Last week, on our commute to her school, my daughter made a rather dismissive comment about cars. She said "Ian, cars aren't cool anymore". I've heard quite a few kids say that recently, and studies show that more and more kids are opting out of learning to drive, partially due to the financial climate, but also out of dissatisfaction.
And I think it's true that cars aren't cool anymore. There was a time when cars were cool - back in the 1920s, when most of them had an open cockpit, when you started them with a crank and when you needed to wear goggles and a heavy driving coat. But now? She's right - they aren't cool, and I think they're not very 'manly'.
My daughter made me realize that, as far as 'manly' commuting goes, driving a car leaves something to be desired: it's air conditioned, you sit in a comfy chair, you can drive in your shirt even in a blizzard, there's a radio, cupholders, GPS, etc. It's hardly 'Scott of the Antarctic'. The motorist's motto is something akin to "Hope the seat warmer is working" or "Glad I've got my coffee".
Meanwhile, those on bicycles and motorbikes have a different and much more rugged experience: you're out in the elements, you're on a saddle (how manly is that!), no radio, no cupholder (other than a cage with a bottle of near freezing water), no GPS, you must balance and wrestle the bike through rain, wind, snow. Your motto, like that of the Post Office is "Victory or Death". If you cycle more than half a mile you get more excitement than a motorist gets in a week.
Even car ads have a sort of desperation about them - they're all about danger, thrills and driving fast somewhere exotic, but when the ad gets to the interior, it always just looks kinda weak. And the outside... well, they all look the same - and they're almost always offered in shades of grey. And you know that when you actually drive it, it's not going to be an experience of driving like a bat out of hell on the Nurburgring - it's going to be pottering along at 5mph in bumper-to-bumper traffic while cyclists and bikers pass you by. The fact is, the modern car experience is slow, frustrating and BORING!
So, assuming other members buy the premise, what happened to make cars go all wimpy and boring? And when did it happen? Was there some key moment when the car lost its manliness? Why is it that modern cars just don't have that 'manliness quotient' anymore?
Have you seen the buildings the Gov't put up in the 50's and 60's? Now there's ugly right there and they actually paid to have them built.
I agree with you entirely. Bull-whipping these people, however, is prohibitively illegal. So much for just deserts...
Well, I think we'd have to dig most of them up to whip them anyway so that's definitely out. I'm hoping there's a particular hell for people like them.
See, again, heaven & hell does not make sense without an awareness of things less mortal than man. I think architecture helps that; it is the most resistant of arts--it was before technology, that is--& it is much more obvious than poetry, the other thing that easily subsists throughout the millennia.
I think it more of what man describes as beautiful, not a functional beauty as in what Chuck sees in his Prius but an emotional beauty, similar to what Aristotle described as the Golden Mean and the Golden Mean Ratio. There is a balance in nature, not necessarily in the middle that seems to be the most beautious but it is situational and can be personal in aspect.
Personally speaking, I don't like owning expensive cars (I see it as a transportation device, not a symbol of my wealth) but I have no problems with people who like them for different reasons.
I find it hard to believe that today's youth is deciding cars aren't cool. Maybe they've just decided the money is better spent elsewhere?
I drive a Yaris. Like a Boss, I tell ya.
When I was a kid growing up in the country, all the boys wanted a Cutlass. Never saw the appeal. I liked the older cars, like an 60s Mustang or an early T-Bird. Never had the money to get one. So I drove the car I could get, like the '68 Plymouth Fury I had to rebuild the engine and put a transmission into. Of course, I had to keep boxes in the trunk to hold stuff in or it would fall out the rusted sides. Lost a jack that way. Later I had a '64 Rambler, which had a geek appeal that, while not notably manly certainly stood out in the late 80s/early 90s.
I lost interest in most cars when they got so complicated I couldn't do anything to them other than routine maintenance. Now I look at them as a tool. As a guy in my late 40s living in a city, I need something that starts reliably, can park anywhere, sips gas, and folds down to carry a lot of stuff. Yaris hatchback works for that. If I need to haul anything big, I can rent a van or a truck and not have to own it the other 360 days a year.
I think cost, hassle and complexity lead urban kids these days, those who don't have access to a full shop, to look elsewhere for manliness. Back home in farm country, where kids can strip and re-assemble a combine if they have to (and they do), a car is still a manly vessel.
I drive a truck, a 2005 plain white Chevy Silverado long bed pick up, V8 with a tow package I work in construction and haul things once in awhile. Rubber mats so I can hose it out and cloth seats so it's not hot during the summer or cold during the winter and I need a box for my tools. I could buy a $40,000 dollar truck I guess if I wanted, but why would I drive that on a dirty, dusty project. This vehicle fits my needs. I drive what gets the job done which in turn pays the bills.
Are vehicles manly I am sure a new or old corvette could pass, a muscle car of old or a sleek new sports car but they are not much use in my job. All the same they would make a great weekend ride next to the Harley.
At the same time I understand that the lime green convertible bug my 12 year old daughter talks about every time we drive anywhere does not seem very good choice for me.
So I guess I am not sure cars have lost their manliness maybe its just in the eyes of the beholder as to whats a good or not and for what reason.
My grandfather had an early 1930s Cord, a lot like the one in this photo. That thing was a monster. Wish I had it, but he sold it a few years after he finally retired (in his 80s). The thing was everything I'd consider manly in a car. Wildly over-powered, unique, classic styling, the works. The way the thing smelled inside, of old upholstery, straw, leather, horsehair and gasoline; wow. It handled like a ferryboat, but if you didn't feel like a Man driving it, there's no hope for you.
THAT is a beautiful car. Back then, they had style.
Along those same lines, I also love the Morgans, and the Citroens. The Citroen DS is one of my favorite cars of all time. But it was French, and not very well made, despite its iconic status.
More recently, I've seen a number of exotics that also appeal to me. Especially the latest man-toy, the Ariel Atom. Its skeletonized construction lets me appreciate the beauty of the machine.
But no one could consider these cars to be for transportation...they're playthings.
My son turns 15 in a couple of weeks. He's a high school freshman this year. He's ridden his bike to and from school every day since a couple weeks into 6th grade. In Middle School, that ride was 4 miles each way. His High School is a little closer; maybe 2.5 miles each way. He has to go through pretty heavy traffic on city streets.
When he started doing this, he said he just hated riding the bus. All the other kids screw around constantly so he couldn't concentrate on anything and he said it felt like being a hostage for an hour each way. Besides he like having a burst of exercise at the beginning and end of each day, since they don't do Phy Ed anymore and he really hates sports.
We live in Minneapolis, so I was pretty sure he'd wimp out during the week or two we have every winter when it never gets above -10° F, or in the days after we get a foot of snow and the streets aren't really plowed yet. But no; he's biked both ways every single day ever since. Even the day his bike got stolen off the rack (somebody had some professional tools and broke a good horseshoe lock), he walked home and told us when he got here, rather than call for a ride which he could easily have done.
My wife and I are insisting he has to take Driver's Ed next spring, and he's actually resistant. He says, "Why do I need to drive a car? I can go anywhere I want on my bike or the bus or the light rail, and I can even take my bike on the bus or the train. I don't have to pay for parking, or find a spot; don't have to buy gas or insurance; driving a car just seems like a big P.I.T.A." We're going to make him do it because it's just a thing you have to know how to do. Plus then we can make him pick up his little sister at her sports and play practices and run the occasional errand we don't feel like doing.
I grew up on a farm 10 miles over gravel from the nearest town (a town of about 10,000). I learned how to drive when I was about 9; big grain trucks built in the 1950s (this was in the mid-1970s) with manual transmissions and no power anything. We only drove in the fields, of course, or down a dirt road for a mile or two. When I finally drove a passenger car I was double-clutching and stomping on the brakes and yanking the gear shifter like a maniac, killing the thing, until I realized I didn't have to do that in a passenger vehicle. I couldn't wait to drive, and actually had a car well before I had a license. I had a farm permit at 14 and abused the terms of the license mercilessly, driving everywhere. Having a car was the only ticket to any kind of freedom, it seemed to me then.
It's interesting to me to see my son's different attitudes, city kid born and raised that he is. It's the same quest for independence and self-reliance. The different circumstances call for different equipment, it seems. My son's a different kind of cat from me, but he's a fine manly young fellow despite his distaste for cars and sports. I keep testing him with added privileges and responsibilities, and he comes through with an easy grace.