US Cars

OK, maybe this is unkind, but there's a silver lining to the imminent bankruptcy of major US car makers. Overall the US makes surely some the ugliest and worst designed cars in the world.

Not that we're much better here in Oz, but there is a sense of visual flair in some of our models. In recent years though clever dick executives in our local industry targeted the US market for exports, and they deservedly suffered. Mitsubishi aped the American look in its big cars, as did Ford a few years earlier. That pretty much destroyed their large car sales in about a year.

What is the American style? Boxy mostly, like a brick with some wheels. Roomy, which is a redeeming quality, although like everything else they super-size the trend became so ridiculous that vehicles like the F2250 almost qualify for a post code, and pity the poor bastard in the other car if they ever get hit by one. Occasionally they go for curves, but the result is nearly always more disfigurement than sophistication.Then you had that passion for a wood veneer look on the outside of the car - words fail me. And of course they're all about as fuel efficient as one of those 60-tonne German tanks in WW2.

In the land of the free (enterprise), this should be seen as survival of the fittest over the fattest. Of victory of Japanese and European innovation and refinement over lazy gas guzzling boredom. But hey, the European crowd are going broke too, and Japan as a whole has been an economic basket case for nearly 20 years, amazingly while at the same time being thought an economic miracle. So as always the Darwinian metaphor is useless outside where it was designed to be used.


  1. Ah Nick everything you say is true and fair and just, but gee (and I don't want to sound like petrol head Tim Blair but I will), the sheer pointless stupidity of tail fins on a Cadillac, or a couple of blacks hooning down the freeway in a battered black and gold Lincoln, or the utter monstrosity of a stretched Humvee ... sure they're dinosaurs, and like dinosaurs will die out, but is it the John Waters in me that sees these peculiar outlandish veehikkles as the finest expression of the new Roman civilization? I'll grant you they lost the plot a decade ago, but really to be in a convertible cruising the desert on a two lane blacktop ... it puts Lucy Jordan in Paris in a sports car in the shade, never mind the spongy suspension, the crap brakes, the awful handling, the tank-like steering. If you grew up in the country, you'll always appreciate any car for what it offers ... pose and movement and escape, preferably with wood and vinyl that rots at a glance ... Ah those early Statesmen ...

  2. Suddenly i feel like such an engineer. OK, I was once an engineer, I added some refinement later.

    McLuhan used to compare the American car with the European car in terms of the sense of space. The European is "in the car", the American is "on the road".

    I grew up in the sticks, and I went back later and am now there again. The old farm trucks with the smell of rust and rotting vinyl, the Kingswoods and utes and 120Ys. They're all part of something much bigger, true.


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