And I have searched in vain for a video of what started it all...
In 1974, my family was vacationing in Ecuador. At that time there was a Rally that ran all through the country. Our friends lived in Manta, and the race wound through town, having an overnight stop. We were given the opportunity to walk among the cars as they sat in Parc Ferme. The teams couldn't work on the cars at that time, but team members were around the cars, answering questions and interacting with the crowd. It was the first (and only) time I was able to see a Lancia Stratos up close.
Early the following morning, we got up and rode a bus into the country outside of Manta. Out hosts knew of "a spot" that would be entertaining.
It was a small cafe in the middle of nowhere, just after a crest in the road. We sat on the patio all morning, eating local food and watching the 50 or 60 cars entered in the event come by. Each car launched a little (or a lot) as it came over the crest. Some just barely pulled their wheels off of the ground, others flew for 20 or 30 yards.
There were no big factory teams, but there were some teams that were obviously well sponsored. There were also teams that looked like they barely could put together a deal for fuel each day.
I couldn't understand much of the conversation around me, as I didn't speak much Spanish... but I could understand the excitement. I knew which fans were cheering for which marques. I knew who the local drivers were... and which driver's wife and sister were sitting in the same cafe.
Ever since that moment, I have loved seeing this particular type of car hurtling through the woods, along the coast, in the desert or the snow. On asphalt, gravel and dirt. I love the smell of the fuel. The clutch. The tires. The brakes. Thirty-five years later, I can think back to that day... sipping a Coke, eating fresh baked croissants, watching these brave racers drive on real roads at breakneck speeds.
It isn't WHY I'm a car guy... I was a car guy before I was 9 years old. But, at the same time it says a lot about why I LIKE being a car guy.
One day I might find video from one of those South American Rallyes... but I still have my memories...