Bark's Bites: I Buy the Cars Everybody Else Says They Love

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth
bark s bites i buy the cars everybody else says they love

I own a Ford Flex. It’s true. Well, technically, Ford Credit owns it, but I’m only 12 months or so away from getting the real title in my hands. I’m constantly being told by people — hell, even by commenters on this website — that the Flex is a great car, but that people just don’t seem to like it. Of course, since I bought one, I completely disagree.

The Flex is just one example of a car that people who fill up comment sections of automotive websites seem to love but never buy for themselves. The list of such automobiles is quite long: The Pontiac G8. The Mazda RX-8. The Fiesta ST — wait a second, what the hell is going on here, I’ve owned all of these!

Just what is it that makes a car popular with enthusiasts but unpopular with the general public?

It’s true — I’ve owned a lot of the “forum queens.” No, I’ve never owned a brown, stick-shift, manual diesel wagon. But, come to think of it, my Flex is brown, and it’s the closest thing to a station wagon that Ford has produced since the Focus wagon of a couple of generations gone by. September will be the fourth anniversary of the Flex’s arrival in my garage, and it will soon roll past the 100,000-mile mark on the odometer with only one service issue (a faulty windshield wiper fluid pump).

It’s been perfect for our little family. Mrs. Bark takes the kids to her summer camp every year, a jaunt of nearly 12 hours across the country, and it’s never given them a single issue. Even when I had my Boss 302, I chose to drive the Flex for daily use.

The G8? Well, I wasn’t so lucky there. I lost a cylinder, which put me out of the car for about a month while they tried to fix it. Same thing with a broken driveshaft, which forced me to drive a Chevy HHR for a month while the dealer sourced a part from Australia. I went through more lower control arms than I would have thought possible. I even had to drive on one sourced from a junkyard for a little while until a new one could be found.

But when it was running — what a car! It was fast enough to smoke 90 percent of the cars on the road, and bigger and more spacious than most, too. If I only knew then what I know now. Sure, my G8 would have had about 130,000 miles on it today if I had kept it, based on how much I drove the 302 and my FiST in the G8’s absence. And perhaps the service issues would have continued to be a problem. But every time that I see one pass by, I can’t help but admire it. They were beautiful, powerful cars eight years ago, and they still are today.

The RX-8 was beautiful, too, but powerful? Not so much. And the big, white, puffy cloud that motor created when it blew a seal at the autocross was a sign to be like Queen Elsa and let it go. Still, there hasn’t been a car made since The 8 took its final bow that was as well-balanced and easy to drive as the Renesis-powered Mazda. I still remember taking it through a drive-thru and having the kid at the window say, “What is this thing, man? It looks like a spaceship!” In fact, it was probably the most JDM looking car in recent history. I miss it, too. But when I let it go, I thought it was a ticking time bomb.

And now as I come into the final homestretch of the Fiesta’s lease, I’m starting to realize that I won’t find another car like it. Some days, I consider calling Ford Credit to see if they’ll let me extend my lease. The next-generation Fiesta looks like it’s going to be bigger and porkier — but what else is new? Every new generation of every car is on HGH. Maybe the new Fiesta ST (if they even make an ST) model will have more power, but will it be as tossable? Will it have built-in oversteer? Will it be as blue? I doubt it.

I worry for the future of the enthusiast’s car — specifically, I worry that not enough enthusiasts still exist. Even when I read the comments of this very website, a website that is supposed to attract the hardest of hardcore automotive junkies, I see a disturbing trend towards practicality and pragmatism. The G8’s successor, the Chevrolet SS, is as good as non-existent in the marketplace. The RX-8 didn’t even get a successor. The Flex appears to be doomed, too, as it sells in such insignificant numbers that the business case to replace it seems impossible to create.

As the SAAR flattens and the inevitable downturn begins, automakers will have to make hard decisions about what products they keep or design, and which products they cancel. While there will never be a lack of Mustangs to go around, one wonders about the eventual fate of the cars that have small, dedicated fanbases but no sales volume to support them. Look what happened to Saab.

So when my lease is up on the FiST in February, I’ll be looking for that next Ugly Duckling. I don’t know what it will be yet (Focus RS? BMW 228i?) but if I want car companies to keep making cool, quirky cars, I’ll have to keep buying them. God knows that nobody else is.

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2 of 88 comments
  • Doctorbob Doctorbob on Aug 19, 2016

    How about a BMW M235i? Not quite the M car but fun fairly powerful good handling car.

  • Flipper35 Flipper35 on Aug 31, 2016

    There are two things my wife won't look at. A minivan or a wagon, and that includes the Flex. Maybe I should say especially the Flex as we passed one a couple days ago and she was taken aback by how ugly (to her) it was. I don't mind the looks and they look handy enough. She likes 4 door sedans and SUVs or trucks to haul things. We were given a Rouge for our daughter from her mother. It is a piece of crap but the price was right.

  • Mebgardner I'm not the market for a malleable Tuner / Track model, so I dont know: If you are considering a purchase of one of these, do you consider the Insurance Cost Of Ownership aspect? Or just screw it, I'm gonna buy it no matter.The WRX is at the top of the Insurance Cost pole for tuner models, is why I ask.
  • Mebgardner Wishing for the day of open source software in EVs, including the OS. Lets have some transparency in the algorithms and controls. No Fair data hoovering my phone when connected.I'm also wondering at the level of CANBus components in this vehicle.
  • Tylanner Glove prices are insane THANKS TO BIDEN😆
  • Kcflyer on one hand it at least wont have dirty intake valves like Honda's entire lineup of direct injection ice vehicles. on the other hand a CRV offers more room, more range, faster fueling and lower price, hmm
  • Tassos BTW I thought this silly thing was always called the "Wienermobile".