In 1990, I was in Dublin, Ireland. I was about eighteen months from my driver's license, and I had a crush on a girl. I bought Midnight Oil's Blue Sky Mining at the Virgin Megastore, which may or may not have been on Grafton Street. I think it was, though. All I know is that I was in some sort of puppy love and finally over my jet-lag that had had me nearly face-down in my lumpy British food in London a week or two before. We travelled around in a rented Austin Montego that liked to overheat. I wore out at least one Walkman — maybe two, I forget.
Sixteen years later, I've been through too many failed relationships, done too much work for too little money, have sweated myself into what are probably equal measures of credibility and ridicule, and I feel guilty for being pissed about things because there are people who have cancer and I've yet to do a 5k to help them.
But there is something absolutely wrong here. I could haul out a hoary old liberal platitude like, "First, let's kill all the lawyers." Or I could make easy reference to my last girlfriend's ex-husband's band and say, "Kill the musicians." Which, I suppose would allow me to link to Krucoff, but in a sense would be an example of pointless scenesterism regarding a scene that doesn't truly exist anymore. We're all older and wiser or deader, or we're young, dumb and full of shit. By and large it was all better before you were born, so kill yourself now.
But wait a second. Maybe, just maybe I'm wrong. Maybe, if we demand less and ask for more, we'll have capable sport-utility vehicles with genuine off-road capability that don't literally choke us with sops to legalese. Maybe, just maybe, if we wise up, both as employees and consumers, we can have cars that don't suck. For all of the talk — and I understand the justifications that people make — that cars are better today than they've ever been, by and large, they've morphed into soulless appliances, forcing even people attempting to create something real to suck corporate teat.
Exceptions beyond hyper-niche players like Bowler, Tesla, Caterham and Noble? Lotus and Ferrari are really the only two that come to mind (my beloved Lamborghini lost its way when they were forced to add bumperettes to the Countach and was somewhat neutered by German Precision a decade and-a-half later). Of course, a few companies who by-and-large play on the mainstream field have models like the Unimog, the MX-5, the FJ Cruiser and the Corvette, all of which are highly specialized. And then there are a few factory tuner vehicles.
The problem is that these are hyper-niche methods of transport. I haven't driven the new 3 yet, and factory tuner vehicles are almost beside the point, because they're ridiculously expensive, and tend to rip away designed-in flaws that the engineers, via focus groups, were forced to build in.
So what's left in our market? The Mustang and the Mini. But in basic form, neither is wonderful. You need the Cooper S or the GT to really get your rocks off. I would love, love, love to add the Mitsubishi Evo to the list, but it, as well as its Subaru rival, fall under the factory-tuner rubric. And they attract cops. Maybe, then, I'm left with the Civic, but the last time I rented one, I kept losing it in parking lots. The new one's outr styling mitigates that somewhat, but it's still there.
I think, possibly, that Darryl Hannah has it mostly right — a flat-black ElCo with one of those atrocious Olds diesels converted to run on biofuel. The problem is that it's a G-Body powered by an Olds diesel. A couple of weeks ago, I was bombing around Dublin riding shotgun in a clapped-out diesel Landie Defender 110. And it was an absolute hoot. Plus, it was rigged to run on biofuel and got 30mpg. There's a disconnect there on a lot of levels.
Where, then are the 3's of old? The Chevelles? The Darts? The Scouts? Yes, some of this backward thinking is rose-colored. We're in a transitional phase right now; we, as enthusiasts, can be a vocal minority. We can make motoring better, healthier and safer for all, while not neutering the visceral pleasure of driving. This jihad may involve various caps in strategically-positioned asses. But I invite you to join. Or not. In the end, the rain comes down, washes clean the streets of this blue-sky town. Duh, but that's still not an excuse.