Gas car culture on decline

Classic autos provide better connection with driver than modern ones at expense of safety, sustainability

Rohan Bhatia, Sports Editor

I’m strolling down Fourth Street with my friends on a bright, cloudless day in San Francisco when a loud rumble stops me dead in my tracks. Slowly, a sleek, scarlet-red Ferrari F40 rolls up to the stoplight and stops mere feet ahead of me. 

My eyes widen in disbelief, and my heart stops beating for a second as I let out a childish squeal and run up behind the Ferrari, frantically fumbling for my phone to snap a photo before it can race away. As it disappears into the distance, a wave of euphoria washes over me — I feel like the luckiest person in the world.

The F40 is an incredible piece of Italian engineering from the ‘80s. With its iconic design and twin-turbocharged V8, it can hit an incredible 230 mph. Only about 200 of these cars ever made it to the United States; F40s are desirable to collectors and a well-cared for model is easily worth over $2 million.

As I snap out of my trance and turn to see my friends standing at the end of the street with bewildered looks on their faces, I realize that nobody else in our group — or anyone on the entire block, for that matter — has realized what just happened. How am I supposed to explain my infatuation with this car?

I realize I am the minority here; surely no one else reacts like this to the simple sighting of a Ferrari. But I assumed that my boyish obsession with car speed and engine noise was something that applied to everyone. 

I was curious about whether this obsession was universal, so I did more research. I found attachment to gas cars seems to be reserved for classic, analog cars. To many, the appeal for these older cars is that they are less technologically advanced. There’s no automatic transmissions, no traction control and no fancy screens telling you where to go. 

People admire these cars for the same reason some people prefer film over digital photography, or vinyl records over Spotify. Analog cars allow for a pure connection between the car and the driver — a tangible, authentic experience that cannot be replicated by modern technology. 

But whenever I try to explain the appeal of analog cars to someone, I get more weird looks. The vast majority of people use cars for their intended purpose, to get from Point A to Point B. 

When it comes down to simple transportation, electric cars usually get the job done much better than any classic or even modern gas car. Electric cars are the future for every brand, so they receive the newest, fanciest technology. Many electric cars are regularly given software updates, just like your phone. Electric cars also have fewer moving parts and need less maintenance. Car manufacturers don’t even offer high-end features for their gas cars anymore, as they want to incentivize the purchase of electric models.

It’s also impossible to ignore that you can charge electric cars at home and avoid useless trips to a faraway gas station, spending hundreds of dollars on gasoline, especially as prices continue to skyrocket.

Most importantly, there’s the obvious reality that by driving electric cars, you’re not spewing greenhouse gasses into the air. Transportation was responsible for 29% of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2021. Sixty percent of all transportation emissions come from light-duty cars according to the Environmental Protection Agency, so electric vehicles provide a marvelous solution to cut back on emissions. 

Even in a state like California, which is widely considered to have one of the biggest car cultures left in the country, it’s impossible to go anywhere without seeing electric cars ruling the road.

But for someone like me, sitting behind the wheel of an electric car is the exact opposite of what I desire. I am lucky enough to have driven different types of cars, and it’s just not enjoyable to be behind the wheel of an electric car. 

I’ve found that a random Subaru with a six-speed manual transmission is way more pure than even the most technologically advanced Tesla. With my hand on the manual gear lever, I feel connected to the car, and it makes a simple drive a hundred times more enjoyable. However, I know I’m one of few who will ever see it that way. The future of all cars is electric, and that’s a truth I’ll have to accept. 

Deep down, I know that it’s for the best. Despite my infatuation with vintage gas cars, it’s definitely not a good idea to give your average driver a car with 10 cylinders, no traction control and no anti-lock braking system. Being obsessed with gas cars is hypocritical given my goal to try to be climate positive. I begrudgingly know that our world and its sustainability should always take precedence over personal desires and nostalgia. But amidst the undeniable takeover of electric cars and sustainability, there will always be a part of me that secretly hopes to catch another glimpse of a roaring Ferrari, to feel that childlike excitement.