By on January 20, 2011

By the time you read this, I won’t be at my computer any more. I’ll be nestled in the firm leather seats of a sportscar, blasting along the banks of the mighty Columbia in search of an empty road that winds up the walls of the yawning Columbia Gorge. I’ll be enthroned in the dark, yet airy cockpit of something so rare, kids in the backseat of every car I pass will get whiplash trying to catch a glimpse of the silver streak slashing its way towards the emptiness of Central Oregon. My telephone will be off, but I will be in deep communication with four wheels, four points of short-travel suspension, and the melodic rasp of six cylinders. I’ll keep the corner of one eye on the few important gauges that line my cockpit cocoon, watching as the needle on the engine oil temperature dial climbs to the point where my car’s engine shakes off the seasonal chill and sings the sadness of the world away. But, more importantly, I will be feeling that engine shake off the cobwebs of underuse, feeling its confidence build, feeling my consciousness fuse with the collection of metal and plastic that shelters me, womb-like, from the mundanity of everyday life.

By the time you read this, my car and I will be jinba ittai, or “person and horse as one.” We will be united, joined in our mutual lack of purpose. We will be headed nowhere in particular, and loving every minute of it. This is why I spent my savings on this odd-looking, impractical piece of engineering: my car is an escape vehicle from the abstract analysis and information overload that is my day-to-day existence. It connects me to one of the most important aspects of the automobile: its ability to connect with individual human beings. The ability to form, over the course of one glance or one corner, the kind of deeply intimate relationship we so struggle to form with our fellow men.

But as I’m downshifting into a corner, as I’m applying the gas and feeling the car beneath me wrestle with the invisible forces of gravity and inertia, something will be bothering me. Something will be breaking the spell cast by this marvelous machine and a challenging piece of road. I will be thinking about all the people leaving their places of work, hopping into their cars and joining the joyless grind on the interstate that will eventually carry them home. I will be thinking about the fact that there are so many more of these people, in their individual metal pods stuck to the conveyor belt of life’s daily commute, that the industry I cover must ignore my spiritual communion. The hermit in his used M Coupe does nothing to keep the lights on in the sprawling factories that, in turn, keep us supplied with the numb, emotionless appliances that are the lifeblood of the industry and modern American life. My disdain for the highly-engineered tedium of new D-Segment sedans never hired a single full-time worker, or reliably gave millions of people freedom from the tyranny of immobility.

Do consumers prefer boring cars? Has the industry forced them to choose the anodyne over the unreliable? Or are boring cars the inevitable result of modern development patterns and industrial logic? I don’t know. Right now, I don’t even care.Right now, I’m pushing just a little bit harder into the next corner, catching my breath as the beauty of nature falls away before me into a Cathedral carved by centuries of erosion. Catching my breath as molecules of rubber gasify, and my car and I thrill at the new high that our relationship has reached. You, on the other hand, might just have time to help solve this essential dilemma before you hop into your car and drive home.

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148 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: Who Do You Blame For Boring Cars?...”


  • avatar
    gslippy

    The ad is right.  But people also perceive ‘boring’ as equivalent to ‘reliable’, and ‘reliable’ sells.
     
    The most interesting and exciting cars don’t often end up being that reliable, with a few exceptions.  The Honda S2000 comes to mind, and a few of the newer Corvettes, actually.
     
    Inextricably linked with the question, however, is what kind of drivers buy ‘boring’ cars?  Often, it’s not the kind to beat a car, and therefore the car lasts longer, and therefore its reputation for reliability induces more sales.  Today’s Corolla might not do well in the hands of a car abuser, and an 80s Mustang might have done OK in the hands of a little old lady.

    • 0 avatar
      forraymond

      As expected, Republicans are behind this, too.

    • 0 avatar

      SEveral reasons
      Most H. sapiens americanus domesticus are boring and unadventurous creatures.
      Most cars that aren’t boring cost extra money to buy and to fix. An Accord (5 speed) may not be as interesting as a 3 series, but the extra thousands of dollars the 3 series would cost me to buy and maintain is not worth the extra increment of fun. I am probably just as happy and have just as much fun with the Accord as I woiuld w/ the 3. Now, if I had the $ for a Cayman…

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      Uh – you are talking about a nation of people crazy enough to build huge cities in Nevada, Arizona and California deserts. A nation of people willing to put their entire lives in a Conestoga wagon and walk across two thousand miles of wilderness to start a new life. A nation of people sired by folks willing to get on board a rat filled wooden boat or share a single toilet with other adventurous people in a leaky vessel from Hamburg or Liverpool to Ellis Island.

      Speak for yourself or at least show some respect for everyone else. America is filled with more Type A adventurous people than most any other place on Earth. The last thing the USA is – is boring. Except to stupid people.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    Most cars were boring in their time.
    A Model A was boring in 1930. A Ford Tudor was boring in 1950. A Beetle was boring in 1960. A Dart Six was boring in 1970. A Chevy Caprice was boring in 1980. A Civic was boring in 1990.
    Nostalgia puts a patina of interest on the dull machines of the past.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Nostalgia puts a patina of interest on the dull machines of the past.
       
      That is quite true.  Just look at the stuff which appears at your local car cruise on a warm Saturday night.

    • 0 avatar
      dlc

      Great post.  Cars are no more boring than they’ve ever been-probably less so.  At the very least they’re faster and they handle better.  I agree that less weight in a car is a lot of fun, but 99% of people don’t want to sacrifice amenities and safety for weight.  Actually, I don’t want to sacrifice safety either.  My first two cars (1993-1997) were VW Beetles.  And of course I’m nostalgic for them now, and wish I could find a simple, light, rwd on the super-cheap.  At the time I thought they were pretty boring.

    • 0 avatar
      strafer

      True, and you can see it with motorcycles now.
      The boring UJM’s (Universal Japanese Motorcycle) from the 70’s are now the hot items.
      Just 5 years ago, I would never have guessed that a CB550 would be coveted by the cafe racer trend that seemed to have died over 20 years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      +1 Well said.
       
      I see these kinds of posts on TTAC on occasion.  You’ve heard of the “kid in everyone”?  This appeals to our old person, the inner Luddite, that always looks to a rosy past and an uncertain future. I’m personally surprised it’s Ed posting it, though, as I’m pretty sure he’s my age or younger.
       

      I can’t blame anyone for “boring cars”, unless it’s we ourselves: people are social animals who tend to think in similar ways and exhibit similar patterns.  It’s no wonder that, with something as ubiquitous as the car, we’d all buy similar ones. Even when we pretend to be “rugged individualists” or “special snowflakes”, we do it in the same way. You can’t blame industry for catering to that, though you can perhaps blame them for misdirecting in ways that are harmful or unsustainably manipulative.

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      Dad’s ’59 “Batwing” Chevy was actually quite exiting at the time, and more than just visually. Imagine hurtling along at triple digit speed (barely) on 7.50×14 two-ply rayon tires surrounding tiny unassisted asbestos-lined drum brakes, while you are unrestrained by seatbelts with a solid steel steering shaft just inches from your chest.

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      Great post tonyola, but I’ll put a reverse spin on this and add that the drudgery of  daily use over the years allows the glint of gems to outshine the crud of mediocrity.
       
      Adding to that, it’s highly possible that cars today seem so boring because it’s rather difficult, even for enthusiasts, to immediately identify gems from the herd.  Either that’s because there are no more gems, or because the level of mediocre has risen so high it’s hard to stand above as truly great.  The (miniscule) optimist in me hopes it’s the latter so that even also-ran cars will deliver someone good service and adequate useful life for their investment.  But a world where up to 80% of the cars are just plain good, while overall better for the consumer, would be downright boring regardless.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Every vehicle can be fun.
     
    It just takes an open mind and some effort on the part of the owner.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Did Baruth ghost-write this piece?  ;O)

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Of course not – there’s no reference to sex or drinking of any sort, stated or implied.

    • 0 avatar
      Sammy Hagar

      Overwrought writing style aside…no, Baruth didn’t pen this. How do I know for sure? This piece is roughly the length of the Old Testament, whereas Baruth likes to express himself in a manner that encompasses the entire Christian experience.

      BTW: What is the “per word” pay scale at TTAC?

      Sammy

  • avatar
    jmo

    Clarkson said the exhaust note of a certain Alfa Romeo “was like having your soul licked by angles.”  Presumably Alfa spent a great deal of time and money on getting the exhaust note right.  But, having a limited budget and a limited supply of engineering talent – that precluded them from expending resources on other parts of the car.
     
    It would really be fantastic if you could recruit some retired engineers and auto executives to give us some insight into the decisions that go into designing and manufacturing a car.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Are you kidding? Alfa spent not a dime on getting the exhaust note “right”, they just did what needed doing and the exhaust note took care of itself. I happen to own a nice example of the car that Clarkson was talking about – an Alfa Romeo GTV-6 – and he was absolutely right!

      As I said in responce to a previous article, most folks think about thier cars the same way they think about refrigerators and dishwashers. They just want them to work, and to match the decor. Driving is mostly a chore for them, they want a quiet comfortable transportation pod.

    • 0 avatar
      Nicodemus

      “was like having your soul licked by angles.”  

      Acute or obtuse?

    • 0 avatar
      Jellodyne

      Top Gear UK is a fun program for Anglephiles.

    • 0 avatar
      Nicodemus

      Not to forget Saxons and Jutes of course!

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    I blame boring cars on people like…me.  I prefer high comfort reliable cars, and I’ve voted with my hard earned dollars for exactly what I want. I’m supposed to tell you that I secretly lust for exciting fast cars, but I’ll be honest if I didn’t say that owning well engineered cars is it’s own reward.
     
    And to twist the original question, why do people work for a salary or a wage instead of equity or commission? I’d say most people care more about security and predictability than they care it admit.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Of course they do. Otherwise nobody would work for anyone else. The only reason people work for somebody else is because it gives them security, while somebody else earns most of the money that individual has earned.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      because it gives them security

      Often a false sense of security.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      “I blame boring cars on people like…me.  I prefer high comfort reliable cars, and I’ve voted with my hard earned dollars for exactly what I want.”

      Couldn’t agree more. Except I have yet to find exactly what I want, but I’m still young and have time to figure out exactly what I want out of a car. At this point I don’t have the years of driving experience or skills necessary to drive a car in a manner that could get me into trouble and I’m okay with that. Enthusiasts can tell me to go away because I don’t do the hooning thing, but I’m not going anywhere because I like cars and like learning about them and fully intend to teach myself how to do most of my own maintenance on my current car.

      I’m also a little more risk averse than I like to admit and am very happy cruising down the highway doing the limit in the right lane. I enjoy being in my car away from everybody, or at least in my bubble. I believe Zackman commented in another post that he prefers cruising over “hooning” and I think I fit into that.

  • avatar
    dlc

    I’m all for an exciting car until it breaks down.  If it doesn’t move it sucks.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    Out of my high school friends, 3 of us were ‘petrolheads’.
    Today, one lives in a city centre and uses public transport. He’s owned sports cars before and will likely do again, but right now cannot afford or justify one.
    The second works offshore and has 3 months a year to piddle around with cars and drive them like a loon. He has a Mazda MX5, a Cosworth powered kit build ‘Dax Rush’ (like a Caterham) and is currently building a bike engined race car.
    Me? I live in suburbia, work an office job and drive dull as ditchwater commuterbox to and from work. I would love a sports car, but unfortunately could not afford to keep one.
    The rest of my friends all drive Honda Civics, Toyota Corollas or other assorted sh*tboxes.
    What’s my point? Necessity. Those with no interest in cars only drive what is necessary – ie, reliable, dull, dependable. Those with an interest in cars can only drive what their situation allows. Even if the world was full of ‘petrolheads’, necessity dictates that the ever reliable, dull commuter-tub would probably still be the most popular vehicle to convey us all to work and the mall.

  • avatar

    [blowing-my-design-disagreements-w/-MK-WAAAY-out-of-proportion-brand-sarcasm]
    I blame Michael Karesh.
    -> Accountants who think they are designers will always ruin it.
     
    +And Toyota’s & to-slightly-lesser-extent Honda’s designers, who are-… -Okay, that’s basically Michael Karesh again, too.
    [end-bmddwmkwoop-b-sarcasm]
     
    +And the Invisible Hand of the Marketplace, that dictates TCO wins and everything else loses; badly.
    –Kind of like the Catholic Church thinking they can go up against testosterone and win.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    When your daily commute means heavy traffic, the M3 or Corvette behind you is not going anyware faster than you. In fact, if said econo-box has a comfortable seat, air-con and a nice sound system, the only difference is that you will use less gas, therefore paying less cash for the insult of traffic.

    • 0 avatar
      wgnman

      + 1    my commute has traffic and that M3(driven by a guy in a suit to impress his friends ) or the Corvette(driven by an older gentleman who finally got his ) is behind me becaused I passed them in my MX5 or Protoge5 , so in essence , the people who drive the cars are what makes the   car boring . I make my cars not boring by how  I drive them .

      ps and I know there are M3 and Corvette owners who drive them like they should .

  • avatar
    Zackman

    The only thing I find boring about most cars nowadays is they’re so plain. Add some character. Chrome (“bright”) window reveal is a must. Lack of bright trim relegates most cars as simply a toaster to me. Having said that, some don’t like bright trim. That’s fine, but I do. My Impala has almost none, but has other design features, while quircky, assures me that you can’t mistake it for anything else. Eliminate some of the excess interior lumps, bumps and humps which require additional material and some of the meaningless creature comforts and add it to the overall apperance and “class” of the vehicle. That’s my opinion.

  • avatar
    Brian P

    In my world of cop-infested roads with low speed limits, an innocuous four-door sedan rules. It is not readily apparent that the Jetta TDI is chipped and has aftermarket suspension bits.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Chips for car diesels?  Sweet. 

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      Oh yeah. With a chip alone I took my former Golf TDI from 90 hp/150 lb-ft. torque to 110 hp / 195 lb-ft., or just enough to be able to pass cars on the back roads of my commute without having to plan a half mile in advance. A more aggressive chip, bigger injectors, a bigger turbo or any combination of the three and a Diesel can be a (relative) rocketship.

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    I know you’re trying to pump us up w/this “mighty Columbia” stuff, but it hasn’t really been “mighty” since they put 14 dams on it…essentially creating 14 slowly-draining lakes. But hey, I dig cheap electricity, so who am I to bitch (it’s not like I’m a salmon).

    And as a far as that drive is concerned, the Washington side is a 2-lane fiasco congested w/potato & onion trucks; the Oregon side is a total speed trap (65mph?) that only gets fun when you are going sideways through Hood River. It’s most likely a proper and good thing if you don’t encourage people to engage in “motorsport” activities along the Columbia River Gorge. Far better to go kite sailing…well, when things warm up.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      As I read it, Ed is planning to have fun once he leaves I-84, and there are plenty of roads on either side of the  river that will accommodate some spirited hooning.  Never realized there are 14 dams on the Columbia, on the Washington side it’s Highway 14 that runs along the river.  Coincidence?

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I don’t care that people love to complain about the best sellers being boring. The reality is that best sellers are mostly just ubiquitous and the people who claim they are boring are not insightful enough to consider that their designs might be as interesting or as well realized as various rare cars, but their impact is lost because you see them 15 times on every trip. I do care that you can’t get a new Ferrari 458 with a manual transmission. DSG drivers are delusional about their enthusiasm. Nobody uses the paddles after the first week of ownership. Even if they did, how would their role in driving the car be any different with a paddle attached to an automatic transmission? The technology may be different, but the value of a DSG driver is the same as an automatic driver. So is the interest level of the car for this enthusiast. Need a bigger group of phonies than people complaining about boring cars and driving DSGs? Throw in the people who claim to be real enthusiasts driving manuals who insist on 2,000 rpm torque peaks. If you don’t want to have to shift, get a slush box and some elastic pants!

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      The reality is that best sellers are mostly just ubiquitous and the people who claim they are boring are not insightful enough to consider that their designs might be as interesting or as well realized as various rare cars, but their impact is lost because you see them 15 times on every trip.
       
      Bears repeating.  A stock SRT8 – or Z06, or whatever – is as interesting a factory car as there’s ever been.  Take it to the right drag strip and without a blower and slicks it might as well be a Buick Century.  It’s all in what you expect.

  • avatar
    James2

    Jinba ittai

    I think the closest most people want to get to a horse is a merry-go-round, which would largely explain the presence of all the ‘boring’ cars at the top of the sales charts. Of the 271,005 Camrys sold, I wonder how many ‘sporty’ SEs are sold? And I wonder if the people buying the SEs really didn’t mean to, but just liked the semi-monochrome appearance. Of course, the SE’s rear wing makes it go jinba ittai, right?

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Consumers are idiots who have come to see cars as the equivelent of dishwashers and ovens that they can drive.  I hate those people. 

    Character doesn’t have to mean UNRELIABLE!  Thank god that there’s still an aftermarket to liven things up.  Or even the manufacturers own parts bin for the truly creative among us. 

    • 0 avatar
      Sammy Hagar

      You do know that Cialis is cheaper than aftermarket parts, right?

      Seriously though: Most people have a limited budget when it comes to automobiles and they have to fill specific criteria w/that choice…and I don’t fault them choosing “boring” cars that do so. To label people “idiots” simply because you disagree with them is childish and shortsighted…I highly doubt you’re an educator of anything but your own anonymous ego.

      Sammy

      PS: Your toupee is a little crooked.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Wow, Amigo, I was being a little sarcastic, it’s been a long day.  (FWIW I’m 33 years old and don’t need the toupee… yet.  Honestly I prefer to age gracefully, gray hair [which is already showing up in my facial hair] and all.)  I’m not even touching the E.D. drug comment.

      PS: Perhaps you don’t recongize my avatar.  It’s Leslie Nielsen, star of stage, screen, and TV.  He’s one of my favorite comedians and he passed away 11/28/10. 

    • 0 avatar
      CreepyMayne

      Unless you’re an individual that prefers a Sub-Zero fridge or a Viking oven.
      Appliances can be quite sexy ;)

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      What do you drive again Dan?

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I’m in a weird situation.  Because of a divorce I’m down to a 2004 F150 Heritage and a 150cc scooter.  I can afford a car payment but because of the shortness of my commute I choose not to do so.  The truck has aquired “character” through the addition of an aftermarket flatbed paid for by a neighbor whose vehicle rolled into me for not knowing how to set a parking brake.  This summer it will aquire a little more “character” when a cat-back dual exhaust system is installed. 

      Honestly I wish more cars had the sharper handling of a Mazda or a Nissan (or GTP/GXP Pontiacs.) 

      I was simply venting about the “vanila-ness” of the market in general with every manufacturer trying to be more like a Camry with each midsize redesign. 

      To me exciting can be anything from a Panther platform with a few police interceptor parts thrown in to a customized pick up truck to a stock RX8 to a family sedan with Bilstein shocks.

      I certainly did not mean to offend anyone.

    • 0 avatar
      dlc

      Damn.  Sarcasm or not, statements like that won’t make you many friends. Even among those who enjoy driving.

    • 0 avatar
      caljn

      Sammy sounds a bit morose today.
      Perhaps some mis-directed disappointment at Paul’s annonced retirement?
      (I do agree with the aforementioned “overwrought” style however.)

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      I hate those people.
      I’m down to a 2004 F150 Heritage and a 150cc scooter.

      Then please, spare us. When you take delivery of your DBS you can comment on “boring” cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      “Then please, spare us. When you take delivery of your DBS you can comment on “boring” cars.”
       
      Not sure what strange world you live in, but there are plenty of non-boring cars that cost (brand new)far less than a $200k Aston Martin.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Baruth even makes a Town Car exciting.  (And those are available quite cheap.) 

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Not sure what strange world you live in, but there are plenty of non-boring cars that cost (brand new)far less than a $200k Aston Martin.

      I was just trying to pick the least boring car.

      But, I would ask what you would consider the least boring car under 50k?
      I’d say WRX STi.

      Seriously though – isn’t a bit unseemly for a guy in an 04′ F-150 to comment on other people’s “boring” cars?

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      Least boring car under $50k? ’11 Mustang 5.0 with the 6 speed manual and Brembo brakes for me.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I was going to say, Dan, that you’re usually the one that has the “live and let live” thing going and that post seemed completely out of character, but once I read your reply stating it was all in sarcasm I understood.

  • avatar
    DearS

    Boring cars exist for the same reason Bugattis, Ferraris, and Lambos cost $500k plus, its the same reason the housing bubble happened, the economic recession happened, and China is a dictatorship Self Esteem ie. an inferiority complex ie. Shame and Fear ie. Emotional codependency.  Those that buy excessive sports car have the same issue as those that buy boring cars, they are both looking to hide shame and fear, one over compensates, the over stay anonymous,. hidden in the crowd ie. a zebra, others like me then to ride “I’m the one that is normal, yet I’m a victim of circumstances train.” All Self esteem related. If someone does not get this, that is ok, that is fear and shame keeping you in denial so you feel like you have no value ie. what the world tries to convince a adults and CHILDREN of everyday.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Dude, it makes the world go ’round.   If it wasn’t for status competition we’d have died out as a species eons ago.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadFlorist

      “If it wasn’t for status competition we’d have died out as a species eons ago.”
      How do you figure?  Abandoning one of the bizarre little games we play to decide who fucks whom doesn’t mean that everybody stops fucking.

    • 0 avatar
      DearS

      I agree it has helped us survive, but now it is helping to kill us. There are healthier ways to live. Status is a disease, it helped carry us, now its getting too advanced. Half the world is poor, many nations are at war or have horrible human rights. The most overt status seeking country is in crisis. Its not wonder people want boring appliance like cars, people are afraid of living life, of responsibility. They are ashamed of being human. Status has always been a distraction from the shame, from responsibility, from fear and emotions, which can be very helpful in helping us act like appliances ourselves and get the job done.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Most people aren’t car nuts, and only want an appliance that gets them from point a to point b without a hiccup. You don’t need style for that.

  • avatar
    M 1

    Six cylinders and an oil temp gauge. GT2? Not so sure about “rare” but I can’t think of anybody else who puts both into the same car.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      My ’93 Passat VR6 had the option to display oil temp in the trip computer. Ed was refering to his BMW M Coupe.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      I guess I need to start buying German cars again. I’m sometimes surprised the American cars bother with any gauges at all any more. I predict eventually they’ll converge on a single giant speed-signal which shows either “LEGAL” or “AUTO-DEBITING CRIPPLING FINES”.

  • avatar
    anchke

    Cars aren’t appliances, but they are unquestionably tools. The better suited a tool is to its use, the more satisfaction it will give the user — i.e., the less “boring” it will be.

    It would be nice if everyone who is so inclined could have one car that was owned simply for happy driving.  The thing that has repeatedly stopped me from buying such a vehicle (even when the missus looks skeptically at the low-mileage MR2 and says “buy it if you want it”) are the questions: a) how often will you use it? and b) is there an actual need right now somewhere else for this dough? So the “fun (not boring) car”  is a discretionary purchase for most of us. 

    But we need a multi-purpose transportation tool suited for commuting, family hauling, bringing home the flat screen teevee, taking the critter to the vet, the kids to soccier practice, and won’t shrink from shouldering its way through winter snowstorms that arrive a couple times a week etcetc  And it has to do this while accommodatinging multiple drivers, not swilling too much fuel, and requiring minimal (maybe less) maintenance. 

    To the performance-loving enthusiast, a multi-purpose vehicle meeting all the above needs will seem boring. Manufacturers recognize this, so for this motoriist they lower the boring score by adding “exciting” (haha) design embellishments, electronic “goodies” (haha), and offer options designed to enhance straight line performance (weeweewee, cries piggy).

    I would add that Saab offered multi-use tools for grownups that nicely filled the adult need for a bit o’ fun, but they lacked the Jersey Shore bling prized by hooners, so the brand is now on life support, thus demonstrating the actual market for such a completely satisfactory multi-purpose transportation tool.

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      The right tools make tedious tasks seem easy. I was recently shopping for exercise equipment before settling on a Concept 2 rowing machine. Compared to the 80’s style hydraulic and/or magnetic resistance units on the market, this thing is so smooth and natural it makes aerobics and intervals fun.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      This reminds me of a conversation I had in the late 90s while student teaching.  My car was a 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham sedan.  Olds 307 V8, 4brl carb, 4-speed auto, posi trac diff, and acres of chrome.  I polished it and kept the interior very clean, wouldn’t even let people eat inside of it.  My cooperating teacher, a man in his 50s, drove a nearly new Astro van.  He saw me pull up one day and put a “sun shield” up in my window in the dead of winter in Ohio.  He asked me what I was doing, since it was not a sunny day and the car was not likely to get hot sitting there.  I told him; “I’m protecting the dash and trying to prevent UV damage.”  He looked at me for a second and said; “Son, a car is a tool… intended to be used up.”  And he walked away.

      I didn’t agree with him then and I don’t agree with him now.  Drive something that inspires your passion.  And if a car that other’s consider to be an appliance inspires your passion, then go for it.  (Yeah I know that runs contrary to my above post but a man can learn.) 

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    Ed, did you steal Chuck’s car?

    Boring is normal. Sorry, but it’s true. Exciting is dangerous. Aggressiveness. Dynamic handling. High power. Knife edge performance. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Unless you have the disposable income to balance excitement with transportation boring will always dominate.

  • avatar
    Nicodemus

    “person and horse as one.”

    Someone at high school has a copy of that video, disgusting!

  • avatar
    PartsUnknown

    Ed, please.  Put it this way: before I was married I had a 528i 5 speed as my daily driver and an ’86 911 Coupe as my fun car.  Both cars were thrilling to drive and I would go out on weekends to (insert flowery prose), mostly in the Porker.  My free time was spent either driving them, cleaning them or wrenching them.  Good times. 

    Today I’m married with a house and two beautiful l’il chitlins.  I’m driving a ’10 Accord 5 speed and an ’08 Taurus X.  Functional and boring.  But they fit our life perfectly.  The Accord is as reliable as the sun and fun to drive, and the T-X ferries mom and kiddies to and fro.  Neither car gets washed much and they only need oil changes.  My time (and money) is now freed up to spend on what’s most important.  So, boring cars do serve a purpose.  Get back to us when you have kids and a mortgage – that M Coupe will be on craigslist in a heartbeat and you’ll be regaling us with stories about your Sienna’s disappearing third row.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      If I was you, I would have had one less kid and kept the 911. Glad my wife feels the same way I do.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Get back to us when you have kids and a mortgage – that M Coupe will be on craigslist in a heartbeat and you’ll be regaling us with stories about your Sienna’s disappearing third row.
       
      Not a chance in hell.  Buying such a car when you have a house full of kids might be tough, but that is why you buy such things before you have them.  As a kid I remember a few of the “cool” Dads..they had the wood and chicken wire divider in the garage.  On the protected side would be the Porsche, Vette…one even had a MG.  I always knew I would do the same thing…Only my garage is detached and is a no-kid zone.  Building it basically ate up the 911 budget but someday a car of that caliber will be in there.   For now the present cars get to enjoy radiant heating.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      @goldenhusky, I like your outlook on life. 

    • 0 avatar

      I understand that the Sienna has a special cubby hole where the wife in those commercials keeps her hubby’s testes.
      I do think that the makers of minivans and other people mover type vehicles are missing an opportunity. We often think the muscle car era began with Mustangs but the first muscle car was a full size Chevy with a 409. All those family cars back in the 1960s were available with big engines so dad could step on it if he wanted to. I remember a buddy of mine’s dad was a salesman on the road a lot. When he needed a new car in 1972 and was going to get a Mercury Montego (think Gran Torino in slightly different sheet metal), he told he son to just order whatever took premium gas. By then the Clean Air Act had kicked in so the only thing that took premium that year in that car was a 351 Cobra Jet.
      So if the companies offered a performance engine option in minivans and crossovers, I don’t think so many men would object.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I do think that the makers of minivans and other people mover type vehicles are missing an opportunity

      I’m not so sure.  The current crop of minivans are plenty fast and actually handle pretty well, at least compared to family wagons of old and more than a few modern crossovers.  There’s no real dogs anymore, and there’s serious diminishing returns at play going from, say, a Sienna, Oddy or T&C to the Mercedes R63 AMG.

      That said, the R63 AMG is a pair of sliding doors away from perfection, in my opinion

    • 0 avatar
      PartsUnknown

      Sam P – well, you’re not me, and thank God for that.  I wouldn’t trade either of my kids for a dozen 911s. 

      golden2husky – there’s more than one way to be a “cool dad”.  My family goes hiking, snowshoeing, mountain biking, we cook together – my kids think I’m pretty cool, even if we travel in a Taurus X.  I’m a gearhead, and I’ll get another “fun” car eventually, but my self-image has never been wrapped up in a car.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      PartsUnknown – Its nice to see that there are fathers who’s involvement with their kids goes beyond financial support.  My father was an excellent provider – living on a big estate as a kid was really wild, but I would have loved to have had the kind of interactions you describe with my father as a kid…though I must add the cool car is not for the image but for the sheer thrill of the drive. Nothing helps me bleed off stress than a g-inducing drive.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @Ronnie: “So if the companies offered a performance engine option in minivans and crossovers, I don’t think so many men would object.”
       
      Although my klds are old enough to drive themselves, I would love to get a something like the “Man Van” that was pilloried here a while back. One of the potential replacements I’m considering is a Chevy HHR SS, because I occasionally need to haul things and I occasionally need to haul, verstehe?

  • avatar
    Nicodemus

    “But as I’m downshifting into a corner, as I’m applying the gas and feeling the car beneath me wrestle with the invisible forces of gravity and inertia”

    You have a car that fights gravity? have you offered it for sale to NASA? Oh and since when is inertia a force? Any anyway how many visible forces are there anyway, apart from that cool lightning stuff that Count Dooku shoots in star wars?

    • 0 avatar

      He said “wrestle with” not transcend the forces thereof. While advertisements that suggest that the laws of physics can be bent or broken are of course stupid, I think it’s an apt metaphor. Wrestle implies grappling with something, not repelling it.
      So Ed’s not a physicist, but then most people aren’t either and most people don’t describe common day things in precise scientific terms. This is the truth about cars not the truth about physics. Lighten up, Francis.
      Of course, you could have explained to us why inertia is not a force and why forces are generally invisible. I love to learn about science.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    I’d point out the continuing existence of GM and Toyota as the biggest contributors to the blandification of the automotive landscape. Neither of them seem to market their mainstream vehicles towards anyone who values driving as remotely entertaining. Of course, both companies sell quite a lot of cars, so this is by no means a losing strategy.
     
    Smaller manufacturers like Honda and Mazda and VW actually design cars for people who value driving. Even a basic Civic or Jetta is a decently fun transportation device – and in the case of the Civic, reliable enough for the needs of the pickiest consumer.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      Clearly, you have not driven a Civic lately.  Or a CR-Z.  What happened to the S2000?  Ya that Insight sure is exciting.  The Accord is now a bloated full size shadow of its former fun to drive self (but head and shoulders over just about any other mainstream sedan in the fun department).
       
      VW JETTA?!?  What on earth are you talking about.  The base Jetta comes with all of 115 HP of flaming fury with the God awful 2.0 under the hood that practically destroyed the brands credibility in the first place.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      I’ve driven a current generation Civic Si. That was a fun little car, and by no means boring.
       
      Have not driven a 2.Slow Jetta, but the 5-cylinder + manual combination in a previous gen Jetta seemed like a fine powertrain and moreover, reminded me of the raspy exhaust of an old Audi 4000 Quattro. I don’t know why that combination gets slagged by the car magazine reviewers.
       
      And this is coming from someone who owns an E46 330i 6-speed.
       

  • avatar
    jbltg

    Yes, there is a need for practical, reliable cars.  No one wants to be stuck somewhere in LA with a broken something or other.  BUT-we do seem to have a huge amount of effort, talent and resources being poured by various manufacturers into more or less copying each others very much overwrought cars.

    Seems to me that the no doubt vast funds being poured into increasingly (mostly) fugly, complex and costly body styling and interiors and gimmicky electronic crap would be far better used to make the automobile perform better (fun, lively to drive??) and suck less fuel.  I see a huge waste of resources on what is essentially marketing department crap that no one likes or uses.  Don’t even get me started on those effing ridiculous paddle shifters.

    Virtually all reviews of these nicely decked-out “appliances” point out dynamic shortcomings….why not invest some of these funds into this?

  • avatar

    Ed.
    No car is really boring if you think of what it can do. But then I think washing machines and sewing machines are cool too. Today’s boring cars can literally driver rings around (and most likely inside) many sports cars from the 1970s. The dynamics on the most beige Toyota Camry are better than on the performance cars of not too long ago. Even econoboxes have power to weight ratios that would have gotten attention during the muscle car era. Then there are the huge improvements in brakes and tires. I’m old enough to remember when bias ply tires were high performance and only a handful of foreign cars wore radials and Mopar 440 six packs had drum brakes all around.
    Like the AMC Experiment over at Car Lust Blog, drive a ’11 Camry into a time machine, come out in 1985 and people then would think it was an amazing car.
    We look back at the Motorama cars and laugh how they tried to predict the future and then we take amazing advances for granted.
    David Gelernter, while recovering from an attempt on his life by the Unibomber (or “hut man” as Gelernter calls his attempted assassin) wrote a book about the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. He talks about the people standing in line to see the GM Futurama exhibit, expecting to see wonders, but the middle aged people standing in line in 1939 had lived through revolutionary changes – automobiles, radio, television (invented by 1939), real medicine (antibiotics were discovered in the late 1930s), synthetic plastics and fibers, modern appliances like washing machines (which helped liberate women) and refrigerators (which improved food safety). Those 40 year olds in 1939 didn’t realize that the wonders all around them were in their way, as amazing as any that would take place yet to come.
    I’m old enough to have gotten telegrams on the occasion of becoming a bar mitzvah. Now, I can use my not even smart phone to check the availability of domain names on GoDaddy.com. Marconi was just as cool as Steve Jobs.

    • 0 avatar

      A link to the Gelernter book.
      1939: Lost World of the Fair

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      Like the AMC Experiment over at Car Lust Blog, drive a ’11 Camry into a time machine, come out in 1985 and people then would think it was an amazing car.
       
      Drive an ’11 Camry into 2006 and people did think it was an amazing car.  An affordable family car which got 30+ mpg highway yet could run 0-90 neck and neck with a 350Z while you had a quiet conversation inside.
       
      Yet 5 years of familiarity has bred contempt to the point that the enthusiast forums – and the same press who gushed over it in 06 – now declare it essentially undriveable.

    • 0 avatar
      thebeelzebubtrigger

      What?! Marconi was *waaaaaay* more cool than Steve Jobs! In fact, Steve Jobs was really never cool at all. Steve Wozniak, OTOH…

      [posted from a Mac — don’t taze me bro!]

    • 0 avatar

      No question, Woz was the more clever of the two. Jobs obviously was more ambitious. Wozniak is among a small group of computer pioneers who worked on both sides of the hardware and software divide. I think he invented disk caching.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    The market has spoken. People who can pay for non-boring (performance) iron often prefer 4000 square foot homes…
    That said, if you want non-boring, you don’t have to spend a ton. Aftermarket chips and suspension mods can turn plain box sedans into somewhat fun to drive (albeit slow) whips.
    Then again, this is a world of used $20K G35s and RX8s. Twenty years ago, you’d pay twice as much for less performance.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Without ‘boring’ cars, we wouldn’t have ‘exciting’ ones.

  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    Interesting cars carry a price premium.  C-segment example:
     
    Forte LX M/T $14995
    Corolla LE $17300
    Mazda3s Sport $19545
    Impreza WRX $25495
    A4 Premium Plus $35750

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      But wait, is a Forte really less interesting than a Corolla?  Is an A4 over twice as exciting as a Forte?  Is Mazda’s suspension tuning worth $2000 over a Toyota?  I know some of these things are hard to quantify but they’re valid questions. 

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Dan:  No; no but the law of diminishing returns applies; and depending on how you drive, yes.

  • avatar

    Boring cars started with lazy designs or the lack there-of. Since auto companies started laying off design teams and allowing engineers to design cars, why else does the backend of a BMW X5 from a distance look like a Lexus RX….which also looks like a Hyundai Santa Fe…… Regardless, the consumer has changed as well, becoming more “practical” in the replacement of the “Sunday Drive” for the “Monday Commute” mindset. Cars are now appliances, sadly, and unless the drive (pun unintended) of the consumer and the auto industry changes, than we will continue to see boring cars being produced.

    I really do hate it. I for one am not looking for a the best driving car out there (BMW 3 series comes to mind) but just a decent car that looks good for a decent price that is built well. If this was 1964 I could choose between the new Ford Mustang, Pontiac Tempest, or the Chevrolet Chevelle… and feel pretty good about my purchase regardless of what I chose. Anymore, you spend your time arguing over the styling of a Kia Optima because it is clearly the most stylistic “new” midsize car on the road that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg but still leaves much to be desired.

  • avatar
    aspade

    Cars are boring because they’ve gotten too good.
     
    Producing a saleable vehicle costs at least 9, usually well into 10 figures.  Partially to meet foolish and capricious mandates from Washington, but mostly because the rest of the market is just that good after a hundred years of continual improvement.
     
    Recouping an investment of that level requires volume production.  Volume production requires mainstream appeal.  Volume production and mainstream appeal are the definition of boring.

  • avatar
    sfdennis1

    From the post…. ‘I will be jinba ittai, or “person and horse as one.” ‘

    Just putting it out there, that is EXACTLY the engineering/design philosophy behind all generations of Miata design and engineering….as decreed by Mazda, word for word….light controls, abundant feedback, and stong feeling of connection to the machinery and experiencing instinctual control in all driving situations.

    OK, so this is a late night post…but in ALL the cars I’ve ever driven, the Miata I currently own stands alone in offering the utmost sensation of jinba ittai…nice to see it specifically refered to and acknowleged as such…

    • 0 avatar
      OB 50

      This is exactly why I’m such a big Mazda fan.  They actually seem to have a design philosophy that carries over across all of their different models, and part of it is making sure that the driving experience is fun for people who like to drive for its own sake.
      The best example I can give is when I bought my 08 Speed3.  I had been driving an 04 Mazda6 5-speed, but it got obliterated while parked on the street.  When I set out to replace it, I checked out the Civic Si, VW GTI, and a few others, but I assumed the Speed3 was out of my price range without even really looking into it.  I eventually decided on the GTI, but I couldn’t find the one I wanted.  Luckily, I found out that the Speed3 was actually less expensive than the GTI I wanted, so I ordered one sight-unseen.
      Every Mazda I had ever driven, from my old ’86 626 to my Mom’s Tribute, had the same “feel”.  Obviously they’re all drastically different vehicles, but I could tell that handling and driver enjoyment were priorities in all of them.  I knew how that car was going to drive solely based on that consistent design philosophy, and I wasn’t disappointed at all.
      I know that this is the car, should I ever get rid of it, that I’ll look back on wistfully and wish I still had it.  My plan is to avoid that if at all possible, because I fear that this kind of car just isn’t going to come around again.  Everything else with this kind of performance is either too expensive, physically impractical, or screams “look at me!”  Even the new style Speed3 is unacceptable.  I’m sure it’s probably superior as far as objective performance, but the styling, inside and out, is almost physically painful.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Cars aren’t boring. We’re boring. What happens when you or I get excited about a car and tell someone about it? Their eyes glaze over if we’re lucky.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    Cars are a reflection of us as a society. Most people just aren’t that passionate about their cars but they are more than willing to sue for the most inane of things. Mitigation of litigation becomes the undertone to everything and the result (with a few exceptions) is bland jellybeans with 50 airbags, stability control and no soul.

  • avatar
    threeer

    It’s all a matter of priority.  When I was in my mid 20s (and unmarried), I maintained a 1993 325is and a euro 1985 318i that I ralleyed.  I absolutely loved both of my BMWs…then I met the woman I would soon marry.  And along with the privilege of marrying her came the highlight of my life, adopting her six-year old as my own son.  Not long after we were married, it became painfully obvious that not one, but two coupes weren’t going to cut it for family duty.  We were quickly becoming very active in Scouting and camping, so we committed the ultimate “car guy” sin and purchased…a minivan!  In the years we had that we towed our pop-up all over the place and hauled around a half dozen Scouts to more camps than I can count.  Yeah, the van was boring as all get out when compared to my Bimmers, but priority dictated something different, and I would NEVER trade those experiences for any car.  Period.
    My 66 year old mother buys a new four door sedan every 10 years or so…the last (almost) thirty years have seen two Corollas and one Camry (she preferred her 1993 Camry to the 2003 Corolla).  Boring?  To 99% of us here, you bet.  But to her, they get her back and forth to work and the occasional two hour drive up to visit her sister.  She doesn’t have the nerves to worry constantly about a car and HER priority is that the cars starts in the morning and gets her to her office with little to no drama.  0-60 times, skidpad numbers, etc…mean exactly zilch to her, and she’s not alone in this world (witness the number of like cars on the road).  And since that seems to be what the consumer wants, that’s what the automotive manufacturers offer and sell the most of.  Enthusiast drivers make up a small percentage of the buying audience, so that turbocharged, diesel six-speed wagon with the multi-link independant suspension and recaro-inspired interior is never going to make up the majority of vehicles on the market.
    FYI…my son is now off to college at USAFA, so my eye is turning again (eventually) to something more “fun.”  We own a 2004 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart and somehow I just love that car.  it isn’t the fastest out there, but it has sharp handling, makes a nice noise and hauls both of our Corgis with ease.  So I guess it is possible to combine utility with a bit of fun…but my wife still wants to see a nicely preserved variant of a Z3 sitting in our driveway one day…:)

    • 0 avatar
      BMWfan

      threeer,

      Congrats on your son being accepted to the Academy! Your post just goes to show that you can take the boy out of the Bimmer, but you can’t take the Bimmer out of the boy. Life is short. Get the car you want before they are all gone. I just can’t seem to like the new ones, as they seem like I’m driving a computer on wheels.

  • avatar
    Morea

    There are no boring cars only boring drivers.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    Automobiles have multiple functions. Performance driving may be one of them, but it’s only one, and it usually ranks lower in importance compared to other transportation needs (e.g., kids, family, work, groceries, hardware store, vacations, and so on).
     
    Lamenting about non-performance oriented automobiles and automobile functions is comparable to computer gamers lamenting about non-gaming computers. Computers may be used for gaming, and some people have them specifically designed to do so, but gaming is not the primary function of computers, nor should it be, and there’s no point lamenting about it or referring to people who use computers for non-gaming purposes as ‘idiots’ or some other such thing.
     
    This kind of attitude misses the point and privileges one function that an automobile may have (or a computer, or anything with multiple functions like this) over all the other functions, and for no good reason. Of course an automobile can also satisfy multiple functions to varying degrees, and so a family vehicle can have decent performance features (just like a household computer can often be good enough for playing most games), but to lament that automobiles have other functions besides performance (and hence are boring, and so on) is to fail to understand the history of the automobile and the complex place it has in modern society.
     
    I can understand some people lamenting these kinds of things, but don’t wallow in it. Get over it and look at automobiles for what they are in all their complex uses and functions, and then maybe we’ll get a little bit closer to discerning the full truth about cars.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I suppose I am considered a “boring” driver as far as tearing up and down a winding road somewhere. Now? I have a vision issue that has forced me into being a good, but very careful driver out of necessity. Boring cars? Depends on what you mean by “boring”. I have never owned (or wanted, except in my own fantasy dreams) a fire-breathing muscle car – too wasteful. I’m the guy who would have bought a new late-60’s Camaro or Malibu 2 dr. hardtop with the six-cylinder engine for the looks alone! I have owned my fair share of unusual vehicles such as a 1976 Gremlin, a 1976 Dodge Dart Lite and a 1968 Jeep Commando C101. Other vehicles were more mainstream, but oddly-equipped, and of course, my avatar above. We own a 2007 Miata for fun, though. I consider myself an enthusiast because I really like what I drive and take immense pride in it, even my ’04 Impala which I have personalized to make it just a bit different from everyone else’s. Besides that, although I’d love a Corvette, I refuse to pay for an expensive vehicle to soothe feelings of vanity (and the insurance – but at my age and driving record, not so much!) for being stuck in traffic twice a day, five days a week. Now I may have to re-address that if the new convertible Camaro suits my fancy! But I doubt it. Maybe eventually a used one, though. Thinking. Musing. Dreaming…hmmmm…gently used Corvette? This could take awhile!

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      C4 Vettes are pretty cheap, Amigo.  Six speed manual and you would even get decent fuel economy.  The greasy bits should be fairly cheap to maintain, and like you said, at your age insurance isn’t really a concern. 

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      This is exactly why none of us “old heads” should leave TTAC because a few of the original personnel have moved on. Follow them (I will), but don’t leave TTAC. Why? because of the younger ones like Educator Dan watching our backs! Thanks, Dan (had to comb my hair!). Actually, my neighbor has a very nice C4 ‘Vette which I may discuss such an idea with him before he moves!

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Something to consider is the fact that as the herd of fun cars thins out, fewer people will get to experience them. Not many people these days realize how boring their cars are in the first place because they have never even test-driven a fun one. More importantly, they don’t lust for one. It’s a cycle that is sure to repeat itself until we are all literally driving pods made by one, probly Chinese, manufacturer.
    On another note, how does Lamborghini get away with such lax pedestrian impact safety?

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Toyota tops my list. What is more boring and appliance like to drive than a Camry LE 4 cylinder or Carolla? They were some of the first cars to start decontenting all the exterior trim and bright work, there plastic hubcaps look cheap, the interiors were coming in light tan and dreary gray and every other manufacturer quickly followed suite. Driving either of these two cars instantly justifies why 90% of them are driven by elderly drivers because most of the geriatic set don’t care at all about driving.
    I was seldom ever bored with the big 4 as a child growing up in the 70’s and 80’s and waited each year with eager anticipation with all my friends what the new year would reveal. Cars back then actually got restyled every other year with more than just new colors like today cars. It’s hard to tell a 2000 Taurus from a 2007 unless you take the color and a grille that tapers at the end ever so slightly. Try telling a 2007 Camry from a 2010. Engine lineups changed frequently, along with seating configurations, interior colors varied and most cars at the time offered 3 times the color choices compared to todays DULL BORING TAN and GRAY can’t tell what what I’m looking at from the side look alike sedans.
    We had pony cars with 2 door or 3 door hatches, 2 door coupes, personal luxury coupes, convertibles, sedans, hatchbacks, station wagons, 2 seaters, 2 door wagons and a ton of engine choices. There were sub compacts, compacts, intermediate, full size and luxury full size availble. Restrictive option packages. Those didn’t exist at the time and the buyer could order what he/she wanted without restriction. I remember as a kid being able to tell most every car apart at night just by looking at the side profile or taillights or grille. Just try doing that today with so many look alike clones. My dad thinks that the car companies are playing hopscotch with the same 3 automotive designers today shuffling them from one car company to the next as the 3 basic designs being offered today are bland boring vanilla sedans, boxes or outlandish hideous monstrosities such as the Aztek, Juke and Cube to name a few. There is little else in between save a few retro styled cars like the Camaro, Stang and Challenger or some highly expensive exotics that look like futuristic race cars. Those are few and far between. The loss of AMC, Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Mercury, Saturn and Hummer just make the situation far worse and give much less choice for enthusiasts and consumers. It’s much harder for me and many friends to be a car enthusiasts today than it was years ago but there are some rays of hope coming in the future, stupid 2016 CAFE regs not amongst them!

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Yeah, ponchoman49. I could never figure out why, when cars have gotten so reliable that the OEMs stripped all the “personality” and “character” out of them? Doesn’t make any sense to me. Efficiency? I just don’t see it. Even though “planned obsolescence” possibly contributed to some of the demise of the “big 4” (AMC did count), no car looked like another, that’s for sure. Mostly the reason I like my ’04 Impala so much – you can’t mistake it for anything else on the road, plus it’s a very good car, to boot. There’s always a way to make plain, everyday appliances look attractive and appealing, and there’s nothing wrong with that!

  • avatar
    pauldun170

    Women…boring cars exist because of women.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    It’s all in how you enjoy your vehicle…an Outback is rather boring to most people. I think it’s a blast, with a manual and two locking diffs…it can slide around gravel and on snow like a WRX STi. It can tow our pop-up camper with ease onto BLM or USFS lands. It carrys the bikes and skis on the roof. It cruises effortlessly at 80 on the interstate, or just around town.

    And it’s beige. I love it, my wife loves it, our boys love it. Why? Because we get alot of use out of the vehicle. It’s a tool, and it’s less boring to us.

    I’ve been thinking about getting an 05-06 Mustang GT as a commuter, but it’d be as enjoyable as any other car driving to work each day…ie, kinda boring. Except it would sound better.

    • 0 avatar
      Morea

      This is what I’m talking about.  Excitement (as with life) is what you make of it.  4 wheels, an engine and brakes and you are set to go.  Go to a 24hrs of LeMons race and see boring cars used in exciting ways (on the track, of course).

  • avatar
    mazder3

    It all depends on what your idea of boring is. Take my old V6 Corsica for example. No bright work, interior made of the cheapest pieces GM could find. You wouldn’t believe how much fun it is to fling one of those flexy POSs around corners, the 14″ tires groaning on the sidewalls. Taking roads that hadn’t changed much in 200 years at 70 mph. Bringing the speedo up to 114 was certainly the antithesis of boring. Scary as hell in fact.
    My Mazda3 hatch is much more exciting to look at and much better built but it doesn’t make me ever think “Let’s see what this sum bitch’ll do!” like that POS rental special Corsica did.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      +1 I could say the same thing about my first car, 1982 Chevy Celebrity.  (Although it would top out at 85mph, but was similarly twitchy at the limit.)

  • avatar
    geeber

    Cars are boring in regards to how they work because they are so good. A “boring” 2011 Civic will run circles around an “exciting” 1960s muscle car or foreign sports car. When speaking about older cars, “character” was a code word for “has a propensity to break down on a regular basis.”

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      geeber, your thoughts brought back into my mind about a discussion I had with a buddy 10 or so years ago about cars. He originally worked for Chrysler (Air-Temp division) right out of high school in the early mid-70’s. Yes indeed, a modern automobile (most of the mainstream ones) does a lot of awesome things like propelling us down the highway at 70 mph in climate-controlled comfort, in reasonable quietness while listening to tunes or the ballgame on a good sound system, surrounded by many safety features unheard of years ago and sensors monitoring all the parts that make it work. Pretty amazing. I had to agree with him. Maybe it’s the CAR that’s actually having all the fun, and not the driver?

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Zackman,

      Maybe our “boring” cars are amazing in that they can be stress-free transportation modules or corner-carving fun machines, depending on the road.

      My 2003 Accord may LOOK boring, but it can take corners on some of our country roads at speeds that would have sent a 1970s Corvette or 240-Z straight into the weeds. It can also cruise along at 80 mph on the Pennsylvania Turnpike without breaking a sweat.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    My opinion…
     
    Many people want fun cars when they are young.  They want functional reliable cars when they have kids.  They want inexpensive cars in retirement.
     
    While fun cars are great, they are fleeting as well.  New higher HP engines come out.  Better tires, better brakes, better suspension, better features, and better looks (well, sometimes).  This makes the old fun car less fun and people want a new one.  If you buy a brand boring car, your feelings about it don’t change as much.  Who cares if the next boring sedan has another 30hp, better suspension, etc etc.  The one that you own is getting close to being paid off.  Buy one when you need it.  And this boring sedan will have a better resale value than that fun car you wanted.
     
    I also think that women have had a big influence here.  50 years ago, men drove coupes, even with families.  Since women are working more and more now, have more say in family life, men aren’t getting coupes.  They are driving the boring sedan.
     
    I also think economic times have shifted.  Cars are more expensive and the dollar travels less.  Does it make a great deal of sense to put money in a car that you like, gets poor mileage, terrible resale, and that you probably won’t keep long term?  Is this going to be an extra car for you?  Can you afford having an extra car when the money could go to X?
     
    Boring cars sell because they don’t offend people.  Many people here like the new Sonata.  To me, the design is too much.  I think that Hyundai is trying too hard with the design.  Having curves for the sake of curves is interesting, but I think it is ugly.  I am also willing to be that in a few years, it will not be as attractive to buyers.  I don’t think the design will age well.  I think the unoffensive designs of the Camry, Accord, Malibu, Fusion, and Altima will age much better.  I could be wrong, but Toyota and Honda have been doing it for years and it has been working well for them.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Steven02: You know, I’ve commented ad nauseam on this thread, but you raise some good points I feel are worth boring others on. I had my avatar when I was young and couldn’t park it often enough. Always moving, always washing it and waxing it and “fixing” things that didn’t need fixing on it, but just for the heck of it. As I have gotten older and going through marriage, building a “real job”, having and raising a family, and now my wife and I now being “empty-nesters”, I still like fooling around with my cars(s), just not as often. As far as coupes are concerned – my parents had a 1950 Plymouth ever since I came along in 1951, followed by a 1953 Dodge, followed by a 1955 Dodge – all were coupes. We regularly carried grandma and often had six people in the car for a Sunday outing. The first four-door car was when my dad bought a 1960 Chevy Impala 4 door hardtop in May of 1965. So, for the first 14 years of my life, coupes were all I knew. Times, indeed, have changed. America’s golden years of consumerism were from 1946 to the early 1970’s. Then the hardtops disappeared and it all started going down! Sorry, had to get the “hardtop” issue in there, but seriously, the times did change and economics were probably a major factor. Remember when “sticker shock” came into vogue circa 1979 or so? So, I think you summed up some major issues as other “Best and Brightest” have on this subject. I probably put in ‘way more than my 2 cents’ worth, so if I bored anyone, sorry ’bout that.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      For may years, people bought coupes because they were often the cheapest vehicle (or one of the cheapest) in the lineup. The price spread may seem small today, but during the Depression years, it represented a considerable amount, especially to someone shopping in the Chevrolet-Ford-Plymouth field.

      Families often drove coupes because there were no doors for little hands to open – either accidentally or on purpose – while the car was moving. Improved door locks
      and latches eliminated this rationale.

      The car seat requirements for small children were the final blow to the coupe market. It was one thing to flip the front seat forward and tell Junior to climb in through a small opening. It’s much different when the parents have to climb back there and strap Junior into a car seat. That is hard enough in a sedan with a full door opening.   

      As for the Hyundai Sonata – the company tried a radical design because it had less to lose than the leaders. It was coming from behind, and didn’t have the customer base that might have been alienated by a radical design.

      When Dodge showed the radical Ram pickup to buyers in the early 1990s, it found at 25 percent loved it, but the rest hated it. The market share for Dodge’s old pickup at that time was much less than 25 percent, so it went ahead with the “mini-Kenworth” design, and scored huge sales gains.

      Most designs during the “Golden Age” of the American car industry (roughly 1945-1970) were really not that radical. The exception was during the late 1950s, and many commentators at the time condemned those designs, and sales for the industry as a whole weren’t very good after 1957. The recession didn’t help, but more than a few people noted that people were getting tired of radical styling, and Rambler didn’t have any trouble selling everything it could build from 1958-60.

      Chevrolet had the momentum and name recognition to build something as outrageous as the 1959 Chevrolet, but even GM moved back to saner designs as fast as it could with the much more sober 1961 models.

      Most of the really radical designs of the 1960s were either low-volume luxury cars (suicide-door Lincolns), personal luxury coupes (1967 Eldorado, 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix) or the Corvette. The original Corvair and Valiant were radical, but both got whipped by the utterly conventional Falcon in sales.

      Most of the family sedans and hardtops were pretty conservative after 1960. The exception was Chrysler Corporation from 1960-62, and it suffered greatly from offering such bizarre and ugly designs as the 1961 Plymouth and 1962 Dodge Dart to mainstream buyers.  

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      geeber: Doggone it, another couple of memories/facts about coupes. The child safety issue was one reason for two-doors. I almost fell out of our 1950 Plymouth one day. I was in the front seat with my mom, going somewhere. I must have been 6 years old. She told me to lock the door. Well, to lock the door, I had to push the inside door handle forward. To open the door, you had to pull the handle to the rear. Guess which way I moved the handle? Yup, I pulled the handle back as we were coming to a stop at an intersection, the door flew open, I started to go with the door, but mom grabbed me just in time! The door sprung the hinges and had to be roped shut and I had to ride in the back seat ’til we got back home! I learned real quick the proper direction in which to move the handle to lock the door! Thank goodness for pushbutton locks on later cars! One more thing: my parents priced a brand-new 1968 Chevy ll Nova. The four door was $50.00 more than the two door model. In 1968, 50 bucks made a lot of difference! Dad didn’t but the car. He bought a gorgeous red 1966 Impala sport sedan that I lovingly took care of for him until I entered the USAF!

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      Every few months I bring up to my wife that a Mustang GT would make a fine second vehicle (my commuter, small family trips) since it seats 4 (2 adults, 2 toddlers) and is something for her and I to take on short trips.

      She goes on about fuel economy, insurance, not as good in snow…yadda yadda yadda. I’d probably go with an 05-07 because they’re under $15k now. Fuel economy is the same as my 1998 3.2TL, insurance is not an issue anymore. Snow is not really an issue in Boise either.

      Maybe someday. In the mean time, both vehicles are running well and enjoyable to own and drive.

      But yes, she has much more say. Unlike Don Draper who comes home with a 1962 Cadillac, bought on a whim. Hmmm…speaking of Cadillac, isn’t a CTS more practical? Perfect!

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    People buy cars for three reasons, in this order, IMHO:
    1. to provide basic transportation
    2. to impress others with their wealth and taste
    3. to feel the “horse/rider” experience Ed describes
    As you move down the list of reasons, the numbers of people who buy a car for that primary reason declines sharply.  IOW, far fewer people buy a car to feel the “horse/rider” experience than to provide basic transportation.
    The basic transportation people have other things on which they would rather spend their attention: it might be a job, it might be their family.  For them, the best car is the one that is “invisible”  that is, it performs what’s expected of it without requiring the attention of the owner.  Since this is the biggest group of buyers, this is where most of the manufacturers target their efforts.
    The “status” people also want a “no-hassle” ownership experience; but they want their vehicle to make a personal statement about them to the rest of the world.  And they are not willing to trade, for example, a punishing ride for the last degree in handling capability; nor will they put up with a lot of racket from the tires, or the engine.
    The “horse/rider” people seek out the kind of driving experience Ed describes.  They should drive alone; they will ignore their passenger, and the passenger will not have the experience the driver has.  In fact, the passenger may find the whole experience to be unpleasant.  Those people also need to have available to them the kind of roads that make such an experience possible: light traffic, hills, curves, scenery.  Lots of people don’t have easy access to that.
    It is, of course, no accident that car commercials do not feature photos of their cars in 20 mph bumper-to-bumper commuter traffic on a freeway.  It’s either on a scenic open road, or, if the vehicle is an SUV, in some bucolic setting that emphasizes the SUV’s ability to transport people to some inaccessible, but lovely location.
    I think the condescension shown by gearheads towards “boring” cars and their owners is uncalled for.  You tell me which is more stupid: the guy commuting to work at 20 mph bumper-to-bumper traffic in a Dodge Viper (I have seen this, I swear!) or the guy next to him in the Toyota Avalon, listening to Brahms on the stereo.
    The risk associated with owning a “horse/rider” car and using it as a daily driver — and I speak from personal experience here — is that, sometimes the desire to transcend the boring ride leads the driver of such a car to literally rise above his fellow commuters and experience what his car was built to do . . . just for the sheer fun of it.  The people around this usually don’t react well to it and some of them even think it’s dangerous.
    Imagine that!

    • 0 avatar
      Morea

      Nice, thoughtful analysis.

    • 0 avatar
      Wagen

      Excellent analysis.  I would also add 1.5: to be an extension of their living/media room with every connected gadget and gizmo possible.

      Your Viper vs. Avalon example is one of many that has made me admit that just because a particular car – and by extension, its owner – doesn’t satisfy my desire to be a #3, doesn’t make it/them somehow inferior, but different… for a different purpose. 

      The one thing that still galls me are cars that I perceive to be “fake.”  For example, some Pontiacs of yore which had the styling and look of a sports car but underneath shared the same #1-fulfilling-mechanicals of a Chevrolet.  All show, no go/stop/turn.  There are modern examples as well, so this notion hasn’t vanished with the Pontiac brand.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      Excellent post.
       
      I had an Evo VIII and a CR-V in my family stable.  Suddenly, due to a totally unexpected divorce,  I had the Evo and the kids to raise.  Let me tell you, the Evo wasn’t boring at all and despite being relatively practical with all wheel drive, four doors, and a decent trunk, it really isn’t suited to being a daily driver.  I hauled my kids to school, took vacations at the beach, and carted around baseball equipment to Little League games in the Evo.  But after couple of years of dealing with the rock-hard suspension, getting the interior messed up with child detritus, and shifting constantly from stop light to stop light led me to go find a deal on an Element. I’ve been delighted with the Honda ever since because of its wonderful utility and amazing reliability. I kept the Evo for a couple of years afterwards but eventually sold it as I realized I wasn’t using it hardly at all.  The point of the story: boring cars sometimes are better suited for our daily lives than the ones that give the horse/rider experience.

  • avatar
    tedward

    The current boring cars (Toyota especially) became popular by offering a smaller vehicle with a tighter steering rack and less floaty suspension setups than their American counterparts. That however, is only what got them in the door, what really generates sales is when the majority of shoppers out there come to view buying your product as a “respectable” decision. As nebulous as that sounds it really just signifies that the company has been providing the right stuff when it comes to price, reliability and handling and that enough people know that where shoppers can feel a sense of social approval associated with owning the product. Once people have labled a product “respectable” the effects can last decades, as is evidenced by the millions of people who did not just abandon GM when they were so clearly outstripped by the Japanese imports for so long (in every possible way I might add).
     
    By my way of seeing these things it’s Hyundai/Kia’s rise to respectability that is causing everyone else such heart burn. We all know there are companies out there that have been beating the market leaders on the merits of their product for a long time, but it’s the Korean twins which have managed to get the sensible nod from the car ignorant neighbor. That is victory.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      This is true. In the 1970s, my parents had a 1973 AMC Gremlin and 1976 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale hardtop sedan. The Gremlin was a source of amusement among my friends and our neighbors. It was considered an “odd” choice. In retrospect, it’s not hard to see that AMC never really had a chance of long-term success, as it was too far out on the fringes in the public eye.

      The Oldsmobile, however, was considered a “respectable” car.

      Toyota is the new GM in that, if you buy a Toyota today, you don’t have to explain anything to anybody (unless you live in the metro Detroit area).

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      I think the recent Toyota recalls really hammered this home for me. I felt that people were far more upset that their car was now being derided, and by implication their judgement questioned, than at the possibility that their Camry/Prius might be actually unsafe.
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      Wagen

      True.  Of course, what is “respectable” varies from person to person.  To “gearheads”/”car people”, Toyota and Hondacura have lost whatever respectability they may once have had 15 years ago, while Mazda may have become “respectable” by distinguishing themselves as the better handling/sporty choice among similar brands.  For “soccer moms,” those focused on “value,” and the like, Mazda may be percieved as less “respectable” than Toyota and Honda becaue they aren’t as popular, ranked as highly in CR, etc. 

      So perhaps the key phrase there is “the majority of shoppers.”  So maybe it really is just a popularity contest…  Of course, I remember when Apple products were percieved as being different/fringe-y. 

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      Wagen
      I think that what you have pointed out about Toyota and Honda should probably keep them awake at night. The trend on this site seems to be treating enthusiast opinion as without real influence on the car buying public (I’d chalk that up to conspicuous modesty actually), but I disagree, and think that it was exactly the type of people who comment here who lobbied for those imports and earned them their status. Sure, it could be the a good CR report that pushes a brand over the popular threshold, but it’s enthusiasts who have something to say about cars who’s advice gets thrown around as car knowledge. One example: an educated mechanic recommending a Camry in the late 90’s early 00’s to a friend or family member, a situation I’m sure we’ve all encountered.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I blame the drivers, since most of them could care less. My sister in-law just bought a new car… yep its a Toyota. She doesn’t know what production year it is (2009? 2010?), either is “new” enough. All she knows is its white and the right size for the stuff she needed to carry. I’ve talked to people that don’t even know much many cylinders their engine has, instead they tell you about the nav system or bluetooth connectivity. Cars have become living rooms on wheels, its all about the comfort and entertainment… its not about driving at all. Thus the manufactures give them what they want: boring. Be careful of what you wish for, since you just might get it.

  • avatar
    akatsuki

    I’d say brand whores – like those who worship at the alter of BMW despite their horrendous styling and bloat. Oh, its a great sports sedan, but it would be so much better if they interior had more leather and wood. And the suspension is a bit harsh for me to ride around in with my family. And I can’t get the grocery bags into the trunk.
    But I really want that sporty image even though I should just go buy a Lexus ES instead.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Living in the upper lower-class I can’t afford exciting. I’m very much in the camp of “if it looks good, and drives decently” I like it. Now if only could figure out precisely what I want.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      But you see, tankinbeans, although many people missed my point in the post above, you do have an exciting car because of how you feel about it.  You still have a Grand Prix with the reliable 3800V6 right?  You have tried to bond with your machine, your interested in improving your skills (judging by many of your posts), and you want to find something to drive that fits your financial needs while still fulfilling your automotive passions.  You wouldn’t just buy a car cause Consumer Reports says it’s the best one.  And thank goodness for people like you.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I do, indeed, still have the Grand Prix and I really like it. I’d like to get it painted (it’s eggshell white), but that’s not in the cards.

      EDIT: And, no, I don’t follow CR as if it were gospil. I don’t think I’ve ever even looked at CR. I ask friends, get opinions, look around online and follow my gut.

  • avatar

    Sadly, as a gearhead, I am rapidly coming to the irrefutable conclusion the greater automotive community, so passionate about how things should be done when it comes to cars are decidedly responsible for the dumbing down of mass produced motorama.
     
    We vote with our wallets, spending money on used models for any number of reasons; they don’t build ’em like they used to, or we get more for our money buying used. Unfortunately, in the eyes of the OEMs, this is scarcely different than not voting at all. Were we a unified, majority voice in the market, our not buying new models might affect change, however we are vastly outnumbered by consumer cattle, disinterested in driving.
     
    We are to blame for the pathetic new models, because we do not directly support the manufacturers when they bring new products to market. Sadly, I’m coming to the conclusion the OEMs are not listening to us, because, for all our brand loyalties, we are not their customers.
     
    Perhaps, one day, we’ll see more niche manufacturers crop up, offering the thrills and character we desire, with the business models to achieve sustainability and profits on a segment of the market which predominately invests in used models. Hopefully, we will all one day share visions akin to Ed’s based on personal experience.
     

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      But you see, we often buy used because we either can’t afford the new or what were buying is a 2nd or 3rd vehicle in the household.  I’ve seriously mused buying a Corvette or a Mustang or the like when my financial situation improves but I can’t afford a new one and it certainly wouldn’t be the primary household vehicle.  (It would be MY primary vehicle for daily driver use, but you know what I mean.)  I’d go buy a C4 Corvette or a previous generation Mustang GT because of a cost consideration and not wanting to have sky high payments.
       
      I’m like most men that if I have to choose where the new car money is going to be spent it’s going to be spent on “mom’s taxi.”  In my case that would mean she would pick out the vehicle and obviously it’s going to lean a lot more to the practical side than I would.  I’d get a large sedan for the family (which can still be exciting and cool if you pick a Hemi Chrysler or a Taurus SHO or the like) but she might fancy a minivan or a large CUV because of hauling capabilities.  It doesn’t matter if she only uses those hauling capabilities a few times a year because IMHO in the eyes of many women, they prefer to “have it and not use it” over “not having it.”
       
      But I do feel your points are very valid.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Suppose you had a billion dollars to make a vehicle that will sell enough to return that money to you, and even make a profit.

    Now, how much personality are you going to put into it?

    You want it to look like a Juke? That isn’t boring, right?
    You want it to look like a Pacer? That wasn’t boring.
    You want it to look like a Cube?
    How about that exciting Aztek?
    How about an exciting 1959 Cadillac? How high should those fins go?

    OR, are you going to ensure that your vehicle is attractive enough to sell?

    You are a billion dollars in the hole and you have to get it back, and then some to stay in business.

    What is it going to be?

    That’s right.
    It is going to look like s “sporty” Corolla.
    Non-offensive. It will have a flexible design that will allow you to turn it into a coupe, a wagon, a pick-up truck, a sedan, a minivan, or a vibrator. Detrators may call your vehicle “boring” – AND IT IS – but you have to design your vehicle so that it not only is flexible enough to sell in different modes, but flexible enough to EVOLVE into next year’s model, so that you won’t have to invest in another billion dollars, right?

    If you get lucky, the competition will not catch up so that you can keep churning out your “boring” line of vehicles for three or four years. KATCHING! Congratulations! You not only earned your billion back, but you got enough money in return to sink another billion and then some on the next generation of your “boring” line of vehicles!

    Uh – why are car boring? Gee. It is kind of obvious, right?

  • avatar
    rudiger

    This debate reminds me of a T-shirt I once saw that said, “Remember when sex was safe and drag racing was dangerous?”. That, in a nutshell, explains why cars are now ‘boring’ (i.e., safe) and not so ‘exciting’ (i.e., dangerous).

    Take, for example, the arguably two most exciting years in domestic auto manufacturing, 1969-1970. While the cars were certainly exciting, man, were they dangerous, as well. One of my favorites of the era was the 1969 Super Bee/Roadrunner 440 Six-Pack. Here was a car that came from the factory without hood hinges or hubcaps, designed expressly for racing on the strip (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Like the original GTO and Roadrunner, it was among the cheapest, fastest, and most dangerous cars ever offered by a major manufacturer for street use and sale as an RPO, right up there with the 428 Fairlane Cobra and 454 Chevelle SS.

    So much so, that EPA and bumper regulations, along with insurance premiums, quickly began strangling ‘excitement’ not long after. Then, with the first gas crisis and CAFE, the visceral appeal that had long went with the danger of those thinly-disguised sixties’ missiles was virtually over.

    There’s one other fly in the ointment that rarely gets mentioned as to the demise of ‘exciting’ cars and that’s the far ranging expansion of the multi-lane interstate highway system. It used to be that it was a necessity to have a car with a killer kick-down to safely pass on the prevalent two lane highways of the time. With the advant of multiple highway lanes, it’s a whole lot easier (i.e., safe and boring) to pass on the freeways without having that instantaneous (and necessary) burst of acceleration, explaining the omnipresence of boring cars everywhere.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      Because of course, automotive excitement is defined with automatic transmissions in a straight line.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Heh.  I drove a 440 Charger (not the 6-pack) once when I was spending the summer working in Los Angeles.  Even by my jaded 20-year old standards of the time, the car was absurd.  I had driven CAT earth movers with a less stiff clutch return spring than that car and 10-trucks that had a less stiff gear shift.  Brakes?  What are they for?
      “Hairy” was how I would describe that car, not “not boring” and not “exciting.”

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      A typical 440 six pack car wasn’t one like you describe above. Most of them had power front disk brakes, hinges, hubcaps, etc, and other than being a bit prone to stalling when cold, weren’t any more “dangerous” than any other car offered for sale at the time.
      There were a few made like you describe above, but most of those actually did wind up as legit race cars. Same goes for the other top dog muscle cars of the time.
      Most of the 440 six packs sold were similar to this one:
      http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1970-plymouth-roardunner-440-6-4-speed-matching-s-/320644896412?pt=US_Cars_Trucks&hash=item4aa7ecd69c
      or this clone car:
      http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/440-6-Pack-Orange-Black-Rare-Clean-Fresh-Air-Watch-Vide-/190491836647?pt=US_Cars_Trucks&hash=item2c5a32c0e7
      But in all honesty, today is the golden age of muscle cars, probably soon to be over with due to emission and fuel economy laws. But like 40 years ago, the aftermarket will be there, able to make your somewhat slow car or truck insanely quick. If you had told me in the mid seventies that in 2011, I would be driving a new Challenger with roughly 400HP out of the factory, and if I wanted to, and I had the cash to do it, I could easily make it have twice that much power, or more, I would have laughed in your face. But, it’s a reality.
       

  • avatar
    Beta Blocker

    pauldun170:   Women…boring cars exist because of women.

    No, it’s General Motors …..  boring cars exist because of General Motors.

    • 0 avatar
      roadracer

      No, it’s General Motors …..  boring cars exist because of General Motors.

      Amen!  We the people keep electing politicians who will take away our liberties and raise our taxes in exchange for a greater feeling of security.  Do you think excitement or bland security will sell better to people like that?

      Having said that, I think my BMW 545 is anything but boring.  I hated it in 2004 but I really like the styling now, and the fact that no one understands why I would get a loaded luxury sedan I have to shift myself.  And yes I got the sport package to avoid those bright window surrounds…

  • avatar
    cfclark

    I think this dilemma between rarity, excitement and “character” on the one hand and practicality and blandness on the other hand is something we all deal with–I’ve wanted a Citroën SM since I saw one as a kid over 35 years ago (I still remember just where I was, at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds parking lot of all places, and asking my dad what it was), but drive a Subaru Outback wagon, because I want to get to work and back and take the dogs to the beach now and then, and haul the occasional piece of furniture in the back. I make a good enough living that I could probably actually buy one, but do I really want the headaches of maintaining one? (And there’s a dedicated SM shop within an hour’s drive, even, unless he gave up on the headaches, too.) I just have other priorities, and even should I win the lottery and have the scratch to hire a live-in Citroën mechanic (and an on-call Maserati engine guy), I probably still won’t do it. Boring cars happen because we (as individuals and societies) evolve to make boring choices over time. The beautiful interiors of ’60s cars do a good job of braining or impaling us, so out they go. Fuel efficiency standards send manufacturers to the wind tunnel, and everything looks sooner or later like a jellybean. (I’m oversimplifying, but still…)
     
    I do really like the Z3 coupe, and my wife likes it too, but when I’ve suggested it as a replacement for her ’06 Mini Cooper S, she states flatly that she doesn’t want a used car that old, regardless of how well it’s been maintained. She’s tired of the Mini’s “excitement” of collapsed engine mounts and failing water pump gaskets (after 21,000 miles!), and wants something more…boring. That the “boring cars exist because of women” comment is sexist doesn’t mean it lacks merit entirely. ;)

  • avatar

    The only cars I really find boring these days are sedans, be it Hyundai, VW, Kia, Toyota, the new Sebring, Honda, or Lincoln you could switch badges and almost everyone would be fooled.

    But even the most boring cars are fun if you drive them right, then again after driving my moms Ford 500 I couldn’t even turn tight enough to really throw it.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    I have to say that the notion that reliablity makes cars boring is absurd.  I grew up on mid 60′-70’s domestics, and I maintained most of them myself.  I don’t miss for a moment changing those old reduction gear starters on my dad’s Plymouth, or carrying a fusable link around in the trunk just in case.  By the time you reached 90-100 thousand miles it was time for an overhaul.  Nor do I miss changing fuses, cleaning terminals, and testing relays on the Fiat I used to own.  Hemi’s were cool back in the day, but a wedge motor didn’t need the valves adjusted every week. 

    What makes a car memorable and interesting is its character, and sometimes the greatest characters are the ones that keep going no matter what you do to them.  Styling that is inhibited by government regulations, and beaurocratic lock-step aiming for the lowest common denominator is more to blame for boring cars than anything else. 

    • 0 avatar
      jbltg

      Panzerfaust:

      Exactly.  Case in point:  Virtually any Miata or other Mazda product.  Very reliable and my ’95 Miata is still going strong and definitely not boring to drive.

      Lowest common denominator is a poison that applies to many things in US culture.

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