The Truth About Cars » Car Culture http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 19 Oct 2014 11:58:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Car Culture http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com A Primer On Houston SLAB Culture http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/a-primer-on-houston-slab-culture/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/a-primer-on-houston-slab-culture/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 11:55:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=794826 This well-traveled Houstonian thinks his town is Pistonhead Nirvana, proven every month via fanboi scale and diversity at Cars and Coffee gatherings.  Or with every 1000+hp racer on at Texas2k, every shoestring budget’d LeMons racer and Art Car fanatic: it’s all here. Except there’s nothing like Houston SLAB culture. A confession: I know automotive subcultures, […]

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This well-traveled Houstonian thinks his town is Pistonhead Nirvana, proven every month via fanboi scale and diversity at Cars and Coffee gatherings.  Or with every 1000+hp racer on at Texas2k, every shoestring budget’d LeMons racer and Art Car fanatic: it’s all here. Except there’s nothing like Houston SLAB culture.

A confession: I know automotive subcultures, no matter which socioeconomic population nurtures it, always raise the ire of outsiders. My response?  Every generalization about SLABs applies to anyone building a custom, race or show car. We are all the same, deal with it.   

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Like most automotive hobbies, the Houston SLAB scene starts with the belief that the factory’s work needs improvement.  While spec racers turn a depreciated hulk into a track beast, the SLAB rider takes a slice of unloved Americana, bringing it back to a time when Japanese cars were cheap rust buckets that’d never threaten General Motor’s existence! I mean, look at our grilles and look at theirs, right?

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A car that traces its roots back to the 1970s Pimp Rides is necessary to make a modern SLAB: Camcords need not apply. Any Blaxploitation movie gets you up to speed on Pimp Rides, but the Houston SLAB scene uses them as a springboard to something new.

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Depreciated American luxury cars are the norm: Cadillacs, Buicks and certain Oldsmobiles are preferred.  Lincolns/Panthers and Chryslers are cool too, even Jaguars and Quattroportes pull it off vis-à-vis distinctly luxurious proportions.  But don’t break your budget on the ride, GM’s W-body is one of the most common platforms for good reason, as costly modifications are necessary to pay homage to the Pimp Riders while advancing the game:

  • Massive stereos, some are IASCA worthy with a little tweaking.
  • Kitted out power popping trunks, slathered in custom vinyl and personalized phrases in neon/mirrors.
  • Wire wheels much like the Cragar units supplied as OEM for Cadillac in 1983 and 1984, except replacing the fragile tin content with 100% steel. Texan Wire Wheels sells them as “83s” and “84s”, seemingly cornering this niche market.
  • Vogue tires in new sizes for new cars, naturally.
  • Replacement steering wheels, usually with wood grain rims.
  • Candy Paint, just like any vintage rodder.
  • Reupholstered interiors, taking advantage of the latest trimmings on the market.
  • Aftermarket HID lights, custom LEDs, Lambo doors, flat panel TVs and anything else you’ll find in the custom car scene.
  • Oversized brand logos, like the tailgate emblem from an Escalade.
  • Lowered suspensions (often aftermarket Air Ride) for obvious curb appeal.

That stance is at the SLAB’s core: it’s a sweet American luxury sedan ridin’ close to the curb.  Close to the concrete, up against the “slab”…hence the name. Some suggest that SLAB is an acronym for Slow-Loud-And-Bangin’ but that definition seemingly came later.

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But the wheels make SLABs so eye-catching: references percolating through Houston’s music, Houston’s culture.  Originally a re-pop of those Cadillac rims from 1983 and 1984, some are fed pro-baseball grade growth hormones to extend the hub far beyond Cadillac’s factory specification.  Ordinary wires have “pokes” while insanity ensues when you go “super poke.”  While not sure of their origin, odds are that having more poke comes people’s need to out-do each other. Like everything else in this world!

IMG_1759Your taste in poke is subjective, but they are all known as swangas and elbows.

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Elbows are when the hub and spoke of your wheels “poke” out of your body just like your arm’s elbow when perched atop the door sill.  Makes sense, but Swangas?

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Again, not sure: it’s connected to the organized dance that multiple SLABs do on an open stretch of road.  It’s like watching racers warming up their tires during pace laps.  It’s infectious: even the cops do it.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Here’s what I saw at the first annual SLAB Parade, put on by the Houston Arts Alliance.  This cow town’s been good about supporting the art scene, especially our Art Cars and our screwed and chopped Rap artists.  While H-town Rap is a “thing” for the likes of Jay Z and Justin Timberlake, Detroit has yet to embrace Houston’s re-branding of their Camry prey/Rental Car fodder and their highline euro-wannabes. Aside from the Chrysler 300, of course.

So welcome to the Third Coast, the coast that actually likes American cars. How they were: with real names, impressive proportions and maybe even SLAB hugging overhangs, too. And the people who make them?  They are no different than other car nuts.

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No doubt, Houston is the best place to be a car fanatic, mostly thanks to our diverse population.  Love it or hate it, hopefully you enjoyed seeing this slice of Automotive Americana while I avoided the pitfalls of a milquetoast overview of an automotive sub-culture. Fingers crossed on that last part.

 

 

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Junkyard-Found Chevy Tribal Sticker Leads To New Meme, Blame Social Media http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/junkyard-found-chevy-tribal-sticker-leads-to-new-meme-blame-social-media/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/junkyard-found-chevy-tribal-sticker-leads-to-new-meme-blame-social-media/#comments Tue, 30 Apr 2013 13:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=486629 During one of my many junkyard trips, I spotted a Crusher-bound Chevy truck with an “EAT’N FORDS/SHIT’N RAMS” window sticker. It wasn’t really worth a separate post here on TTAC, but I figured it would be good for a laugh on the Murilee Martin Facebook page. So, I posted it with the comment “This truck […]

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During one of my many junkyard trips, I spotted a Crusher-bound Chevy truck with an “EAT’N FORDS/SHIT’N RAMS” window sticker. It wasn’t really worth a separate post here on TTAC, but I figured it would be good for a laugh on the Murilee Martin Facebook page. So, I posted it with the comment “This truck will be GET’N CRUSHED” pretty soon.” Next thing you know, a bunch of my miscreant car-writer friends jumped in with their own versions. Within a few weeks, this meme may well be a bigger online car meme than VTEC JUST KICKED IN YO and the debilitating skabsession, combined!
Chevy versus Ford versus Chrysler, ho hum. But creative inspiration sometimes springs from unexpected sources.
Davey G. Johnson (he happens to be the guy who launched my automotive-journalism career by recommending that Jalopnik hire me back in ’06) got all puffed up with Porsche 914 pride— he owns one of those Transporter-engined crypto-Porsches and persists in believing it’s a good car— and created this Fiat-hatin’ design.
Then, Davey made this.
But what about the rivalries of the Prohibition Era? If only cheap vinyl-cut decals had existed back then…
Naturally, I had to jump in with my own creation. Metro pride, y’all!
But what about Iran Khodro owners? They must feel superior to those lamers driving SAIPA 141s in Tehran.
And, well, things just went downhill got better from there.
Our own Sajeev Mehta feels pretty strongly about the Premier Padmini and wanted everyone to know it. What would Vishnu drive?
Sajeev wasn’t done then, though; here’s a sticker that electron-fueled types might use to diss internal-combustion fools.
Then Davey’s coworker Blake Z. Rong Brendan McAleer got into a Canadian frame of mind and made this.
Canadian cars, you say? Tom Anderson of Sub5Zero knows that Asüna rules the Great White North.
Steven Cavalieri, the artist responsible for all those 24 Hours of LeMons T-shirts and posters you see in the more disreputable garages, jabbed jumper cables into his cerebellum and created this nightmarish image— it strays quite a bit from the meme, but so what?
About that time, Texas LeMons racer Dave Mulvey joined the party, as did many others.
LeMons Assistant Perp and blissfully retired car journalist Nick Pon couldn’t contain himself after that, and I think this one may just edge out the Duesenberg EAT’N/SHIT’N decal for the best yet.
Nick remains traumatized by his experiences at various German press-launch events, and so he created this. Check the gallery for even more creations, and be sure to create your own!

2012-07-10_14-22-09_140 295337_183340231819498_1561772965_n 482451_10101014979744306_587367626_n 936940_10101014991425896_214140929_n EatinGeelysShittinChangans EatinJustysShittinExcels EatinSaipasShittinBahmans EatinZilsShittinLadas Eatn Shitn Meme - 1 - picture courtesy of Blake Rong Eatn Shitn Meme - 1 - picture courtesy of Brendan McAleer Eatn Shitn Meme - 1 - picture courtesy of Davey Johnson Eatn Shitn Meme - 1 - picture courtesy of Nick Pon Eatn Shitn Meme - 1 - picture courtesy of Sajeev Mehta Eatn Shitn Meme - 1 - picture courtesy of Steven Cavalieri Eatn Shitn Meme - 1 - picture courtesy of Tom Anderson Eatn Shitn Meme - 13- picture courtesy of Blake Rong Eatn Shitn Meme - 2 - picture courtesy of Blake Rong Eatn Shitn Meme - 2 - picture courtesy of Davey Johnson Eatn Shitn Meme - 2 - picture courtesy of Davey Johnson Eatn Shitn Meme - 2 - picture courtesy of Nick Pon Eatn Shitn Meme - 2 - picture courtesy of Sajeev Mehta Eatn Shitn Meme - 3 - picture courtesy of Davey Johnson Eatn Shitn Meme - 3 - picture courtesy of Sajeev Mehta Eatn Shitn Meme - 4 - picture courtesy of Davey Johnson Eatn Shitn Meme - 4 - picture courtesy of Sajeev Mehta Eatn Shitn Meme - 5 - picture courtesy of Davey Johnson Eatn Shitn Meme - 6 - picture courtesy of Davey Johnson Eatn Shitn Meme - 7 - picture courtesy of Davey Johnson EatnShitnTop- Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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When You Need Garage Tunes Right Now: Field Expedient Surround-Sound Audio System http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/when-you-need-garage-tunes-right-now-field-expedient-surround-sound-audio-system/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/when-you-need-garage-tunes-right-now-field-expedient-surround-sound-audio-system/#comments Sun, 19 Feb 2012 20:20:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=431624 When I moved into a Victorian near downtown Denver summer before last, I finally had something I’ve been longing for since I started messing around with cars: a garage! Since that time, I’ve been (very) gradually upgrading the place, with better wiring, insulation, beer signs, and so on. My long-term plan for the place involves […]

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When I moved into a Victorian near downtown Denver summer before last, I finally had something I’ve been longing for since I started messing around with cars: a garage! Since that time, I’ve been (very) gradually upgrading the place, with better wiring, insulation, beer signs, and so on. My long-term plan for the place involves an elaborate garage audio system, with a serious amp, good speakers all over the place, and a CAT5 line to the house that will provide access to the music collection on my file server. However, my long-term garage-upgrade plan also includes certain items that have higher priority— like, say, a source of heat— and I have been working on those items first. In the meantime, I needed to be able to listen to The Atomic Bitchwax at top volume, and I didn’t want to spend any money on temporary measures. One afternoon, I scavenged up the gear to make an extremely loud four-speaker setup. Here’s how.
I had a pretty serious boombox already, in the form of the 92-pound Turbo II Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox that I built out of plywood and car parts a few years back (go to the Murilee’s Greatest Hits page for the whole Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox saga). It had been just the thing for tailgate parties at Oakland A’s games, but the battery I’d scavenged out of a junkyard-bound Tercel in 2006 had lost the ability to take a charge by the time I hauled it to Denver, and it would be an all-weekend thrash to dismantle the thing and replace the battery. Hmmm… how to solve that problem today?
Easy— just add a battery charger to the crap sitting atop my pinball machine restoration project.
The Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox charges via this PVC-pipe-based adapter that plugs into one of the cigarette lighters. The charging adapter was never meant to be used in a permanent setup, but it works.
OK, so the battery charger leads clamp onto the charging adapter and the boombox now has Wanky the Safety Cat™ approval (provided I remember to unplug the battery charger when not in use).
At that point, I had music… but the junkyard-correct Chevy Beretta cassette deck and ’93 Mercury Grand Marquis 6x9s didn’t deliver enough thump for my favorite Ice-T tracks. How can I improve the situation without leaving the garage?
The cassette and 8-track players were hardwired in and it would be a supreme pain in the ass to add more amps and speakers to them, but the Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox features a wired FM modulator to allow the use of external sound sources through the cassette deck. That means I can use the same iPod I use for the LeMons Macho Man penalty… and it also means that the signal from the iPod can be split and fed into another means of amplification.
From my days in the industro-noise band Murilee Arraiac, hooking up shortwave radios through chains of OD-1 overdrive pedals and so forth, I have every imaginable audio-cable adapter. Putting a one-into-two 1/8″ jack adapter on the iPod was easy, and led to…
…this 900 MHz audio transmitter, which sends its signal to…
…this pair of RCA wireless stereo speakers, which I got at a yard sale and had been storing with a lot of other random crap in a box for quite a while. Every bit of this gear was available right there in the garage. It’s what the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™ refers to as Ghetto Surround Sound 4.0™.
I had to do a little rearranging of power outlets to feed everything, but it all sorted out in typical garage-octopus fashion.
So now I can crank up the Gotan Project loud enough to share with the whole neighborhood, and I didn’t have to buy anything. Wanky approves!

9 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 1 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 2 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 3 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 4 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 5 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 6 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 7 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 8 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 11 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 10 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 12 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 13 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Bored On a Long Road Trip? Bad Car Bingo! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/bored-on-a-long-road-trip-bad-car-bingo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/bored-on-a-long-road-trip-bad-car-bingo/#comments Tue, 17 Jan 2012 20:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=426837 I’ve played many a game of Buzzword Bingo with equally bored coworkers while stuck in 19-hour PowerPoint presentations, back when I slaved as a tech writer in the software biz. Why not apply this concept to a bingo game for car freaks trapped in a boring rental car on a road trip across one of […]

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Image by Phillip GredenI’ve played many a game of Buzzword Bingo with equally bored coworkers while stuck in 19-hour PowerPoint presentations, back when I slaved as a tech writer in the software biz. Why not apply this concept to a bingo game for car freaks trapped in a boring rental car on a road trip across one of those states that’s nothing but cornfields? Yes, Bad Car* Bingo; you’ve got your card, you look for the cars on your card, and you cross them off when you see them. I tell you what, if the 24 Hours of LeMons crew had some of these cards for those four-hour drives from the airport to the racetrack in a (shudder) Galant or (consider walking as a real option) Nitro, the time would pass a lot quicker. Imagine the thrill of finally spotting that elusive Caddy That Zigs and shouting “BINGO!” to the dismay of your competitors. I’m going to make some more of these cards for my trip to Texas next month.

*My definition of bad, in this case, could be a perfectly good car that failed in the marketplace, or a car that has a negative popular perception… or just a terrible car, period. Feel free to make your own suggestions for further BCB cards.

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Quote Of The Day: Score One For The Car Mags Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/the-rise-of-the-no-look-lease/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/the-rise-of-the-no-look-lease/#comments Fri, 11 Nov 2011 23:37:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=417811 The New York Times has a story that’s fascinating in its own right: the number of people leasing a car on leasetrader.com without first test-driving the car has doubled since 2007.  Troubling stuff for most auto enthusiasts among us, but probably not much of a surprise to readers on the retail side of the business. […]

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The New York Times has a story that’s fascinating in its own right: the number of people leasing a car on leasetrader.com without first test-driving the car has doubled since 2007.  Troubling stuff for most auto enthusiasts among us, but probably not much of a surprise to readers on the retail side of the business. One auto broker explains the most common reasons for taking this leap of faith:

Generally these are people who know what they want, whether it’s because they’re very brand-loyal or they’ve fallen in love with the styling of a particular model. Same goes for buyers who are strictly interested in getting the best deal, and those with limited choices like a big family that needs a nine-passenger vehicle with 4-wheel drive.

But, as one “enthusiast” explains, some consumers are just so well informed, they don’t need to drive their car before they buy it. That’s what they subscribe to magazines for!

Here’s how Charles Van Stone,  “retired human resources executive and well-read car enthusiast,” sees it:

I never test-drive a car, but I do subscribe to five different car magazines. So by the time I’ve read all these different opinions and finally sit behind the wheel, I have every reason to believe it’s going to be exactly what I wanted… Whether it’s because of my emotional connection to the car or all the reading I’ve done, I have never been disappointed. I’ve never bought a car and thought “Uh-oh, this was a mistake.”

Given that Mr Van Stone most recently ended up in a Camaro SS, it’s safe to say that how it drives per se wasn’t his overriding concern anyway. Which is a good thing, because if a “well-read car enthusiast” asked me, I’d have told him to drive the more playful V6 before committing to the SS. But then, my idea of what an “enthusiast” might be interested isn’t the only one… and ultimately, if the guy is happy, he’s happy. That’s all that matters, especially with a car like the Camaro.

But the strangest thing about Mr Van Stone’s representation of the test-drive-free lifestyle is his reliance on the automotive media. Though I wasn’t in the least bit surprised to see analysts reference the rise of online research as one possible explanation for the test-drive downturn, I was not expecting the Times to quote someone letting his buff book subscriptions “take the wheel” in an auto buying decision. On the one hand, it’s a rare show of relevance for the mainstream automotive media. On the other hand, their champion is a guy who bought his car without even driving it. If such is the modern automotive enthusiasm, I wouldn’t rush to overstate the vitality or relevance of the media outlets that nurtured it.

At the end of the day, no form of media can replace a test drive. No Youtube video, no spec sheet, no eloquent review is a substitute for actually driving the car you are considering committing to. At least, it can’t if you actually care about the details of a driving experience. And you should: understanding the nuances of car control can make you a more efficient, courteous, and above all, a safer driver. Conversely, the fact that more people are buying cars without having ever driven them does not speak well of our collective relationship with these powerful, dangerous, expensive machines. And though the car industry needs people to be passionate about the act of driving in order to thrive (and not merely survive), its collective answer to this trend thus far has been to introduce more distracting gizmos. Apparently it really isn’t important to drive cars anymore… as long as we keep buying them.

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Live Chat With The Authors Of “Carjacked: The Culture Of The Automobile And Its Effects On Our Lives” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/live-chat-with-the-authors-of-carjacked-the-culture-of-the-automobile-and-its-effects-on-our-lives/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/live-chat-with-the-authors-of-carjacked-the-culture-of-the-automobile-and-its-effects-on-our-lives/#comments Fri, 26 Feb 2010 19:38:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=346830 TTAC LiveChat With The Authors Of

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Book Review: Carjacked: The Culture of Automobiles And Its Effects On Our Lives http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/book-review-carjacked-the-culture-of-automobiles-and-its-effects-on-our-lives/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/book-review-carjacked-the-culture-of-automobiles-and-its-effects-on-our-lives/#comments Fri, 26 Feb 2010 16:19:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=346811 [Editor's note: Please join us today at 3pm Eastern (noon Pacific) for a livechat with the authors of Carjacked: The Culture Of The Automobile And Its Effects On Our Lives] Over the last several weeks, the Toyota recall scandal has reopened the national discussion about car ownership, raising new questions about the role of personal […]

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[Editor's note: Please join us today at 3pm Eastern (noon Pacific) for a livechat with the authors of Carjacked: The Culture Of The Automobile And Its Effects On Our Lives]

Over the last several weeks, the Toyota recall scandal has reopened the national discussion about car ownership, raising new questions about the role of personal responsibility in our relationships with automobiles. Here at TTAC, we’ve argued passionately that a major lesson of the Toyota recall is that consumers can not rely on brand reputation or the assumption that cars will always work as we expect them to in order to protect ourselves and our families. But responsible car ownership doesn’t end there. To maintain a functioning relationship with our cars, it’s important that motorists understand that the vehicles we cherish come with high costs. And anyone who thinks that the awesome power of the private automobile doesn’t come with great responsibilities would do well to read through the relentless documentation of these costs that makes up the book Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and Its Effect On Our Lives.

A number of our readers will doubtless interpret Carjacked as an explicitly anti-car text, and from the cover image of a man straining under the weight of an SUV to the conclusion’s exhortations to support public transportation, there’s little to disabuse the reader of that impression. Indeed, upon a first reading, the car-loving reader might be tempted to dismiss the authors as irrationally car-hating ideologues. But at the end of the introduction to Carjacked, its authors offer an insight that should give pause to those who would discard the book as a mere screed:

asking individual Americans to take a close look at the problems caused by the automobiles can elicit a defensive gut response. Just as suggesting that a loved one sit down with a marriage counselor or a nutrition advisor can evoke fears of divorce or draconian diet restrictions, asking a driver to examine the full impact of the car on his life can prompt deep anxiety that he will be forced to give up his car. But for most of us, the choice is not between the car and no car. It is about whether it is possible to drive less and pay less for it; it is about recognizing the powerful lure of car advertising ad educating ourselves about the schemes of the dealership; it is about making careful choices about where to live when we move…

This sensibility alone prevents Carjacked from descending completely into the politically-driven, auto-hatred of the far left. The authors, anthropologist Catherine Lutz and marketer/investment banker Anne Lutz Fernandez, do indulge in a certain amount of utopian anti-car-ism, but their approach is more rooted in the problems of our daily life than garden-variety political demagoguery. And what red-blooded pistonhead can’t admit that the fantasy of our love for automobiles is rarely echoed in reality?

Car lovers having a hard time dealing with their “defensive gut reactions” to Carjacked‘s frontal assault would be well advised to start with Chapter Seven, which addresses the problem of traffic. While many of the book’s beefs with the automobile involve broader social challenges like economic inequality, poor health and the dire results of effective marketing, the section on traffic, sprawl and road rage help illustrate how car obsession hurts car lovers as much or more than anyone else. “Sartre’s much repeated line, ‘Hell is other people,’ may hold as a truism more on the nation’s highways than anywhere else in the public sphere,” write the authors. “Americans tend to treat traffic and its related hassles as a problem caused by others, failing to recognize our own role as drivers.”

It’s a pity, then, that the authors force readers through 150 pages of comprehensive and relentless criticism of all things car-related before giving motorists such an approachable example of the problems of car culture. Despite having admitted that “for most of us, the choice is not between the car and no car,” the authors blame car marketing for perpetuating the myth that cars equal freedom before ever getting to the infinitely more common sense critique that our actual, day-to-day freedom is more dependent on the number of other cars on the road than the ground clearance of our SUV, or the amount of horsepower under our hoods.

This is emblematic of the fundamental problem with Carjacked: it falls into the convenient trap of blaming everyone from oil and auto companies, to government policy and the entertainment industry for the automobile’s ills, reducing individuals to mere pawns of these malignant forces. Not only does this approach confuse the symptom (the negative effects of automobiles) with the disease (the broader social values and historical legacies of modern America) but it also alienates the authors from the average reader who, according to the statistics, are more likely to own two or three automobiles than none at all.

This is a shame, because the authors do wrap up the book with some solid advice for individual motorists who struggle with the all-too-common reality of feeling like their car owns them instead of the other way around. But it’s also telling that, once the authors are done dishing out advice to help Americans take charge in their personal relationship with the automobile and help address the larger issues around auto-dependence, it urges the reader to “get political” by lobbying for improved public transit, less car-friendly land-use policies and higher fuel efficiency standards.

Though its fair to include political advocacy at the end of Carjacked, most readers who make it through to the conclusion probably agreed with the book’s politics before they picked it up. Motorists who want to better understand the impacts of their personal relationship with the automobile (let alone the multiplied impacts of our national relationship with cars) without distracting wedge issues (Anthropogenic global warming and a section titled “why Rush Limbaugh likes sprawl” come to mind) will have to look elsewhere.

Ultimately, Carjacked is packed with perspectives that car lovers typically avoid, and unfortunately it gives them plenty of reasons to avoid it. Carjacked seems to have been written for people who already dislike and fear automobiles, rather than those who appreciate and use them most. Which is a minor tragedy, considering that the book is understandably unable to plot a clear course away from our dependence on private automobiles. Since even Carjacked‘s authors seem to admit that the automobile is here to stay, they probably should have focused their book more on the people who do love, appreciate and regularly use automobiles. Because love can be blind, but functional relationships are based on truly understanding the impacts of our own actions.

The post Book Review: Carjacked: The Culture of Automobiles And Its Effects On Our Lives appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

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