Reader Question: A Tacit Admission?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Jon asks: Don’t know if you ever visit the Car & Driver web site, but if you do, you’ll note something very telling. They post a lot of reviews and comparos of cars from from the 70s, 80s, 90s and aughts. A period of time when cars were interesting. Nay, captivating. Stories about cars we would be thrilled to own today. I wonder if they understand the message they are sending.

My reply: As a car journalist myself, this hits very close to home. I often struggle to write new car reviews because so many new cars are so alike – and so without character. There is increasingly little that differentiates one from the other; part of this being due to the fact that things like high-powered engines are now both common – and docile – and amenities such as climate control, a full complement of power accessories are givens. All modern cars “ride” and “handle” approximately the same unless you are dealing with the small handful of extreme specialty cars and driving hard enough for the differences to come into play – which is practically difficult because of the speeds needed to challenge the car’s limits and because very few drivers have skills high enough to test them without driving the car at extreme speeds.

The historic car was a crude, often cranky thing relative to what is expected – given – today. But the historic car had emotional appeal, in the manner of a very attractive but erratic/bitchy girl does. Today’s cars are like hausfraus – very reliable and steady and as exciting as bedding the hausfrau.

. . . .

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. Ever see the meme of the Crossovers, where they’re all white, debadged and you have to guess which is which?

    Because of that, I’m trying to steer my sister and friend towards Jeeps, since as you state, they’re all basically the same vehicles, save something extreme or radical…

    What breaks my heart more is Road and Track, use to be real interesting, now it’s all clickbait articles. Also why people are clovers, they “Need” something “Practical” and they lease or finance something that just does the job, doesn’t get your heart racing and if they do spend extra, it’s more to keep up with the Joneses.

    Hopefully my sister actually wants the sky she sent me earlier, I’ll go dutch with her to get one, just to have something fun in the garage for the weekends

  2. Eric, if I were in your shoes, I’d completely shun the new car reviewing (Why pimp their junk; and who among we-who-are-on-the-outer-fringes-of-society wants to read of them?) and instead only do retro-reviews. (There’s a guy on yootube who does that- but he’s an asshole; annoying; and he’s not a Libertarian!)….I could only imagine how great it would be with you doing that! The downside of course: Ya would have to travel to where the cars are…..which would be the deal-breaker…… But one can dream!

    • Hi Nunz,

      I hope I don’t seem to be pimping the new cars I write about! I try to convey what appears to me to be good – and bad – about them, for the sake of someone who might be interested in buying them.

      The problem with reviewing old/classic cars is that it’s very hard to get seat time in them, for obvious reasons. I wouldn’t toss the keys to my TA to anyone, let alone for a week-long test drive. The insurance/liability issues are also massive (new cars are covered by the umbrella policies of the manufacturer).

      Plus, it would mean not covering something that remains of interest to most people since cars remain a necessity for most people. Classic cars are a hobby for a small minority of people.

      • I wonder how long you can continue reviewing new cars. Wasn’t the issue with EVs that they can’t get to you without coming on a truck?

        Anyway, you are undoubtedly a ‘Domestic Terrorist’ in the new Patriot Act 2.0, with all that free thinking, vax/mask refusing, liberty defending talk. Probably only a matter of time until doing business with you is considered ‘aiding the enemy’ and you get blacklisted by them, like GM did. Then un-personed from the internet by the new ‘No Internet’ list conjured by the new ISA (Internet Security Administration).

        They won’t stop unless somebody stops them, and nobody is going to stop them…

  3. I’ve noticed Car and Driver has been posting old articles too. A story from 1992 or 3 of taking five AWD minivans on the Dalton Hwy in Alaska (the same road in one of the seasons in Ice Road Truckers). Remember when there were Five AWD minivans? I don’t even think there are five minivans now let alone AWD ones.

    Those were the “boring” vehicles back then. But yet they still managed to write an interesting piece. I doubt the writers they employ today could do that, not that CD would even spend the money now a days (I am sure that was not a cheap trip) to get such an article (so it’s not the writers fault entirely). There just isn’t the money in the magazine biz that there used to be.

    So it’s not just the vehicles, its putting people who don’t really like cars to begin with in a position to write about them. And not investing the money to get the stories. I am guessing to, that the writers there today really don’t know each other well (or even see each other) like the writers back then. They were a team in a lot of ways.

    I have a friend who back in the day would sometimes write an article for a car magazine as a freelancer. Sometimes he could make a few thousand dollars writing something he loved writing about. It was a great side gig for him, as he was raising his family on a preachers salary so the extra income was a huge bonus. Now he never does it because its not worth his time.

    Writing has never been an easy job, but the last two decades has really been bad for serious folks that want to make it a career.

    • I never thought I’d see myself saying this, but the internet has pretty much broken everything. The disruption of main street business by it is even greater than by the big box stores.

      Big media has neutered the freedom advantage it once had. Actual journalists are extinct- they starved to death and the few outlets that published them sold their souls long ago to survive.

      Humanity is going to have to figure it out damned quick.


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