What Should the Car of the Future Be?

More and more life under Big Brother’s vengeful eye is joyless, drab, dreary, and filled with guilt.  It is time to rebel–at least automotively.

Instead of straining for the unrealistic and unsafe at enormous prices, why don’t we just drive the great automotive achievements of the past?  Instead of spending a great deal on an unsatisfactory new car with higher gas mileage, let’s save twenty or thirty thousand (or more!) by buying a superb used car that offers everything we want.  Truly great automobiles never go out of style and they last for decades.  We’re not talking about a ’91 Plymouth, here!  I want to see you in BMW, Mercedes, and Jaguar.

I posit that the cars of your future should be whatever you, personally, prefer in vehicles, and that the time to buy is now.  Prices are down all across the board and there are many fine old cars for sale ludicrously inexpensively.  Unless you, too, are brainwashed with dread over “carbon footprints,” get whatever older model has all of the features you want that gets your idea of adequate gas mileage.

A true luxury car isn’t even considered broken in well until about 113,000 miles.   Your dream car from bygone times will be good for at least a hundred thousand miles and you can drive happily in safety and comfort. Unlike union-built Detroit Iron, they’re built to last.  You don’t ever plan to trade them in.  You may want to buy more, mind, but you plan on loving and driving one for twenty or thirty years.  A check-up every fifteen thousand miles and a thorough going over every seventy-five thousand–yes, that’s “75,000”–and you aren’t likely to see the mechanic frequently.  “Fix it before it breaks” prevents further damage, and when a car is checked every fifteen thousand miles you aren’t likely to have unpleasant surprises.  Insurance on such cars is considerably less than on a new vehicle, particularly one without a real frame made out of metal so thin it will never protect you in a crash.

Your first purchase should be a Mercedes.  The right one will cost you between two and five thousand and it will be your road car (fast, powerful, comfortable) and your head-turning “night on the town” car.  It will always be a Mercedes, whereas a five-year-old Ford is an old car.  In particular, you want one that runs on diesel–that’s right, just like big trucks do, because diesel has 30% more octane than gasoline, has an almost indefinite shelf-life, requires a bigger engine (because it has higher compression, hence, more power), and that engine will come wrapped in genuine steel not metal you can crush like an empty Coke can.  As though that weren’t enough to fulfill just about everything on our wish list, one a quarter of a century old will still have at least a hundred and fifty thousand miles left in her (and that’s if you don’t find one with less than 150,000; Mr. Benz’ cars have been known to go half a million.) and it won’t be full of quirky computerized electronics that go on the fritz frequently.  Imagine how smug you would feel with a few drums of diesel in your garage (if you don’t have room for a big tank) and were not inconvenienced by long lines, high prices, or ration coupons.

Your Mercedes will have a heavier engine (and body), be safer to handle, have a compression ratio in the range of 14-16 instead of 8.5, and use fuel that is less volatile (viz., likely to explode) while providing more energy.  And it will always be a Mercedes.  We had our choice of four beautifully-maintained big diesel Mercedes Benzes today between $3500 and $4500, not one of them needing a thing other than handing over cash and signing the title.

Life is too short to drink bad wine, eat plastic food, or drive undistinguished, underpowered little cars you peer at uncertainly in parking lots because you can’t tell yours from anyone else’s.   Could your wife like the idea of a luxury sedan with a Leaper on the hood?  I think so!  We Jag-u-ar aficionados wouldn’t dream of driving one of Mr. Ford’s cheap knock-offs.  The older our Cats are the better we like ’em.  There are glorious older Jaguars to be found easily ranging from a couple of thousand to about ten.  Luxury European cars are almost always maintained scrupulously.  For well under the price of most used cars you could get a Six you put into tip-top condition and plan on her driving it happily forever, and several other elegant, reliable vehicles and a good supply of diesel for your Mercedes.

You want the most for your money and you want to solve the problem completely.  You need enough reliable cars to get your family where everyone needs to go, at rock bottom prices, with the peace that comes from knowing you can rely on them and love them so you aren’t going to get a “new car itch.” Somewhere out there are cars that will sing to you, cars that will be safe, efficient, comfortable, luxurious, and soul-satisfying, and there is no reason whatsoever to be badgered by what is available from Gov Mot.

Go find yourself something wonderful that reminds you of the joy you knew when you got your first car, one that fits you, that is sheer pleasure to drive, that gets you out of expensive loan payments, and that will keep you safe.  All new cars look alike, flimsy bread boxes and shoe boxes.  “Individuality” is fancy lights.  Find out, you younger ones, what it is like to drive a car that is distinctive, one you can find in a parking lot easily.  Find one that feels custom made, where your hands fall naturally on the controls and the seat cradles you just right.  Get an extremely tight steering ratio, superb braking, and plenty of get up and scat, and find out just how much fun it is to drive something you truly love and can afford.  So many of you who have never driven cars with individuality and zest.  All many of you have had is dull, expensive transportation.  Somewhere out there is a dream you can afford.  Go buy it, fix it up if it needs it, be happy, and we’ll give the Nanny State a real lesson in not messing with our passion.

Eventually a lot of people will be unable to run cars–but it doesn’t have to happen to us.  A big part of life is avoiding honestly and imaginatively restrictions we dislike.  I have no concern about the rest of the world when it comes to my beloved wheels and I imagine few of you do, either.

Keep America Beautiful.  Buy a car with a hood ornament!

Linda Brady Traynham

June 19, 2009

P.S.: Have I no social conscience?  No.  I have no interest in sacrificing myself on the altar of the putative public good.  Those who have no better choices can eat cake but I’m going to keep on driving what I like.

Have I not hung on James Howard Kunstler’s every word?  Yes.  Certainly I agree that much of JHK’s grim vision will come true, but I do not see why I should allow it to impinge upon my life.  I have no masochistic tendencies at all and I’ll go back to a horse and buggy before I will be stuffed into a wretchedly uncomfortable, seriously unsafe, ugly, bitty Greenie Mobile.  I have had marvelous cars for over fifty years and I intend to drive them so long as my eyesight and reflexes hold out or until the new Oliver Cromwell forces me to flee his fiefdom.  I’m a Cavalier, nothing will make me recant, and I expect a rousing “Huzzah!” from the rest of you who feel that way and are tired of Roundheads.