Practicality in All Things I: Death of the Motorcar

There is much whining today over "planned obsolescence" and the cost of bare necessities such as automobiles and game consoles becoming unreasonable. Whining, pleading, bargaining for the least among many evils, but never a rebellious attitude to be seen. It is true that inflation has scaled up the cost of all things with wages barely catching up -- if the cost of groceries has quadrupled, it seems common wages have only doubled in the same span of time. But the presence of inflation itself has blinded most everyone to the truth that the cost of automobiles has become something unfathomable, and unmanageable to all but them who would not be put out by setting a few hundred-dollar bills on fire for the fun of it.

It has been a strangely open secret that automobiles have never been created equally, at least not for the past fifty years. There were lemon Chevys, exploding Fords, and then there were the Toyotas and the Mercs and the select few American cars that everyone knows will keep running until you are utterly sick of driving them. Yet specifically in the US, country of strivers and pretenders that we are, you're hard-pressed to find any car on the road much older than from the nineties, and even those are a rather small minority in any area that's not as poor as formerly war-torn East Europe. The dirt-poor of an average area, the unwashed meth-heads and single mothers and negroes, almost universally will be found driving a less-than ten year-old Kia, Hyundai, or Nissan. Anyone above the low end of the poverty scale grabs hold of anything else that's big, shiny and looks as cutting-edge as possible. In any area with hay-bales and backroads will the gruff "Karens" and hick-larping men be found driving gargantuan pickups, lifted to the point of no ignorance or sarcasm being needed to call them "monster trucks". The ultra-rich sometimes still buy Jaguars, those hideous new Porsche crossovers, or whatever other high-end brands are still pretending to carry on their old legacy. The common thread between all these people from the bottom to the near-top is that no one among him owns his automobile.

Mass ignorance in mechanics and electronic integration makes it hard to communicate to the average peon what has happened to these tin cans that virtually all Americans depend on for sustenance. Government regulation, immovable trends, and "this regression" disguised as "that improvement" have ultimately made cars into plastic pods that have no feeling and cost a full fortune to own. Every insignificant aspect of every moving part and accessory on an automobile is watched by electronic sensors which tyrannically expect it all to be within a certain range, various structural attributes and expensive accessories such as backup cameras are tyrannically mandated by the US government, and flat-out self-destructive innovations such as auto-shutoffs have made cars as miserable to experience and look at as they are financially devastating. Yet decadent Americans believe they have to have the latest, and when it's dead or you can't afford to keep it alive in one to two years, it's on to the next latest. I don't know what most Americans' finances look like, but I'm very secure in saying that most people obtain each new car without ever having had full ownership of the previous -- they simply cost too much and do not last long enough. We all have seen our family members send great reliable machines to the crushers or donate them in a "trade" for something that they ultimately would not end up driving for even five years. From that point on I suspect it becomes a cycle of passing bitter regret forward, telling oneself that the next update will usher in the new glory days, when in fact nothing will ever drive nor last like the machine that was forfeited long ago. Even as all this goes on, properly old used cars excluding collectibles are sought-after by a certain type of people which are a rather small minority. The rest stand by gawking when they see an eighties Toyota on the road, whether out of disgust or awe, as if it were any surprise that it would still run. Automobiles today are no more hostile to the hobbyist mechanic as they are to the professional mechanic: they are just not designed to be fixed, maintained, nor preserved at all. A shorted tail-light on a Ford newer than twenty-five years old has the potential to fry the entire electronic system, and even a new Toyota's transmission is not designed to last more than five years or 100,000 miles, going so far as to remove the transmission fluid dipstick entirely. Scotty Kilmer, the almighty Toyota fan and mechanic, is insane -- I say this not due to the flailing arms and inexhaustible clickbaiting energy, but because he is an old-timer who is actually willing to continue playing the game of fixing modern cars, hostile as it is to anyone who approaches it with common sense.

The automotive situation in the US is a lot worse than in other countries, owing largely to backwards cultural developments: primarily the rise (no pun) of the pickup. Forty years ago, a pickup was for work, and rarely ever would be found with a trim level above that of a poverty-tier car or anything resembling comfort. Geared for pulling and not highway cruising, designed for heavy physical abuse, stiff suspension that would jar you to the point of mad anger. A pickup has no aerodynamics to speak of, either: the open bed with closed tailgate grabs air and swirls it around clumsily, flinging any sand or leaves directly into the cab if you happen to have an open back window or sunroof. The overall concept of a pickup has not changed in the modern climate, other than in the most critical way: new pickups are luxury vehicles, and luxury cars have utterly ceased to exist. An American pickup today is full of so many sensors, servos, and extravagant features that damage incurred through actual work has a funny tendency to cost more money than a whole basic old truck. What makes American culture so absurd and retarded is that if you happen to be against this trend, you are a yuppie, a pinko, a libtard, a soyboy, and so on. Excuses for men use these ridiculous machines to signal how "country", how "masculine", how working-class they are, despite these pickups being the most decadent and safest (for the driver) things on the road. The social media phenomenon called "hicklibs" invariably will be found sitting in pickups, sometimes Boomer classics, spouting serpentine evils through the most hammy and nasal Southern accent they can conjure up. While city women accuse men of owning large pickups to compensate for penile inadequacy, "country" women own them as a non-negotiable showing of how strong and independent they are -- penile envy if Freud ever was right about anything. Red-state exaltation of the "common man", the "hardworking man", the "barely-putting-food-on-the-table man" doesn't quite factor in that these soy-bearded men drive a type of vehicle which should be far above their means, and usually is unnecessary for their respective line of work; paying eighty bucks for each tank of gas; Hell, usually doing their actual work in air-conditioned tractors that they don't own either. Nothing will solve such a gross attitude problem, but it is amusing to hear the kvetching every time gas goes up another dollar per gallon.
I should like to offer my own personal anecdote pertaining to this: of my father's 1984 Nissan-Datsun 720. He got it for about $50 and never spent more than about a hundred on repairs and maintenance in twenty years. It had been wrecked, rewired horrifically, and needed engine work. He proceeded to bend its twisted fender back into place, replace its worn piston rings, add springs from a Chevy so it could haul heavier loads, go mudding and rock hauling, and when its starter went bad he added a second battery to the passenger floorboard so as not to have to buy a starter. We used to load it all the way up to the cab with wood blocks that he burned in our wood stove during the winter, and while the odometer had stopped working long before, it is likely to have had a million miles on it. It still ran when it was parked.

To be sure, I would never for a moment advocate that everyone who was short on cash or joy in life should go hunt down the nearest shitbox. That kind of online used-market influence has made vintage tech collecting an intolerable cesspool of scalpers who deserve whatever punishments were dealt to the most severely accused Jews in old Europe. It is because I know that no one will listen and apply this to his life that I say these things, as car-buying requires some more thought and dedication than getting a cheap Super Nintendo or RETRO GAMING CRT with this one trick. I do believe anyone capable ought to rescue an old beater from destruction, decay, or Mexican violence if at all possible, as I've done on at least two occasions. I do not claim to offer a universal solution for cheap and reliable transportation; there is not enough of it to go around. However, it is cheap and there for anyone willing to put in $800 to $2,000 and some work, and it remains that anyone who continues fully to buy into the folly of modern automobiles is philosophically inferior cattle, living impractically in an economy that's neither in good shape nor getting better.