Friday, September 14, 2007

Hopefully a car-blogging post

I don't know if this link is going to work or not, but here goes: In Defense of Ugly Cars
In the last few weeks, there have been a flurry of related articles about cars--more specifically, what the authors are calling "ugly cars" or "nerd cars."

The prime offender is this BusinessWeek article, which publishes reader comments trashing cars like the Yugo, the Chevette, and the Gremlin.

Witness quotes such as "Absolute garbage BEFORE it was built" about the Chevette, and "You couldn't get scrap-metal money even if it was running" about the Yugo.

All of that is true--but it misses the mark. Not because those cars aren't terrible, but because their terribleness makes them interesting. At the very least, they're not boring.

We now live in a world of near-universal automotive excellence. Exotics abound. More common sports coupes and sedans perform like supercars of past years. Family sedans boast 250 horsepower--all while modern technology marries decent fuel mileage and emissions with this scorching performance.

Even subcompacts are depressingly competent. I've driven the Chevy Aveo and Kia Spectra, both of which look on paper as if they are terrible cars. Neither are.

This is all tremendously exciting, I suppose, but I miss the terrible cars.

It's a nice little article, although one could certainly find disagreement in it. I think he's perfectly right in claiming that we "live in a world of near-universal automotive excellence". Even a humble bottom-of-the-line Honda Civic is quieter, handles better, and has a better suspension than my old Mustang. Styling is, of course, another issue altogether. But really, this is a golden age of automobiles. We have a raft of small, excellent roadsters (Solstice, Miata, etc.), big-ass powerful sedans (Chrysler 300 and Charger, anything from BMW, Audi, etc.), small, fuel-efficient sedans and coupes, and everything in between. Heck, 300+ horsepower is not that hard to find, nor is it expensive or abominably fuel-inefficient.

Still, a point or two. First, one should indeed judge these older cars by their peers. For example, it's been said often enough that the Mustang II wasn't anything like the classics of the '60s and early '70s (or like today's either), but in its time it stacked up pretty well and in a LOT of ways was a far better car than the originals. Matter of fact, a lot of those later-'70s cars drove a whole lot better than the ones that came before.

Many even compared favorably with the new Japanese models coming in. Let's face it: you hardly see any of the original Honda Civics or Accords because they rusted out almost as soon as you drove them off the lot.

Besides, most people have pretty good memories of their youth and, as the linked articles in that one imply, a lot of them are starting to increase in value simply because of their rarity and the fond memories people have of that time. I had an old blue AMC Hornet that I still have fond memories of just because I drove it in high school and college.

So, you know, go out and bid on some of these things. Increase the prices dramatically. Especially 1978 Mustang IIs. MAKE ME RICH, DAMN IT.