Loving Beige

We need beige.  It’s not that I like driving down the street and seeing every damned building in the same generally bland tone—I hate that!  But in cars, we need it.  Why?  It’s a necessary evil.  How would we know what “good” is without evil?  We need a benchmark for boring so we can recognize the exciting.

Bring us the Camry LE in Metallic Beige!  Hand us the four-cylinder Accord in silver!  Let us marvel at the mundane lack of passion in the Corolla!  Because without these shamelessly ubiquitous snoozemobiles, why would we find the wonders of exhaust notes and great feel to be alluring?

Lest we forget, though, that these cars aren’t as bad as they could be.  They still have splashes of silver and chrome, nicely detailed subtleties in the lighting fixtures, and performance that put some hot-hatches of the 1970’s and 1980’s to cower in the corner.  These milquetoast machines, then, are awesome.  Not in the usual definition of awesome, but in the reality of the increasingly overused cliché.

Like the word “awesome” and “epic,” these once lauded name plates and acceleration numbers have become stale.  Some 10 years ago, the interior and exterior designs and colors of these vehicles would have been staggering class must-haves.  The engines, likewise, would have been praised and gushed about.  But because we’ve progressed to the point where VVTi on both camshafts, and silver center-stacks have long been the norm, these cars are the equivalent of the missionary position with your two-decade spouse.

To restate, we need beige because it is awesome and epic– something that is oh-so overused that no amount of skimming a thesaurus will make it any more or less appealing.  The lesson here is to understand that if everyone is using it, no matter whether it is meant to singe your nethers or not, it loses the flavor.  Mazda may have a good machine to drive in the Mazda3, but is it really the knock-out it was when it was first introduced?

It may be high time to look at what enthusiasts are looking at as the hot-ticket or poster-car in their head, because they will soon realize that same machine will become a hum-drum that isn’t going to be timeless or cool in a decade, yet the older ones that were more basic, more pure, are the ones more lusted for.  To hell with the ’12 STi, and all hail the 2002 WRX!  The old Rex was a much bigger deal.  Slower?  Sure.  More cramped?  You bet.  Cheap and black inside?  Damn straight.  But it was the primordial-ooze for the turbo beasts out today, when once it was ruled by only the 1.8L turbo GTi.

Same old-same-old as a new hot-car is the same as buying a Camry in “sand with tan interior,” just as wearing the same hat, belt, and shirt as the next guy is no less beige because it’s just fitting in with the trends of what is acceptable.

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Car Guy Generations: The Poster Car

After reading an article by an ‘80’s-Kid-gone-Editor talking about the era of poster cars of the period (Countach and Testarossa), there was a flash of “kids these days” about it.  I find myself wondering if the current generations have become immune to the pleasure that is exotics tacked into the plaster.  For instance, I know my older brother—an ‘80’s child, just as Jonny Lieberman was—had posters and stickers of cars and racecars, as well as books about Ferrari, Porsche, and one entitled “Exotic Cars.”

However I never really had the urge to hang things on the wall in the same way.  Maybe a Hotwheels poster with a list of new-at-the-time toys, but otherwise nil.  The closest to that now is an obituary cutout of John Delorean, a quick review of the then-new Ford GT out of the Modesto Bee, and a proposed racetrack map of a never-started motorsports park in Merced, CA.  There are even a couple old leather AMC Hornet key fobs from a 1976 Sportabout, which I shamelessly (and endlessly regret to this date) sent to the scrap yard.  Alas, no posters.

Skip to that same brothers’ son, now of driving age, when we were surrounded by a number of Pebble Beach bound classics.  Among the ranks were the most pristine Jaguar XKE and XK120 I can recollect seeing outside a museum, a Dino 246 GT, and even a Mercedes 300SL Gullwing.  Yet my nephew, a proclaimed but not confirmed car guy, had no idea what the XKE or 300SL were, but recognized the new Bentley Mulsanne (or at least the fact it was a Bentley).  Of all these timeless machines, that’s what he’d have?  Given, I’m pretty clueless on classics myself, as it’s something that takes time and practice.

It then occurred to me what was meant in the remake of Gone in Sixty Seconds, when Nicholas Cage’s character is talking about numerous “self-indulgent wieners” parked in the same Starbucks parking lot in the same new Ferrari, and how he’d rather have a classic.  The salesman replied back “You would not be a self-indulgent wiener, sir… You’d be a connoisseur.”  That’s something that a lot of us young guys seem to forget—the history behind a marque; the things that make what we have now, what they are now.

The car that most pulled me in to that parking lot was the front of the 246 GT sticking out.  That V6 engine note (yes, a V6!) is found throughout my Youtube “favorites” playlist, from the Lancia Stratos, to the Dinos themselves.  What makes the Dino infinitely cooler than the modern 360, 430, and 458 is that it was genesis to what we now see in the Prancing Horse showrooms: the first mid-engined, somewhat practical Ferrari.  Yet, it wasn’t technically a Ferrari.  It was named after Enzo Ferrari’s lost son, as a tribute.  Where’s that same genuine passion in this (or any) brand now?  Heaven forbid my nephews generation even wrap their VH1 heads around that… if kids even bother watching music videos on TV, that is.

The same with the 300SL.  Before I started realizing how a car worked, or the names and brands, I knew three cars: VW Bug, Corvette, Porsche (the 911 of course).  But among those also commonly sprouted among my early-‘90’s upbringing included the Testarossa (which I mildly dislike now), and the 300SL Gullwing.  Why the Gullwing?  I had one in Micro Machines, complete with opening doors, hood, and trunk.  I still have it lying around somewhere missing the hood, and some crusted in old putty for some reason… perhaps I was making molds?  Anyway,  look around today, and one can see the impact the 300SL still has.  The AMG SLS can show it even more.

Where has the automotive reverence gone?  I can recognize an early 1981 Delorean from a late 1981 based off the hood (albeit I’m a fan of the car), yet wouldn’t be able to point Jessica Alba out in a crowd.  Perhaps I have my priorities wrong?  Maybe not, because if Alba looks half as good as the 300SL does after nearly six decades, then you can sign me up.  What’s more, the owner of a classic is a little more willing to let you look (maybe even go for a ride) in their car.  This doesn’t mean I’ll ever claim to know what something is—far from it.  But I’m open to learn and understand.

Is technology to blame here?  Perhaps the amount of music videos flaunting the newest carbon fiber monocoques and Youtube video’s from countless magazines and Cars-and-Coffee events are leaving the youngin’s cold?  I grew up mostly in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, still remembering the days when The Fast and the Furious looking cars were not just copying the movie, and tiny wire wheels and hydraulics were as equally prevalent, and Lamborghini’s were still rare.  We had Supercars.net and many internet forums to start bench racing, armed with 0-60 times and tops speeds.  Ferrari F50 pictures would flood across the then-fast dial-up, then be plastered on the monitor for maybe four hours before my older sister would change it back to a basic “Windows” logo.

Fast forward to now, and we have cellphones, iPods, Windows 7—which I myself have many scrolling pictures for my desktop image.  Who needs posters?  But I think the youth and even some kids my age are missing the point.  They still look at 16” wheels as too small, and having super-low and hard suspension will make them faster because it looks faster, when in reality it makes them stop everyone because of a railroad crossing they have to crawl over.

Image trumps imagination.  Our goals in life are too short; too close.  There’s too much want for pulling g’s on a skidpad for the sake of pulling g-strings (hopefully sans pad), but without the finesse of real handling and control.  Instant satisfaction with little regard for what else there is outside the tunnel vision of our smart-phones.

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An introduction to whatever this will be.

It seems as though the last time I used any sort of blog was in 2009, through my Myspace page.  Usually it came down to cars or drives I recently had, which I’m sure this will also be.  Since about the same time I’ve made a small but memorable reputation on the internet through my Toyota Echo.  While an unlikely source of passion for an enthusiast, anyone already familiar with this over-400k-mile coupe, she can (and has) surprised a lot of people from a wide variety of walks-in-life.

This blog is going to highlight a lot of things about what I feel in terms of my driving pleasure, pet peeves, and… do I really want to keep throwing the word “passion” around?  It will reflect trends in the automobile, general impressions of auto news and reviews, and likely the odd video of a good road or some other scenic/artistic venue as I see fit.  There really is no plan besides having an outlet– somewhere I can call my own, put my work out there, and maybe get a little more credit to my name in a constrictive market already full of car blogs and reviews.

Here’s to a dream that enthusiasts of all types can find that we’re still the same animal, just different breeds.