Objects of Desire – February 2013

The Sum of its Parts

By Emily Atkins, Provinz Editor


My dead car is for sale. With each prospective buyer I grow a little more nostalgic. Every time I send the lovely pictures of the shining red car, a twinge of regret tugs at my heart. It’s so much nicer a car than its successor. It’s more beautiful, a better colour, shinier and more refined. Plus, the more emails and conversations I have about it, the more I realize what a unique vehicle it is.

Nostalgia won’t bring it back, of course. But I have found a way to keep it alive—at least in part(s). Dead Red has become a donor. A couple weeks before Christmas I drove the replacement 944T to my brother’s shop. We dragged Red in and carefully aligned my little fleet side by side. The cars look good together; the silver and red were seasonal and complement each other well. The proximity also highlighted their differences and in some ways magnified my sadness at losing Red.

I’ve never really worked on cars before, so this was a huge learning experience for me. It’s amazing how much brute force is required for some tasks; there were times when I didn’t have the strength needed to budge a tight nut. But there is also a lot of finesse required in some of the part reattachments.

The analogy to surgery is apt. Although no lives are in the balance while the work is being performed, the proper replacement of all the bits is crucial for a safe driving experience once the job is done. I admit to a little trepidation when we rolled the silver car out of the shop and took it for a test drive, but the brakes worked beautifully.

Sanding the rotors was the most satisfying part of the work for me. Scouring away the thick coating of rust with sandpaper revealed the shiny, dark surface, patterned with ventilation holes. After a blast with the air gun and a quick de-dusting, the rotors were practically perfect. Bringing these parts back to a likenew condition was gratifying work.

In the driver’s seat on the way home, it was like having the best part of the red car back with me. Those brakes have awesome stopping power, and make the car feel more powerful and sporty than it really is. They actually change my driving style, and possibly not for the better—at least when driving off the track. The big brakes encourage late application of the pedal, just because I can. When those big anchors grapple the car to a halt, the rapid deceleration provides as much of a rush as a quick corner or a skidpad spin.

I loved the learning curve of this project and I love the fact that I’m able to continue using a part of my beloved red car. But it’s also taught me a little detachment as well. For me, as a driving enthusiast but only a budding gear-head, I’ve always seen a car as a whole entity, something of a ‘black box’. Now, however, I’m learning to see a car as something both more and less than that. As a complete, running vehicle it has personality. It’s more than the sum of its parts.

But once you open it up and start swapping pieces, something changes. The act of moving the brakes from one car to the other has changed my perception. I’ve stopped looking at the silver car as the lesser vehicle; instead I’m considering what I can do to improve it. The red car is still beloved because of what it represents, but it’s also in danger of becoming a donor of more than just its brakes. If anybody wants to buy it, they’d better move fast, before I get more mechanical skills.

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