Randy Stern: Driving with Soul


So far, I reintroduced myself and spouted out my resume and philosophy. Then, I went into a business school treatise on buying habits and marketing. What could I do for an encore?

Talk about the cars.

Randy Stern

Randy Stern is a past managing editor of the GLD predecessor Midwest Ursine and an automotive journalist. His work is published at Victory & Reseda and Why This Ride You can contact him at randy@randystern.net

Oh, yes, cars…those wonderful pieces of metal, rubber, fluids and soul. They create infinite dreams, as their lives become timeless. They take us to work, home, bars, events and everywhere else we asked them to.

The key to enthusiasm is to understand the car’s soul. They do have one. A smart fortwo has a soul. As does a BMW 750iL, a 1971 Dodge Challenger R/T, and a 1990s Toyota Corolla…even a Hummer has a soul.

Soul is defined by something mystical and bonds car with owner. Some souls are more pronounced than others. Ferraris have soul because of the sounds it makes – from the starter motor to the exhaust. Porsches have souls, too. Alfa Romeo, Maserati, old Corvettes, Datsun 240Zs…the list goes on.

To understand a vehicle’s soul is to relate it something else that embodies it. For instance, music. As an occasional drummer, I relate to the notion that the most natural products used on an instrument, the presence of its soul are built into it. When you play it, you develop a deep relationship with it. This makes sense to violinists and hand drummers.

Given that train of thought, automobiles should get their soul by the amount of involvement a human has in the building of it. “Hand crafted automobiles,” if you will. When Morgan was making four-wheeled products (they now make three-wheeled ones these days), every inch of those cars had soul – an old English charm found in exposed wood frames on the roof. Ferraris exude a lot of soul, though some may argue that the more technology being installed in each Prancing Horse example has extracted that soul from them. Then again, one could argue that production vehicles were never Enzo’s passion to begin with – he used them to pay for his racing endeavors.

It is not exclusive to “hand-crafted” products. Some of the most important mass produced vehicles have been revered by its owners and enthusiasts to the point of claiming the presence of souls from their machines.

We understand soul. We embrace it within our culture. It takes someone who is not necessarily involved with the three global faiths to fully understand it. Souls are mystical, shamanistic, ripe from both the soil and the air…and are embraced to those who are open to it.

An automotive soul could appear to be fabricated. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Consider how we live and love. In many instances, we had to create our own families for the basis of love, hierarchy and play. A family has soul.

Therefore, this is not a far-fetched idea to embrace when it comes to your automobile.

The connection point between car and owner is not as visible immediately. The intangibles are what make things apparent when understanding that connection. The visible traces of that connection to a vehicle’s soul can be seen on some of the classics you see. If a person did his or her own restoration, that soul is visible. Even unrestored classic automobiles have souls. Those souls have stories to tell.

Does your car have a soul? How do you know? There is no clear cut way to know, really. It is how you interact with the car on a daily basis. Those who love their cars better may have found the soul of that car. It is what keeps them together.