I'm Back

im back
Once a pistonhead, always a pistonhead. Even as the paramedics were dragging my sorry ass through the meat wagon’s side door, I felt a scalding blast from the turnouts and thought there’s got to be a better way to vent the big rig’s exhaust. Even as I thrashed on the gurney like a freshly-landed marlin, I wondered why the manufacturer hadn’t fitted the ambulance with air suspension. And then a nice lady gassed me up so a bunch of highly-trained anal retentives could cut my stomach a few times, insert some surgical steel, dice my gall bladder, suck out the remains and dump the diseased bits into a bio-hazard bag. Ah, but did they leave me with enough bile to lead TTAC into battle?

Post-op, I clock a Lexus TV ad. A robot "hand" slowly molests a gleaming GS somethingorother. The announcer asks me if it’s possible to engineer desire. Even in my drug-addled state I know the difference between engineering a car that stimulates desire, and engineering desire. No wonder BMW pulled their press cars from TTAC in Lexus’ name: the automakers have entered into an alliance (they’re all the rage these days) to bio-engineer customers who lust after deeply flawed ride quality (IS350) and demented ergonomics (iDrive). Beats admitting you made a mistake.

An indeterminate amount of time later, Sam drops off a little light reading: Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon and Car & Driver. No contest. Or nothing but a contest; America’s premier automotive buff book offers its readers a seasonal shootout between the Jaguar XK convertible, Cadillac XLR-V convertible, BMW 650i Cab, Porsche C2 Cab and Mercedes SL550. I marshal enough brain cells to remember that Brock Yates told me his old boss loves comparos ‘cause he can’t write or edit for shit [Legal disclaimer: Mr. Yates might have said he respects and admires Csabe Csere, both as an artist and a man.] To the immediate consternation of red-blooded pistonheads everywhere, writer Barry Winfield begins by gushing “We have some pretty blossoms in the bunch this year.”

As I read on, the heart rate monitor measures my displeasure. I vaguely recall that the piece found something nice to say about a $100k+ Caddy two-door with wooden brakes, numb steering and less luggage space than a bread basket. Hey, Hitler loved dogs. I conclude that choosing the “best” vehicle from this melanoma of high-priced motorized toupees is like arguing over which Victoria’s Secret model would look best draped over your arm at a high school reunion. And yet choose they did, in their own special way, rating everything from slalom speed to… rear seat room? Go figure.

I long for a direct line to Michael Karesh. I want my resident statistician, the bane of Consumer Reports and JD Power, to prove that C&D’s scoring system makes as about as much sense as my 2am conversation with the nurse (Take my vitals? What the Hell’s wrong with yours?). Anyone who can’t guess the results of a C&D comparo before opening the front cover isn’t trying hard enough—which is the same criticism you could level at the magazine itself. Perhaps they should rename Car & Driver Asleep at the Wheel. Meanwhile, what about a buff book comparo? Gotta have facto: 0.

I return to base to see if a three year old understands the meaning of “touch Daddy’s tummy and die.” After experimenting with verticality, I log on. I discover that Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Williams have held down the fort, or, more accurately, surrendered the asylum to the inmates. Well God bless you all. I cannot tell you how satisfying it is to watch a community of like-minded souls set up camp inside an edifice that I struggled to build on your behalf— without knowing who the Hell “you” were. It’s kinda like a termite infestation, but in a nice way.

As I wander through the Halls of Vicodin Valhalla, deleting 758 pieces of spam, a TTAC’er links me to a victory: an Edmunds.com disclaimer! Well, almost. “Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.” I laugh. It hurts. This is what passes for truth over at Edmunds? It’s a classic combination of obfuscation (Edmunds attended, but who paid for what?), self-congratulation (“selected members”) and bad writing (upon which I shall not pass further comment). Suddenly, I feel better.

If this episode has taught me anything, it’s that I am not alone. You guys “get it.” You understand the righteous indignation I feel when automobile manufacturers and the media elite try to fool the people who, ultimately, pay their salaries. These industry wonks don’t appreciate, understand or respect our passion. They treat us with dismissive cynicism. But we will not be silenced. Whether or not I sit at these controls, the truth will out. As that weird guy from Law and Order said at the end of a particularly dense episode, “this pursuit of the truth thing is not for the faint hearted.” Gall bladder I don’t got. Heart I do. Thanks for watching the place for me. I’m back.

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2 of 42 comments
  • Wstansfi Wstansfi on Jul 21, 2006

    Hey Dude, Highly trained anal retentives read this page too! wstansfi

  • Claude Dickson Claude Dickson on Jul 21, 2006

    This is why I read car mags while waiting for the pharmacy to fill a prescription or in the check-out line. They only look good compared to golf mags, which are a complete waste of time. I don't even pick them up.

  • Islander800 That is the best 20-year-on update of the Honda Element that I've ever seen. Strip out the extraneous modern electronic crap that adds tens of thousands to the price and the completely unnecessary 400 pd/ft torque and horse power, and you have a 2022 Honda Element - right down to the neoprene interior "elements" of the Element - minus the very useful rear-hinged rear doors. The proportions and dimensions are identical.Call me biased, but I still drive my west coast 2004 Element, at 65K miles. Properly maintained, it will last another 20 years....Great job, Range Rover!
  • Dennis Howerton Nice article, Cory. Makes me wish I had bought Festivas when they were being produced. Kia made them until the line was discontinued, but Kia evidently used some of the technology to make the Rio. Pictures of the interior look a lot like my Rio's interior, and the 1.5 liter engine is from Mazda while Ford made the automatic transmission in the used 2002 Rio I've been driving since 2006. I might add the Rio is also an excellent subcompact people mover.
  • Sgeffe Bronco looks with JLR “reliability!”What’s not to like?!
  • FreedMike Back in the '70s, the one thing keeping consumers from buying more Datsuns was styling - these guys were bringing over some of the ugliest product imaginable. Remember the F10? As hard as I try to blot that rolling aberration from my memory, it comes back. So the name change to Nissan made sense, and happened right as they started bringing over good-looking product (like the Maxima that will be featured in this series). They made a pretty clean break.
  • Flowerplough Liability - Autonomous vehicles must be programmed to make life-ending decisions, and who wants to risk that? Hit the moose or dive into the steep grassy ditch? Ram the sudden pile up that is occurring mere feet in front of the bumper or scan the oncoming lane and swing left? Ram the rogue machine that suddenly swung into my lane, head on, or hop up onto the sidewalk and maybe bump a pedestrian? With no driver involved, Ford/Volkswagen or GM or whomever will bear full responsibility and, in America, be ambulance-chaser sued into bankruptcy and extinction in well under a decade. Or maybe the yuge corporations will get special, good-faith, immunity laws, nation-wide? Yeah, that's the ticket.