So I'm sitting in traffic the other day, thinking seriously about all the major issues currently affecting our healthcare system ("What would happen if I put human blood in my printer ink cartridge?"), when I see it: a BMW M3 hatchback.
But this wasn't just any BMW M3 hatchback. This was a 1990s model, finished in a beautiful green color that I think would be best described as: All the panels were forest green except the passenger door, which was white. It also had only one factory hubcap, and more stick-on fender vents than working taillights. In other words: this particular M3 hatchback was a bit… modified.
Now, if you're reading this column and you have even the most passing interest in BMW, you already know the problem here: BMW doesn't make an M3 hatchback. But there it was, ladies and gentlemen, perched right below the precariously dangling rear wiper: a faded "M" badge, signifying the fact this car features a tuned high-performance engine, and stiff sport suspension, and more aggressive styling, and a driver who uses text messaging to break up with women.
And as I sat there, in bumper-to-bumper traffic, staring at this M-badged BMW hatchback, I realized something: it would be a hilarious prank to fill your printer ink cartridge with human blood and then print out a boarding pass! Ha ha! Imagine the look on the TSA guy's face! Ha ha! You would probably be arrested! Ha ha ha!!!!
No, what I actually realized is that this enterprising automobile owner removed the "318ti" badge from his BMW, indicating its true nature as a German version of the mid-1990s Geo Metro, and replaced it with this "M" badge. He probably tells people he has an M3. He probably tells people the fender vents are functional. He probably tells people he removed the hubcaps for weight reduction.
He probably comments on YouTube videos.
I've noticed this trend more and more over the last few years: people putting on badges that make their car seem cooler than it actually is. So I've decided to address this in today's column. For those of you who don't wish to read the column all the way through, here's a little preview: FOR GOD'S SAKE, STOP IT!!!!
Yes, I'm referring to you, guy who just can't resist slapping an "AMG" badge on that 1999 CLK320 convertible you found on Craigslist for six grand. Yes, I'm referring to you, guy who puts an "M" badge on your wife's X3, even though it has the same power-to-weight ratio as a vending machine. And yes, I'm definitely referring to you, guy who thinks that people at Cars and Coffee are impressed by your 2002 Sentra SE automatic just because you put a GT-R badge on the trunk. Nobody's buying it, and you shouldn't be selling it.
Now, there's an obvious argument as to why this type of "re-badging" is a horrible idea, and that is: it makes you look like an idiot. I mean, what the hell are you expecting? You inherit your dad's gold 1997 Mercedes E420, which and has a dent in the roof from the time a tree branch fell on it during Hurricane Isidore, and you think… what? That an "AMG" badge is going to suddenly attract all the ladies? That guys will come up to you in gas stations and ask you to join the Midnight Club? That "Isidore" is the kind of name an angry dance teacher might have?
Well, here's the truth: nobody cares about your little badge except for car enthusiasts, which leads us to an even bigger reason why this sort of behavior is a bad idea: because the only people who CARE about this stuff all know you're lying!
Allow me to explain what I mean. I'm driving along a few months ago with my girlfriend, and we get up behind a late-1990s Audi A4 with an "S" badge on the back. Clearly, it wasn't an S4: it didn't have the painted side skirts; the tail lights were wrong; the wheels were wrong; the exhaust was wrong. So did my girlfriend look over at me and say "Look Honey! Check out that S4!"?
OF COURSE NOT! She was looking across the street at some dog that was inexplicably wearing pants. She wouldn't notice if the guy in front of her was driving an A4, or an S4, or an RS4, or if he was driving an F-14 Tomcat down the street and occasionally firing cruise missiles at bus shelters. Meanwhile, I'm sitting there, thinking about what an idiot this guy is for lying about his car, proving that the only person who would even bother to notice this sort stupid little badge change would also notice that it's a fake.
So, car enthusiasts, I'm asking you to please stop putting those fake performance badges on your cars. Instead, be proud of your car. Be proud of its powertrain. Be proud of its performance.
Be proud of your last remaining hubcap.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.