It's my great pleasure to welcome back to the team the man who started this great site we all call home. Please give a hearty hand to Jalopnik's new Senior Editor, Mike Spinelli. — Ed.
Oh hey. Thanks for the warm welcome. I know a lot's happened around here since I bailed from Jalopnik in 2007 to write stuff, run a magazine and, as the Brits say, "cock about." That's not to say I haven't spent these years productively. I've driven the fastest cars, sipped the most deluxe champagnes from grapes crushed beneath the silken arches of willowy Gallic virgins, enjoyed tons of free track time, satisfied ungodly automotive urges and generally become a sodden, unemployable bastard. Goody for me.
But it's time to get serious again. To recall the approach of Mr. T's Clubber Lang in Rocky III, it's time for doing pull-ups on a steam pipe in a seedy basement (while Rocky Balboa turns star-studded victory laps for the fawning paparazzi at the Four Seasons). The world's taken an alarming turn. The economy sucks, political discourse is in shambles, the media business is dancing to the algorithmic cadence of a massive search-engine juggernaut and no one gives a crap about cars anymore.
Or do they? One statistic Ray quoted back in January seemed like cause for grave concern: "According to a study performed by Pew Research in 2008, 23% of people believe their car is ‘something special - more than just a way to get around.' That figure is half of what it was in 1991. If that trend continues, by 2021, less than 5% of American drivers will give an emotional rat's ass about the car they drive."
I have a less apocalyptic interpretation of that finding. When my grandmother was a girl in southern Italy, every car was special, even the one Lulilo the village idiot built out of a stolen fishmonger's cart, six onions and a kerosene lamp. Compared to the best donkey, the worst car was like a Mercedes S-Class. Look at it another way; if you start selling jetpacks tomorrow, and then in few years you ask people stuck in jetpack traffic if they think jetpacks are special, they won't think so either.
People do care deeply about cars, even that "other" 76 percent. (By the way, Pew Research, ask them that question again after they drop thirty grand on their next car.) But it's also true that we're more estranged from our cars at the same time that we're more reliant on them for our survival. We pop the hood and see something that looks like Boba Fett's breastplate and a miniature Dow chemical plant in there, and the first thing we wonder is how many days have elapsed since the last workplace injury. Cars used to inspire our innate yearning to tinker. Now we'd just as soon climb up a telephone pole and start wrenching on the neighborhood step-down transformer as touch our cars down there. We've got plenty of other crap to tinker with around the house, so we just slam the hood, check our e-mail and order takeout.
That doesn't mean cars aren't special to us. We just feel like they're out of our league. So we digress and romanticize cars from our youth, or the youths of those who came before us, and we convince ourselves that things were, somehow, better back then.
Yes, some things were better, or at least they felt better. The latest BMW M3 may be brilliant on a racetrack, but we remember our first time in an E30, E36 or even an E46 and how it made our feet tingle and hair itch, and forget that the E92 can do things a supercar of the E30's day could only dream of. Are performance numbers the only measure of a good car? No, but there's no denying that advancing technology can do a lot to join safety and performance in a single package. We just have to dig a little deeper to wrap our heads around it.
Naturally, we can't help but love cars madly, every nut and bolt, bushing, head stud, rod end, shim and cotter pin. And that's why in my new role as senior editor at Jalopnik I'll try and figure out ways to prove that new cars can still be relevant by conveying how they drive in as much detail as the nerd bits work to make it so. And yes, as always I'll still be keeping an eye out for cars with 47 wheels, six blown V12 tank engines and JATO rockets fanning out in every direction like a porcupine's quills. You love this shit, we love this shit, so let's figure it out. Champagne be damned.