QOTD: Who's to Blame?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd whos to blame

No, we’re not talking about your divorce. Keep that baggage to yourself! Rather, we’re talking about the person in your life who kindled that spark — that interest, and yes, perhaps even that love of cars.

As the TTAC crew says goodbye to a very good guy who just happened to hold passionate opinions about the auto industry (and can’t be blamed for cursing several American vehicles of the 1980s and ’90s), let’s get personal.

First off, rest in peace, Mike.

In your author’s case, the person responsible for a lifelong interest in most things automotive isn’t surprising. My father, may he also rest in peace, loved cars. Never had much money to spend on them, but loved them just the same. When he wasn’t spouting the foulest language at his daily driver while the mercury threatened to break through the bottom of the thermometer, that is.

I still remember the moment our family made the switch to fuel injection. After a stroke back in the late ’90s, leaving him temporarily with the use of one arm and one leg, dad was out in the garage adjusting the carburetor setting on his ’79 Pontiac Sunbird to prepare for the coming season. It didn’t go well. Not long after that, never wanting to tinker under the hood of another car in the freezing cold ever again, he visited a government auction and returned home with a brace of identical Chevy Corsicas once owned by the Department of Defence. The switch was made.

From childhood onward, the coffee table in our house, without fail, contained a stack of Collectible Automobile magazines. I got him one on our last Christmas together. Way back when, I knew more about DeSoto than an 8-year-old should, and the early focus on classics eventually turned me into a lifelong land yacht fetishist. Love the boats. I’ll never forget the car show we went to where adolescent Steph was exposed to the new 1995 Buick Riviera. Truth be told, the topic of autonomous driving and discussion of things like LIDAR turns my brain to mush and spawns fantasies of returning to an earlier, less sterile time.

On our last visit together, dad told me about his most memorable road trip. I could only make out every third or fourth word, but the trip in question was through Montana, via Calgary. He spoke of the great, wide-open spaces that make one feel like the small human they are. One day I hope to make that same trip. I used to take epic road trips through vast, unknown wilderness, and I feel it’s something I need in my life again.

It’s true that the prevailing topic between me and me dad, throughout my adulthood, was cars. It was almost always the first thing to come up in conversation. From his hospital bed, he told me how GM’s four-cylinder Silverado was a dumb idea and not worth the trouble.

Without cars, it’s possible we wouldn’t have had such long and engaging conversations. It’s possible we wouldn’t have been as close.

Who do you credit for infecting you with the car bug?

[Images: Murilee Martin/TTAC, Steph Willems]

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  • DweezilSFV DweezilSFV on Jan 22, 2020

    My Grandmother. Let me start and warm up her 60 Ambassador station wagon for her. Explained to me how AMC was formed. That was much later, as a 10 year old. Earlier on when I learned she had traded in her 50 Pontiac I pitched a fit. At four years old. Until I saw the rear facing seat of that Ambassador wagon. She threw gasoline on an already sparking interest in cars that has never gone away. Granny also left rubber in the driveway backing out and that AMC 327 [275 hp] 4 bbl V8 would pull your head into the back seat when she'd floor the mother. Desert Rose and a burgundy top. The car, not the Granny. Even the most ordinary trip in a car is still a treat, all these years later.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Jan 22, 2020

    My interest in cars came from my middle brother's hobby of buying AMT 3 in 1 car kits painting and assembling them. I caught the bug and started to buy and make my own. I entered 2 of my cars in a model contest at one of the local Ford dealerships and won 2 place for a 36 Rumble seat Ford painted in metallic green with pink fenders and running boards and 3rd place for a 50 Ford customized convertible painted in silver (yes I actually got a gold metal trophy for both with a polished wood base). I didn't buy my first car until I graduated from college but in high school and early college I took care of my dad's Roman Red 62 Chevy II 4 door with an I-6--oil changes, quarterly wax jobs, and other required maintenance in exchange for free use of the car. My father kept cars and everything else forever and was very frugal. I patched up and painted the headline which was rotting and glued on the headliner cut out Happy Faces from material left from an outfit my mother made for my little sister and put sheet metal in the driver's side floor board which had a hole big enough to put your foot into. The Chevy II looked like new and you could see yourself in the red paint which was original but kept meticulously by me. Loved that Chevy II even though some guys made fun of it because it wasn't a muscle car. Had a lot of compliments from others especially gals.

  • FreedMike This article fails to mention that Toyota is also investing heavily in solid state battery tech - which would solve a lot of inherent EV problems - and plans to deploy it soon. https://insideevs.com/news/598046/toyota-global-leader-solid-state-batery-patents/Of course, Toyota being Toyota, it will use the tech in hybrids first, which is smart - that will give them the chance to iron out the wrinkles, so to speak. But having said that, I’m with Toyota here - I’m not sold on an all EV future happening anytime soon. But clearly the market share for these vehicles has nowhere to go but up; how far up depends mainly on charging availability. And whether Toyota’s competitors are all in is debatable. Plenty of bet-hedging is going on among makers in the North American market.
  • Jeff S I am not against EVs but I completely understand Toyota's position. As for Greenpeace putting Toyota at the bottom of their environmental list is more drama. A good hybrid uses less gas, is cleaner than most other ICE, and is more affordable than most EVs. Prius has proven longevity and low maintenance cost. Having had a hybrid Maverick since April and averaging 40 to 50 mpg in city driving it has been smooth driving and very economical. Ford also has very good hybrids and some of the earlier Escapes are still going strong at 300k miles. The only thing I would have liked in my hybrid Maverick would be a plug in but it didn't come with it. If Toyota made a plug in hybrid compact pickup like the Maverick it would sell well. I would consider an EV in the future but price, battery technology, and infrastructure has to advance and improve. I don't buy a vehicle based on the recommendation of Greenpeace, as a status symbol, or peer pressure. I buy a vehicle on what best needs my needs and that I actually like.
  • Mobes Kind of a weird thing that probably only bothers me, but when you see someone driving a car with ball joints clearly about to fail. I really don't want to be around a car with massive negative camber that's not intentional.
  • Jeff S How reliable are Audi? Seems the Mazda, CRV, and Rav4 in the higher trim would not only be a better value but would be more reliable in the long term. Interior wise and the overall package the Mazda would be the best choice.
  • Pickles69 They have a point. All things (or engines/propulsion) to all people. Yet, when the analogy of being, “a department store,” of options is used, I shudder. Department stores are failing faster than any other retail. Just something to chew on.
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