This Video Will Help You Understand a Gearhead

Evo's Car of the Year 2015 video is one of the most beautiful videos I've ever seen, and the reason isn't because of the cars. I have to imagine that most gearheads have seen evo's video already. But this blog post isn't meant for them. Actually, it's meant for anyone that struggles to understand why we love cars, why we have this inexplicable passion for them.  So, if you've got someone in your life that you want to help understand your automotive passion, have them read this blog post and watch evo's Car of the Year video in the context that I provide below.

A quick note: When I say gearhead, I mean anyone that shares this automotive passion - be it a guy or gal, young or old, with a love for exotics or muscle cars or motorcycles or muddin' trucks. My comments are directed more at sports cars. Gearhead is synonymous with petrolhead and motorhead. Whatever, you get the point.

If you're impatient, skip down to the last section to get the key aspects of the video.

Nothing was surprising except for the whole of it

Nothing in the video surprised me - not the commentary about the cars, not the results of the Car of the Year, nothing about the cars whatsoever. If anything, it was quite predictable (except for the final comment about the Camaro - it was nice to see an American car impressing as a driver's car, followed immediately by a Lotus of all things!).

What was surprising was the video itself. It was just beautiful. It was breathtaking and mesmerizing. I wasn't intending to write a blog post tonight but watching this video made me take to the keyboard. I try to explain to people that I'm a car guy - not because I want to make loud noises or hoon around or wave a fanboy flag. I'm a car guy because of the way cars make me feel. Evo's video captures that feeling better than any I've ever seen, period.

Cars are mechanical art. The way they're sculpted draws your attention. The way they sound demands you stop and listen. The way so many systems and subsystems work together to create an experience is simply taken for granted. Fuel is pushed into an engine at just the right time for a piston to draw back and then compress it until a spark explodes it into a force that spins a crank and pushes force through a clutch and driveshaft and differentials to spin tires and propel you forward while suspension keeps you atop this metallic orchestra... to understand and appreciate all the moving parts in a car is to appreciate the individual instruments that bring Tchaikovsky's 5th symphony to life. Jump to the 7:30 mark in the video in that link and you'll see how a gearhead feels when in the zone behind the wheel of a fun car on a challenging road.

For some people, cars are only a mode of transportation or a tool for work. But for some of us, they're emotional things that we can connect to in a way nothing else can do for us. Cars are a personal thing for us gearheads. We all have different tastes and there is no one "right" answer simply because there is no one right question.

Vehicular variety and why not everything is a Honda Civic

If you listen to the video's commentary about the cars, you get a good idea as to why sometimes the most performance-oriented cars aren't always the best. Again, out-right performance only answers one question, but it isn't the right question for everyone. The final result of the Car of the Year is something I've espoused for years - you don't always have to have the fasted or flashiest car to have the best car for you. There are simply too many variables involved to say one car is the best. The last thing someone that drives in stop-and-go heavy traffic all day every day wants is to be handed the keys to a Lamborghini. Sure, it sounds cool, but it'd be a nightmare in reality. A Bentley, on the other hand, is wonderfully comfortable but is just about useless if you need to move a couch. Discussing everything from a Ferrari to a Ford F-150 would be completely out of the scope of this blog post, so we'll stick to more performance-oriented cars.

Every car is built do different specifications for different reasons. We aren't going to muck through all of those, so we'll sum up what's important for this post: every car feels different.  If everything was the same and the differences didn't matter, we'd all be driving Honda Civics.  I once dated someone that had no interest in cars. She either liked a car, or she didn't. She didn't care about why she had a given opinion - they were all the same to her, they were all Civics.  I had to quantify Civics to give her an idea of various characteristics of a car.

"That car has three Civics of power and costs seven Civics."

Um, it worked. It made perfect sense to her. She still didn't care, of course, but it got the point across and she understood the information I was trying to convey. Trying to describe the intangible aspects of a car's appeal was a different challenge entirely.

I came up with an entirely unscientific hypothesis a long while back that a car's feel is due in large part to a combination of various sources of NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness), and a car that feels good has the right balance of those. Sure, there are other aspects that can make a difference - ergonomics, materials, and whatnot, but all things being equal, the sum total of a car's NVH is what gives it feel.

Some cars feel completely numb. The suspension is so soft that you feel like you're floating, the steering has no feedback, the engine is so quiet that you don't get any exciting noise when you stomp the throttle.  Some cars are too harsh. The suspension is so stiff that your kidneys get punched every time you go over a bump in the road, the whole car rattles, you can hear ever creak a squeak, and the engine is too loud to allow for a civilized conversation. Balance is the key.

But NVH has numerous sources. You get it from the tires, from the suspension, even from the seat. You get it from mounts and bushings. You get it from sound deadening (or lack thereof). All these come into play, and no two cars are the same. So when a gearhead says a car feels different, for better or worse, understand that the difference is caused by a myriad of inputs that come together to give a unique feel.

How to appreciate the video and understand a gearhead

And finally, the context with which to watch evo's Car of the Year 2015 video. Here's what matters: nearly half the commentary in the video is about the people involved, the surrounding country, the feelings elicited, the excitement. They barely say anything about each car - just a few key points. But when they talk about the experience of making the Car of the Year video, you can hear the emotion in their voices.

Watch the video for the human element. Listen to how they discuss everything around the cars. They even take time away to talk about the photography that you don't even see in the video (you can see it on their website or in their magazine). They talk about how they were taken back by the amazing scenery of part of their own country they'd never seen before. And just look at that scenery! There are very few people that can say they've explored every corner of their country, or even a region of their country. Late night conversations, early morning excitement, camaraderie - these are the things that brings us gearheads together.

So if you yourself aren't a gearhead, don't watch the video for the cars. Look past them. Don't listen to what they say about the cars specifically, but notice that there are differences in the impressions they have for each.  Don't dismiss the pointlessness of driving to nowhere for the sake of driving around. Think about the places you'd like to see on a weekend drive to anywhere. And when the gearhead in your life gets a twinkle in the eye, understand that it isn't just about the cars. It's about the sights, the sounds, the sensations, and their fellow gearheads that are right there with them for those same reasons.