By on August 29, 2013

desert

(Ryan sent this to me before the recent Adbusters piece, but perhaps it’s additionally relevant now — JB)

The Truth About Cars is that sometimes they tell us the truth about ourselves.

I rolled into Los Angeles one morning in a badly running 911. It was already hot, though the morning haze hadn’t yet burned off. The transition from the wide-open, high desert to the sudden congestion of the L.A. basin was disorienting. Still, I felt a tinge of excitement. I was on the West Coast, and I was there to pursue a girl.

Windows down, wing windows open (one of which sporting the de rigueur PCA sticker), I could clearly hear the misfire the flat six had developed somewhere in the desert. It still made sufficient power, but obviously something was wrong. The car was a ’74. Silver, euro headlights, Fuchs wheels, mismatched tires, badly split dashboard, short shift kit, high-bolstered cloth Recaros, a little rust, and to top it all off, a salvage title. It’s tough to buy a 911 with student loans.

A week earlier, I’d been thumbing through the Auto Trader magazine (that’s how we used to do it), hoping for a cheap 944 when I my glance fell to the little black and white thumbnail of this car. I was sure it was a misprint. I called on it immediately, then called my dad’s Porsche mechanic. “A 911 for $5000?” he inquired. “Yeah, will you take a look at it for me?” I asked. “Buy it” he said. “If it runs, the engine and tranny are worth that.” So I did.

Now, a week later, and eleven hundred miles away, the “it runs” part was dubious.

Los Angeles is a funny place. I don’t much care for it. Dave Duchovny’s character in the TV series Californication shares my sense of the city. I had recently moved from London, he from New York, and we both found the city much more confident in its appeal than we thought was warranted. (Interestingly, in the series, he too drives a Porsche, a beat-to-hell 964 cab, if I recall correctly.) To my mind, it is a city characterized by a culture without substance. A culture in fact so far removed from substance, people there often don’t recognize the difference between substance and non-substance.

Philosophers call the study of the relationship between signs and the things signified semiotics. Bear with me being arcane for a moment, as I think this is the way to describe my objection to Los Angeles. In L.A., the importance of the thing ‘signified’ has largely disappeared. The important value has dropped out of the equation. Now, people there traffic largely in an essentially meaningless jargon of ‘signs’ that don’t actually correlate to anything.

Are you an ‘actor’? Of course you are. Are you a ‘producer’? A model? Wealthy? 45 and not 25? Everyone has been pretending for so long, people have become desensitized. It’s perfectly natural to lie about what you do for a living, and how well you do it. (Spoiler alert: everyone actually works in a restaurant.) Fake it until you make it, right? Lease a new Range Rover, and park it in front of your dumpy shared apartment. It’s the appearance of wealth—denoting success!—which is important. Surely no one is smart enough to peek behind the curtain, to see through your little ruse.

In the midst of this din, this incessant and meaningless projection of symbols, one can scarcely communicate. After all, language, too, is a system of symbols. As Orwell wrote in his magnificent essay, “Politics and the English Language”, when you manipulate the correlation between language and states of affairs in the world, you lose the ability to communicate.

For many Angelenos, the idea that in other parts of the world, people derive goods not by passing legislation, but by actually working, is surprising. That people actually make things—objects, literature, non-online degrees, the yields of agriculture—all this is foreign. Why would you bother with that? Just pretend. It’s the sign, not the thing signified that matters.

What does this have to do with a badly-running 911? Well, as it happens, this is just the car to pry-open the dysfunction of the place. The car and I were the same age. The interior smelled not like a luxury car, but rather like an old Volkswagen (same vinyl, after all). The only leather in the car was on the steering wheel, and it was in rough shape. Yet people had been so conditioned to respond to symbols, that my 911 told people I was a producer (or something equally silly). “But you have a PORSCH! (sic)” “Uh, it’s as old as I am. The tires don’t even match.” That I was a marginally employed grad student simply did not compute.

People didn’t seem to realize how old it was. Now, I grant that Porsche has been very conservative in the styling of successive 911s, but surely even the untrained eye can spot a car from the early ‘70s. That someone would enjoy a 30 year old car—with no AC—for its own sake, was unheard of. The car, it seemed, was itself valueless. It carried great weight as a sign, however. People were so accustomed to responding to the sign, that they failed—sometimes entirely—to perceive the vehicle empirically presenting itself.

I found this perplexing.

The merits of the car—and in spite of its condition, it was a very cool little car—were completely occluded by the perceived significance of the car. Why would you have a Porsche if not to signal your wealth and success to those around you? What other possible purpose could there be?

Upon visiting a cousin in Orange County, his (physically enhanced) wife came bustling in: “Wow—whose Porsche is that?” Apparently, the social status of one of her husband’s friends (and so, by proxy, hers?) was about to go up. However, upon learning the answer, she was visibly disappointed. “Aren’t you some sort of theology student or something? Why would you have that car?”

The answer? Complex. Let’s summarize:

Dr. Porsche had a dream. (It was not nearly as profound as Dr. King’s, but it was not without merit.) In the early-mid twentieth century, sports cars were big. They had giant engines. Ferrari, Jaguar, and Mercedes vied for speed records in famous races along dangerous routes through the Alps. Dr. Porsche also wanted to win, but his philosophy was entirely different. He built a tiny, incredibly simple, lightweight sports car. Rather than a V12, or something equally monstrous taken from a post-war fighter plane, it featured an air-cooled four cylinder—configured horizontally. Its body was made of aluminum, and he avoided the extra weight of paint (which is why early P cars raced in silver—they were unpainted). The center of gravity was mere inches off the pavement. As a lad, I would often check out books from the local library. One was about Porsches. I recall studying the black and white photos of stern German men in lab coats beating aluminum panels by hand over wooden molds. The body was very simple, an inverted bathtub. Guess what? His cars could win.

Now, whether any of the above is actually accurate, it all sounds about right—doesn’t it? It’s more or less what I remember reading as an adolescent, and that’s the important point. It’s part of the Porsche mythos, and it’s why I would have a car like this.

My car—the ’74—was small, light, and silver. It made fantastic noises. Its 2.7 wasn’t especially powerful, but it was so light, it could walk a 3 Series. Or: the delicious banshee wail of the flat six at full chat convinced the other drivers it could. Same result. I got a lot of tickets in that car. This, roughly, is the response I’d have liked to have given to my busty friend. (Remember her? She’s three paragraphs above).

Where’s the disconnect? Let’s see if we can unpack it:

1. Small, iconoclast sports car = object of desire
2. Object of desire = expense
3. Expense = luxury
4. Luxury = wealth
5. Therefore, 911 = wealth
6. Desire to look wealthy? Get a 911!

If you miss the reason the car is desirable, and jump straight to the car as a signifier of something else, you really miss the point of the car. And look what else happens: generally speaking, you want wealth so that you can acquire neat things. Wealth is a sign that you as a person get to enjoy neat things. The neat things are the point. But if you miss the value of the things themselves, and see them only as signs of wealth, you’ve reversed the relationship between sign and thing signified, and you create for yourself a perpetual cycle of unfulfilling—because meaningless—acquisition. Get a major segment of the population of a large city participating in this confusion, and the term ‘Californicaiton’ begins to take on real meaning.

Now, obviously this sweeping characterization of Los Angeles is unfair. What I’ve written is by no means true of each of the city’s inhabitants; but if I were asked for an illustration of the point I’m making, this city would be definitely be exhibit A.

“Well”, I thought to myself, “so much for the socialite classes. But true automotive enthusiasts will understand”. With this consoling thought, I tracked down the local chapter of the PCA. I attended precisely one event. It consisted of a bunch of retired dentists talking about golf. They all but asked me to park my 911 in back, and out of their line of sight. It was only later that I learned of the POC, the group who actually liked to drive (even on tracks!) By then, however, I was over the girl I’d gone in pursuit of, and for that matter, L.A. in general. I sold the car for more than I paid for it, bought a high-mileage BMW E28 on Ebay, and left town in search of my own soul.

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149 Comments on “P-Cars And Perception...”


  • avatar
    David Walton

    When I saw the title I somehow KNEW there would be a Hank Moody reference. Really enjoyed this one.

    • 0 avatar
      kmoney

      HAHA, before I clicked the “read more” on main page I was thinking this sounds like the beginnings of an episode of Californication. Agreed: a greate piece of writing.

  • avatar
    stuart

    Excellent and thought-provoking; more please!

  • avatar
    afflo

    How often on here do we read a comment saying “That (Mustang, FR-S, Genesis Coupe, etc.) looks like fun, but I wouldn’t want to be seen driving a _____.” “___” doesn’t indicate success and wealth in the way that the drivers would like.

    Heck, that’s the social issue with American cars in general – there’s such a social stigma against one, you suffer several points of IQ drop in the eyes of others for having spent your hard earned money on one of *those* cars.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      This is good point.

      If I buy a $45000 Cummins RAM, most of my friends and family wouldn’t question it, and probably even consider a wholesome choice. However, if I bought a $15000 5-series, I’d pretty much be the Once-ler.

      Opposite in other parts of the country. That 3-series lease shows you are an up-and-comer, but the much more expensive truck? Joe Dirt.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        There’s a certain truth to that.

        Though I’m not sure either of them is a good idea in terms of “wise use of money”, for almost anyone.

        (I’d probably question getting the diesel truck unless you haul a giant trailer everywhere, on grounds of maintenance vs. utility over the V8… but that’s a quibble.

        And the practical man in me says “a Lexus GS is what a sane person buys when they want a used 5-series”.)

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      it isn’t just here. I’ve washed my hands of several sites/message boards over stupid crap like this. I buy a Mustang GT, and any number of douchebags sneer “for that money, I’ll take a ‘lightly used’ 3-series, thanks.” As if I fucking asked.

      Nevermind that the Mustang won’t bankrupt me once the warranty expires.

      • 0 avatar

        Their loss

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        It’s equally annoying the other way around.

      • 0 avatar
        juicy sushi

        ’tis very true, it’s not just here. In fact, everyone here is a lot less likely to say that than a few other website. The worst I know of on this score is Pistonheads…

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        Your story — which I am sure is accurate, having owned an ’87 5.0 GT back in the day, really makes Ryan’s point. To a person who is a half-serious driver, the GT and the 3-series are not interchangeable. They are very different cars, with very different driving characteristics — “flavors” if you will. Kind of like some people like chocolate ice cream; others like butter pecan. Neither one is “better,” because they are not substitutes for each other.

        OTOH, if what you’re buying is “prestige,” than all cars are interchangeable. It’s just that some cars have more prestige, and others have less. So, the “smart” prestige buyer maximizes the value of his expenditure buy purchasing the most “prestige” that he can afford.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      @afflo
      Great post.

      Sometimes it works the other way too – some people prefer a badge that has little appeal to poseurs.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      The Mustang, to a certain extent, gets a pass by being an iconic American car for a reasonable price. It passes the valet test in that the owner wouldn’t be embarrassed to wait outside a nightclub while the valet delivers a nice example of a Mustang. More prestige than a Camry-class sedan for similar money.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Well done!

    I will point out one minor thing though – there were COUNTLESS small light sports cars around in the post-war era. Those were the cars that Dr. Porsche was competing with, not Ferrari and friends in the big-engine classes. That came MUCH later. Though Ferrari made a few small engine sports cars too. Even, perish the thought, a few with four cylinder engines.

  • avatar
    shelvis

    So……
    Parking a leased Land Rover in front of dumpy shared apartment is bad but blowing a college loan on a 30+ year old Porsche is OK, presumably because said Porsche owner has enough means to live as a grad student in something better than a dumpy shared apartment and can afford to buy such risky cars. And the luxury to also chase girls to LA.

    Sounds like something a character that drives a Porsche in an 80s teen movie would say.

    Wow, people in LA indeed.

    Moral is that you don’t have to buy things as a symbol of wealth if you already have a degree of wealth. Got it.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I often wonder what my neighbors think. I have a bit of a shack of a house that I bought because it came with a 3700sqft garage out back. Said garage now contains cars worth just about what I paid for the place in ’01. With my travel schedule sometimes the lawn goes weeks between mowings, and I don’t care much about yardwork anyway.

      I will say, I bought each of my cars simply because I wanted it. What others think has no bearing on it at all. On the other hand, one of my best friends is ALL about appearances. He had to buy a $400K house in my hometown (very chi-chi suburb) that they have yet to really furnish after 2yrs. He drives a Porsche (though a 10yo one), just bought the wife a used Mercedes GL when what they really actually NEED is a minivan (rugrats, in-laws over from the old country ALL the time). Call it appearances on the cheapish.

      • 0 avatar
        shelvis

        Right on.
        I’ve driven on temporary spares and ate Ramen many times to make all kinds of lousy financial decisions and buy crappy old cars. I’ve never had to rationalize my conspicuous consumption beyond the fact that I REALLY-REALLY wanted whatever sent me into a fit of spare kidney auctioning.

      • 0 avatar

        I would love to be able to buy a nice house in a fancy suburb for 400k here…

        • 0 avatar
          shelvis

          I’m sure I would love to earn your area’s median income as well.
          $400k gets a nice McMansion here complete with HOA, postage stamp yard, and access to the 1 hour commute to your job.

          • 0 avatar

            http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/famil107a-eng.htm

            $68k

          • 0 avatar
            shelvis

            I didn’t realize you lived in Toronto. That’s tough. Housing affordability in Canadian cities is a pretty complex topic touching on everything from wealth inequality to sheer geography. Definitely an indicator of how things may go here in teh US with increased urbanization.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          It’s all relative. His house down in an equivalent Boston suburb would be $800K-$1M. In my working class suburb of Portland ME (15 miles away as the crow flies) it would be <$200K. Schools in his town ARE better, and tax rates are much lower, but not THAT much better for smart kids, and you end up paying the same in taxes as the house is worth 2X as much.

          Move out to the 'burbs of St. John New Brunswick or Halifax and I bet you could buy a nice place for reasonable money. You DO live in the Canadian equivalent of New York City after all… The price to be paid for all that trendy urban living.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          House prices are insane. Starter homes in the good neighborhoods – excellent public schools, a bit of property, not much more than a quarter acre…$550/600K. And property taxes of about $10K minimum. Want 5 bedrooms and a half acre? A million on up….

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          ” I would love to be able to buy a nice house in a fancy suburb for 400k here…”

          Why the fancy neighborhood ? .

          I live in The Ghetto and life is good ~ traditional American Family values for the most part (that’s boring so it doesn’t make the news) shady tree lined streets with kids playing & riding bicycles , folks walking their dogs etc. ~ very little crime in fact .

          All for $108K . no B.S. condo rules , CC&R’s , board nazis etc. to deal with .

          -Nate

          • 0 avatar
            shelvis

            That’s a good point.
            So many of my friends moved into cheaper neighborhoods with some sort of missionary attitude that they could solve perceived social problems by fixing a couple windows and slapping on some paint.
            All the while ignoring that those neighborhoods were doing fine for years without them.

      • 0 avatar
        Tim_Turbo

        Sounds like Cape Elizabeth.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Other direction – Yarmouth. My family founded the town, and I can’t afford to live there!

          I’m in Westbrook – which is a perfectly nice place to live now that it doesn’t stink anymore.

          • 0 avatar
            Tim_Turbo

            Ohh I was close haha. I’m in the Bangor area, you know “way up north” haha. When I worked in Portland I almost bought in Westbrook, also considered Gorham, but then I got transferred back up here.

  • avatar
    setsail26

    I have the opposite issue. I want a car that is anonymous. I prefer not to have attention from others whether good or bad. Unforunately, those middle of the road cars can be kinda boring. Where can you get performance without looking like a (secretary, rich dentist, douchebag, whatever your dipersion of choice is)?

    • 0 avatar
      Nick_515

      Man, i am starting to get the feeling this site HATES secretaries.

      I get it, “enthusiasts” need someone to define themselves against… but secretaries and dentists CAN be enthusiasts too.

      I ain’t one of either. Just sayin…

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        My favorite dentist pal owns a fleet of 2-digit Saabs, a Ferrari 308, a Bugeye Sprite, and a Shaguar E-type. All of which he wrenches on himself exclusively. And he has been know to crash the occasional 2-digit Saab rallying. Can’t say I know any enthusiast secretaries though.

        • 0 avatar
          ruckover

          When I was a teenager, my doctor lived in a nice but not lavish house. He did have a Dino, a Shelby GT 350, and a Mercedes 6.9. We’re it not for him, I never would have happened upon Road and Track/Car and Driver–and my love of sports cars. Perhaps we don’t know many or any “enthusiast secretaries” has to do with their income. Desire and enthusiasm is free, but the cars and motorcycles I lust after are pretty expensive.

        • 0 avatar
          Japanese Buick

          In the late 1980s my department at work had a secretary who drove a Taurus SHO with a vanity plate JUST A 6.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      Mid 2000′s Pontiac GTO, the ultimate sleeper.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Re: anonymity, I had to shake my head when various reviews criticized the Verano Turbo for lacking a body kit. That’s a positive, in my book (especially when the fang-o-riffic Regal GS is available in the same showroom to suit those who prefer less understatement).

      If you’re not an anti-fwd, anti-auto zealot, it’s a great time to be in the market for a sleeper. Pretty much every manufacturer is offering a quick midsize if you’re willing to pay for the V6 or turbo upgrade.

      OTOH, if you have very particular tastes, it’s not a great time to buy new. Other than Porsche, who charge a premium for it, it’s virtually impossible to get a model with upgraded engine and suspension but without superfluous geegaws. And those midsizes I just praised are all giant.

      BTW, I think you meant “aspersion” rather than “dispersion.”

  • avatar

    Outstanding.

  • avatar
    Waterview

    I probably read this quote (or something similar)on TTAC at some point in the past:

    “Your house is who you are and your car is who you want to be”

    I suppose the quintessential example of that is Ryan’s use of the Land Rover parked in front of the shabby, rented apartment.

    Fun stuff and good reading.

    • 0 avatar
      romanjetfighter

      I rent out apartments in low-income neighborhoods and Section 8 and there was this one girl who lived with her mom and she had a BMW 3 series. Had to kick them out because they didn’t pay rent. There was another girl I knew who was rich as balls, a foreign student, and bought a new BMW 5 series. She rented an OK apartment in the ghetto because she didn’t really know it was ghetto, being foreign. You can’t really judge on either house or car!

  • avatar
    fdawg4l

    Hilarious. First you mention your student loans, then you mention Angelenos being surprised about deriving goods by working and not by legislation. Sounds like whining and envy to me. Food for thought, how much of your student loans are subsidized?

    Also, the list attempting to prove why there’s a misguided sense of value to the car is really funny considering you ended up selling it at a profit!

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “my dad’s Porsche mechanic” :-D

      Junior’s excellent adventure.

    • 0 avatar
      shelvis

      Lots of hilarity in this one.
      An aspiring writer calling actors phonies.
      The message of “don’t assume I’m driving this car because I want you to think one way or the other about me but nice leased Land Rover, peasant.”
      Left LA in search of his soul because it was full of phonies presumably searching for theirs.
      Speaks of deriving goods by legislation but says everyone actually works in a restaurant.
      Spending $5K in borrowed student loan money is somehow different and morally better than someone getting financed on a Land Rover lease.
      Dad’s Porsche mechanic (that’s my favorite) says the motor and trans are worth $5K and he ends up selling it at a profit but the money doesn’t matter. It’s all about the experience of driving, which we hear little about.
      It’s like casting Alex P. Keaton as Holden Caulfield. I love it!

  • avatar
    THE_F0nz

    I commend you on your efforts to explain some segments of L.A. culture. I recently moved to Orange County, and I have spent plenty of time trying to explain the differences between L.A., Orange County, and the Midwest.

    Every mid-west Porsche owner I knew loved the alternative driving techniques the 911 commands, enjoyed wrenching and appreciated a good cruise on a deserted road. (Not always attainable where I live, unless you pay $7 for a short toll road drive or head 60-80 miles inland.) Here people act as if owning the car actually means something monumentally important. It sounds cliche, but it really is true.

    I bought one out here, and I could not believe the attention I received. It was, simply put, confusing.

    In terms of money, a used sub-$30k Porsche costs about as much (or less than) every loaded Malibu and Accord on the street. Yes – It did cost a fortune for just about every hiccup and I did really enjoy driving it…

    When it was hit and subsequently totaled by the insurance company, I leased a sensible (significantly more valuable) car to give myself a bit of time to decide on my next move.

    People were shell shocked. They went out of their way to convey that they could not believe that I would step down to that lower level. I still get reminded 6 months later. It as if I moved from an elite to a pauper, despite having a more expensive car. The explanation you provide pertaining to “Symbols” was perfectly placed. Bravo Ryan. Bravo.

    • 0 avatar
      jbltg

      Perfectly appropriate description of LA. Very pretty here, some great people but not enough of that kind, mostly vapid symbol worshipers.
      Newer Porsche drivers are strictly posing and have no idea what they have. Same can be said for BMW and Range Rover, mostly douches as drivers but many Prius drivers are just as bad.
      A beautiful slice of North American geography not appreciated by most of its inhabitants who rarely venture outside or dare to open a window.
      A city without a soul.
      Orange County is worse.

  • avatar
    mcarr

    I share the same feelings about LA. Even saw a Ferrari 355 pull out of the basement parking of a relatively low rent apartment during one of my visits there a number of years ago.

    Excellent reading.

  • avatar

    Very nice!

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    There is one flaw with this analysis, between 1 and 2:

    1. Small, iconoclast sports car = object of desire
    2. Object of desire = expense
    3. Expense = luxury
    4. Luxury = wealth
    5. Therefore, 911 = wealth
    6. Desire to look wealthy? Get a 911!

    Object of desire does not necessarily equal expense. Look at, for example, to the chagrin profiteers like T. Boone Pickens, the price of air and water (for now). There also has to be limited supply (e.g. California real estate). And steel, aluminum, glass and rubber are pretty plentiful. So why is it such a big deal to turn those into a sports car? Actually it’s not. Look at the Miata, FR-S, Genesis Coupe, Mustang, and even, for the performance it offers, Corvette.

    The thing about Porsche is that, compared to companies like Mazda, Subaru and GM, it is not that good at building sports cars. So it is not able to make that many, and charges a lot for them. Normally that would spell doom for a company, since companies can ask prices but cannot force buyers to accept them. And for many sports car companies it did spell doom. But Porsche lucked out, and its cars became very in demand as effective status indicators/class signals before the inefficiency of its production caught up with it.

    • 0 avatar
      setsail26

      Since when does production efficiecy have anything to do with how good something is? The companies you name above make nice sports cars, but none is as complete as the 911. The mix of luxury and performance that can be easily daily driven is still a unique asset.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        Since expense = luxury I would have to agree with that. But I have to doubt how great the 911 is when Porsche has to continually sandbag the Boxster/Cayman. Efficiency leads to better products because it allows for for less.

        For example, in 1962 a Corvair Monza Spyder Coupe (Spyder as used here meant turbo, not droptop), with a four speed manual and a rear mounted turbocharged (12 years before Porsche) flat-six, cost $2,636, while a Porsche 356, with four speed manual and a naturally aspirated rear mounted flat-four, cost $4,245.

        If GM didn’t kill the Corvair after it fixed it the rear suspension (like the first generation Corvair the 356 also used swing axles) I wonder if Porsche would have survived.

        • 0 avatar
          DC Bruce

          Having driven the ’65 Corvair (with the double jointed rear axle) and the 356, I would say that the 356 was easily the better sports car, although the Corvair would beat it in a drag race. And, I would add, that all turbocharging efforts combined with carburetted engines were — literally — a hit and miss proposition. Given the limitations of a carburetor, no particular way to control the output of the turbo (except a crude overboost wastegate), the engine had to be optimized for one particular combination of engine speed and engine load (usually WOT), with significant driveability problems at any other setting. Turbos worked o.k. on oval track race cars because they ran more nearly at full output. Not so good on road cars.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        It’s the fact that a Porsche 911 is both very high-performance and PRACTICAL that sets them apart. It has a back seat, albeit small. You can see out of it. The ride is not punishing until you get to the track-day specials. You can get in and out without contortions, and the driving position is reasonably comfortable. They are relatively small compared to the competition even now. You really can daily-drive one, though it won’t be cheap! A Corvette may be faster around a race track (who cares), but it is one heck of a lot less practical in day-to-day life.

        Caymans and Boxsters share a lot of those attributes, bar the back seat of course. That is the tradeoff for even better handling. The rest of the line are not Porsches, IMHO.

        • 0 avatar
          racer-esq.

          “A Corvette may be faster around a race track (who cares), but it is one heck of a lot less practical in day-to-day life.”

          A Corvette is a better daily driver than a 911 all day. It is super easy to get into, has a large interior, has the practicality of a true targa roof, instead of forcing buyers to choose between hardtop or convertible, and, despite being the same length as a 911, has a 10 inch longer wheelbase for a significantly less choppy ride (the ride quality is aided significantly by the engine being located front/mid-engine instead of behind the rear axle).

          • 0 avatar
            old5.0

            I dunno. While I have no experience with the C6 ‘Vette, I do have experience with all the previous cars and I have to say that they’re all pretty much the opposite of your post. Easy to get into? I suppose if having to be fired into the car from a trebuchet fits your definition of “easy”, then sure.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Upon visiting a cousin in Orange County, his (physically enhanced) wife came bustling in: “Wow—whose Porsche is that?”

    You sure she wasn’t just trying to be nice?

  • avatar
    Boxerman

    This could equally be written about ferrari, and its a good expalnation as to why a modern ferrari is almost always red, has an At I mean paddle carp tranny and drives as well as a hyundai through traffic. its to cater to the demographic that most covets it, real enthuisiasts apply elsewhere. Looks like the Gt3 is headed the same way.

    ironic then that the last bastion of the he man sportscar coveted for what it can do is going to be Gm with the c7 vette.

  • avatar
    jz78817

    this article quite beautifully lays out why I utterly despise southern California, and hope I never have to go to that goddamn place ever again.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    This site is becoming TTAP.

    More JDM minivans, please.

  • avatar
    NeinNeinNein

    Substitute Audi and BMW in there to a smaller extent as well. People just perceive them to be hugely expensive—when in reality not so much–and of course less than a Porsche of comparable vintage.
    One big issue is repair and maintance costs. If you can follow a DIY on the internet and use tools–you can do a lot to neutralize the costs associated with a German car. People might say, wow–look at that–the guy must have $$ or be squandering big $$ on his German whip–when in reality he can maintain a car on his own or to some extent.
    As for Southern California –its the land of milk and honey my friend–dont hate!
    Surf, Golf, Snow in the Mtns, Tons to do and see, beautiful chiquitas…..go on keep thinking its terrible.

    • 0 avatar
      Bocatrip

      I’ve been seriously contemplating taking the plunge on a new 981 Cayman but tend to keep my cars a long time (10 years currently on my G35 Coupe). My main concern is maintenance costs and long term reliability once the factory warranty expires. DIY is somewhat limited with todays cars and regardless, I’m way too old for getting under my car. I’ve heard many horror stories of excessive costs for Porsche ownership. I’m already spoiled with the Asian experience owning Infiniti and Lexus cars and can’t make a decision.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I think the problem is that people have an unrealistic expectation of what the maintenance costs of something like a Cayman are likely to be. You can’t make a car perform like a Porsche with the maintenance costs of a Corolla, and the prima fascia evidence of this is the Nissan GTR, or really any of the various hot Japanese sports cars, Acura NSX included. You are going to PAY for tires, and bushings, and servicing in general. Especially if you enjoy that sweet dealer cappuccino. Everything is complicated and expensive. But it’s cheaper to fix one than to buy one new… If you can afford a new one, you can afford to fix it. The problem is folks who can barely afford one used – THEY get into trouble.

        • 0 avatar
          racer-esq.

          A Nissan Z is a fairer comparison to a naturally aspirated 911 or Boxster/Cayman, the GTR hangs with a Porsche Turbo.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Not relevant – a regular 911 is a much closer COST comparison. The Z shares its engine with your secretary’s Altima for God’s sake. Nothing remotely exotic there.

        • 0 avatar
          juicy sushi

          Very, very true. If you can’t afford the care and feeding, you will have a bad experience. That is true with all cars anywhere along the scale, and is the most commonly over-looked thing.

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      the thing is, any “aspirational” brand attracts this kind of thing. There are some owners of said brands who appreciate them for what they do well; BMW/Audi/Porsche owners who actually *drive* their cars generally go about their business enjoying them and don’t run their mouths. The rest are the people Ryan writes about, those who just want the badge and want to make sure everyone sees them driving it. The latter are the insufferable twats.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    I”ll keep this brief, for once: To stumble upon this brilliant essay about society & personification, superficiality & substance, and cognitive dissonance, that masquerades as an essay about a car, was one of the highlights of my day.

    p.s. – TTAC is back.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      p.s.2 – Ryan, you should have tossed in a thought on the all powerful force that is habituation into the mix, if I’m being constructively critical, since habituation is both socioeconomic and psychological, and plays nicely with what you already wrote.

    • 0 avatar
      johnny ro

      Agree. TTAC almost dropped off altogether. Now has pleasant surprises. The Death one the other day was fun.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    The Southland is not for everybody. You gotta get your head in the game. My daughter moved there after college and soon ended up working as a junior account executive with an internet advertising firm. Toyota was one of the accounts she worked on.

    About five years ago, she asked me what she should be driving, all the way from Melrose (where she lived) to Westwood (where she worked). At the time, the easy answer was a late model or new three series Beamer. A Prius might also have worked, if she wanted to look Green. She went with a tasteful gray Beamer sedan.

    Now, she is a couple of levels higher, but with some fairly heavy single mom financial obligations and two kids. Remember, nobody is more image conscious than ad people. Anyone have any suggestions for Kathy’s next car?

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      No.

    • 0 avatar
      Zekele Ibo

      Lincoln MKZ. :)

    • 0 avatar
      JJ

      A tasteful blue 3 series sedan?

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Bimmer, not Beamer, please. Then again, maybe Kathy might prefer a motorcycle.

      • 0 avatar
        jimbob457

        How does one spell that slang word? Dunno. I really did hesitate over the choice when composing my earlier post.
        ‘Bimmer’ is not phonetically correct, at least in Texas. ‘Beemer’ looks kinda dumb to me, at least. ‘Beamer’ doesn’t seem quite right either, but struck me as the lesser of evils.

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          BEEMER

          -Nate

        • 0 avatar
          JJ

          Actually the term Beemer/Beamer is used for the BMW motorcycles and Bimmer for BMW cars. There is an explanation for it I once read but I can’t completely remember it but I’m sure you can find it on some BMW forum somewhere on the internet if you’re inclined to do so.

          • 0 avatar
            jimbob457

            Thanks.

          • 0 avatar
            jimbob457

            According to Wiki:

            The English slang terms Beemer, Bimmer and Bee-em are variously used for BMWs of all kinds,[44][45] cars and motorcycles.[46][47]

            In the US, specialists have been at pains to prescribe that a distinction must be made between using Beemer exclusively to describe BMW motorcycles, and using Bimmer only to refer to BMW cars,[48][49][50] in the manner of a “true aficionado”[51] and avoid appearing to be “uninitiated.”[52][53] The Canadian Globe and Mail prefers Bimmer and calls Beemer a “yuppie abomination,”[54] while the Tacoma News Tribune says it is a distinction made by “auto snobs.”[55] Using the wrong slang risks offending BMW enthusiasts.[56][57][58] An editor of Business Week was satisfied in 2003 that the question was resolved in favor of Bimmer by noting that a Google search yielded 10 times as many hits compared to Beemer.

            Wow! I had no idea.

    • 0 avatar
      Prado

      Audi Q5

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “Anyone have any suggestions for Kathy’s next car?”

      In the immortal words of Rooster Cogburn…”I can’t do nuthin for ya son”.

      In all seriousness it must be a major PITA to make sure your car “fits” and is worthy of your peers. Here’s what I’ve always wondered. If she purchased a car that didn’t fit, but was still an asset to the company, what would happen to her and her career?

      Secondly, I wonder if people worry about this a bit too much. Does purchasing a badge really increase your chances of entering the C suite or is is just something that’s nice to have but plays a very minor role on how far you’ll go.

      • 0 avatar
        jimbob457

        If you are in advertising, it is just something you do because that is who you are. Your job is to come up with ways to influence strangers’ purchasing habits. You gotta have some sense of style and appreciate who you are speaking to – poseurs, nerds, goat ropers, jocks, a particular ethnic group, a certain age or regional demographic, whomever.

        The way you go about it depends. You can be a conformist nerd like Kathy – the Porsche SUV would be perfect for her except it is too large for her Melrose neighborhood streets and awfully expensive. You can be Green. You can be outrageous if that is your style – a badass bike works in the LA climate. Others might choose a cool looking restomod or a hardcore work truck.

        It’s exactly the same thing you do, but done more intensely.

    • 0 avatar

      BMW 535d.

    • 0 avatar
      dswilly

      If she liked the BMW sedan and now has kids, I would go with a X5. We did and love it. Safe, roomy and still drives like a BMW.

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      Prius V. The room she needs as a mom, the eco/green credentials to keep her fashionable, and it’ll be cheap enough with her financial obligations. Or the normal Prius if she can free herself of the North American obsession with space.

  • avatar
    act

    Excellent.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    Cities tend to absorb the character of the industries that keep them alive. As much as I don’t personally care for it I tend to give the superficial, make-believe inhabitants of LA a pass on account of Hollywood and the movie business. If you want to be a movie star drive an expensive looking car and wear high-end clothing. If you want to be a Cowboy find a hat and an old pickup truck.

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      your post demonstrates all that is wrong with our culture.

      ” If you want to be a movie star drive an expensive looking car and wear high-end clothing.”

      No, if you want to be a movie star, know how to fucking act.

      “If you want to be a Cowboy find a hat and an old pickup truck.”

      No, if you want to be a cowboy, know how to run a fucking ranch.

      all you’re advocating is how to fake it. Just what this article seems to be railing against. Giving shallow people a “pass” because Hollywood just enables the kind of shit that shouldn’t exist.

      • 0 avatar
        azmtbkr81

        Wow, I’m proud of myself, with less than 100 words I’ve been able to define everything that is wrong with American culture…impressive.

        When you get out in the real world you’ll soon realize that you need to look and act the part – no matter what job you have or how unfair you think it is. Try showing up to an interview for any position in the movie industry driving a beat up Kia wearing gym shorts and ratty t-shirt and see how well that goes. Don’t think that’s fair? McDonalds is always hiring.

        • 0 avatar
          jz78817

          “Try showing up to an interview for any position in the movie industry”

          no, I won’t do such a thing because I’m not an attention whore. Or any kind of whore, for that matter.

          “McDonalds is always hiring.”

          Christ, what an asshole.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        Narrowing the scope somewhat . . . people in the acting business are ALL about projecting an image. That’s what they do for a living; they make you believe what you’re seeing is a lawyer, or a mechanic, or a detective or whatever. A great part of acting, and sales generally, is about meeting people’s expectations, whatever they are. If that means you drive an old BMW, rather than a new Nissan Sentra, then you drive an old BMW.

        For everyone, job 1 — which is getting a job yourself — is about (a) figuring out what the expectations are of the people you want to hire you and (b) doing your best to meet them.

        If you are independently wealthy or someone else is supporting you, you can freely ignore this mandate. Otherwise, you do so at your peril.

        It’s really disabling that there is a strain of thought that holds that there is something degrading about selling yourself to someone.

        But, for heaven’s sakes, stop ragging on actors, most of whom don’t make much money and have to figure out how to pay their bills some other way — yes — often by working in a restaurant. The reason they do that is because having a restaurant job in the evening or on weekends, frees them up for auditions and so on during normal business hours. If they could be bank tellers and work on being a working actor, they would.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Thank you Ryan for a well written and enjoyable car related story. Reading it I’m left wanting to keep reading you to see if the part from the opening line will ever kick in; what did you learn about your self? I’m not seeing you as far from what you observed as you did.

  • avatar
    raph

    Good read indeed.

  • avatar
    Spencer Williams

    While I sometimes feel silly leaving a comment that doesn’t really add anything to the conversation, I also sometimes feel guilty when I read a great piece and don’t give it any praise. Today, the guilt wins out.

    Nicely done.

  • avatar
    dabossinne

    Really enjoy reading your posts, and this one in particular strikes a chord. Have had several 911s (quite used ones) and live in the midwest, and got largely the same reactions from people as you did in LA. P-car presumptuousness, it seems, is universal.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    What’s also amusing are the people who won’t purchase a particular car or brand, even though it’s something they desire, because, in their mind, its associated with those that exhibit a$$hole like behavior.

    But as we know, a@@holes are everywhere and drive every type and model of car. So, if a particular car makes you happy, I say “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”

    Just don’t act like an a##hole and noone will view you as such.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      That’s my personal problem with BMW. I’ve seen too many people in window-tinted 3 series that drive like a$$holes to not think that owning a BMW might somehow turn you into an a$$hole. Am I crazy? Most likely.

      • 0 avatar

        You are sane & correct. The reason drivers of BMW drive like d-bag because their vehicle enable them to drive with confidence. If any doubt, try to drive like an a$$holes in Corolla and see it for yourself.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          Well a Corolla certainly cannot blow past everyone else on the highway at 90 mph, that’s for sure.

        • 0 avatar
          JuniperBug

          If the Corolla cost $40k and had the right marketing campaign, the same people would drive them the exact same way. It’s not the car; it’s the type of people that car tends to attract.

          When I was driving a rusty old minivan, I was still cornering faster on the street than most of the leased Bimmers. I had confidence because I believed in my driving skill. When you have that, you don’t need a 3500 lbs strap-on. I did use my turn signals, though ;)

          • 0 avatar
            Syke

            JuniperBug,

            If you want a real shock, trade that motorcycle for a 150cc scooter. As long as you don’t want to do more than 50mph, that scooter will leave the motorcycle bloated and ponderous in traffic.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        If it is any consolation, I drive like far more of an asshat in my Fiat 500 Abarth than I do in my 3-series. Trust me, you just can’t help it, the thing begs to be caned to within an inch of its little Italian life at all times. Plus the thing shoots through gaps like a motorcycle.

        • 0 avatar
          JuniperBug

          I definitely get how a small car is maneuverable in traffic, but nothing shoots through, into, over, or around gaps in traffic like a quick motorcycle. I used to feel like I should put on a cape before heading out into traffic.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            While true, the difference is that if I or the cellphone distracted SUV driver I am zipping around screw up, I don’t become an organ donor.

          • 0 avatar
            Syke

            JuniperBug,

            If you want a real shock, trade that motorcycle for a 150cc scooter. As long as you don’t want to do more than 50mph, that scooter will leave the motorcycle bloated and ponderous in traffic.

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        those are the people who buy a BMW for the badge, and not for what it does well.

      • 0 avatar
        Chris FOM

        To an extent it kind of does. I got sick of the Jeep Liberty I drove all through residency and got myself a 3-series to replace it. I try really hard to be a courteous driver. I use my turn signals, don’t cut people off, keep myself to less than 5 over the speed limit, never tailgate, etc. But the BMW actively rewards some degree of aggression. The thing is an absolute blast to drive, and it also means I don’t have to put up with some of the stuff I did in the Jeep. Get stuck behind someone on the onramp who doesn’t bather to speed up when merging with the highway, so you hit 75 MPH traffic still doing the same 55 you were doing on the frontage road? Get over an extra lane, floor it, and let that straight 6 sing while you get the rush of speed (the N55 is an absolutely amazing engine). The Liberty could never have done something similar, it did 55-75 in whenever I damn well feel like it. The guy I passed sees a prick in a BMW, while in reality I’m simply getting up to the flow of traffic. That the car makes it so enjoyable only adds to it.

        Take one of those high, curved highway-highway interchanges? The Jeep’s incredibly high center of gravity meant you did the posted speed. In the BMW I run out of testicles well before the car runs out of grip, even at near twice the posted speed. And the rush of feeling the wheel pull, the lateral Gs while the bolsters keep you planted in your seat, keeping the car firmly in the middle of the lane never gets old (frankly it’s far more fun than simple straight-line speed).

        It does make a difference. Again I consider myself a courteous driver, but having a car with those kind of capabilities just changes what you consider possible. I’m nowhere near its limits, but even still, the fact that it has those limits and I can casually do stuff that would have gotten me killed in that Jeep is why I bought the car. Frankly at times I’m almost embarrassed to be seen driving it for all the reasons mentioned above (young, driving a BMW, must be a prick in a lease special), but the thing’s so much fun that ultimately I don’t care.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          I can’t say I would mind taking a M3 for a spin, but I would do so knowing that the second I open the thing up, people are going to assume I’m a d-bag trust fund baby given a 50 thousand dollar toy by mommy and daddy.

  • avatar
    Grahambo

    Great and insightful article. I started my career on the Westside and lived there for several years so can definitely relate. I can also relate due to my long term ownership of an 83 944 (although I drove an SVX while out there – much rarer than any Porsche in LA even in the mid-90s, I can assure you). A lot of (very unknowing) people think I’m super wealthy even today because i drive a “Porsh” even though its worth $5k on the very best day. Yet the 911 PCA brigade would paint me as the lowest of the low – a total poseur/loser unworthy of the brand (what must the PCNA communications manager think?) despite the fact that I can actually drive my car as intended in rain as well as more inclement weather, don’t live in fear of a $10k engine rebuild every 90,000 miles, have never leaked or burned an ounce of oil after 30 years, and can haul a bunch of pretty much whatever in the hatch. It truly is a crazy world.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    Ryan, pretty much everything you said about L.A. is true. I left 41 years ago and never looked back. I’ve been working with folks that make real stuff, that work real jobs, that sweat for a living, going on 30 years now. Sometimes, I think, “Maybe I should have been a lawyer? Gone for the big bucks?” then my soul says “Hell, no! Life out in the country with real people is SO much better!” Which is why, despite several close calls, I have never bought a Porsche: like a retired pole dancer, those P-cars carry way too much baggage.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    I didn’t hear enough about the Porsche. How did it drive and handle even in its misfiry state? What was wrong with it? It sounded surprisingly good to me, why did you dump it for a BMW? Is a BMW really that much better?

  • avatar
    lurkerdurker

    I never get all of the California hate in general and the LA hate in particular. LA has been crowded, sprawl-y, dirty, and hazy for a long time. Anyway, next time you visit don’t worry about what other people think so much and enjoy it. The coniferous forests in the higher elevations of the mountains, the roads leading to them, the oaks and sycamores near the seasonal creeks in the lower elevations, the smell of the ocean mixed with smoke from a beach fire, the night-blooming jasmine, the women, TJ, etc. And a lot of people here really do care about cars and driving, not just status. It’s anecdotal, but I saw an E28 Alpina in the 405 carpool last month. And the kind of people you reference are by no means a large portion of the population, in fact they’re easily avoidable.

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      Indeed. California is a great place to live. Fantastic outdoors, sometimes just a bicycle ride away, excellent food, great places to visit on weekends, great culture, best skiing, best weather in the world, point. I never understood people’s obsession with LA though. If you don’t like LA, then move to the Bay Area, it’s much better.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      Another up-vote.

      The Homer-does-Hollywood schtick was already way old when I lived there in the late ’70s. The cloisters of dazed and battered Midwesterners I hung with marveling with horror at how this ain’t like Ioway a-TALL!

      Big city, big money, big meanies. I hated it so I left. A friend stayed and is now a wheel in the art scene. We’re both the same people we were back then, he’s just much wealthier. ‘Cause he earned it.

      Sharks, flakes and phonies are everywhere money can be mined.

    • 0 avatar
      stevelyon

      Spot-on. I grew up in the Midwest and ended up in LA 13 years ago because it meant a 50% pay raise. I don’t even know people like the shallow fools mentioned in the article – everyone I know, work with, and am friends with are hard working everyday people who drive Hondas, Toyotas, and the like. I’m the only one in my circle of friends who even owns a BMW; one with two wheels, and another that’s a 13 year old track rat.

      I really don’t understand the LA hate either, but hey – if it keeps the pessimistic and negative people away from my adopted home, that’s ok with me.

    • 0 avatar
      afflo

      I think a big, big part of it is that LA is a hotbed of very successful people. Yes, there is a huge underbelly of people struggling to survive, but for the most part, anywhere in California, BMWs are a dime-a-dozen.

      For certain careers, driving a cheap or ‘sensible’ car is counterproductive. Driving a client around in a Hyundai Sonata or Ford Fusion would be as subjectively wrong as wearing a cheap suit from JC Penney. If projecting an image is critical to ones career, they will do what is necessary to project that image.

      It’s not just LA, either. How many people drive their F-one-fiddy’s and Silverados to their suburban McHome because it projects an image they want? Say, if they want to show that they can relate to the common clay of the working man, or whatever they perceive that to be? Remember Scott Walker driving across Massachusetts in his trusty ol’ pickem-up truck?

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        Think you wanted Paul Ryan. Walker’s the Wisconsin Governor.

        Ryan didn’t need to do that. He already had as much of that demo’s vote as a Republican could get. We love him and he’ll be back.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          He wanted Scott Brown.

          Scott Brown won the 2010 special election to take Ted Kennedy’s senate seat. Brown campaigned in a pickup truck.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Oh… well, Ryan’s truck was red.

          • 0 avatar
            afflo

            D’oh! Yeah. I mixed him with “Walkin’ Lawton” Chiles who did a similar stunt in his campaign walking from one end of Florida to the other.

            Scott Brown, lifelong lawyer, part-time model, driving around in a blue-collar schlubs pickup truck to make himself seem approachable. Meanwhile, Junior white-collar workers will dress for success; as the adage goes, dress for the job you want, not the one you have* (and cars are a form of clothing, for many).

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            “dress for success”

            I have a younger co-worker who epitomizes that. I love making him spazz with something like:

            “Christ, what did you lean against?”
            or
            “Who ironed your shirt?”

            Never, ever fails. You can see him realizing what’s happening but the toady-up part of his mind trumps all.

  • avatar
    FractureCritical

    excellent article and contextually linked to the spirit of the site through the car (tenuously so, but the quality of the narrative more than makes up for it). and thank you for writing on an insightful and adult level with college level vocabulary.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    GREAT article ! .

    I was an Air Cooled Enthusiast & Mechanic for decades , I preferred the 4 cylinder models to the flat sixes although as mentioned when the flat six is ‘ On The Boil ‘ it really does sound terrific .

    I enjoyed the ’69 European 911S quite a bit but my all time favorite was the ’67 912 five speed five gauge Coupe .

    The ’54 Bent Window Cope ,I thought it was the end all be – all when thrashing it through the Tehachipi Mountains in 1975 .

    All gone now and I gave my Son my ’63 356B Coupe , it’s his track car now .

    I think his Subaru WRX is probably a far better car in every way but , if you like driving the oldies (I don’t own any modern cars) you like then and that’s all that matters , even here in La-La Land , home to Fruits , Nuts , Flakes and Poseures .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Great article, I’ve never actually owned any German engineering, been around it enough to know the trouble that it is.
    For the most part I have to stay away from light fast cars, I can’t help but get a rush when you have that much power and such little resistance on your side.
    I’ve never understood the whole Image deal people want, I have yet to do any body work to my old s10 I have, it has two big rust holes and faded paint, A/C is removed but it really doesn’t bother me to drive it over driving one of my Hummers, though the ride, power and yes A/C among others tend to leave it parked.

    Again I also keep the comfort of the east coast, which from what I hear is pretty much the opposite of the west coast.
    Also worth noting how well my trucks have held value, look up the price of a good condition used H1 sometime, hell even my H2s are starting to turn around in value, demand from Alaska and many over seas individuals are slowly pushing the prices up. Aren’t these the opposites of Porsches? American made, non luxury, non PC, large?

    • 0 avatar
      The Heisenberg Cartel

      Like anything else, there are the german-car choir, and there’s the blog commenters who think that all german cars are unreliable pieces of shit. the truth is somewhere in between.

      Personally, I’m a bit scared of Audis, but Bimmers and (to a lesser extent) Benzes don’t really scare me regarding maintenance, especially DIY stuff. I’d like to take on the challenge of a Porsche someday, though.

  • avatar
    bk_moto

    About 15 years ago when I was in my very early 20s and just starting out in my post-collegiate life, I bought a 1984 Mercedes-Benz 300D for my daily driver. I was working but not making a whole lot of money. Even so, the car was inexpensive, maybe $3500 or so (which the inflation calculator tells me would be about $4700 today).

    I got so many comments from people who couldn’t get past the 3-pointed star on the hood. People made all kinds of comments about me being rich (I wasn’t). For some reason, the average ignorant person out there couldn’t grasp the idea that this was, at the time, a 16-year-old diesel Benz that was widely available and not particularly desirable in the market. For me, it was a cheap used car that was just something different and interesting in comparison to the air-cooled VWs I had primarily owned previously. It was just weird.

    • 0 avatar
      The Heisenberg Cartel

      Sounds like the comments I get on my 14-year old BMW. I paid a quarter it than I did for my old Saturn Ion from a few years back, yet this is my “status car”, despite being a 4,000 dollar tinker-toy with a just-wearing-out interior.

  • avatar
    The Heisenberg Cartel

    Great article, although I DO have to stand up for the city that the last 4 generations of my family grew up in. LA is an area with over 14 million people, so there’s really no way to stereotype it. Sure there’s a lot of rich and a lot of fake rich there, but like any big city, the majority of the people are working and middle class folks who are just trying to earn a living and support self, spouse or family, without a care as to what image they put off.

    Sure, LA does have a few more of some things and people other cities do, such as wannabe actors, but that’s true of any big city and the types they tend to attract. Pittsburgh is full of accountants who like to pretend that they are blue-collar hard-workin’ man, especially on Steeler day.

    Bottom line, LA runs the way any big city does – on the back of the retail workers, construction workers, factory workers, blue-collar guys, auto mechanics, schoolteachers, cops, and the other millions and millions of everyman and everywoman in the city, county and area in general. Don’t fall prey to stereotypes.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Nice article. I appreciate the effort that went into it, and TTAC for posting it here. One of my college roommates — and my best friend for the last 45 years, was from LA. After our sophomore year, he invited me out for the summer; and his dad got me a job working the night shift in the Dolley Madison cakes factory on Figueroa street on the northeast side of downtown.

    I didn’t really take to Los Angeles then. Now, two of my adult daughters work there (one went to college at USC), so I’ve been out there frequently. I think the problem with LA for outsiders is that it really is unique — an overused word to be sure — and therefore not particularly accessible to outsiders. So, initially, they see the stuff that is different from what they are used to, and it registers “negative.” My second daughter got a job in LA right after she graduated college in 2006, working as an assistant in a big talent agency. She did not like LA and after doing her 1-year commitment, the agent she worked for got her a job in NYC. She was there for 3 years, and then group she was working for disbanded. So, she got another job in LA. Now, she likes LA and would never consider going back to NYC (although she liked NYC when she was there).

    My point is that it takes a while to figure LA out and, until you do, it’s not a particularly fun place . . . just like about anywhere.

  • avatar
    qwerty100

    Wow, what keen insights.

    I had my dictionary at the ready as you shared your learnedness with such terms as “semiotics” and “signifier” along with your completely original thoughts on Los Angeles. (Oh yes, you watched Californication, so you know all there is to know about this city.)

    And you were nice enough to “unpack it” (yet another grad school term) for the rest of us boobs. Thanks so much. For somebody accusing an entire city of pretentiousness, your article fairly seeps with pretense.

    Anybody who has traveled knows that anywhere in the world, where there is wealth, there is ostentation. No, Ryan, it is not just Los Angeles. Which, in case you’re interested, is a separate county, place, and world from Orange County.

    Sorry your dad’s Porsche mechanic steered you wrong. Hopefully old paint will keep running until you are far out of town.

    And good luck on those student loans.

    • 0 avatar
      Piston Slap Yo Mama

      I too was astonished to encounter “semiotics” in an auto journo posting. It brought me back to a dark time in my life when I was married to a pretentious pedant seeking a Master’s degree in poetry. She squealed with delight whenever she had a course with ‘semiotics’ in the title. It was a word that differentiated her from the ordinary rabble of the world who lacked the refinement and cognition necessary to understand that semiotics must only be discussed among society’s elite. At least from her perspective.

      In honor of semiotics I urge the TTAC commentariat to Google “interior semiotics” and watch the linked video. Preferably not while at work as I’m certain most employers would frown upon it. http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/interior-semiotics

      Otherwise, I completely endorse the struggle between the signifier and the sign itself. This factored into my selling my Z3-M because I felt douchey when behind the wheel. This never happens when I’m out flogging my TR6.

  • avatar
    Reino

    “Fake it until you make it, right? Lease a new Range Rover, and park it in front of your dumpy shared apartment. It’s the appearance of wealth—denoting success!—which is important. Surely no one is smart enough to peek behind the curtain, to see through your little ruse.”

    The best way I’ve heard this L.A. mentality summed up by Johnny Drama: “You don’t buy this car, Vince. You lease it. That’s how all the broke jerk-offs in this town drive 911s.”

  • avatar
    The Heisenberg Cartel

    Why is it that on a site for car enthusiasts, the commentariat are the WORST when it comes to propagating and believing stupid-ass stereotypes about owners of certain cars? Shouldn’t “car enthusiasts” KNOW that people just drive the cars they want, be it an SUV or a Prius or a BMW or a Porsche or a Ferrari or a Corolla or what-have-you?

    Sometimes I swear this site attracts more car haters than it does car lovers. Go spit your car-hating jelly somewhere else, clowns. Those of us who ENJOY cars are the ones who should be drowning you out.

    • 0 avatar
      afflo

      I tip my hat to you sir!

      I’ve asked this as well… And god help you if you are a secretary who buys a car for actual function!

      There seem to be several groups that are repeatedly admonished here:

      1. People who buy cars based on their needs.
      You know, they can’t afford to have a car that places form and fun over function, so they balance basic transportation with comfort and cost. These are the people who buy a Camry because, while it doesn’t do any one thing particularly well (there are fast, roomier, more fuel efficient cars), it balances a large number of needs.

      2. People who don’t care much about cars.
      My wife is one of these – she really couldn’t care less about cars. Her Versa is the perfect car for her – efficient, roomy (especially for someone 5’5), low maintenance, and surprisingly comfortable inside. I don’t know about the new ones, but it’s basically a tiny Buick inside – overstuffed, oversized seats, every surface padded, and a ride tuned for comfort above agility.

      3. People who can afford desirable cars, but whom I have judge unworthy.
      These people… who do they think they are? Spending their money on a vehicle without having MY appraisal of their worthiness to drive such a car! They just waltz into a dealership and drive away in a new BMW or Porsche, and they HAVEN’T read all 17 comprehensive histories. I bet they couldn’t tell you what type of Porsche James Dean was driving when he crashed!

      On an unrelated note, I’m always amused by the difference in BMW cars and motorcycles, and the respective ‘crowds.” The showy motorcycle folks tend to buy CVO Harley Davidsons, or blinged-out Gixxers. BMW Motorad attracts a more iconoclastic rider – these are the guys in the full-body aerostitch suits who are still around when the typical sport and cruiser rider has disappeared. There will be a BMW R1200GS in my future.

      • 0 avatar
        Piston Slap Yo Mama

        Get … out … of … my … mind …

        At any rate, I’ll be following your commentary henceforth. You’ve tapped into the Baruthian vein of renting a Camry as a track car and embarrassing guys in sports cars.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    In general, I couldn’t agree more with your characterization of LA.

    But holy cow, what’s that on your shoulder?

    Oh, it’s a chip.

    And a very big one!

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      LA offers rejection and terror in every form to poor dumb kids who wander in expecting magic. It’s not easily forgiven or forgotten.

      I, too, retreated to a slower place where I could continue to pretend I was special and humanity essentially good.

  • avatar
    CrapBox

    In a puritanical society such as America, the purpose of having a Porsche is not to “signal your wealth” as you assert, it’s to signify that you are one of the elect. Even you’ve never darkened a church doorstep, you know that your possessions have no value beyond asserting the fact that you’ve been saved.

    So you’re obligated to purchase that house in the suburbs and park a silver-colored SUV in front of it. If you follow a different path, perhaps studying idealism, collecting crucifixes and driving a Barbie Edition FIAT 500, you’ve publicly admitted that wish to be burned at the stake.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “a puritanical society such as America”

      Shya… don’t I wish.

      Did you miss that it’s now OK to act like a haitian in heat on nationwide TV?

      • 0 avatar
        GusTurbo

        A Haitian in heat? Really?

      • 0 avatar
        CrapBox

        Since this article deals with philosophy, I meant “puritanical” according the original definition of the word. Society is divided between the elect and the damned, the physical world reflects our fate, and our fate is predestined.

        A Haitian wouldn’t understand this point of view. She’d say that nothing is predestined and that today’s sin can be atoned for by tomorrow’s good work. She’d also say that she treasures her spiritual world and doesn’t care two hoots about the physical world because she’s not quite sure that it exists.

        The long and the short of it is that Americans can’t really enjoy their vehicles because they’re using them to signify their religiosity rather than to satisfy their inner-most urges. I suspect most of us want to escape this Grandma Moses nightmare, but can’t figure out how.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          You’re right.

          I was boorish, hasty and wrong.

          And I’ve always considered Philosophy an attempt to ennoble freezing ass on a stone bench, eating moldy crusts while royalty feasts and cavorts. So I’ve never learned any.


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