For some, cars are just a mode of transportation: a way to get from point A to point B. But for car lovers, they’re more than just a medium; they’re a lifestyle. These supercar sommeliers treat their cars like children and could tell you about every square inch of metal and machinery. But what makes these four-wheeled contraptions so alluring? Turns out the intrigue is far deeper than a sick paint job and loud engine.
Living in Miami, chances are you’ve met plenty of people who love their cars more than themselves. With streets choked by Lamborghinis, BMWs and Corvettes, and a campus that is no stranger to unique sports cars, our city is home to unlimited car fanatics with flashy, loud cars.
From differences in design to speed capacity, there’s a plethora of traits that separate one vehicle from another. Each car is like a snowflake, with unique motor sounds, interior amenities, and steering ratios. Some sturdier cars, like Jeeps, are more suited to the great outdoors, while higher-tech Teslas make better big-city cars.
But don’t cars all serve one purpose: to take you from one place to another? Do these sometimes minute-seeming variations between cars really make a difference?
According to Jose Cortez, a 23-year-old University of Miami graduate, yes, they do.
Cortez owns a MTM LLC. store in North Miami. MTM, in partnership with ANSA motorsports, provides all kinds of services for car-aficionados, including repairs, tuning services, racecar rentals, and track support for racers.
Getting involved with the industry was only natural for Cortez, whose interest in cars dates back to as long as he can remember.
“[Cars] are an extension of people’s personalities,” said Cortez.
For him, the opportunity to work with all kinds of vehicles for a living has been a lifelong dream. His interest in cars began when he was a baby, and fully blossomed when he got his driver’s license as soon as he turned 16.
But is an interest in cars an innate trait, or is it learned? For many, it can be a combination of both.
João Renato Corbellini, a senior majoring in Mechanical Engineering, inherited his love of cars.
“It’s been with me since I was a baby,” said Corbellini. “My dad is a big car enthusiast, so I always had an affinity to cars.”
Later, his obsession with the award-winning show “Top Gear,” which features and reviews a wide variety of cars from supercars to family cars, accelerated his passion for cars.
Echoing Cortez, Corbellini said that “[cars] all feel completely different to drive which gives them a ‘personality’’ in a way.”
To maximize sales, car companies build a strong brand identity for themselves. While aesthetic aspects play a large part in brand differentiation, so do engineering facets like weight distribution, the type of suspension, or the wheel/tire design. These elements make cars feel either lighter or heavier and make them either smoother or more resistant to drive, which can make cars feel more specialized to their particular owner.
Corbellini’s love for cars extended past an affinity for different features or brands, even becoming a career for him at one point. In 2013, he started racing in a sport called “karting,” a road race variant that involves driving open wheel, four-wheeled vehicles on full-size motorsport circuits. Getting involved in karting led him to win the Brazilian championship in 2017, and in 2019 he moved to Italy to compete in the European races.
Corbellini ultimately stopped competitively karting in 2020 after losing his sponsors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but his passion for cars is still a major part of his life.
“Being wheel to wheel with other talented drivers competing for one win was an incredible experience,” Corbellini said. “It is the most rewarding sensation I have felt to this day, and that sensation is what had me coming back.”
Like Corbellini, racing is a big part of what drew Cirrafina Biele, a junior majoring in public relations, into car culture. Her family’s love for Formula 1, the highest level of international racing competition, introduced her to the world of car enthusiasm.
“I started watching F1 when I was 16 and that sparked my own interest in cars and racing,” Biele said.
Traditionally, F1 holds their events in cities like Monaco and Barcelona, but as of last May, the competition expanded to stage a race right here in Miami at the Hard Rock Stadium. Biele is working in the Paddock Experience & Industry Relations department at this year’s Miami Grand Prix.
For her, it’s the adventure of the races that keeps her coming back. “Formula 1 is a dangerous sport,” she said. “But it’s the thrill and differences in every race that keep me coming back for more.”
F1, among other events like the ever-growing Miami auto show in October, will increase the visibility and popularity of car culture in the Magic City. The thousands of up-and-coming companies moving into South Florida and the rising cost of living in the city will also likely attract more supercar owners and car aficionados.
So, what makes a great car? Obviously, like any product, it’s subjective, but according to experts, there are key components to look out for. Good weight distribution, braking ability, and driver comfort are all important tenets of an excellent car.
While many people value cars as crucial status symbol, established “luxury” brands don’t always deliver on quality. Alfa Romeo, for example, which today is one of the most reliable luxury car brands, once released a car called the “Alfa Romeo Arna” which was criticized for being a terrible crossbreed of Japanese and Italian construction, with poor design and terrible functionality. And Jaguar, which is known for producing high-quality, reliable vehicles, released the “Jaguar X-Type” car, which was named one of the 50 worst cars of all time by Time Magazine.
Affordable car brands can also produce exceptional cars. Top Gear’s list of the 50 greatest cars of the past 20 years includes several cars from Toyota, Honda, and other traditionally “lower-end” manufacturers.
There are some fan favorites worth mentioning, however. The Porsche 911 is often referenced as one of the greatest cars ever made – with impressive sporting abilities, beautiful, timeless design, and everyday durability. Both Corbellini and Cortez love the Porsche 911, but Cortez preferred the modern GT3, just released in 2023, while Corbellini favored the vintage turbo version.
There are a plethora of exciting car releases in the upcoming few years for car enthusiasts to look forward to. Many of these upcoming releases include fully electric or hybrid cars, which represent a monumental shift in the car world towards sustainability.
BMW, for example, has been experimenting with hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars, the results of which have been somewhat mixed. The upcoming 2024 BMW i8 M is predicted to be an improved follow-up to their plug-in i8 hybrid halo car, which didn’t quite live up to expectations.
In other electric-car news, Biele is intrigued by Lamborghini’s announcement that they will no longer produce combustion engine vehicles, henceforward introducing hybrids and plug-in hybrids.
“I’m not the biggest supporter of this idea, because I love the sound of current Lamborghinis,” she said. “So, it should be interesting to see how they can incorporate that.”
Also in 2024, Ferrari will be releasing their first SUV – a historic moment for a brand traditionally built on racing. The car, named “Purosangue” — meaning thoroughbred in Italian — shows the brand’s commitment to retaining the character and performance quality of Ferraris despite the significant change in size. The Purosangue is predicted to be one of the fastest SUVs ever created and will likely compete with luxury brands Rolls Royce and Bentley, who also produce high-quality, performance driven cars of the same size.
From racing competitions to new electric releases, there’s much more than meets the eye when it comes to cars. Through speaking to car lovers, it’s not hard to understand what makes these intricate, complex machines so alluring. And with the introduction of the F1 Grand Prix and a rapidly growing population of entrepreneurs, investors, and go-getters, Miami is the perfect place to dive into the world of car-aficionados.
If you want to get immersed in the culture, you don’t have to break the bank. Start by watching racing competitions or TV shows like “Top Gear,” which are accessible ways to become more involved in the car world. Or for something more hands-on, there are plenty of upcoming car events to attend, like the F1 Grand Prix in May, or the official Miami auto show in October.
words_virginia suardi. design_michael cervantes & lizzie kristal. photo_@evelyne_305.
This article was published in Distraction’s Spring 2023 print issue.