Furious Memories

March 22, 2013 at 12:50 am

I saw the first of what will surely be several previews for the upcoming Fast and the Furious movie, number six or seven in the popular franchise. It immediately conjured up memories of the very first film, which came out around my junior or senior year of high school. Although somewhat laughingstock today with its stereotypical bad boys and street racers who make up for their lack of intelligence and driving ability with loud cars and louder body graphics (tattoos on both the car and the driver for the uninformed), the original film left a lasting impression on me.

As a student split between accelerated and standard classes, I oftentimes walked the line between the kids going to Harvard and the ones who barely cared enough to graduate. It’s an expansive gulf between the two, and one I was able to bridge by way of my interest in modifying a third-generation Jetta. With this car, I gained some sort of quasi-acceptance from a crowd that I held about as much in common as an inmate does with a librarian. They were the ones who owned the Hondas with motor swaps, the Mustang 5.0’s with deleted catalytic converters, or even an old land barge like a Q45 that looked – and sounded – the business with tinted windows and a system. They were the ones whose fathers owned collision repair shops and had more interest in hitting the marijuana pipe than the books.


So, where did that leave me? With a Jetta that slowly transformed with the right modifications, and had just enough kit on it to at least earn a subtle nod and permission to park in the back of the lot with the other tricked-out rides. To this day, it’s an accomplishment that I hold as high as anything else memorable I did in high school.

What I remember most about opening night for Fast and the Furious was how overwhelmingly united I felt with every other guy who loved his car more than life itself. Who wanted it to be fast enough to race stoplight to stoplight but also knew the paint had to be perfect for catching eyes when idling in the school parking lot. The first movie to define a generation of car enthusiasts wasn’t memorable for its poor story lines, horrible casting and God-awful CGI; no, it was, for better or worse, the American Graffiti for Generation Y, and the only franchise to bring to life a new story every other year featuring cars representing a wider and more varied audience of enthusiasts.

While I will never tell my offspring that Vin Diesel was an actor of any merit, I will relay to them how that night in the theater, surrounded by friends of all backgrounds and the evening of cruising that followed, was one of the fondest memories of my youth. And I hope  that some day, there is still a director out there who realizes how much it means to be young and to love cars.