As hard as it may be to believe, there are Canadian teens who did not rush out to get their driver’s license on their 16th birthday. There’s been a decline in the percentage of youths getting licensed at all. Are those insane insurance rates to blame, or that irritating graduated licensing system? Media outlets like Macleans suggest it’s due to the rise of the internet, where people connect virtually, rather than physically. Rubbish!

For generations, a drivers license was a rite of passage. A car wasn’t just about mobility; it represented freedom, independence and even status.

Cars provide a feeling of personal liberty, empowering a person to go where they want, when they want. No relying on train schedules or TTC bus routes. Drivers don’t need anyone to take them to their destination, if there’s a destination at all. The joy of the automobile is the opportunity to wander the city streets. A motorist literally has their destiny in their hands. Drivers decide where to go, what to listen to on the journey, and how fast to get there.

Anti-car propaganda like “A symbol of freedom or a 4,000 pound tool of destruction?” miss the point; driving isn’t always about speed. It’s often about cruising. Driving slow to see and be seen. Head downtown to Yonge St or the Danforth on Friday night. You’ll see motorists just cruising the strip, checking out other cars, and even showing off their rumbling exhaust. Pop in your DVD copy of American Graffiti and you’ll see that the weekend cruise has been part of car culture since the 50s. With a car, you don’t need a destination. The joy is the journey.

Young drivers clamor for the keys to their parents car because it allows them to escape the antiseptic monotony of the suburbs. For young motorists, a car allows a teenager to date someone who lives in the other end of the city. Cars allows people to get together. After years of pandemic BS, it seems shocking that anyone would want to interact virtually anymore. Instagram cannot compare to human interaction.

When a young man or woman gets their own car, it is a liberation. As long as there’s gas in the tank, the young motorists doesn’t need to ask anyone permission to travel. They are independently mobile, to the envy of their friends and pers. Cars are the second biggest purchase most people will make in their adult life. For a teenager, being mature enough and responsible enough to have their own car shows they are becoming an adult, a coming of age.

Car-content creator Ruben Junior from TheClassicMachines recently commented on the importance of the automobile back home when he was a younger gearhead, “…Cars had a magical meaning for our generation. They represented freedom and much more. It also had a sentimental connection, to the point we even used to christen them…”. Cars like Brazilian-built VW Beetles were way more than transportation; they were a huge source of pride for people.

“People’s cars” brought motoring within the reach of nearly everyone. In the early 1900s, cars were expensive toys for the wealthy. But the VW Beetle in Brazil half a century ago, or the Ford Model T in America years before that, cars were within reach of any working-class person. Owning a car is a status symbol that a person has ‘made it’ and left their humble roots behind.

Dr. Demaras prescribes less screen time and more seat time. Get behind the wheel, go for a drive, head down Yonge St for some ‘car-tourism’ downtown. But always treat you car with love, because it is your partner in all your adventures!

4 thoughts on “The Car as a Symbol of Freedom

    1. The idea behind the selection of photographs was to show the car as a symbol of freedom, pride and independence, is universal.

      See that second picture, the one of the black guy with the white 1941 Cadillac convertible? He gets it. His smile just beams ‘pride’.

      And that French girl standing up through the sunroof of the 1971 Citroen? She gets it. Everything about that picture says ‘joy’.

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