TL;DR: The Litts undergo potentially life-threatening experience for custom 9" dish wheels from local sponsor Project Feint, and reality of the trip sets in. Some other stuff about manually driven cars going extinct.
It wasn’t until we were five minutes away from our destination that I realized we had no idea what we were getting into. “So who are these guys we’re going to meet?” I asked Michael Litt, a business leader and internet-tech entrepreneur who has ample experience weaving his way through the daunting and dangerous underbelly of the internet. Also, my husband.
“Project Feint,” he answered, confident adult voice brimming with a child’s excitement.
“Right. But who are they?”
After spending some moments seeking clarification, I came to realize my husband had none to offer. So I did what any smart-phone bearing passenger would do, and turned to mother Google for help. But much to my dismay she had no clue who these aptly named “Project Feint” people were.
I felt myself succumb to the chilling creep of dread that was making its way up from my abdomen to my throat. My husband had no idea who we were going to meet (isn't he the internet underbelly guy?!). He didn’t even know their (his? her? the toothsome hungry wolf’s?) name. I felt my vocal chords tighten. My voice began to squeak. “You’re telling me that we’ve driven all this way to meet in the car theft capital of Ontario, with some complete rando you know absolutely nothing about, that isn’t even on the internet! In Level C of a mall parking lot? A parking lot?”
By now, I’d become convinced that we were driving into a dark and sinister waste-land of cracked pavement and crumbling concrete pillars. There would most certainly be hardened, crafty car jackers wielding spiky, blooded weapons, waiting to ambush us.
My adrenaline-addled imagination may have been getting the better of me, but I was still sparking from the exhilarating drive we took through the private, hilly countryside to get here. And the shock of discovering that we were on our way to collect three after market steering wheels from a ghost, in my husband’s prized 2011 Porsche GT3RS, and he had given no thought to her safety, was alarming.
But see, there’s something magical about going places behind the wheel of a car; about getting there faster and more precisely by using the pedals beneath your feet and gear lever in your hand. The culture cars inspire, the communal sense of trust these machines activate between people, has an almost super-human quality to it. To drive is to fly. It’s freedom. And the passion gear heads carry for the experience of knowing a vehicle, of the unique flavour of freedom that each one offers, is timeless. It’s transcendent. I should have known that my fears were entirely misplaced.
Weirdness of meeting in a car park (which we found to be perfectly intact, well-lit, and rammed full on a sunny Saturday) aside, the excitement in Snowy’s tight, carbon fibre, charcoal grey alcantara and poppy red accented coupe chassis, was palpable. With anticipation mounting we crept along at a modest 10m/hour toward the ramp that would take us to the uppermost level of the carpark. As though the kiss of summer’s first sun on her hood was simply too much to take, Michael pressed down on her throttle to release a full throaty growl. Like an incarcerated tiger launching herself from her cage, the car surged up the ramp to “Level C”; Snowy’s signature booming gurgle echoed. Her joyful singing alerted our potential carjackers to our arrival.
It turns out the Feint guys aren’t thieves. They’re BMW guys. But even loyal-to-the-end, self-identified BMW guys understand that there’s something special about Porsche cars. “I love Porsches,” Kris (he has a name!) sheepishly revealed after parting with his precious cargo of three hand crafted, bespoke 9” dish steering wheels. “They are like the perfect car to drive, man.”
Project Feint CA isn’t a ghost. They’re a new company. They launched online less than six months ago, and since then have been too busy fulfilling orders and shipping product to spend much time on the internet.
“We’re helping the guys who can’t afford to drop $400, $500 on a steering wheel but still want the look and feel of custom quality,” Kris explained. This is car culture. As said, it’s transcendent. A life force all its own that stimulates economies and innovation from a place of pleasure and necessity combined. It’s contrary and stubborn in its purpose to survive and seduce unknowing gear heads into submission. Car culture ignores geographical boundaries, it slices through socioeconomic realities, and it blows apart communication barriers.
In a matter of seconds, a leery encounter with faceless, nameless strangers had become a warm interaction between friends. We exchanged networks. We commiserated over Onterrible salt encrusted roads. We welcomed the promise of summer driving by defying winter and ignoring the goose bumps that had formed on our chilled exposed arms. We bonded over the shared appreciation for the very specific, drowny pitch of a flat six.
For anyone other than Project Feint, handing over their inventory to a complete stranger may have seemed ludicrous. Growing demand is already outpacing their supply and every wheel is precious. But to anyone who loves these cars as these people do, it just made plain good sense. This was their opportunity to have our dream, driving across North America’s most iconic roads in three classic Porsches, become their dream. A dream that for most of our lives seemed distant and fuzzy, but now, much more urgent. In a matter of months, our shared dream of completing this iconic journey has gone from soft and gauzy to being sharp and crystal clear. The catalyst? If we don’t do this now we may never have the chance to.
It may sound dramatic but for the first time since the advent of the information age, humanity is about to take a giant leap once more. I’ve heard it called the cognitive era. I’ve heard it called the calm before the apocalyptic storm. I've heard people say that the future has arrived. None of the people who are taking this journey know what label to apply to the precipice our world is balanced at the edge of, but we know everything is poised to change in a far-reaching and meaningful way.
Soon, the majority of automobiles on the road will be driving themselves. Soon after that, they will all be. The global implications of this are enormous. Virtual Reality will replace real life experiences (it already is). Literal shopping carts will become a thing of the past (sorry, Bubbles). Our life decisions are executed virtually and the consequences that impact our real lives from those decisions, manifest virtually. In other words, experiences that we grew up taking for granted are becoming endangered. Soon, they will become extinct. All of us know that there are both good and bad reasons behind why this is happening. And all of us know that the future —while sometimes frightening—is something that must be respected. Preserved. We all have a responsibility to see through where these technological innovations will take us, and help course correct and iterate as we learn what works and what doesn't. But first, before we six get lost in the future, we’re losing ourselves in the past.
As we pulled back onto the highway, squinting into the sunlight and inwardly sighing over the expansive, cloudless blue sky, I looked over at my husband. His face was a mirror image of mine. "Holy shit," I said in wonder and disbelief. "We're really doing this." Like Thing 1 and Thing 2 we’d been released from our box and were itching to tear up the roads. But before we could proceed to Go we had one thing left to do. We needed to meet up with the rest of the team for our first, and only, road trip planning session.