much more than a collection of machinery. It is the screen that we project the fantasy movie of our adventurous automotive lives. Like most of us Peter is interested in just about anything with a motor. He has been involved with motorcycles, boats, trucks, and even airplanes. I would say that he is a lucky guy, but as Peter once wrote,when you really want something, you make it happen!

On of the best things about Peter's writings is that it is so easy to empathize with him. His struggles, his frustrations are just like ours. He has been there, probably many more times than we have. His successes and triumphs can be shared by us, because they are like ours, though our's may be on a more humble level.

Another thing that I really like about Peter's writing is that it always has a positive message. It is uplifting and almost always cheerful and reaffirming. He may have suffered some real life setbacks, but his stories are always fun, sometimes quite humorous. It is easy to place ourselves in his shoes, because they fit us so well.

Peter's columns and articles have been collected into several books. The Sideglances and the Leanings series. There also books about his Road Trips. These are a convenient way to discover his material. Researching this post I found several books that I hadn't read yet. I have read many of his columns in Road and Track over the years but I was happy to discover these anthologies. The richness of these volumes cannot be understated.

You may have noticed that I have not really revealed any of the narrative storylines from Peter's writings. First, these were primarily written as magazine columns, so they are short, sweet, and to the point. Second, each volume contains about two dozen columns covering a myriad of automotive subjects and experiences. Since I have arrived at senior citizen status, certain themes, concerning the running down of my life clock, resonate especially strongly for me.

photo source:wallpaper abyss

In one story Peter relates how he has come to admire the new Porsche Boxster convertibles. They are a return to the simpler, purer, virtues that he remembers from his experiences with Porsches of the past. At this time late model used examples were available at fairly affordable prices. He had gone to the dealer and test driven some cars to determine which model he wanted. He still found their prices a little hard to swing, but he told the salesman that if a slightly older car at a certain price range became available, to "give him a call". Of course in due time he get's a call from the dealership telling him that a car meeting his criteria has just come in off lease.  He goes down to check it out and of course he is smitten. Still he decides that the times is not yet right , so he passes on the car. He then goes home and his long suffering wife, Barbara, asks what he thought about the Boxster. He tells her that it's a good thing that she didn't go down there with him, because she would have wanted him to buy it. She asks why he didn't just buy the car. He replies that the time just isn't right. Barbara counters the way we all wish that our spouses would. She says that the car is exactly what he wanted, the price was right, and it's a convertible! Summer is coming. And... There are only so many Summers left. Ain't that the truth! The time we have left is not unlimited, there is no guarantee that we will see even the next summer. Of course Peter realizes her wisdom and goes back and gets the car.

If you have never heard of Peter Egan or have just never had the opportunity to read any of his stories, I highly recommend that you take the time to pick up and read one of his books. As a car and motorcycle enthusiast it is a pleasure to find some one who can interpret our feelings. I think you will enjoy it and be amazed that someone so witty and eloquent can capture the very same feelings that we all share, and put it down on paper.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.

photo source: christmas tree

No comments:

Post a Comment