THE PETROLHEAD FALLACY

Why is it that when given the opportunity to express our own authenticity, we generally revert to the habit of regurgitating everything we have ever seen or heard? Why is it that our minds find comfort in responding to what is most familiar as opposed to taking comfort in facts? Facts have succeeded in reinforcing critical thinking among people, resulting in their formulation of opinions on platforms where they can be seen and heard, hence the need for the freedom of expression. However, there are certain people with opinions so loud that no alternatives can be heard. Some opinions become so loud and widely accepted as the truth that they even begin to take on the form of dogma or religious beliefs. These are opinions that are left in perpetuity by a few organized in cult-like harmony for the benefit of the person responsible for initially creating the opinion. All human beings have fallen victim to the act of mindlessly jumping to conclusions – it is something that none of us are immune to. However, being conscious of the act of jumping to conclusions is the most crucial step in changing our interaction with the information that comes our way; it marks a turning point where people begin to do whatever is possible to turn researching facts into a habit.

Every industry has its own Goliath, and more often than not, it is what this Goliath thinks and believes that has the capacity to influence everybody else within their field. The reach of their fame and fortune results in the creation of their own gravity and they even begin to redefine the perception of reality. However, although the world is populated by approximately eight billion people, not many human beings seem to have the willingness to stare this Goliath in the face and become the contemporary reincarnation of David himself. The motoring fraternity is home to a man who has spent the majority of his adult life creating the standard for motoring shows across the globe. This is a man who has been quoted saying that “nobody could be a true petrolhead until they owned an Alfa-Romeo.” This is a statement that the majority of people in the motoring industry have held in high esteem; handling the statement with the veneration reserved only for the discovery of jewels. However, I believe that this man and his passionate intentions overlooked something, and perhaps being classified as a petrolhead involves more than the ownership of an Alfa-Romeo.

South Africa is home to a number of vehicle manufacturing plants for large multinational car manufacturers. A good example of this would be Bayerische Motoren Werke AG – more commonly referred to as BMW. This car company has a South African manufacturing plant that has been responsible for over five model generations of the BMW 3-Series, a car that is to South African highways what oxygen is to the human body. The BMW 3-Series, more specifically the E30, has become an automotive icon in the South African landscape. It is a car that has captured the attention of people from all walks of life; assuming one identity in areas of affluence while being able to merge itself into a world where affluence has never existed. This car has defined my childhood, and whenever I see it on the public road, a sense of warmth bathes over me. This one car is proof that the love for cars should form the initiation, which inducts mere mortals into the world of the petrolhead, where the love of a car is all you need to be granted entrance. This can be any car, provided that it leads to the love of all cars in all their various incarnations, and it does not matter if the car is or is not an Alfa-Romeo.

02. © Bayerische Motoren Werke (E30) 3-Series Cabriolet - Donga Tshabalala - ENLISTED by Donga Tshabalala

“The BMW 3-Series, more specifically the E30, has become an automotive icon in the South African landscape. It is a car that has captured the attention of people from all walks of life; assuming one identity in areas of affluence while being able to merge itself into a world where affluence has never existed.”

In an industry where the world seems to pivot around the existence of a single individual, it seems only fair to acknowledge that the difference in our upbringings, complemented by the variety of the automotive experiences that we have will result in a difference of opinions as to what constitutes a petrolhead. Perhaps it is safe to say that being a petrolhead is nothing more than a state of mind. Perhaps being a petrolhead is more about inculcating a passion for cars into an individual, as opposed to single-mindedly gravitating to vehicles that are built by a single manufacturer. Perhaps being a petrolhead is more about driving not to commute, but to enjoy journeys on the road far more than an arrival at a destination. Perhaps these assumptions may just culminate in what it truly takes to become a petrolhead.

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“Perhaps being a petrolhead is more about driving not to commute, but to enjoy journeys on the road far more than an arrival at a destination.”

Everyone who loves motoring will agree that the burning desire to be near anything on wheels is stirred within you from your youth. As such, even though I do not agree that the ownership of an Alfa-Romeo is enough to turn an individual into a petrolhead, I will agree that Alfa-Romeo does produce vehicles that arouse people into desiring them. Alfa-Romeo builds vehicles that seemingly cater to a unique individual – someone who understands the nuances of the automotive industry. These are not cars that overtly attract attention, their approach is more subtle than that. Living in a country where roads are a never-ending sight of vehicles built by Ford and Toyota, identifying an Alfa-Romeo is still unorthodox. Perhaps the unconventional nature of these cars is what appeals most to me, and it is for this reason that the affinity that I have to Alfa-Romeo exists.

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