Home » 5 Experiences For Every Car Enthusiast’s List
Corvette racing at Daytona 24

5 Experiences For Every Car Enthusiast’s List

I recently saw a social media post that quoted someone as saying, “I’d rather die with memories than dreams.” As a guy on the verge of becoming an empty-nester, I’m looking forward to new experiences that don’t involve school events. It got me thinking about all that I’ve gotten to do so far, but also some things still on my bucket list.

Now, I’ve been lucky to work in my hobby for most of my career, and as a result I’ll already leave with tons of great memories. But as I reflected on this, I realized some of my most transformative experiences are achievable by just about anyone. These are the five that I would encourage anyone who considers themself a car enthusiast to put on their list.

24-hour Race

Racing is at the core of what makes us car people. Whether it’s drag racing, stock cars on an oval track, or sports cars on a road course, there’s nothing quite like the sights, sounds, and smells of motorsport. But for all its variations, endurance racing is as grueling as it gets. Nothing proves that better than an all-day race like those at Daytona or LeMans.

Attending a 24-hour race will give you a better appreciation for how much of a team sport racing actually is. From driver changes to weary pit crew, you actually get to witness the sacrifice that goes into high-level motorsport. 

24 Hours of LeMons race car
You, too, can be an endurance racer (Photo: 24 Hours of LeMons)

Watch the sunset relentlessly blind drivers for the last hour of daylight before they embark on navigating hours of darkness. Walk the pits at two in the morning and see the exhaustion setting in, knowing the team is only halfway through the event. Try to keep your eyes open as the morning sun burns through the haze. I challenge you.

It’s a lot to take in as a spectator. But to get a true appreciation, get in the driver’s seat. The 24 Hours of LeMons is a light-hearted and affordable – but totally competitive – way to experience it firsthand. It will remind you that to finish first, you must first finish.

Performance Driving School

Sticking with racing here for a moment, I would recommend every car enthusiast take part in a professionally-instructed performance driving school. There are many options available throughout the country, ranging from sports cars to open-wheel racers to rally vehicles. None of them is a wasted opportunity.

And I’m not talking about the ride-along experiences or the chance to simply take hot laps in an exotic car. I mean an actual school. Swallow your pride and let a professional racer show you how it’s done. Unless your last name is Andretti or Rahal, chances are you can learn a thing or two.

Bob Bondurant Driving School
Learn to really drive Challengers at Bondurant High Performance School (Photo: Bondurant Racing School)

Not only will you take your driving skills to new heights, you’ll also take away lessons you can use on the road every day. I’ve never left a professional driving instruction feeling like I gained nothing. And who knows, the person in the instructor’s seat might just be an accomplished racing driver in their own right.

Assembly Line Tour

There is a certain magic in witnessing a car being assembled, even in today’s automated factories. It’s no small marvel of engineering that all the various components come together so quickly, precisely, and efficiently before your eyes.

While these plant tours are less common today than they once were, many manufacturers still do them. If you’re really lucky, you might just get to witness your own car being built in front of you. And unlike some of the other experience on the list, this is a great one to share with family of all ages.

Corvette assembly line, Bowling Green
Corvettes on the assembly line in Bowling Green, Kentucky (Photo: General Motors)

Cross-Country Road Trip

We live in a big country with more than 48,000 miles of Interstate highway alone, not to mention back roads. You owe it to yourself to see as much of it as you can. Maybe it’s the iconic American road trip tracing Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. Or perhaps a Pacific Coast drive from Seattle to San Diego. Or any other long-distance drive. Doesn’t really matter. Just get out and see this wonderful country, meet some people that talk different than you, and eat a local dish you’ve never heard of.

You gain so much perspective when experiencing new things in person that you simply can’t get from watching it on TV or YouTube. Pick a good road trip partner and plot a general route, but don’t be afraid to deviate. The best things in life aren’t located at the highway exit; you have to go get a little lost of you want to see something special.

BMW on Route 66
Author’s photo from 2008 Route 66 trip

Restore a Car for a Loved One

This last one is quite personal and requires a lot more commitment than any of the others. For those of us with time and talent to spare, there’s nothing like helping someone else relive their best memories. While the gift of a car is always appreciated, the gift of service to restore an old favorite is priceless.

I was happy to help bring an old convertible back to life and present it to a family member for her 16th birthday. It was her first car, not an old memory, but she was involved in the planning and decision making. In the end, the car she got was more than just an object, it was an act of dedication. And I had no regrets.

VW Rabbit Convertible restoration
The author’s VW convertible project after paint

Comments are closed.