Triggering The Car Gene

Cars, Features I By Ross Bentley I December 27, 2021

There’s something inside all of us, in our DNA it seems, that triggers something when we see certain cars, or experience driving in a certain way. Okay, not all of us, as in everyone in the world, but all of us in the Speed Secrets Weekly world, at least. You wouldn’t be reading this if you probably didn’t have something in your genes that make you a car and driving person.

Which made me wonder: Why is it that someone can just look at a car and get excited, and another person couldn’t tell the difference between that car and a refrigerator? I’m a big believer in our environment making a huge difference in who we are and what we do, but I think there might be something at the DNA level that gets ignited when we experience something in our environment.

According to Genes & Health, Queen Mary University of London: “What do your genes do? Your genes are inside almost every cell in your body. Each gene contains instructions that tell your cells to make proteins. Proteins perform all sorts of different tasks in your cells such as making eye pigments, powering muscles, and attacking invading bacteria. For example, some cells use genes that contain instructions to make a protein called keratin. Keratin proteins link together in your body to make things like your hair and fingernails.”

If that’s the case (and I’m not going to argue with that simple description!), then there must be genes inside us that give instructions to our mind and body when we look at the shape of certain cars. Or when we feel the g-loads while driving through a corner.

I have a friend who has two boys; one of them is completely taken by cars and what they can do. The other couldn’t care less about cars. Being brothers, they must have similar DNA, and yet there is something missing in one of them – that gene that turns someone into a car/driving person.

For years, I’ve been fascinated by what makes someone a car person, and not another. In fact, I created an eBook that you might want to download and enjoy reading over the holidays (it’s a quick read). I asked dozens of drivers of every level and type why they do what they do, and put them all together along with my own thoughts. You can download Why: Stories That Define Us as Drivers for free here.

Some say that “young people” don’t care about cars and driving anymore. I disagree. While humankind’s DNA has evolved over millions of years, I’m sure that they haven’t changed much in the past few decades. At least, not enough to make millennials uninterested in cars and driving. I believe there are just as many people who have a passion for cars and driving as ever, although the “in-betweens” – those who have a passing interest, or could have one if there was something that triggered it – are fewer than in the past. I think that has more to do with their environment (due to the relative cost of cars, it’s harder for them to experience it; there are more options for transportation now, as well as fewer reasons to travel by car), and not exposing them to what cars and driving car do. And the “cars are appliances” crowd is also the same size. My point is there are just as many young people with that bit of DNA to make them car/driving enthusiasts as there ever has been. Sometimes they just need something to wake up that gene.

Thinking back on my life, it was the shape of that first Dinky toy Jaguar D-type; my dad taking me to that race when I was 5-years-old; seeing that yellow Lotus Europa go around a 90-degree intersection corner as if was a slot car; getting and reading that stack of mid-sixties Road & Track magazines a friend’s older brother gave me; that 1/20th-scale Ford GT40 model I got for Christmas; going to the local rental go-kart track a couple of times each year… Yes, my environment provided much fuel for whatever fire my genes started.

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