How Do You Know If You're Too Big For Your Car?

Good news: you can relax. I know the world seems chaotic and perhaps a little frightening, but you’ve made it to the point where things start to make sense again. You’ve found that beacon of pure, warm, beige light, and it’s guiding you to the one place on Earth where everything is just fine: Torch and David’s Unaccredited Life Garage. We’ve got more answers for you lost souls, so shake the sawdust and paté crumbs off your Snuggie and get ready to be enlightened.

We tried a new method of selecting questions this week: instead of using our usual complex, very processor-intensive algorithm on the Jalopnik Mainframe to pick the ideal two questions, this time I just poured a bunch of cheap gin into the cooling vents on the Mainframe and got the machine nice and loose. Once that Z80 CPU was reminiscing about its old days running Game Boys and crying about long-gone exes, I knew it was ready to pick some quality questions. Here’s what we got:

Question 1:

I’m a fairly big guy. About 6'2" and about 220. I drive a 2015 VW Golf Sportwagen. I love the car, and I’m a wagon enthusiast. It’s black, sleek, useful, and has a nice interior for the price range.

But sometimes I feel like I’m too big for it. Not in the literal/ergonomic sense. Finding a comfortable driving position is no problem. It’s more like, do I look too big for this car? From the outside, do I look like a guy driving a car that’s too small for him? Do I fill up too much of the driver side window when someone pulls up next to me?

Is there a right size vehicle for a certain size person? Is this something that other people worry about too?

Thanks, Dean


Torch: You know, I think about this sometimes myself, but from the opposite end of the spectrum: where you’re a mountain of a man, I’m more like a speed bump. I’m small as hell, and, while that generally works to my advantage in that I can fit into almost any of the tiny weird-ass things I love to drive, it also means that sometimes, on some huge modern trucks, for example, I feel hilariously miniscule.

When I get into a Ford Expedition, it looks and feels like a hamster climbing into a dorm fridge. It’s sort of ridiculous. When I get out I have to jump down from the step, and I think it takes a solid three seconds for me to hit the ground.


So, as ridiculous as you think you look in your Sportwagen, I’m sure I look as ridiculous as a tiny fuzzy head barely peeking over the dash.

I personally think that it’s extremely unlikely you’re filling up too much of that side window. And, what’s more, I think this is one of those cases where, if you’re comfortable and like the car, fuck ‘em all!


If you feel at home in your car, if you like your car, you’ll fit it just fine. You can’t really care what anyone thinks, and this is coming from someone who, hypocritically, once wrote a whole thing about how someone fit in a given car.

It’s your car. If you’re 7'2" and 350 pounds and want to modify a Bugeye Sprite and wear it like a goddamn pair of motor-pants with a big smile on your face, then anyone who has an issue with that can come see me. If I can get to my Kik-Step in time, I’ll pop ‘em one, right in the nose.


David: I’ve come across this issue before when I let some of my taller and heavier friends drive my Jeep Cherokee XJ. It’s an SUV that doesn’t look small in photos unless there’s a 5'11" or taller person standing next to it or behind the wheel—then it’s tiny.


The great news is: I have some brilliant solutions. First, you could use the growth gun that a reader from our last “ULG” advice column employed to generate a one pound bee. Simply aim that badboy at your car, turn the dial to 4/3-scale, and pull the trigger. You’ll be looking totally normally-sized in a slightly wide, taller, and longer Golf SportWagen. A Tiguan badge may magically appear on your vehicle.

But okay, you don’t want a Tiguan. You want to sit in a low, sleek, and efficient wagon, not a tippy, aerodynamically compromised crossover. And, having recently driven a Golf Sportwagen, I can say that it’s basically the perfect size and shape for a daily driver, so let’s put away the growth gun for now, and just ignore that idiotic advice I just gave. Instead, do this: Install wide-angle lenses as windows.


Oh yes, I know. You wish you’d thought if this. But just know, one day, you too, will have a stroke of brilliance of this magnitude. Wide-angle lenses are classic bits of hardware used to make small things look bigger: houses, anticlimactic tourist attractions, certain unimpressive human organs—and they can do the same for your car’s interior.

Instead of snickering, the judgmental meathead in his jacked-up F-250 next to you at the stoplight will look into your Sportwagen through those wide-angle windows and see an interior that looks like a damn castle—a cavernous space fit for even the most dimensionally enormous of beings. Through those lenses, he will see you, shrunken down a bit, looking totally normally-sized in this roomy cocoon of space and comfort.


Question 2:

What was automotive life before anti free market Reagan banned good free market cars and Clinton gave special rules to the rich man for them to have special rights and the poor mans free market is 25-year-old cars which government i bet puts nsa spy technology in our new cars please find that out for me if they could create car crashes by deploying airbags when you go down the highway for population control or maybe a emp effect shut off for all cars so your car cant work when disaster hits such as out of control government Marshall law maybe Its just what i think just my conspiracy theories about modern cars and why cars are illegal in the first place is there a free market country in the world that lets in imports like Australia maybe


Name and address withheld


Torch: First of all, Name and Address Withheld, great question, whatever the hell it is you’re asking. I think part of what you’re asking is what was it like before the U.S. had import restrictions? I think?

I don’t think either Reagan or Clinton had much to do with that, but I can tell you that, based on ads I’ve seen from old ‘60s car magazines, there was once a Golden Era when you could seemingly import pretty much anything. Look, here’s a ‘60s-era NSU ad with an address for the importer on Park Avenue, in New York:


That’s even before my time, but from what I can imagine, it was a glorious era of astounding variety and probably absolute chaos if you wanted to maintain or service all those wildly different cars. I mean, sure, there was an NSU importer in NYC, but I bet the NSU gods couldn’t help you if you broke down in Boise.

Still, it sounds sort of like heaven to me.

As far as the NSA or some other government agency, probably the National Bureau of Standards or maybe the President’s Council on Physical Fitness putting tracking devices in cars or deploying airbags to cause wrecks, all I can say is I have no hard evidence of any of that, so the best I can conclude is, yes, absolutely, this is happening.


I bet the Federal Department of Fish And Wildlife has a device in every car that can summon bears to attack in a matter of moments. The Bureau of Justice Statistics, in cooperation with Amtrak, almost definitely can disable your car with an EMP, and if you think the Postmaster General isn’t remotely feeling your ass via special tactile and haptic sensors embedded in every car seat, you’re deluding yourself.

I don’t think this has anything to do with Marshall Law, though. Marshall Law is a system of government based on the operations of the Marshall’s chain of discount clothing stores, which would mean every U.S. citizen’s clothing would have to be dumped into colossal, unorganized bins and every citizen would have to paw through it, looking for something they’ll never find, forever.


It’s still a better system than T.J. Maxxist Communism.


David: So, I’m not a fan of the 25 year import rule (especially the part where they crush innocent cars), nor am I a fan of the feds sticking their hands too deep into car culture. Still, after spending years in Germany—a land where vehicle inspections are incredibly difficult, fuel is expensive, and modifications are extremely limited—I’ve come to realize that America is the promised land for car enthusiasts. I mean, I own eight vehicles right now—many of which are in conditions that wouldn’t be permitted in lots of countries—and it’s fine! They’re cheap to buy, cheap to maintain, and cheap to fuel up. That’s the dream, right?

Does that answer the question? Was there a question? Do I need to talk about EMPs?


In case I do indeed need to discuss electromagnetic pulses to sufficiently address your query, I’m honestly not convinced that cars are that vulnerable. In my extremely cursory research, I found this 2010 study on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s website, conducted by Metatech Corporation for Oak Ridge National Lab.

The study includes this bit about cars:

Most likely there will be some vehicles affected, but probably just a small fraction of them (although this could create traffic jams in large cities). A car does not have very long cabling to act as antennas, and there is some protection from metallic construction. As non-metallic materials are used more and more in the future to decrease weight and increase fuel efficiency, this advantage may disappear.


Heck, Jason even wrote an article based on a report by the EMP Commission on why EMPs really aren’t a huge deal for cars. So, chill out on at stuff, okay? The Marshall’s discount clothing store-based government, however: Definitely don’t chill out on that. Nobody should live in that kind of hell.

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About the author

David Tracy

Sr. Technical Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from auto engineers—email me. Cars: Willys CJ-2A ('48), Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94).

Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)