Stephen Corby on his midlife crisis and the future of automotive journalism

Stephen Corby on his midlife crisis and the future of automotive journalism

If your midlife crisis arrives suddenly, like a surprise wasabi enema, at age 46, does that mean you're going to live until 92? I really hope that's how it works, although I suspect it may not be scientifically accurate.

Obviously I’ve seen plenty of people go through the crisis of suddenly realising all the really exciting parts of their lives – when your pants did up without you inhaling, where young women looked at you rather than straight through you, and when you could go out all night without requiring a nap – are behind them.

These types are easy to spot because they want you to see them. They’re sick of fading into the background so they buy Audi TTs or Porsche Boxsters, or if life has been particularly kind, a 911. Car dealers must see midlife-crisis types approaching, the sun zinging off their bald spots, and do a little dance of delight.


Midlife-crisis cars generally only have two seats, of course, because they are a desperate, deluded attempt to return to your youth; to a time when your children didn’t dictate your transport choices.

Things were a lot easier back when people had kids at a sensibly young age, but everything in life is being pushed back now; it takes longer to save for your first home deposit, so you put off the breeding and suddenly you’re having a baby at 40 and wondering why you don’t have the energy, and which way your will to live went.

If I wait for my kids to move out, I’ll be so old my crisis car will be a Camry, with a lawn-bowling hat and a box of tissues on the parcel shelf.

It’s possible my crisis is more existential than mid-life, of course, because I find myself feeling like a blacksmith, a chimney sweep, or the person in any given room who actually knows how to set a VCR. That’s because I’m watching the industry I’ve long been a part of, and always loved, disappear before my increasingly tired eyes.

Wheels magazine remains strong, thank goodness, with plenty of loyal subscribers, but I do worry about the next generation of readers, raised on short, shrill grabs of information quickly snapped up on devices rather than absorbed through print.

So I’m raging against the dying of the light, and not just my own, by thinking about buying something frivolous and unnecessary. Something just for me, that will be as useful as a stripper pole or a dolphin to my daily family life of school runs and swimming lessons.

Unfortunately, because my job has spoiled me utterly, all the cars I really want – a 997 Porsche 911 GTS, a Ferrari 458 Speciale, even a BMW M2 – are completely beyond my means, so my unnecessary and unjustifiable expenditure may end up being a motorcycle.


Yes, I am aware that there is nothing sadder than a middle-aged man buying a Harley-Davidson in a misguided attempt to pump ersatz Viagra into his machismo, but I’ve never been a Harley guy anyway. If I want to ride a couch, I’ll stay at home.

So it’s got to be a Ducati; the very poor man’s Ferrari – red, loud and proudly Italian, but with only half the number of wheels I’d really like, and a tenth of the power.

Frankly, I blame that KTM X-Bow I drove in the magazine recently, because its raw, naked appeal reminded me of how much I used to love bikes, back when my hair and skin were brown and I was painting the town.


I’m trying to talk myself out of it, and no doubt my wife will try even harder, but the call of the crisis is powerfully loud in my ears. “Go on, make a dick of yourself,” it yowls.

But I’m still hoping sanity will prevail and I can find a car I can enjoy, and that won’t make me look like an ageing hair stylist who’s trying to pretend he’s never had children.

Leaving its black mark

A mate recently went overseas for six months and left me his stupidly fast Honda Super Blackbird (0-100km/h in 2.4 seconds, top speed 287km/h) to look after.

He has a lot to answer for as well. Talk about putting temptation in a man’s way; no wonder I’m having a bloody crisis.

 

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