The sun is shining, the temperatures rising, the trees dressed in lush green leaves and Canadians are charmed by that familiar conviction that life is “beginning over again with the summer.” Along with the sun and the heat and the green, there’s another sign that summer is here. Freed from their winter confines, delicate vintage automobiles and supercars roam city streets and country roads. Summer is the season of the Ferrari, Lamborghini, Pontiac Parisienne, 1969 Chevrolet Camaro, 1966 MG B Convertible, 1958 Buick, 1974 Volkswagen Van, 1983 Porsche 911SC, 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS and the … well, you get the idea.
Summer is the season of the dream car.
Dreams, by their very nature, are unique. Each one reflects the dreamer, but this fact hasn’t stopped corporations from trying to find similarities. They seek to generalize. For instance, according to a survey of 2,000 American drivers commissioned by Chicago-based car maintenance specialists Gold Eagle Company, the top five dream cars are:
Millennials favour Teslas, Gen X prefers Camaros and Boomers go for Corvettes. Car “experts” choose Mustangs and those who identify as car “knowledgeable” choose Teslas. Not all surveys yield the same results. A 2022 survey of 1,172 drivers conducted by Compare.com, a car insurance comparison site, rated the brands differently.
Gen Z favoured Ford, Millennials BMW, Gen X Chevrolet and Boomers Ford. There isn’t much recent statistical information on Canadian dream cars. A 2009 survey by Synovate of 18,000 drivers worldwide and 1,000 in Canada, showed that 27 per cent of Canadians said an environmentally friendly/green car would be their dream car if money was no object. That’s more than Americans (23 per cent) and less than everyone else (59 per cent).
The only response I can muster to such results is, “Huh?”
The No. 1 dream car is a Mustang? Nothing against the American classic, but either the drivers are lying, or they need more (and better) sleep. If your dream car is a Tesla or a Ford F-150, you need new dreams.
There are universal and undeniable truths that apply to dream cars. The most important relate to the age of the driver.
- When we are young, we dream of the car we hope to have.
- When we are older, we dream of the car we once had.
It’s an important distinction. There are plenty of people who earn enough money (or inherit/marry enough) to buy the car they dreamed of in their youth. The moment they buy it, however, it is no longer a dream. It may be a source of endless delight, but it is no longer a dream. It’s a reality that requires parking (especially during winter months).
Dreams are elusive. They reside in regions that are untouchable (the future) and unrepeatable (the past). We do not hold onto our dreams; our dreams have a hold on us. We know we can’t repeat the past and yet there is something about our dream cars that tells us “Why, of course you can!”
That’s why many summer dream cars cannot be found on any survey or list. They are found in our gilded memories. I’d love a Ferrari as much as the next person, but my dream car is a Volkswagen Rabbit (preferably 1982) like the one I drove as a teen and in my twenties. It was a four-door hatchback, with a four-cylinder, 1.7-litre single-overhead-cam gas engine capable of generating up to 74 horsepower. If you put a suitcase in the trunk, it was full. My Rabbit often held six people very uncomfortably. A full tune-up cost $60. Yet, what I wouldn’t give to have one more summer drive with the windows rolled down and the radio humming. How is it that I forget the way my old VW would stall in heavy rain, or shake at certain speeds?
The other truth about dream cars is that your “dream car” is someone else’s “car car.” I experienced this a week ago when I discovered a Cabriolet Convertible (late 80s) parked nearby. Now, it wasn’t a Rabbit, but it was close. Some would say it was a much better option. I almost left a note praising the vehicle, but realized how weird that might seem. Imagine, you park your Cabriolet and some creepy stranger leaves a hand-scrawled note and begins stalking your Volkswagen, as if it were the start of a movie about a serial murderer – The Cabriolet Killer.
This encounter sent me online where – rather than working – I spent hours searching for my long-lost Rabbit. I found what seemed like the perfect automobile: a 1980 Rabbit Convertible. It was finished in Colibri Green Metallic over Van Dyck leatherette upholstery and powered by a 1.6-litre inline-four paired with a five-speed manual transaxle. Like all dream cars, it was nowhere near my location (in this case, Massachusetts). Bidding started at US$1,000 and by two days before the end it was at US$10,000.
“I had no idea I wanted one of these until I saw this green machine,” one prospective buyer commented. “Stunning.”
The power of such nostalgia has not been lost on broadcasters. In April, a 10-episode reality series My Dream Car debuted on Fox Business. It has already been renewed for a second season. Hosted by automotive journalist and NASCAR expert Danielle Trotta, My Dream Car follows ten sets of adult siblings as they secretly refurbish vintage cars and surprise their family members with the reborn versions. The first season features such classics as a 1960s Chevrolet Chevelle, Porsche 914, 1968 Pontiac Firebird and a 1970 Ford F100. I don’t have television expertise, but if Ms. Trotta and the producers of My Dream Car are looking for a great episode for Season Two, they may want to consider the heartwarming story of a Canadian columnist who is given a fully refurbished 1982 VW Rabbit by Danielle Trotta and the producers of My Dream Car.
Until that day, I’ll content myself recalling when life was viewed out the window of a feisty VW Rabbit, beautiful, strange and new.