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Avoidable Contact #75: How did I get a son who doesn't love cars?

By the time you read this, my 11-year-old son will have ridden perhaps 50 miles in the new 2020 McLaren GT. I'm picking him up from school tomorrow and taking him for an early dinner so we will both be free to help my photography crew get some pictures of this utterly gorgeous quarter-million-dollar metallic-blue-with-cream-interior supercar later on in the evening. I know this car is catnip for kids because about 20 different neighborhood groms came over to my house this evening to watch the doors go up and down, ooh-and-aah at the roar of the engine, poke-and-prod at the various expensive-looking controls scattered throughout the interior, and stare open-mouthed at the way the nose can lift itself to clear the breakover angle of my driveway.

 

Read the entire column on Hagerty.com:

https://www.hagerty.com/media/opinion/avoidable-contact-75-how-did-i-get-a-son-who-doesnt-love-cars/

Replies (37)

Replies (37)

I'm guessing your son is reaching the age where any attempt by you to influence his interests or preferences is doomed to failure.  The most you can do is be grateful that he shows interest and talent for real, outdoor activities and isn't sitting around playing video games all day.  I agree with Tony T that John may develop an interest in cars once he's at an age where he starts thinking about driving on the street and getting his own car.

 

I went to auto shows all the time as a kid and could recognize all brands and models from a very young age, but I didn't develop any deeper interest in or knowledge of cars till I was in college.  (E.g., I would have had no idea which cars were FWD or RWD, or what a turbo badge really signified, etc.)

 

My son, who turns two in a couple weeks, has been fairly obsessed with cars and trucks for as long as he has been able to communicate it.  He can tell us what brand, model, and color of car all family members drive and loves little more than to hang out in my wife's car while it's parked in the driveway (he likes hers the best because it has the most physical buttons and knobs to fiddle with).  He did confuse a Versa for a Fit the other day, but I think this is forgivable for a one year old.   But I don't think this interest is a result of any encouragement by me, other than the fact that I can answer most of his questions about cars we encounter.  He's equally fixated on construction equipment and dinosaurs, which neither of us knew anything about or encouraged him to like.

 

 

Navigator

As a car guy all my life, just like to influence them at an early age. Let them sit in the driver's seat and see how they react. Here is granddaughter at early age. As a teenager today wouldn't call her a car gal, but she does know how to drive a three pedal car!!!

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New Driver

Loved your article. I would say, based on my own experience (of myself) and now 2 grown daughters....let your son find his own way (of course with your guidance and your gift of allowing him to experience different things that may interest him). We all have God given talents which seem to come naturally to us. Perhaps that explains why I love cars / trucks / motorcycles / boats (anything with a motor) and still wrench on all our cars and am the mechanic for my daughter's friends' cars. Yet I still struggle to expand my guitar playing skills. BTW - I wish karting was around when I was a kid.....we had homemade (less than stellar) go karts that we tried to drive with a horizontal shaft lawn mower engine. Those were the days.......................   

Passenger

I consider myself a car guy, but frankly, I have zero interest in super cars.  I would rather look at a chrome bespoked American classic from the 50's and 60's and maybe a touch of the 70's.  Back when can design was actually a thing and not designed in a wind tunnel.  Today's cars insulate you from the driving experience (and in some ways that's a good thing) and takes some of the fun out of driving a car.  But I would take a car with the interior of a mid 60's Riviera or early 60's Thunderbird over most anything available today. I see those fancy ipad screens in the middle of the dash and all I can think about is 1.  That's going to be super expensive when it quits working and it is going to quit working.  2.  Will I even be able to get that part in 10 years?  And if you think I am being fatalistic, try taking one GM radio out of a wrecked car and put it in your car and see how far you get.  

But I digress.  He sounds like he enjoys go karting and biking.  Go with what he likes and quit trying to push what you like on him.  

Pit Crew

The interest and ability in karts is worth cultivating. However, if you do want to develop some interest in street cars, perhaps a bit of deprivation is in order. 
I certainly didn't pick up interest in cars from my dad who is a happy Prius owner. Although, my interest did grow with help from a family friend with various exotic restoration projects in the garage. His sons didn't get much interest in cars from him though. Probably something about forming your own identity. 

Pit Crew

I have the opposite experience- a daughter who can talk cars, engines & driving technique all day long; often sports a "save the manual" t-shirt, and on her first solo trip to LA dragged her bestie to the Petersen for the day.   But- she is absolutely frightening  behind the wheel- without any sense of connection to the art of driving.  Oh, she's been to driving school, Street Survival, and BMW Teen driving clinics- and it just doesn't stick.  She can describe precisely how to execute a handbrake hill-start; heel-and-toe downshifts are explained like poetry- but in execution, nah.  Her first car- a Fiat 500 Abarth sat in the garage until my wife appropriated it in exchange for a Golf Sportwagen, which the daughter loves.  She loves the DSG ("it is *not* an automatic"), but pays more attention to the CarPlay.  So, I appreciate the conversation, still enjoy long drives with her as my wingman, and am charmed and proud all the non-car stuff she knows and does that I can't even fathom or approach.  Vive la difference!

New Driver

Get him (more) into bikes!  See if he wants to enter a sprint distance triathlon. 

Get him a sweet vintage mountain bike (or new) and maybe a BMX bike.  Skateboard too, Powell Peralta is a good choice.  I put so many miles on various bikes as a kid, and me and my little kids ride bikes all the time now.  Our just turned 9 year old daughter and I are on a 7.5 month streak of everyday bike rides, going for a solid year is our goal.  The almost 5 year old joins in sometimes but he's sketchy.  They both were riding at around 4.5 years old.  I have an old Hutch BMX, 2 Diamondbacks, and a Dyno/ GT, plus various other types of bikes.  Skateboards too... Love it all!
If you're still reading, if he's not into vehicles, get him a semi-beater single cab long bed pickup when he's 16, then you can use it too!   And he can't haul too many friends around with him... I fit 5 in my S-10 king cab on many occasions....

Pit Crew

I can semi-relate to this. Both in myself and in my kids. My dad is motorcycle guy. Cars don't really interest him (but secretly they do, he just won't fully admit it). I didn't really bother until I got of riding-age (16). That said, I've had many many miles of riding "**bleep**" with my dad when I was a kid. I did enjoy it, but I never nagged my dad to take me out on the bike. As I got older, my interest in bikes grew, but I'm still no way near my dad's level of interest. We ride together, talk tech together and that sort of thing. I've always been a car-guy. Since, like, ever. 

My two boys (6 and 4) seem to follow my path where the youngest is as die-hard a car-guy as his dear old dad. We're both heavily into muscle cars. so is my oldest son, yet he is very consentrated on Mustangs, mainly 1970's Mustangs. He got a die cast 70 Boss 429 in Grabber blue, that's his favorite, despite being given other die casts. 
When he was two he used to plow through my automotive books to look at pictures of engines. But that wore off. 
We have a '70 Torino, which my youngest loves to play around in when it's parked and loves to go for drives in it. My oldest? he preferes our '18 Hyundai Ioniq ev. When asked "if we were to sell the Torino, what should we replace it with?" he replied: "a Tesla". I guess my oldes son is an EV-guy. 
My youngest wants a '70 Charger like Vin Diesel drives in The Fast and The Furious... 
This brings me to my point: your son is into racing. Racing is an aspect of the motoring-hobby. I would be happy about it, because he's gotten a foot in the door of our amazing world. As is with my oldest. He likes the new EVs. Those are (I can hear you grasp) cars too. And, despite what the haters say, they are fun in their own way. Supercar-fandom may come, it may not. Still, you have a motorized "thing" to enjoy with your son.  That's were his interests are. To get kids involved, you need to introduce it on their level. That's where my dad sort of failed with me. I've always liked the estetics of '70 bikes, of which my dad has had alot of. I like looking at them. hearing them. Seeing videos of them going down the road. I didn't connect this with sitting on the back of one while dad drove. I wanted to ride by myself. 
I say, when your son is older, or old enough to reach the pedals, take him to a parking lot and let him have at it. That might spark an interest.  

Passenger

I would let it come to him and not force it. When I was a kid my Dad desperately wanted me to be a cowboy like him on the weekends and it sucked. I hated going out to the barn and getting yelled at for not doing stuff right so it soured me on all things equestrian for many years. I have come back to enjoying riding now but I am damn near 50 so it took quite a while to shake off the bad associations I had with these wonderful animals.

 

With my kids, they have had a passing interest in cars because of the stuff leaking oil in the garage and I have let their enthusiasm blossom in a way that works for them. My daughter loves going for cruises in one of the old ragtops but knows zero about how they work or what they are and my son has developed a self-generated rabid enthusiasm in recent months for new supercars and hypercars that arose out of him playing racing video games with his pals. I've tried my best not to push my version of digging all things automotive on to them and it seems to have worked out just fine. I've also made peace with the possibility that they may move on to other things as my goal is just to find a common ground that we can build great memories on. Sounds like you have done that with your boy and biking so you're on the right track and perhaps some day he too will obsess over automobilia just like us lost causes do. Good luck!

Passenger

Jack, I've got three boys, all great kids, none of whom ever had any desire to spend ten minutes with me in the garage when I was doing my Zen-laying-hands-on-tools-fixing-problems-controlling-my-small-corner-of-the-world thing. But the clock moves forward, and now my phone rings not infrequently as a sort of consultant. The middle one has a '91 Tacoma and his wife has a Miata that they're interested in resurrecting the a/c in. And the youngest one has proven scrappy and resourceful when his sh*tbox Accord needs to pass inspection.  So don't worry. You're still cool. And useful.

New Driver

This article is depressing. Despite thousands of years of books and wisdom saying otherwise-parents are still trying to guide their children into their own personal interests while overlooking their child's true calling.

 

My father wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer and pushed me hard in that direction. However, all I wanted to do was design cars, play with cars and think about cars (despite knowing no one who liked cars or had a cool car growing up). That's who I was and that's what occupied my interest.

 

Likewise, my cousin was pushed to be a baseball pitcher because the father was a great athlete and his son had physical gifts. However, despite years of attempts to force baseball down my cousins throat he didn't want it. Turns our he was a math wiz and had a passion for wintersports and snowboarding. He now gets paid a fortune to combine the two talents.

 

To the author I say-you are wasting valuable time pushing cars on a child when you should be finding out their true calling and cultivating that. Sadly, for me, I lost a tremendous amount of ground with cars because my parents fought it. I missed out on racing and it wasn't until my late 20's I finally broke into the auto industry. Put your child first-don't be selfish. Find out what he dreams about doing when he grows up. I guarantee it doesn't involve cars-and that's OK.

Passenger

It appears he has a certain taste in vehicle. He likes your MKT (I loved mine too) because it’s quite and comfortable. That’s all a car needs to be for the passengers. Bring home a G90 or a Maybach and see what he thinks sitting in the rear right seat with his favorite screen loaded in his hand. 

he can drive the wheels off a kart once he has to drive a car on streets he can choose, sport or luxury. I’d prefer they go luxurious as they seem to wrap around inanimate objects less frequently than the sporting variety. He can keep the speed needs on the track where it belongs.

Passenger

I get it. I rode my daughter on my motorcycle (1980 GS1000... since gone...) a lot since she was six years old. When she was about 9 someone walked by as she was patiently sitting on the bike waiting for me to gas up and said "I bet you really like riding with dad!" She looked at them like they were nuts. What was so special about something she did anywhere from two to six times a week? 

Intermediate Driver

 My father's hobby was flying.... his own plane.  When I would hear my Mom say Dad was going up, I'd run and hide.

 Usually in the garage, with the cars!  I let my son develop his own interests, become his own man, not wanting my successful business.  Leave him alone, nothing worse than a "little me"!  

New Driver

My son and daughter have been "honorary grid workers" at SCCA events since they were very young (like 5 and 7). I have a 4 lane 1/32 slot car track in the basement. Growing up they both had go karts. (Not for racing, puttering safely around the neighborhood.) In high school she drove an old Audi, and he drove an old BMW. They are both grown now. She can drive a stick, and follows Indycar drivers on social media. Neither have any real interest in cars, now, but every now and then, there actual knowledge of cars comes out, and that's when I know my time wasn't "wasted". They may never be enthusiasts, but at least they have the knowledge.

Passenger

He's into racing karts, so you can gently guide him towards cars as he gets older, or even show him how useful certain vehicles are if he is particularly practical. A pickup truck is great for carrying the bikes or go karts as well as your cooler full of drinks. Once I could drive, I had no rear seat in my 88 mustang coupe which was very convenient as I could get my BMX in without taking the wheel off! I know some kids don't get into cars as much when they are younger because they can't drive them on the street. With your sons interests where they are, why don't you ask him what he would like to drive to high school when he's of age and maybe gently suggest some sort of project car...? He might get interested because it is more tangible right now than something exotic.

Pit Crew

Here's what I am thinking: It may part sensory overload. You see, to a guy like me whose father was s factory worker all of his life, it was a big deal in 1979, when I was in kindergarten,  and Dad showed up to pick me up from school in the 69 Superbee that he bought from his friend ( who bought it new drive it from Danville Il to Chi town to have it "tuned" at the famous Grand Spaulding Dodge). I used to drool as a little kid when Melvin would fire up that 440, and the exhaust pulse pounded me in the chest like a Neil Peart drum solo.

 

I was actually mad at first because Dsd sold his Charger to get it. That was until he pulled out into the main road dumped the clutch and hazed the tires. He shifted once and I asked if he was gonna catch third to which he replied," I took off in third." That got he hooked. That and the fact that he used to let me sit on the fenderwell of his jet black '57 Belair whenever he worked on it. Let me shift the gears on it, the Bee, his three on the tree pickup. 

 

Still. I rebelled as a teenager, but never lost my fascination with cars. I decided I wanted to be a metal guitarist, but still found time to fix up my 69 Sport satellite (440 727 torqueflite, slapstick, all the good stuff). 

 

I don't have an answer for you except that maybe the things you want him to be interested in are a little too accessible. Maybe if they were a little more "unobtainium", they would be more appealing.

Those cars my Dad had were labors of love. And both of us left our blood on them, at times scratched our heads at obstacles, and became our automotive works of art. 

Advanced Driver

Growing up, my Dad wanted me to play football.  He was an all conference linebacker in high school and was also selected for some sort of state award for playing football.  A car wreck two weeks before graduation broke both his legs and put an end to his football aspirations.  Me, I played for 2 years when I was 12 and 13 years old. It was okay I guess.  I am glad I did it, but I didn't really like it.  He never really said it, but he was terribly disappointed.

 

But, we both loved cars.  Mom and I never knew what Dad might drive home on any given day.  He was always buying and selling whenever he though he was getting a good deal.  We didn't have much money, so they were always used cars, or very used, and often older.  And he loved convertibles.  We didn't usually keep the same car for a real long time, but here are a few of them.  Early 70's Mercury Marquis convertible,  early 70's Oldsmobile 98 convertible, 1971 MG Midget, 1974 Vega station wagon, 1969 Triumph Spritfire,   49 Ford truck, 57 Chevrolet Apache truck, 53 Studebaker truck, 80's Chevrolet Chevette, 77 Mercedes 300D, and more that I can't remember.

New Driver

My nephew is like that. He's only getting a driver's license because we nag him about it. Otherwise, he would rather be a passenger. I think it's because he was driven everywhere, a.k.a. not forced to take the bus to school. Although he's in virtual college now, when he graduates and goes to where the jobs are (L.A., not Hawaii) maybe he will grudgingly get a car... but I suspect he will find someone to drive him. 

New Driver

A friend of mine still can't deal with having a son in his late 20's who isn't interested in motorcycles or girls, so I guess it's all relative? 😉 

Detailer

My sons worked on cars together, both with me, and with their grandpa. That hands on wrenching - replacing the clutch on an '86 Corolla, fixing the inline six on a '64 Chevy truck, putting a rebuilt generator in a '68 Galaxie - is what bonded my sons with vehicles. Of course, it meant that *I* had to spend hundreds of hours, helping them in the high school auto shop, or driving to the parts store, or hanging out at my father in law's shop - but it was fun. All of them had their own cars, and though none of those cars were exotic, they were all easy to work on, easy to drive, and easily attainable. Nowadays, my boys are all 28 to 38 years old. They mostly drive trucks, cos trucks are the "new sports car" of the 21st century. One has a Raptor. Another is putting an LS motor into the afforementioned '64 Chevy. And my youngest drives a Toyota which is set up for the zombie apocalypse. 

Passenger

I think you are either born a car guy or you aren't.  My dad cared nothing at all and knew nothing about cars.  And didn't want to.  But from the time I was old enough to know what a car was, I LOVED CARS!   I was born in the early 50s so I got to see the golden age of when cars really were restyled each year.  Because of that, I prided myself at a young age of being able to identify the make and year of each car I saw.  I apparently paid attention to commercials to gain my knowledge of the various models, because my parents told me I could identify cars in traffic at a time before I could even read.  And the first words I learned to spell were names of cars.  Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Chevrolet, Lincoln, Chrysler, Thunderbird etc. are impressive words for a first grader to be spelling but I could do it.  Yes, I was a car guy. 

 

I also have always given my dad so much credit for helping me develop this love and knowledge.  Though he cared nothing about it, he took me to see the new cars each fall as they were unveiled.  He took me to each dealer till we had covered them all.  He also took me to see drag races and after we moved to North Carolina, he took me to the local oval short track quite often.  

 

I realize now what all he sacrificed for me in doing that.  

 

Then when I had my own son, he was exposed to my personal vehicles which included Corvettes, street rods and muscle cars.  He seemed to love them but I noticed he never really connected with them like I had.  So I didn't try to force it on him.

 

Well, I'm guessing that maybe the "car guy gene" skips a generation each time.  And if that's the case, then my two young grandsons will be true car guys!  I sure hope so.

Pit Crew

Been a pilot for 50 years, flown everything from Stearmans to a Constellation, even built a high-performance airplane.  Our daughter has zero interest in airplanes.

New Driver

Jack sounds like my father........but in reverse.  My dear old Dad could rebuild an automobile engine and fix anything else on it that could go wrong.  But the old man had no interest in cars, except to get him to work and back. 

 

His frivolous son on the other hand, was WILD about cars and motorcycles from infancy.  The old man found it very disturbing and certainly hoped his son would outgrow the passion.  The son didn't.

Intermediate Driver

Put him in a 1963 Split-window coupe Corvette, if you get no reaction.....disown him!!!!!!

New Driver

Thanks for the article, somewhat tongue in cheek I suspect. Certainly prompted a lot of extensive comments. I am heartened by the men, and I assume that the comments are authored by such, and their active involvement in the raising of their kids, good on you, it's so important. 

My case, a lifelong car fanatic, purchased my first R&T mag in '61, loved the F1 reports authored by Henry Manney the third if memory serves me. Still attend and follow as much automotive activities as I can, never have been able to convert my wife, but try to by explaining to her to think of hot rodding, classic cars shows, cars and coffee as arts and crafts for men.

As a father of two daughters, the obsession didn't transfer, however I did insist upon getting their driver's  license that they be three pedal drivers which they are still today.

A particularly proud moment for me was when I was, of course, with my  daughter out car shopping and we were road testing a prospective vehicle with a "stick", the salesperson comments on what a good driver she was.

New Driver

A parent who worries about being a good parent is a great parent, and they are in short supply....! 

My son loved racing dirt bikes but he had to do all his own wrenching. I loved the bikes, he loved the competition, we both loved the speed. He learned to drive in the 4-speed Mustang I bought during my senior year in High School. We both thought we were a cool breeze in the same car in High School! He does the wrenching on that now too. Still has it (to humor me I suspect). Runs a computer tech company now. Always his first love was computers, but he feigns interest in car stuff so we have something in common. He is a good human and I am proud of him. How cool is that?!

Intermediate Driver

I think 1963 & 1964 were some of the best years ever, to be ~9 year old boy north of NYC, with a long walk to school (uphill, in the snow, both ways), and new cars in driveways that could make a body late for school. Mustang, Corvette, Toronado, Riviera, Avanti, even the freak'n Buick Wildcats & Electras were awesome. I can't imagine giving a damn if I were that age now, in a time where cars are hardly more than appliances. Toyota toaster oven vs Buick instapot vs Hyundai bread machine, etc. 

Detailer

At some point every parent has to learn the harsh lesson that their child is their own person and not a miniature version of themselves. You have two choices here you can take an interest in what your kid likes and use that to grow yourself, or you can try and force your interest on your child and have them resent you and your interest.

 

You have a healthy child and there are many people that can not say that, so what if your child doesn't like street cars, this might shock you but for a large segment of the population cars are just transportation.

 

I'm not into Ball sports, hunting, fishing, or riding motorcycles yet my father wasn't so disappointed that he wrote an article and published it on an international forum.

 

You know what, maybe you should tell your kid you are sorry and then thank whatever deity  you worship that you have a healthy child and that DCF has not taken them. Yeah, I am questioning your parenting skills.

Intermediate Driver

The collector car world amply shows that guys want the non-scary stuff they can't have as kids.  And 'scary' is relative.  Your son grew up with everything desirable (automotive, anyway) at hand so why would he develop the nagging urge to stretch just a little further to get a used 944S2 rather than a 10 year old Honda SUV?  

There probably is no 'cure.'  Closest thing I can think of is (if it's not too late) that when he's ready for his own car, go buy him a rubber bumper MGB (arguably safer in a collision, and more 'disposable' than a chrome bumper car), quietly de-smog and convert to dual SUs and a points/condenser diz, clean up all the electrical contacts, and rebuild the braking system before handing it over, then give the car to him along with a Craftsman tool kit and a Bentley manual.  Sink or swim.  I know from personal experience that an MGB can be a reliable and economical car to run AS LONG AS the owner/driver attends to an OCD maintenance routine AND has enough mechanical willingness and sympathy to never have to take the car to a shop.  Both desirable qualities for the automotive enthusiast, unless one is already equipped with more dollars than sense (i.e. willing to make a small fortune.....out of a big one).  If you son steps up to the plate, he has a chance of seeing the pleasure in the intricacies of the automotive device, and if he doesn't, well, it's a near-disposable car anyway.  

Pit Crew