You Can't Separate A Car's Stereotype From The Person Driving It

Illustration for article titled You Can't Separate A Car's Stereotype From The Person Driving It

“Panameras are hideous. I’m not watching your videos any more.”

So came the response to a picture I posted on twitter last week. I retweeted it not with the intention of ridiculing the bloke who wrote it, but to show solidarity. I struggle with the concept of personal hatred and gradations of dislike on grounds of human personality or looks, or even smell. I don’t much like people, but I don’t hate them. But for someone to feel so strongly about the pig-ugliness of a Porsche sedan that they have to blank me from their life because I drove one for two days?

Yea, I’m entirely comfortable with that.

Because if cars matter to you, and most cars arouse positive emotional responses from you, then it stands to reason that stuff you hate will elicit an equally potent negative reaction. As I mentioned recently, the vertical tailpipes on Lexus F models piss me off. I don’t know why and I can’t offer any more sophisticated a response than ‘they look shit’, but that is all the justification anyone needs.


Take the BMW X6 – the new one or the old one. I cannot stand the sight of the thing. I have spent hours attempting to deconstruct this elemental hatred of an inanimate object – the reason for the extreme reaction seems to be a combination of detesting the concept of an SUV with no interior room and a particular individual I didn’t much care for owning one. The importance of the second reason was diminished when I saw the X4 at last year’s New York Auto Show and nearly blew chunks on its hideously mangled flanks.

The trouble is, can you separate the human from the machine? By extension, how can you disassociate the person from the product or, to extrapolate this conundrum to its ultimate conclusion: could I ever be friends with someone who drove a BMW X6? This is one of the great existential car-saddo questions of the modern age; it has consumed many hours of my time and I have reached a definitive answer – no, I could not. The person whose moral code doesn’t cause them to see a BMW X6 and think ‘I hate that dollop of turd’ isn’t someone I would find easy company. And the X6 owner who had to take one on the company car scheme? Too nuanced for the shock value I need in this column. I’d probably let them into the house on probation and after a stern Q&A session accept that their misery was not of their own making.

This of course makes me the most horrid, judgmental arse of a man, but in allowing myself to surrender to my base reaction to cars, I also fully accept when similar judgments are heaped upon me. I have for many years driven around in fast Porsches with large aerofoils. The majority of people in the UK despise these things because over here jealousy in the context of expensive automobiles has taken an ugly form. So I ignore and discount the usual wrist-gestures.

But if someone knowledgeable and otherwise sane tells me that they just hate the whole Porsche thing and the smug dickheads like me that drive them -and stops short of dishing out low-quality abuse - then I am completely happy with that. After all, it is easy to digest such vitriol when, after the person has delivered their withering yet predictable concoction of Nazi/Beetle/arse-engined jibes, you get to drive away from the scene in the knowledge that you are steering the finest sports car available. And that they are wrong.


This is a demonstration of the core tribalism that underpins the broader car community. We’re like an ancient, fractured tribal state - constantly warring with each other and yet when presented with more profound issues that threaten the edifice, capable of temporary unification. But I wonder what it would take for me to defend an X6 driver from verbal abuse? A nuclear threat, I suspect.

It’s the instinctive response that I most want to preserve though – the one perfectly illustrated by the Panamera tweet. It comes from the belly. It is basic; unfiltered. It’s why I despise modern ‘fake’ exhaust tips which are built into rear fenders, why I will always sneer at a poorly constructed ‘personal’ number plates and quietly think ill of the drivers.


And also why I will usually keep most of these observations to myself. Because I’m not very big, and I don’t much want a kicking from some powerfully-built company director in his X6.

Illustration: Sam Woolley

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I’ve always kind of thought of it more along the lines of “most people aren’t car people. They probably drive up to *insert brand* lot and just get whatever tickles their fancy that day.” I wouldn’t literally disassociate from someone that owned any particular car, but I do make judgements based on their choice in automobile. Most are fairly benign, and they’re usually some form of “they aren’t a car person, so they bought a Camry”, but there are things like bro trucks that I assume contain a guy wearing a flat billed hat that likes to go to twin peaks.

The X6 is an interesting line to draw though. I mean yes, it isn’t practical or particularly pretty, but it is unique and that’s enough for plenty of folks. I’m pretty much to the point in my life of vehicle enthusiasm (I say that because I mostly go on two wheels) that I’ll buy and drive things that aren’t particularly good by most standards, if they are unique and have an interesting story. Granted, we’re taking about cheap old cars. I’d never pay a payment on something that I didn’t enjoy and wasn’t competent at being a modern car.

All in all though, I resign to each his own. It isn't my money, and drinking a beer, hanging out with someone is in no way hindered by the X6 sitting in their garage.