Originally published November 24, 2010
The other week I wrote about my devotion to my new 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan (a.k.a. the "Compromiser"). Some readers could relate, but quite a few were offended by the notion of any sane person owning, let alone appreciating, a Chrysler product.
Sure, if I had bought a BMW or a Ferrari or a Mercedes such ardent pride would be within the realm of comprehension. But a minivan? A Dodge?
Impossible, too down-market, too cheap, too badly made - but what they were really saying was that the car wasn't expensive enough and therefore wasn't cool. You won't find a two-page centrefold of a minivan in Auto Wankers Weekly.
The response is hardly surprising but it is illuminating and shows one of the reasons that most people who do not obsess over cars think that those who do are shallow, stupid gearheads.
There is present, in the automotive community, a certain kind of driver who equates cash with taste. To these folks, you are what you drive and the more expensive the car the more automobile smarts they credit the driver possessing. In the same way that a rat favours shiny objects in the trash, these car fans favour shiny expensive rides.
I'm not saying that a Dodge equals a Lamborghini. That's ridiculous. I am, however, saying that it's not the folks with unlimited funds who have the best automotive taste.
Just as those who never have to check the prices on a menu do not boast the best palates (they just order the most expensive thing and wash it down with a Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, 1982) the folks with the best car taste are the one who must make their choices using more limited funds. Give a man a million dollars and he'll just buy a Rolls or a Ferrari. Give him $70,000 and that's where we learn what they really value in a car. Will they go for an Audi A6, a Lexus GX 460 or a Lincoln Navigator?
What is more impressive: the Bentley Continental or the 1972 Datsun 510 that the owner has been caring for and resuscitating for the last 30 years? It depends on whether you are impressed by the cash or the cure.
The bling-obsessed will cry foul. You're just jealous because you can't afford one! Sorry, I'm copping to that. If you have young kids you need a safe car that they can wear down and destroy over time. That means a minimal cash outlay. I'm not going to pay an addition 10K just so they can destroy a Toyota. I'd rather blow the money on a big-screen TV or tennis lessons. If that makes me a fool, then so be it.
I would also add, "Neither can you." The folks driving cars that cost as much as my house aren't too impressed by cash-cars. Why? Because everyone they play golf with also has one. Familiarity breeds contempt. And as for the millionaire "collectors" we see interviewed, well, they buy a vintage model that someone else has restored, they park it in the garage and then take it for a few rides and the buzz wears off and then the have to go out a buy another one. That's not appreciating. That's compensating.
Someone will always have a better ride. Someone will always have a worse one. When it comes to the cars we drive, instead of looking down why not try looking forward? That thing you see out the window passing by in a blur? It's called life.