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?

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I think cars get less and less "manly" and "cool" as they get more and more computerized.  There's something exciting about working on an engine, getting dirty, seeing how it works and all that.  Now, with on board computers and all, you either have to be sufficiently into cars to buy a whole bunch of equipment and basically become a mechanic, or give up on working on the car yourself.  Throw in that people have roadside assistance and I've found that most people my age aren't even sure what a jack or jumper cables are.

Men are not interested in the beauty of women for its own sake.

I'm not sure that that's true.  There are women who are aesthetically beautiful... and I can recognize that without having any particular interest in sleeping with them. 

Most highways/routes famous for their beauty have a landscape architect(s) behind their design. Only LA's have the skill set to lay out roads in an aesthetically pleasing manner that fits the landscape while accommodating movement of the automobile.

And we certainly aren't taught any poetry (or politics) in school.

Quite a treatise. Not used to reading such fare, so I must re-read to digest this properly.

I'll continue to watch this unfold in the higher realm of philosophy and politics, while I must remain in the trenches trying to spin the straw I'm given into the gold of beauty.

It's not so much that the car isn't manly - it's that my generation and generations coming can't afford to own like my parents do.  The car has become uncool in the fact that it pollutes.  It's expensive to own and maintain.  It's expensive to insure.  The only reason I have a car is because I live somewhere that it's not really an option.  I'm lucky in that my car is paid off because otherwise I wouldn't be able to afford it right now.  If I lived somewhere that had an adequate public transportation system or was more bike friendly, you can bet your right hand I'd get rid of my car in a heartbeat.  It's expensive.  Traffic sucks.  Insurance is expensive.  Gas is expensive.  Tires, oil changes, transmission fluid, air filters, registration, is all expensive.  I'd have so much more money if I lived somewhere that I could ride my bike or a train.  

And riding a bike is way "manlier" than cars are these days.  Like the OP said, you don't have to get stuck in traffic.  There's more a sense of danger.  It's more freedom in a way because on a bike I can zip by cars that are stuck in traffic.  It's more man vs. nature (or man vs. the city) than your car.  The car is a cage.

 Don't get me wrong, I love the experience of driving.  It's a kind of freedom I've never felt.  But I also sense freedom in not owning a car and not being tied down to all that cost.

Ummm...yes and no.
Let me start with the no part. Cars are still manly! And driving is fun!
It's just that in the earlier days, cars were a symbol of wealth and status. Nowadays, cars are so many in number, that they've become commodities and have lost that special feel. Life has become so hectic, that a drive is no longer a thing of pleasure, but a thing that has to be done. Men have stopped taking pleasure in driving. It's not even a drive any longer, now it's a 'commute'.
The other reason is that at that time, cars were revered, and men would often be found tinkering in garages, to max out the performance of the car. Much of this man-machine relationship has been lost over the years, due to ever evolving cars and reducing amount of free time.

However, remember be the change you want to see in the world. If you can believe driving is manly, it will be. Make ever drive special. Make it about the drive, not the destination.

Cheers! And hope you enjoy driving again!

Cy

PS: My choice for a really masculine car would be a Ford Mustang, the classic muscle.

Men tend to buy more trucks than cars now.  Cars are more marketed towards women.  The best selling vehicle in the US for 30 years is a pickup truck.  

1943.

Automobiles have not become less manly. The men choosing which one to drive have. In my opinion choosing anything with a warranty is not very manly. You have no reason to learn about your machine. Neccesity is the mother of all invention. If it is not neccasary to re-invent ourselves we will not. If your vehicle is not manly, add your own manly character to it. It is all a choice.

I choose a 1999 F-250 Diesel truck.Here is why.

I can afford it very easily
It is loud
I can haul/pull whatever i want with it, mostly motorcycles as I like rebuilding them.
It is reliable.
I can easily modify the engine for tremendous power gains without sacrificing economy.
Parts are cheap.
When it breaks, I have to learn to fix it.
It is big
There is lots of cabin room as I am big
I can fit 5 in the cabin, two dirt bikes in the box and haul a holiday trailer.
I think it suits me as the man i see myself to be.

Automobiles have not become less manly. Men and their choices have.

Explain to me how guaranteeing somebody else fixing your ride if it breaks is manly?

Not that I fully agree with LJS -- but I don't buy warranties.  I'd rather self-insure.  I do my own repairs when I can, and use a mechanic when its out of my league.

 

but having to spend twice as much on getting your car fixed just because you were stupid enough to purchase a vehicle without a warranty is unmanly.

 

Actually, this is just wrong.  The vast majoriy won't spend more on repairs than they'll spend on the warranty itself.  Car companies sell warranties because they make money off them, not out of benevolence.  Warranties are VERY profitable business for car companies, appliance companies, electronics companies, etc.  There's a reason Best Buy asks if you want a warranty on every $20 set of headphones you buy ... because its pure profit.

 

Car companies sell warranties because, on average, they'll get far more money out of you than you'll ever get out of them.

 

Warranties are essentially insurance.  Insurance should be carried for catastrophes, and a $3K car repair doesn't strike me as a catastrophe.  That's what savings is for.  It is possible to be over-insured.


JB

Maybe more people would if they stopped paying for warranties and just saved for repairs.  Farming out financial discipline costs quite a bit.  Basically paying a car company to save-up your money for you ... and not give it back if you don't use it.

 

There are better ways.


JB

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