By on July 3, 2014

Citroen Ami 6. Picture courtesy Citroen

I’ve been on the road for the last few weeks and one of the places I was able to visit was the Smithsonian Institution’s Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport located just outside of Washington DC. Unlike the National Air and Space Museum located on the national mall close to the capitol building, the Udvar-Hazy Center is an enormous facility and although I have visited other aircraft museums that have had larger collections on display, I think it is safe to say that the Smithsonian’s collection is second to none. The aircraft on display span the history of flight and include both military and civilian examples. More importantly, at least for the sake of this discussion, they come from every corner of the globe and as they sit there, lined up beside one another, it’s easy to compare the craftsmanship of one nation’s products against the next.

Years ago I read an interview with one of the men responsible for the restoration of the aircraft I so recently saw and one of his comments leaped out at me. The national characteristics of each nation, he asserted, was represented in the design and construction of their aircraft. British planes, he said, were complex with many small parts while Italian planes were beautifully constructed but relatively fragile. German planes he continued, were generally well designed with large robust parts, Japanese planes were tinny and lightly constructed while American aircraft were solid and almost agricultural in nature. Of course that article is lost to history and I am left paraphrasing a dim memory, but as I stood there looking over the Smithsonian’s collection that statement rang true and I began to wonder if the same thing could be said of cars.

As auto enthusiasts we spend a lot of time talking about the soul of certain cars, Italians they say have it in spades while the Japanese have traded it away for sewing machine-like reliability. We say that German cars exude a feeling of solidity and technological competence while the best British cars, replete with thick leather seats and burled walnut panels, seem to lack that technological prowess but have instead the comfortable feel of an English gentleman’s club. American cars, and to a certain extent Australian cars, are traditionally agricultural, simple and rough but reliable, and in line with those nation’s connection to the land while French cars are stylish, quirky and unique much like the French people who have always had their own, unique worldview.

But I wonder of those days aren’t gone. National and international standards have forced the homogenization of vehicles over the years while the nature of large multinational companies, which consume one another like a school of voracious fish, constantly ingesting and occasionally regurgitating one another with surprising ferocity, has allowed for an amazing amount of cross fertilization. In house design and development, especially of subsystems like fuel injection and electrical systems, is frequently farmed out to subcontractors and it is common to see cars across several companies sharing similar systems so what then has happened to the national character of our cars? Does it still exist? Did it ever? I wonder…

02 - 1962 Cadillac Sedan DeVille Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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47 Comments on “The Culture Of Cars: Real Or Imagined?...”


  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    I am not sure that national stereotypes applied but brand stereotypes certainly did. Lancia had an excellent reputation for reliability and build quality, until FIAT bought them. Then it took on those Agnelli-imposed characteristics.

    Honda have a very particular approach to things, with an obsession around moon-shot engine designs. Although not always present, every few years they seem to do something over-the-top, just out of corporate need.

    Not particularly Japanese one would say. Nor would be Mazda’s rotary obsession, according to the stereotypes.

    And what of the American big 3? Their historical personalities have changed dramatically over time.

    I am not sure the idea of national car cultures entirely holds. A nation-state’s government can impose requirements on all the aircraft they buy, but the “free market” of the automotive world just imposes consumer preferences that engineers and stylists respond to, I think.

  • avatar

    It makes sense to take the best of other countries parts bins – only if you don’t mind having a globalist world view.

  • avatar
    insalted42

    I can’t pretend to have driven enough cars in my lifetime to say much about driving behavior, but I think in the design department national characteristics are still pretty well represented. I grew up in the US and have lived around Europe for the past few years, and even within the EU there’s a notable difference in what cars are popular where.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    A bunch of years back, there was an article about the man who designed the Mitsubishi A6M (Zero). Japan only had the Nakajima radial of about 950 hp when the US had more powerful engines. Engineers rely on material specifications to calculate the required thickness in order to achieve a given strength. He looked at those tables for aluminum alloys and wondered if there was fudge factor. He ran some of his own tests and confirmed his suspicions. He then designed the A6M accordingly. The result was a much lighter aircraft that had no tolerance for battle damage. That and no armor or self-sealing fuel tanks.

  • avatar
    Occam

    Preston Tucker wanted to revolutionize the auto industry, and failed. BMC did it with the mini. Try to look at a Civic and not see a Japanese clone of a Mini. Almost every car is now a FWD unibody car with a traversely mounted engine and maximized space usage.

    Some of the cross-polination is interesting. You can see the French influence in Nissan’s cars, or feel the German engineering in a Focus, for instance. And the Detroit Three in general seem to make their badges and grilles larger and larger to compensate for a loss of traditional character.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Occam, agreed about the Mini.

      One minor quibble with your comment about Detroit’s grilles: It’s not just them. Mercedes and Audi are doing big, blustery faces too, and Mercedes has been accused of doing ever-larger three-pointed stars for exactly this reason. I think the real culprit is the pedestrian safety regs that have mandated a big, blunt nose.

      Which underscores the larger point that national car identities are converging because most of them are serving an international audience.

    • 0 avatar
      dtremit

      You make a good point here. I think cars today often have the flavor of where they were engineered, rather than where the company is based.

      Ford of Europe’s designs always feel more European to me than American — leaving aside the differing fascias they sometimes get when they come over here. Most of the current Ford car lineup (Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, C-Max), plus the Escape and Transit Connect, fit that bill. Likewise, on the inside, the Buick lineup shows its origin pretty clearly– or as the ads say, “that’s not a Buick.”

      Where I think things get confusing is with automakers that didn’t have a strong identity pre-globalization. Toyota, to me, has almost nothing distinctive in its DNA; hence, the Avalon and Sienna read as entirely American cars in most ways.

      There are a lot of excellent cars coming out of Korea — but all of them feel like international pastiches. I suppose that isn’t too surprising given the many decades Hyundai and Kia spent building and adapting other people’s designs.

      As for the larger grilles — I think that’s in part because US crash standards usually mandate different fascias. Since the part needs to be different anyway, it may as well be “more American” for the US market.

  • avatar
    TW5

    Car cultures still exist, but the distinctions between cultures fade as time passes. The US is still the land of full-size vehicles (sedans/trucks) and small-block pushrod V8s. Europe is still the land of compacts and stripped luxury cars (Mercedes taxi). Japan is still the land of kei cars and micro car engineering. As the world has gotten smaller, we’ve mimicked the desirable aspects of other cultures so the only distinctions are the somewhat undesirable characteristics that don’t have cross-cultural appeal. Yank tanks. Poverty-spec luxury cars and compacts. Controversial legislation that protects the microcar industry.

    The fading distinctions between car brands are more troubling to me. Jeeps are not Jeeps anymore. VWs are not VWs. Minis are not Minis. Land Rovers are definitely not Land Rovers. BMW and Mercedes have been aggressively diluting. Lincoln’s brand identity and unique engineering are dead and buried. Lamborghinis are not Lamborghinis. No more rotaries at Mazda.

    You can have your car in any flavor you like, as long as it’s vanilla.

  • avatar
    msmitka

    You ought to get John Heitmann of the University of Dayton and author of “Cars and Culture” and president of the Society of Automotive Historians to pitch in…

  • avatar
    Neb

    The Udvar-Hazy Center is amazing. If you are talking about Axis aircraft from World War 2, quite a few of them are the world’s only remaining examples. Does the He 219 have wings yet?

    While I’m no expert, I can see the parallels you are drawing. For the Germans, at least had a tendency to complicate their aircraft designs once the war started with new technology. Meanwhile the British were exactly the opposite, having a preference for simple but proven technology. I guess manufacturing, when it was a national thing, couldn’t help but pick up cues from culture at large.

    That’s something you can still see to some extent. Ex-Soviet aircraft were often designed for ease of maintenance and an ability to operate off of rough airfields – while Western airplanes were designed for higher performance while assuming good airfields and routine maintenance. Both approaches make sense in their cultural context.

    That said, I would say that sort of ‘national culture’ approach to cars is stone dead, and has been for some time. The only culture that really matters at this point is the culture of the company doing the manufacturing. There might be more variation in this, but lots of regulations make for a more homogenous marketplace. That’s not entirely a bad thing – the fact that new cars uniformly much safer than old ones is an example of this – but it does make for a marketplace with less variety.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    While its easy to blame regulation, I think the real push behind homogenization is the need for scale economies. Building automobiles in the numbers that existed, say, in the 1950s or 1960s is no longer feasible. So, the quirky, idiosyncratic cars of the past, where a small volume manufacturer took a risk on a quirky design (e.g. Issigonis’s transverse FWD layout) is just not going to happen. In order to drive down the price of the car, production volumes have to be very large. So, everyone is inherently risk-averse because so much money is at stake.

    Combine that with the fact that reciprocating engine powered automobiles are a mature technology, it’s just not reasonable to expect dramatic differences. Other engine technologies — steam, gas turbine, electric — have been tried and have failed.

    A few are jumping back into electric again, but one has to admit that the push for this comes from government subsidies. How many Toyota Priuses would have been sold in the early days but for the fact that the government created HOV lanes on commuter freeways, and then allowed solo Prius drivers to use them? Even the vaunted Tesla makes much of its money (and all of its profit) selling emission credits to companies that sell ICE-powered cars.

    BTW, I spent the better part of a day in the Udvar-Hazy building a few years after it had been opened. There’s really nothing that can equal being in the physical presence of such aircraft as the Space Shuttle, the Concorde, the Enola Gay and the Blackbird . . . a plane that is so badass looking that it seems like a prop for a “Batman” movie.

    • 0 avatar
      Neb

      Re: the SR-71 – I’ve been trying to figure out if it was designed completely without computers. It’s already one of the pinnacles of 20th Century engineering; and it was designed with slide-rules?

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        That is correct, the SR-71 was built without the use of computers.

        Which brings up another point. Along with aerodynamics/fuel economy and regulations; the widespread use of CAD/CAM has also been blamed for some of the lack of originality in new designs (aviation as well as automotive.) CAD/CAM is just another design tool, but tools themselves can play a role in shaping the final product.

        I also agree that automotive culture is becoming more of a corporate identity than a cultural identity; not just because cars are being built for global markets, but the design studios themselves are often located in another country. Ford is a good example of where they are trying to break down the traditional silos that were Ford North America, Ford UK, and Ford Europe, and replace it with a single global Ford that produces some vehicles for the local market, but is focused on producing global vehicles (“One Ford.”)

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I’ve seen the same consolidation in the software development industry. Break down silos. Encourage groupthink. Lose individuality and force lower performers up and higher performers down. Yeah, it doesn’t work.

      • 0 avatar
        James2

        Today’s Lockheed engineers need to sit at the knees of the likes of Kelly Johnson and Ben Rich and learn.

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      The main reason it is so easy to blame regulation is because of the long list of cars that are available on their home continents but not in the United States because of the US approach to regulation which serves as a de facto tariff.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I don’t think that scale is entirely true. Nobody makes individual car lines in the quantity that say Ford or Chevy sold in the 60s. But what we have now are shared platforms that allow for a HUGE range of really quite different cars being built out of the same building blocks. Look at BMW, they really only have a handful of platforms that they are building a couple dozen different models out of. Not all of them sell in huge numbers, but there is something for everyone and they make a ton of money doing it. This is the future.

      The SR-71 is an amazing accomplishment. Especially considering how OLD it is now, and how old the technology is. I don’t for one second believe that their is no replacement for it flying, given the SR-71 was an utterly black project for a long, long, long time. I wish this country would get back some of that 50s and 60s can-do mojo that seems to have gone missing. Hitching rides into space from the *Russians* is just embarrassing.

      • 0 avatar
        Drewlssix

        Embarrassing? Perhaps but more significantly it may not be possible in the not so distant future. Perhaps a return to hostilities will push one of our languishing shuttle replacement designs into production. Or we might just give up the frontier to the rest of the world.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    For recent examples, I think Tesla and Coda fit those stereotypes pretty well.

    But really, these stereotypes began to fall 50 years ago, with the Japanese Invasion. Just look at GM’s market share.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    There is more an influence of intended customer markets in today’s designs than a national or cultural identity. A pickup truck has a set of design parameters that work well for the intended in audience in the US, Canada, and Latin America that may not work so well in a dense European environment. Same with micro cars that put the driver in peril while trying to navigate on Wyoming’s highways. Japanese domestic cars cater to Japanese customer’s needs, and German domestic cars cater to those who need to travel on the Autobahn at 180 Km/H. You see how Japanese and German manufacturers have American market only vehicles and/or feature sets that cater to American’s specific market needs, like bigger vehicles, more cupholders, bigger engines, etc.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    Each nation has its own historic, geographic, economic and other factors that determine its car culture. England is not America. Japan is not South Africa. Dubai is not Germany.

    European countries and Japan are small, mountainous places with expensive gasoline, narrow and twisty roads, high costs of living and high population densities.

    It makes sense for cars originating in and designed for these places to be small and have small, sippy engines and sharp handling.

    By contrast, America and Australia are places with lots of room, long empty stretches of straight road, abundant raw materials and a low average cost of living.

    Places like these can afford to have big, powerful vehicles that use larger amounts of fuel and don’t necessarily handle on rails.

    What has been perceived for years as deficiencies in American car design (non-razor-sharp handling and general bigness) is actually the perfectly logical consequence of a large, affluent country with mostly straight highways and a lot of empty space.

    Context matters here – such features only BECOME deficiencies if you try to sell those cars in small, expensive places.

    I think that regional differences in automotive design and preference are a good thing, because they reflect the realities of those disparate places. And they produce a variety of really cool designs.

    A Honda City Turbo is not really an appropriate car for Colorado or New South Wales and a Cadillac Sedan De Ville doesn’t generally work too well in Kyoto or London. But I happen to like them both.

    Global homogenization of vehicle design ignores the realities of different cultures, different economies and different nations demanding different vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      Take a look at each country’s birth rates.
      Modern countries with low to zero birth rates don’t need seating for five or more, hence they have small cars. Countries with high birth rates need seating for five or more, hence they have big cars, pick up trucks, minivans and vehicles that can do the job.

      Trust me, if I returned to live in Germany with my wife and kids, I wouldn’t be tooling around in a small car not because of the mountains or culture, but because I need a car that seats at least 6.

      If I ended up in Japan, same thing. It wouldn’t matter the culture.

      People buy cars out of personal need. When you have no kids, you can drive small. When you only have two, you can drive a compact. When you get three or more – it doesn’t matter what the gas prices are, it doesn’t matter what is environmentally friendly, it doesn’t matter what is popular – you need to fit all those car-seats, diapers and pregnant lady butts, into a bigger vehicle.

      We can see that as generations boom, breed and die out, swings in the size of cars they drive. There is a reason that some of the biggest vehicles made happened during big birthing years.

      So it isn’t about culture or nationality. It isn’t about generations. It is about how many kids you have to shuttle around daily. It is about the space needed to carry all your family’s things. It is about your personal needs, not what some idiot marketer claims is the thing for Millennials, Generation Ys, and other crap.

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        Family size doesn’t explain why an American family with 3+ kids buys an Explorer, and a European family that size buys an Espace.

        (Nor why 75% of US families with even a single kid seem to decide they “need” a giant three-row crossover, but I digress.)

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Too bad I didn’t know you were going to be around, I work right across the highway from Udvar. I would have tried to stop by and say hi.

  • avatar
    stuart

    The machines we build are a reflection of the people/companies/cultures that built them. The best example I know is from the book “The Soul of a New Machine”, by Tracy Kidder. The book describes the gestation of a 32-bit minicomputer. The competitor machine was designed by an enourmous, bureaucratic company, and their CPU was spread across 22 separate cards. The machine developed in the book was designed by a small team in a scrappy, less-bureaucratic company, and its CPU comprised 5 (very large) cards. (One card was the floating-point unit: it was designed by one man.)

    You can still see the organization/culture of a company reflected in their products today, if you look critically. In the computer biz, it’s usually very easy to spot.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Great call. That book should be required reading for every engineering student, as it accurately describes the product development process.

      In 5 years’ time, I’ve had 4 Hyundai/Kia products in my fleet, with 3 of them still there. I’ve become generally fond of their approach to building a car; all of them share many common themes, from a 2001 Elantra to a 2009 Sedona, and the Sonata/Optima twins. I also liked the 80s-90s Chrysler methodology in the past.

      But none of them are perfect, so you also run into common problems along the way.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I have to agree that differences in vehicles are often based on geography and wealth.
    The only remaining “American” vehicle with its own unique personality is the full sized pickup truck.
    Muscle cars are becoming more European. The next Mustang is more Euro and the Camaro is based on a Holden platform. Technically not European but definitely not USA based.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Tom, I’m just happy to see you posting. It’s been far to long, and I hope the relocation has gone well.

  • avatar
    DevilsRotary86

    I definitely think that regional car cultures WERE real, but with global harmonization they are becoming more blended each year.

    I am weird. I like Japanese cars, and when I say that I mean Japanese cars. Between my wife and I we have owned 8 cars in 14 years both new, used, and the initial cars we got from family. Of those 8, 2 were built in Hiroshima, 1 was built in Kanda, 4 were built in Suzuka, and 1 was built in Lordstown (I was in an experimental mood in 2009, I got a Cobalt). Of the 3 currently owned 2 were built in Suzuka and 1 in Hiroshima. That is just for a little background. I love Japanese cars because they are a little different and a little quirky. The novelty of driving something that just doesn’t make total sense in the US has never worn off on me. My Acura RSX-S is about 6″ narrower than every other compact on the road to fit Japanese tax regulations. The cup holders are an obvious afterthought and a small concession to US buyers. While the interior couldn’t be made of cheaper materials everything is lovingly assembled with great attention to detail and craftsmanship. The engine is an 8,000 RPM redline screamer with a 4.76:1 final drive that probably makes more sense in the tight streets of Tokyo or Osaka than the open highways of the US. It’s just my thing; I love Japanese cars.

    Now in the modern era, it is ironic that as the Japanese brands have grown in popularity it is harder to find a car that was made in Japan and sold here largely unmolested from its Japanese market configuration beyond “move the wheel to the other side”. Cars that were built for the Japanese market with the Japanese buyer in mind but the US buyer was mostly an afterthought. The only ones left really are the Scion FR-S/BRZ, the Infiniti G-Coupe (mostly a Skyline 370GT), odd enough the Nissan Quest (Nissan Elgrande), the Prius family, and you can stretch the concept loosely to the Infiniti M and Lexus LS. There are others I haven’t listed, but I think this list points in the direction that I am thinking. The Accord, Camry, Altima, Civic, et al are all now pretty much designed by Americans for Americans and built in America. Personally, if I wanted to buy an American car I would have bought a Ford. Unfortunately for me, but I admit fortunately for the balance sheets of those companies, these models are taking over their US lineups. I know that it costs more to do this; to build a car in Japan and then ship it here. However, I am willing to pay a premium for the privilege.

  • avatar
    Joss

    I’m still to get over Concord as a historical plane. Or the fact that a boot hasn’t stepped any further than Apollo 11. We take big steps forward followed by a lot of sideways. With relation to cars I think that’s about where we are right now.

    I see ‘Gattica’ coming, with culture mounted on a common platform.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I was lamenting Concorde just the other day. My kids can’t fathom a time when you could – for a price – cross the Atlantic in 2 hours. Moon flights are the same way.

      More than common platforming, however, is the overwhelming need to drive cost out of everything. We choose NOT to go to the moon/Mars because it costs too much, and because it is hard.

      Vanilla cars make more money than Teslas, but I’m really rooting for Tesla. They build something fresh and unique that stands against the Camrys of the world. Ultimately, though, they have to make a profit to survive.

      Back to the Concorde: Seems to me that shape could be updated with new technology to bring the operating costs down. The cockpit of that plane looked like a 1960’s jet fighter:

      “http://www.phy.duke.edu/~trenk/pics/Concorde-cockpit-small.jpg”

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        @SCE to Aux – The technology necessary to make Concorde profitable doesn’t exist. She lost $ even with fuel prices low; there’s no way to get her fuel burn down to a viable point. You could lower it yes, but not to the point that you could sell tickets at a profitable price on it. The sort of engines that will work well for that sort of cruising will be fuel guzzlers. The airline market has changed. The next supersonic civilian aircraft will be a bizjet, because thats the segment of the industry where people are willing and able to pay what it will cost to get somewhere that much faster. If there was a market for that sort of plane, someone would be making it. That cockpit is one of the reasons she was so expensive – you have to pay for a flight engineer.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    I hope I get to go to SUH center sometime. As others have said, the number of unique but significant aircraft there are staggering. I’m going through withdrawals since our local (and extremely well stocked) aviation museum, Fantasy of Flight has closed its doors. One thing I will say on the characteristics of these planes is that they are a reflection of national values, especially when you look at the military. America’s “leave no man behind” mantra is reflected in our planes. American aircraft weren’t so much rugged or agricultural as they were flying tanks, largely because our designers and philosophy put the lives of the crew above all else. American aircraft, more than any other, could be counted on to both protect the crew (through armor plating, self sealing fuel tanks, etc) and still fly home despite the punishment inflicted. Just watch the eyes of a WW2 veteran in front of a B17 and you see how indebted they feel they are to that plane to be alive. Speed, acceleration, climbe rate, maneuverability, range, and other performance metrics, took a back seat to crew safety. The Japanese, on the other hand, went the opposite way. Their planes reflected a rather Lotus-like obsession with lightness. They wanted maximum performance with no regard for crew safety. Their planes were magnificent performers, but the men aboard were totally exposed with armor plating to protect them from bullets and fuel tanks that would ignite and burn up plane and pilot. No surprise that this is the same nation that came up with the Kamikaze.

  • avatar
    Mark_Miata

    Reminds me of the observation I made when I got my first British car. Having been raised in a family where I helped my dad work on his German cars (Mercedes and VW) and Japanese truck (Toyota), I was struck by just how much cruder and less well-thought-out the MG was. I thought to myself “I am not clever enough to have designed a VW Beetle, but I could have done at least as well as the British engineers who were responsible for this MG Midget.”

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      RE : “I am not clever enough to have designed a VW Beetle, but I could have done at least as well as the British engineers who were responsible for this MG Midget.”

      Yes and no ~ please to remember that most British ‘ Sports Cars ‘ were built using the basic chassis of their daily drivers , an interesting bunch to say the least (Triumph TR3’s used a Massey-Ferguson TRACTOR engine FGS !) until you remember : they were all designed and built to run in Her Majesties various far flung Colonies on terrible roads , low quality petrol and near zero maintenance ~ not only did they do so but , if you find the older folks in those same ex Colonies to – day , they’ll always tell you how much they loved the British cars Americans so hated…..

      WELCOME HOME THOM ! you’ve been away far too long .

      -Nate

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I’ve got 4 vehicles in my household. Three of them titled to me.

    My wife’s vehicle, 2005 Pontiac Vibe base model (seriously – literally 0 options). Very Japanese in everything but tractor like manual shifter, 1.8 ltr I4, high reving, VVT, got to take it up high in the RPMs to get anything accomplished, 85 mph means 3500 RPM and screaming loud in the cabin. Good handling and appliance level reliability but about as much soul as your Kenmore dishwasher.

    1967 Ford Mustang 289 V8. What’s more American than taking a pedestrian compact car platform and turning it into a lust object for America? In the great American melting pot the Mustang rises from the dreams of a great salesman with Italian heritage, Lee Iaccoca. It combines European sports car looks with American small block and simple to build.

    2004 Ford F150 Heritage, combination of old school and new school. BOF, ladder type construction, solid rear axle, 4 speed auto – new school, 4.6 ltr SOHC V8, aluminum block. As reliable as an anvil and twice as fast. My wife is pregnant and I’ll likely be able to give the kid driving lessons in that old truck.

    2010 Toyota Highlander V6 4wd, three row model. Japanese interpretation of what the American market needs. 270 hp V6, 5 speed auto, 50/50 torque split front and rear. Honestly driving it reminds me of my dear old Dad’s GM B-body wagons. Quiet, no drama in the handling, soft without wallowing, comfy seats, good 2nd row leg room. You can drive 85 and your passengers have no idea how fast you’re going. The kind of vehicle were your toddler and maybe your wife fall asleep during the first half hour of a long trip. Oh and mine was built at the Princeton, IN Toyota plant which adds to the Japanese/American mashup feeling.

    My point? Every vehicle represents the time and the place of construction and the manufacturer. Drive a 1972 Impala and you’ll understand GM of that time and the plant that built it. Drive a 1997 Camry and it will tell you something about Toyota in the late 90s along with the Japanese factory that built it. Hell go find a late 60s Fiat and you’ll know where the stereotypes of Italian cars came from.

  • avatar
    3Deuce27

    Had to laugh last weekend while watching one of the pre-race shows. While the Star Spangled Banner was playing/sung, a flyby of WW11 planes was led by two Zero’s.

    • 0 avatar
      tjh8402

      @3Deuce27 – are you sure they were Zeroes? There are only like 2 or 3 airworthy ones left. I doubt they snaggged two of them for a pre race flyover. Might have been replicas or any chance it was another type of airplane? I’ve had the Yak-52’s and CJ-6s do flyovers at races before but thats because those are just about the cheapest “warbirds” you can find.

      • 0 avatar
        3Deuce27

        Reg; “are you sure they were Zeroes?”

        Good question_’tjh8402’_ One I have asked myself. The duration of the window for observation was so short, I really can’t be sure. Would love to track down the video to confirm.

        I had the same thought when I saw it, a Zero in flyable condition is pretty rare. I was going to check and see if the Confederate/Commemorative Air Force had some in that condition.

        I just checked and they have some T-6’s heavily converted to look like Mitsu A6M Zeros for the movie Tora Tora. Must be what I saw.

        While there are still more then a handful of operable Zeros left around the world, most are grounded for display…wiki

        I saw one flying at the 81′ Reno air races. That year at the races, I also got the autographs of the Japanese pilot who claimed to have shot down, Pappy Boyington, and Pappy Boyington’s autograph. They both had booths within sight of each other. We knew of Pappy as he for a time lived in our North Central Washington town.

        I have spent some time in a Vultee BT-13 my dad bought surplus after the war. Some of those were used in early movies about the Pacific war to represent Zeros. It was lost in the fifties on take off at high altitude while we were on a camping trip South of Yosemite. My dad’s partner in the plane took off, against the advisement of my father, it was a ‘density altitude’ situation, hot day at about 8,000 ft in the Sierra Nevada’s. Plane barely got airborne and ran out of room and crashed down slope out of sight. There was no fire, but dad’s partner didn’t make it. The plane was sold to aircraft salvagers.

        I also got some seat time in a private T-6 out of Wendover during Speed Week, and for a while hoped to own one, but the prices started going through the roof in the early nineties so settled for a hopped up Navion to go with my Champ and Texas Taildragger, all later replaced by an RV-4.

        Would still like to get another Champ to restore, a sweet flying and forgiving aircraft. Always brought her in for cross controlled landings. Rarely see anyone do that anymore.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commemorative_Air_Force
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vultee_BT-13_Valiant
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pappy_Boyington
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Tigers

  • avatar
    skor

    While it is more common today, car companies have been buying parts and systems from the same suppliers from the very beginning of the auto industry. I once changed the oil on a 70s vintage Rolls Royce and was surprise to find GM ignition and air conditioning systems under the hood.


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