Going car-azy

BMW steering wheel

Judging from the way Isaac and Toby are obsessed with all things Top Gear, I think it’s fair to say that the boys have inherited my love of cars. And the past few days have raised that obsession to a new level.

After the best part of a year umming and ahhing over the costs and practicalities of buying a new car, I have finally taken the plunge this week and slapped down a deposit on a new BMW 4-series – basically the one below, but without the German plates.

BMW428iThe boys are mustard-keen. When I initially consulted them last summer about potential car choices, their only stipulation was that “it has to do fast starts”. (They’ve been trained well.)

After I came home from a test-drive on Monday and told them what car I had decided to buy, they immediately watched some reviews on YouTube and gave it their seal of approval. Toby was taken with the device that thrusts the seat-belt forwards into easy reach when you sit down. (Now there’s a first-world problem for you.) Isaac expressed his delight at the way you can open the boot by waggling a foot under the rear bumper.

Every evening since, the moment I have walked in the door I have been greeted with the question, “Have you bought the car yet?” I’ve already agreed that they can come with me when I go to pick it up. Until then, I suspect it’s going to be a long few weeks!

Three little boys have one great big toy

True to gender stereotypes, the boys have always been fascinated with cars while Kara barely notices them.

Before he was even three years old, Isaac’s favourite way of passing the time when we were out and about was spotting cars that were missing hubcaps – the Isle of Wight has a particularly high concentration of such vehicles, we discovered – and wandering around car parks naming the make and model of every car he saw with unerring accuracy.

Toby shares the same passion. He has a sharp eye for the differences between individual models, and his choice of activity when we had a father/son day to mark his final day before starting primary school was to wander around a car park, visit a  showroom and come home clutching a glossy brochure and the latest issue of What Car.

And, of course, there’s the seemingly endless collection of Top Gear recorded episodes and DVDs, which they watch even more often than Frozen – and that’s saying something.

I’ll be the first to admit they get all this from me. (The Top Gear bit, I mean, not Frozen.)

I know many parents view cars solely as a functional means of getting from A to B (via school, football practice, drama club, birthday parties and play dates). For many, purchasing a car is done grudgingly and with much stress over price, space, fuel economy, emissions, how many cup-holders there are in the back and how easy it is to mop up baby sick.

I’m not one of those people.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not above worrying about practical considerations, but for me buying and owning a car is as much an emotional experience as a functional one.

Although I grumble about rush-hour traffic and idiots who hog the outside lane for no apparent reason as much as the next man, I love driving. It’s just that I don’t often have the opportunity to drive for the sheer pleasure of it without a specific purpose or deadline. When I do get that chance – and a recent early morning, back-road drive to Milton Keynes of all places was one such time – it reminds me how much of a thrill it can be to drive a fast car on winding roads with time on your hands.

Yes, I know, I’m a big kid at heart.

My inner child reveals himself in my car choices. Over the years I’ve had a variety of sporty cars and exec-mobiles: a Peugeot 306 GTI-6 (which remains my favourite car ever), a Lexus IS200, an Audi TT. I currently drive a BMW 325i, a sporty-but-sensible four-door compromise that replaced the TT – one of two ‘deliveries’ that we received in December 2007 (the other being Isaac).

Some of the practicalities that led me to buy my current car remain but now that both boys are able to do up their own seat-belts, this opens up the possibilities in terms of car options – in particular those which involve paying more money for a car with fewer doors. (There’s man-logic for you!) Hence the two-door coupé.

As excited as the boys are, the biggest kid in our family (i.e. me) is the happiest of all. I spend so much of my life being a responsible, grown-up parent that it’s fun to be an overgrown kid and share in the boys’ enthusiasm. That’s something we would all benefit from doing more, I think.