A Mercedes tells its story…

Yesterday I pulled on the door handle on my car (pretty mundane stuff).  But instead of opening the door, the handle came off in my hand.  So today I went to a junkyard to get a new one.  While the scrapyard gentleman removed one from a carbon copy of my car, I wandered about.   A Porsche Cayenne caught my attention.  It had apparently caught fire and burnt to a German crisp.

IMG_4536

…to a crisp.

Weaving through the rows of cars, I came across a white Mercedes E-Class.  The view from the rear suggested that the car was only a few years old, and in great condition…or at least it was at some point.  The front, however, was a devastated hunk of contorted metal.

From inside shone the crisp, white, and nearly luminescent color of crumpled airbags.  They seemed to have come out of every nook and cranny.  In the passenger footwell was a can of Axe body spray and a pair of green and yellow Adidas gym shorts.

Behind the passenger’s seat were two cans of RedBull, one empty and one unopened.  I guessed that the driver couldn’t have been much older than me.  Coming around to the driver’s side, there were a few more items that held more of the driver’s (and the Benz’s) story.

The leather inside was a dark tan color.  Looking around the driver’s seat, I noticed many deep-red blotches.  They were the unmistakable color of blood.  In the driver’s footwell, thrown in almost as an afterthought, sat two items which revealed the story’s climax.

A CPR mask, tossed on the floor, hinted at something devastating.  The second item was barely visible, so I opened the driver’s door to get a closer look.  White with more red stains, it was a sheet.

I noticed that the seatbelt was completely reeled in, as it is when no one is wearing it.  Between the mask, the blanket, and the position of the seatbelt, it became evident that someone had taken their last drive in the car that I was peering into.

Suddenly I became dramatically aware of the brevity of a two-ton vehicle plowing down the road, and what can happen if things go wrong.  I was staggered.

Then I began to wonder.  Who was the driver?  Where were they going?  Was it something mundane?  The grocery perhaps?  Or maybe this person was on the way to the gym, ready for an ordinary workout.  While standing there, staring into that Mercedes, another question came to mind which was completely overwhelming.

What were this person’s last moments like?  Images of what may have happened seemed to rush though my mind.  Did they see it coming?  Were they scared?  Did they have any idea how serious the crash was going to be?  Did they even know what hit them?  No matter what, they certainly couldn’t have been prepared for what was about to happen to them.

Walking away from that white Mercedes, I realized a universal truth of life:  We are all, no matter how different in life, going to someday be humbled in the face of death.

To leave things on a positive note, I am pleased to report that my habit of not wearing my seatbelt has been completely kicked.

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“It’s the little things.”

I went on a drive this evening.  That is, I got in the car with a recording artist friend of mine and drove, for the hell of it.  We were in a local forest and stumbled upon a beautiful winding road in the hills.

This is about 20 seconds of us weaving down that road.  Personally, this is one of the “little things” that makes life beautiful.

By the way, the song playing, if I remember correctly, is “The Fox” by Nickel Creek.  It’s brilliant!

The Depths of American Imagination

Behold the 2015 Ford Mustang!  (Maybe…)

Ford’s new pony-thingie.

This is an artist’s rendering of what the 2015 Mustang may look like.  It’s just a concept, so the actual model will probably look like this photo, if you uploaded it to Instagram and applied the “much less enthralling” filter.  I think there’s just one problem though.  The new look of the pride of the American auto industry may already exist…in your neighbor’s driveway.

This next photo is of a car that you can go into a showroom and buy, today.

“Someone glued the wrong badge to it, obviously.”

…and it’s a Honda.  Would I buy the new Mustang, with actual money?  Unless it’s exponentially better than every Mustang I’ve ever driven, there’s not a chance.  If the concept for this car, the time when designers can be as bonkers, ridiculous, and creative as they want, looks like a two year old Honda, what will the actual car look like?  What will it feel like?  A Stannah Stair Lift comes to mind.

To be perfectly honest, in order for these cars to look exactly the same, all one must do is squint slightly.  Give it a try.

See?  Toldja!

Why the US can’t make a good car…

Behold, the new Cadillac ATS.  It’s a small sedan which is presumed to be luxurious and fun to drive.  That’s not what I want to talk about, though.  

I want to talk about why American automotive journalism is dreadful.  Whether it’s in video or in print, it’s all a dull-as-dishwater boredom-induced coma waiting to happen.  This video is a perfect example.  I’m fairly certain the script was made using only Cadillac’s brochure and a Xerox machine.  That’s not it’s biggest problem, though.

This brings me back to the Caddy, and why it must be a brilliant car in order to succeed.  By making it a “compact luxury sedan” GM has created a competitor with the BMW 3-Series, THE compact luxury sedan.  I once had a BMW 3-Series Coupe (two doors in black, or as some call it, sex).  To sum it up, it was perfect.  So naturally anyone discussing the new Caddy will want to put emphasis on what a car like this should do.  Simply put, it should excite.  

So back to CARandDRIVER then.  Generally, when I can’t drive a car for myself and must hear about it from some other source, I don’t want to be told things that are blatantly obvious.  I don’t care if the engine makes 4 horsepower or a million, for example. I care about how it feels.

How does CnD accomplish this?  They start by talking with a man who works at Cadillac.  This is because, as anyone who knows anything will tell you, if you want an unbiased opinion on something, you should ask the person who created it.  Then they move on to some stock footage of the car careening down a rural highway (nice, right?) and then cover it with a CHART explaining various engine options and the power they create.  A chart?!  A chart.  The whole point of a video is that you don’t have to read a f***ing chart.

Finally, the CnD man gets himself a track and starts the Caddy around it.  So now we have a “sports” car on a track, and what does he do?  He starts talking, while wearing the most absurd helmet I’ve ever seen.  All I want to see is this thing howling around a corner and instead I have to look at Csaba Csere’s face squished into some ridiculously unnecessary headwear.  At this point, I could watch no further.

It looked just like this, except in every single way.

If we, as a country, can’t talk about a car and make it interesting (a fairly easy task, if you ask me), how are we supposed to design an interesting car?  I don’t think we know what really makes a car exciting. So the simple fact is, we can’t. My BMW and I parted ways only when my little brother put it into a guardrail.  Would I have considered, even for a moment, trading it in for one of these?  Just as soon as I could drive it on a slippery frozen road in hell.

One more thing – The worst part, above all else, of American auto-journalism is that it’s dishonest.  If Csere was being honest in this film, he would have declared the Caddy squidgy and terrible and promptly replaced it with an M3.

How spark plugs hold the answer to life…

Early this morning I was driving and I had one of those “That’s it, I’ve had it…” moments and made my way to my mechanic.  My car had been running a bit…off, lately.  It seemed to be struggling somehow, and as I had been putting off spark plug replacement for a while, today seemed as good a time as any.

As I was changing them I had a revelation:  Out in the driveway, working on an automobile, one can learn things about life.  So here is my examination of the parallels between changing spark plugs and the answer to life:

Yes please!

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.  

If you go to AutoZone right now and ask for spark plugs, you will most likely be steered in the direction of a company called Bosch.  Is it because they are the best?  No.  They’re not even the most expensive.  It’s because their margin of profit is higher on that brand.  In fact, those plugs are shit.  That’s why I go to my mechanic, who once was a sales rep for AutoZone, for a recommendation before going elsewhere to buy them.

You get what you pay for.  

I acquired my current car in the not so distant past from a woman who had kept meticulous service records.  According to them, it had not really been that long since her last plug job was done (on the car, I mean).   It was not until I removed the old ones that I discovered the reason for their early failure.  Apparently someone had used two different brands, both of which were crap.  I did some checking, and both brands are available at my local Meijer store.  I rest my case.

Something about putting American spark plugs in a Japanese car doesn’t seem right…

Keep things consistent… It’s less confusing that way.  

There are a few basic no-brainer rules when it comes to spare parts.  One of the more basic ones is don’t mix and match.  Just don’t.  Ever.  With those two different types of plugs in the car, the computer couldn’t adjust for a consistent fuel burn, eventually causing a juddering feeling, especially when going up hills.  Mrs. Previous Owner had literally managed to confuse an inanimate object.

Whatever you’re doing, have fun with it.  

Growing up, I had a neighbor that had literally 16 cars.  Some were new, and a few were project cars.  I could sometimes hear him working on them, and there were times when I thought he was going to have a stroke.  It was not uncommon to hear, “Gawd, damnit!  …CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!” as the wrench, or whatever tool he happened to be holding, bounced along the driveway.  This usually happened when he was working on his Mercedes, but that’s another topic.  I, on the other hand, have a fairly enjoyable time working on my car, which is why I do it in the first place.  While it may not seem pleasant, there can be a great deal of enjoyment in getting your hands dirty from time to time.

After smoking a victory cigarette I took the coupe out to make sure I hadn’t cocked anything up, and just as I expected, life in the Accord is much smoother.