A Funny Thing Happened on the Way Back to the Forum

Joe Chiaramonte
by Joe Chiaramonte
a funny thing happened on the way back to the forum

Why do we come here? Why do we visit this site weekly, daily, hourly, or every couple of minutes when we can spare the time? I began to consider this question in the wee hours this morning, not at all displeased to be trading valuable sleep time for an issue with absolutely no life relevance.

I began by reviewing the history of my own automotive hysteria. My parents told me I could identify any car on the road by age five. I never missed a trip with my dad to fill up his car, just so I could enjoy a whiff of that automotive elixir’s bouquet. Maybe we needed an oil change, so I could watch the guys lift the car and do their greasy-handed labor of love. Maybe I’d get to sit on dad’s lap and steer on the way home.

These experiences aren’t unique in American culture, but they’re part of a lost automotive acculturation process. Vapor grabbing nozzles have sucked away a bouquet we now call toxic. Try and place your kid on your lap while driving and see what happens (just ask Britney). And sorry, insurance regulations don’t allow kids near a mechanical lift.

My automotive obsession was formed in another time, in ancient, unforgettable crucibles: a 1953 Olds 88, 1959 Chevy Brookwood, 1963 Chevy Impala, 1963 Olds F-85, 1964 Cadillac Sedan DeVille, 1972 Chevy Impala and then… the punch line. A 1972 Chevy Vega. We dubbed this mistake the “Vaguely,” due to its inability to maintain consistent forward progress. One trip to Yosemite clocked in at four MPG while the car happily chewed up its distributor seal. A Datsun replaced its not-so-cherished spot in the driveway.

You can insert your own automotive childhood here. I suspect many of you will have experienced similar exposure to what was good and bad about domestic and imported automobiles. I bet the memories left you with a deep sense of truth, justice and the American iron.

It’s true. We know what was right with our childhood mounts, and we’d like to have that back in our cars’ DNA, thank you very much. The Truth About Cars’ Death Watches pay tribute to our pilgrimages to the altar of resurrection. Whether we’re positively or negatively charged, we watch the steady downhill trudge of an American industry which transported us from diapers to backseat shenanigans at the drive-in. We hope they get it. We know what’s at stake, we see their cards and we can call their bluff.

We would love to know that Dr. Z and Rabid Rick inhale this website’s literary emissions right along with us. We pray that Billy told Alan, “Dude, if you want to know what pistonheads want to see behind the blue oval, check out TTAC. Just pour yourself a stiff drink first. And make sure only the janitorial staff is around to hear you scream.”

This is the place where we get to imagine ourselves in the driver’s seat and say grandly and loudly, “Well, if I were in charge” on every issue. We imagine green lighting or killing products and/or entire brands. We put our convictions right out there for the whole world to see, whether we’re writing a review or editorial or reacting to it. We trash what needs to be trashed and praise what gets our driving mojo working. Everyone with a belly button has an opinion, and we’ll take what you got right here.

Yes, well, truth of the matter notwithstanding, we are not now nor are we ever likely to have a snowball’s chance in Hades of ever being placed in charge of anything grander than our own homestead (or business), and probably for good reason. It’s highly probable that the people reading this had “does not play well with others” or equivalent marked on their early report cards.

But we are kings of our own private automotive domains. Individually, we impact our neighbors, colleagues, friends and loved ones. They turn to us for guidance. They seek us out for our passion, insight and expertise. They listen to us, sometimes with amusement, occasionally with barely hidden condescension. However tentative, their trust obliges us to know what’s out there, what does and doesn’t make a good choice, from the shabby sheds crowding plastic flagged used car lots to the gleaming offerings swimming in the local dealer’s fishbowl.

So, we come back– right here– to discover, uncover, chew apart and rehash. We argue and display our knowledge and weaknesses for our peers to support or dismiss. This is the uniquely, quirky, always interesting watering hole for those whose minds run on hydrocarbons, a tavern dispensing 5W-30, natural or synthetic. And the words that we leave here are a testament to the bright spark of our existence, that say “we came, we drove, we lived.”

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2 of 59 comments
  • Jayjaya29 Jayjaya29 on Oct 12, 2006

    I was somewhat of a pistonhead all my life. But it really took off when coming home from grandparent's house, in the back seat at a red light, next to a brand new Vette. I knew then and there one of my passions in life would be cars and it has been since. I love looking at them, driving them, studying them, reading about them (thanks TTAC), working on them, and anything else with them.

  • Max1138 Max1138 on Dec 07, 2006

    What was wrong the Datsun?My 68 datsun 510 is running

  • SCE to AUX A question nobody asks is how Tesla sells so many EVs without charge-at-home incentives.Here are some options for you:[list][*]Tesla drivers don't charge at home; they just squat at Superchargers.[/*][*]Tesla drivers are rich, so they just pay for a $2000 charger installation with the loose change in their pocket.[/*][*]Tesla drivers don't actually drive their cars much; they plug into 110V and only manage about 32 miles/day.[/*][/list]
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  • ToolGuy Here is an interesting graphic, if you're into that sort of thing.
  • ToolGuy Nice website you got there (even the glitches have glitches)
  • Namesakeone Actually, per the IIHS ratings, "Acceptable" is second best, not second worst. The ratings are "Good," "Acceptable," "Marginal" and "Poor."