Fast as a Shark: Cannibalism, In Pursuit of the Elusive Awesome

Illustration for article titled Fast as a Shark: Cannibalism, In Pursuit of the Elusive Awesome

Now and then, I wonder if this malaise is not a thirtysomething crisis, and then I take a step back and realize that it really isn't. Age is merely a tipping point, where the enthusiasm of youth is finally allowed to a step back in the face of a broader historical perspective. There is a transitional moment where it's understood that while independence and DIY will always rule, they are not quite the all. There is a beauty to industry, but when industry becomes the be-all, end all, there's a spirit that gets lost. Lost yet? Let me extrapolate a bit.


I've been in a phase over the last year or so where the only things worth discovering seem old. As soon as something new happens that seems interesting but overrun with Gen-Y jackasses with eyebrow rings, I don't immediately want to know it. I want to know the history behind it. I was reading an article on the taste of human flesh today, and it raised some questions. One of the things that's noted in the piece is that while one's tongue is a limited sensory palate, the nose is capable discerning of thousands of permutations. Multiply that by the tongue's sensory receptors, and the results become a matter of splitting flagella.

Cars fall into the same gap. The NYT's recent piece on the collectibility of vintage Japanese iron is evidence enough. Sitting on the rear hatch of Bumbeck's Starion at a drift event, snacking on peppers and celery and having young kids walk up knowing exactly what the car was — and that it was a well-preserved example of the breed — was heartening. I want to know what those kids ate.

In the couple of years since we started touting the joy of the StarQuests, prices of the cars have gone up considerably, also undoubtedly helped by the infamous Clarkson Starion in the Top Gear "Fifteen-Hundred-Pound-Sports-Coup s-That-Aren't-Porsches" challenge.

A Boss 302 will always be an incredible car. As will a GS455, an LS6 El Camino or a Challenger T/A. But you can have a Ferrari 308 for less than many of those cars, or even a nice little Deuce Coupe if you do the work yourself. And why wouldn't you?


Why? Because of your taste in awesome. The other night I was engaged in a nightly ritual intellectual sumo match with Kasey from Dubspeed and mentioned The Awesome . He made a crack about "teh awesome." I pointed out that the "teh" meme is totally dead and "awesome" basically has about six months to live — at best. It's sad, because Awesome is entirely something worth keeping as a sacred totem to gearheads. And its permutations are as varied as the confluences of taste and smell that allow us to distinguish a dinner that induces a a slavering, eye-rolling foodgasm from a merely good meal.

If awesome wasn't important, we'd all be driving around in Model Ts with airbags, five-point belts, Libby Lights, improved brakes and hyperefficient electric powertrains miraculously powered by soybeans. But awesome is important. Sometimes it is accidental. Rarely, although fortunately, it comes from a deeply held passion that's allowed to be unleashed — like the GTO. And sometimes, like the Hachi, it's simply a weird confluence of history and dorkdom. Nobody walked up to my friend's sister 15 years ago and complimented her on her AE86. Now it would be a prime candidate for geek-outs.


But but here's the thing — the enthusiasts drive the pursuit of the inscrutable awesome. I'm not going to make a list of my current prime candidates — with the exception of the Evo — although they all tend to be rear-drivers. Some miss the missing list by one thick whisker, like the RS 4, which is astounding, but not exactly awesome.


Awesome often exists just out of one's grasp, but when stumbled upon, irrevocable proof of its existence is miraculously easily at hand. It's there in a Defender 110, a Bandit Trans Am, Honda Beat, Ed Roth's Beatnik Bandit, an OG Mini, a Jaguar XJS, a Ferrari GTO, the Tyrell P34, the Gurney F1 Eagle, a Barracuda Formula S, a KP61 Starlet, the Dodge Macho Power Wagon, the Benz 6.9, the Countach, pretty much any Voisin, the Polizei M5, the Tesla Roadster, the Traction Avant, Jim Hall's Sucker Car and the Ur-Quattro, to name a few.


No one should fly where eagles dare, but when they do, it uplifts the collective consciousness. Awesome knows no time or place. It only knows itself, and it is propagated through its practitioners, and news of it disseminated by its adherents. Awesome has driven the industry for over a century. Awesome drives the human race. We, as a society, eat the past and excrete it in new ways. We at Jalopnik encourage you to discover the awesome. Even if for gearheads it often tastes like aluminum, shteel und human flesh. In fact, especially if that's the case. Pubil sevis announcement over. Cue guitars.


Thanks for listening. We'll see you next Wednesday.

"Fast as a Shark" is a weekly electronic broadside aimed at what has been historically right and terribly wrong with the autmotive industry and culture. And yes, we do put on a Dorf costume and perform metal karaoke for spare change, thanks for asking.


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Andy Sheehan, StreetsideStig

RIP, Davey. Thanks for everything.