Out of Towner Clover

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One of the incongruities of our age is the gratuitous wastage of capability, as regards cars. The average late-model car has twice the horsepower of a typical ’80s (or even early-mid ’90s-era) car. Most late model cars can get to 60 in 7 seconds or less – which  is right on the bumper of the majority of V8 muscle cars of the ’60s and ’70s.

They have much more grip in the curves, having much more tire than cars used to have – when even performance cars only had 15 and 16 inch wheels. Modern minivans and crossovers have 17 and 18 inch wheels.

It is child’s plays drive any late-model car 80-plus in a straight line and 10 MPH over the “recommended” speed in the curves. You can text while doing it, using your legs to steer.

Yet most people drive these cars as if they were driving a brand-new 1985 Aries K-car with 101 horsepower that took 12 seconds to get to 60 and could maybe get to 80 or so, with difficulty.

I found myself behind one such yesterday. Late-model Mercedes GLC, which has close to twice the horsepower of my almost-20-year-old truck and isn’t riding on a leaf-sprung suspension with 15 inch wheels (and tires) barely maintaining contact with the road. This Clover – a term denoting both a person who lacks driving skills as well as driving courtesy – would kind of fall asleep at the wheel and let the speed of his fancy Benz dip to 5-10 MPH below the speed limit – and then (apparently) wake up, realize he was dawdling – and accelerate, only to slow down again.

Come the curves, I passed. In my almost-20-year-old truck rocking 147 horsepower and half the grip limit of the Benz. But I do not drive my truck as if it were an ’85 Aries K-car.

The question I puzzle over is: Why do these people drive vehicles that have power/capabilities they can’t or won’t use? Wouldn’t they be better-off driving something like an ’85 Aries K-Car?

At least then they’d be getting 40-plus MPG instead of low 30s, maybe – and not looking stupid while doing it!

. . .

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  1. Noticed something interesting on your video (maybe I saw it wrong). The road you were on seemed to be 3 lanes – usually split 2 going down the hill and 1 lane for going up. Is this correct?

    Here in the UK normally we have 1 lane going down the hill, but 2 lanes going up, as some cars (particularly heavy lorries) cant go up the hill as fast (even say the speed limit), therefore allow them to have a slow lane to climb whereas normal cars go up faster…. (having said that – dont worry we also get our clovers who think they are competent by driving 5 miles below the speed limit in the fast lane…. )

    • Hi Nasir,

      It’s the reverse! Two lanes up – one down. Bent Mountain Road; a pretty steep climb, so there’s a “truck lane” for slower traffic and another lane for faster-moving traffic. I wish I’d turned the camera on a few minutes prior, to show the Prionic driving exhibition of deceleration/acceleration for no apparent reason. This seems to be symptomatic!

  2. the worst drivers I have ever encountered BY FAR were in Charlotte NC. It may be home to NASCAR but the cars with the NC tags are operated by human road hazards. For example- they think ding 35 in a 55 is “safe driving” or better yet- “I’m not in a hurry and you shouldn’t be either”. Don’t forget Laqueda rolling 5 under in the left lane in her un-paid for Altima. Then there’s the ‘Carolina Road Block” where 2 ninnies ride side by side down the road under the speed limit- neither aware of the other or the traffic jam they are causing. There is also the “Clump Of Stupid” where 5 or so dolts ride in a clot under the limit making passing or even weaving through them impossible.

    If the drivers are older, I chalk a lot of this up to Boomerism. That generation has the distinction of being the forefathers of the most selfish and stupid wave of humanity in America.

    In my current state we just passed a no slow in the left lane law. Many county sheriffs won’t enforce it because it’s raaacis.

    • Hi KeepOn,

      It’s truly a pandemic!

      Not merely the glacial/unresponsive driving. The obtuse driving. The person who is afraid/unable/unwilling to drive at least as fast as the normal flow of traffic doesn’t have to be an impediment to the flow of traffic – and that is the nut of the problem. I don’t demand they drive faster. Only that they use their mirrors. This is common courtesy, practiced everywhere else. Almost no one just wanders down a busy sidewalk, in the “travel” lane.” Almost no one makes no effort to be aware of – and considerate toward – other shoppers at the grocery store. If others are trying to get around you, most people will oblige without having to be asked.

      Yet this basic courtesy is lost on the road.

  3. “I found myself behind one such yesterday. Late-model Mercedes GLC, which has close to twice the horsepower of my almost-20-year-old truck and isn’t riding on a leaf-sprung suspension with 15 inch wheels (and tires) barely maintaining contact with the road.”

    Yeah but with your tailgate down to minimize wind resistance, you had an unfair advantage.

    Just like trying to sneak your NASCAR entry through with illegal bodywork mods. 😉

  4. ha ha ha ha

    Between BMW or Prius drivers, I don’t know who is more rude. BMW drivers are rich in a hurry pricks mostly and Prius drivers are self-righteous slow moving pricks.

  5. Well Eric you only had to follow them, it might be slow but it’s harder for them to run you down that way . A couple days ago on my old motorcycle a truck crossed the center line for no apparent reason and came close enough that I could have slapped his mirror. Needless to say he missed me but I didn’t see and stray dogs, kids or squirrels in the road either. Maybe because everyone else has gotten their .gov mandated shot their a little confused right now?

    • Amen, Landru –

      I have always ridden on the assumption that every car in my radius is driven by either an idiot or a maniac and assume they will run the light, turn left in front of me without signaling, cross the center line, etc.

      I am always ready – having already considered where I’ll go if I have to get out of their way.

      • that’s exactly how my Mom taught me how to drive (God rest her soul.) She was a real car enthusiast and a real good stoplight racer in her late teens/early 20s back in the late 60s early 70s from what I heard. She had a GN that pumped around 400-430 hp. Man that car flew. You put your foot in it even at 30 or 40mph and you were leaving 2 black strips of rubber on the street. She always said what you said…assume the drivers are all morons and always have a way out.

        • She also said this….”you know why I like fast cars….it gets me away from the idiots in other cars.” So true…so true.

        • Excellent, Anon!

          I have similar memories of my mom – who drove my sister and I at Top Speed (as Hunter Thompson used to style it) in the family Olds 98, which was a big green bruiser with a Rocket 455 V8. I used to love to watch that great big speedometer run to the far end of the range, where the numbers began to red shift from the bunched up-in-the-middle 50-60-70 to 80-90-100… great memories!

  6. Thought I’d share:


    “As this safety imperative pervades so many institutions, it forms our character as individuals, and shapes our culture. The fragility of college graduates, which is easy to laugh at and dismiss, is not the worst problem safetyism produces. The worst problem it produces is timidity, which is widespread, endemic, and institutionalized. The evidence for this can be found across the nation, from decades of declining business starts, to the way some of the largest and most successful companies sit on cash rather than invest, to the sudden enthusiasm for censorship—a panic about protecting people from supposedly harmful ideas.”

  7. What state was the clover from? My money is on Flori-duh!

    I would imagine the problem is the “football helmet/pad” effect. By that I mean, that things have gotten worse by making them safer or in the case of the Merc, more luxurious.

    Football had far less concussions when they were wearing leather helmets. The more padding and better helmets used as the game progressed meant the players hit harder and the injuries got worse. And with the luxury, the more the world outside can be tuned out, the more it can be ignored.

    Compare this with a motorcyclist or even a driver of a convertible or a Jeep where one smells, hears, and experiences the outside during their drive.

    • >Football had far less concussions when they were wearing leather helmets.
      Without helmets, it is self destructive to use your body as a weapon.
      There are no helmets or body pads in rugby football. Scrum caps (to protect the ears) are optional for forwards, and are typically worn by second row.

      Yes, it is a dangerous sport. People get hurt. But the object of the game is to score tries, not to inflict injury on your opponents. Americans raised on American “football” who fail to understand this concept routinely get their asses handed to them on the rugby pitch. BTDT

      >the more the world outside can be tuned out, the more it can be ignored.
      Until you get hurt, while believing you are bulletproof. They say there are two classes of bikers, those who have been down, and those who *will* go down.

      Drive (or ride) defensively, by all means. Your life *does* depend on it.

  8. Floridiots are a cancer. Lead, follow or get out of the way.

    Like others I drove a Plymouth Reliant Wagon as a company car. That sucker would scoot when pushed, even with an automatic. I remember passing a Vette on a twisty road at night when I was loaded down from a trade show. After a minute or two I couldn’t even see his headlights. It was one great sleeper of a car.

  9. Headed out early this morning to go hunting.
    30 minute trip on the highway.

    20 of those minutes trying to get around drivers who don’t understand what maintaining speed is.

    Slow down, speed up to the car ahead, slow down again.
    I pass them & then they speed up and pass me a mile later.
    towing a uhaul trailer in the left lane varying speed by 15 mph for no reason.

    And all this nonsense well before rush hour.

  10. One time I got stuck behind one of those 20 under the limit, brakes on hills and curves types. But I didn’t pass them. I HAD to observe the wild clover in its natural habitat, as I’ve never seen such a perfect example of one. I got a good chuckle out of it and when they turned (slowly), I saw a driver that couldn’t have been more than 45. It was a woman too, the man was riding passenger.

  11. Hey, what’s wrong with the old K-Car? I drove an 88 Aries Wagon for years in the twisty hilly roads of Deep East Texas, and never had a problem passing anyone I wanted to (except Smokey of course, or maybe a 383 Road Runner). With a 5-speed manual and the 2.2L four, it would haul. It’s all a matter of the spunk in the driver. Witness the insane autocrossing shenanigans of a good driver in a 1L Mini, or SAAB 96 for reference!

    Better the Clovers should drive something like a Chevy Aveo, or maybe an original Citroen 2CV to match their driving abilities.

    • I used to poo-poo the K-cars too…until I picked one up for junk once, and played demolition derby with it against an old full-sized RWD Buick LeSaber. That lil K-car was tough! I was mangling the Buick…but the K-car was almost unscathed!
      Then I picked up a really mint one from an old lady…took it for a ride…it really wasn’t bad! For an economy car (I’ve always hated small cars/economy cars) it was very substantial and competent…utilitarian but didn’t feel cheap and shoddy- like so many other economy cars ort virtually everything else Chrysler had made since. And it was a TRUE economy car…not only offering good MPGs, but reliability and durability (so missing in just about all economy cars since); low-maintenance…simple…. Would that they’d make something like that today!

      • I drove one of those early K cars to see the first shuttle flight. From Indy to Canaveral. Coming back I had to be back in Indy for work Monday morning. Left the cape at 0700. Once I got on the highway, only about 6 cars passed me through Fl and Ga. Speedo was not working, so I had no idea of speed. Got back to Indy at 0300 Mon morn. Pedal to the metal through 2 large states only to have thick fog slow me down in Te and Ky.

  12. Another clover move the other day on a very busy four lane road (highway actually). The last second left turn mind change clover. Light is green for going straight thru, left turn lane has a red with two people already waiting in that lane. Woman goes at last second into turn lane, but there isn’t enough room for her because she pulled in too late. So she is hanging out, blocking the left thru lane. I am the first person stuck behind her, and a huge line backs up behind us quickly, thankfully no rear ending but some horns going. Can’t go to the right lane to pass because its too busy. Can’t use the horn because even if she was smart enough to give up on the turn, she is too close to the guy in the turn lane to pull back out.

    At least the people in the turn lane see what is happening behind them and pull up as much as they could (which wasn’t much). Instead of pulling out and going straight like a normal person, she creeps in a bit more still blocking half the lane. Finally there is barely enough room for me to squeeze by and I do, only to get cut off by some other clover driving a BMW pulling into the left lane without looking. I blast my horn at that one….and barely miss him.

    All that first clover had to do was go the very next stop light which is barely 300 feet down the road to make her left and double back thru the parking lots…… Instead of making 25 people come to a complete stop on a green light…….

    Clovers do absolutely no thinking when driving. She has no clue how rude that was blocking that very busy lane.

      • Interesting.
        Where I live (SoCal), *most* BMW drivers tend to be law abiding, very “proper” drivers, who obey the rules. Almost…Germanic.
        Of course, the *really* high end stuff, no matter what the marque, is nearly always MMTB (more money than brains) territory anyhow (hey look at me, I’m somebody).
        Just my personal observations…

  13. Most the damn yankees that traverse my neck of Dixie going to or from Flarrrr-deerrr panic in the mountains of Tennessee and Alabama. During snowbird and spring break seasons I try to stay off the interstate as much as I can.

  14. I had a funny thing happen earlier this week. Heading south into Fargo on a wide open 2 lane, doing 64 in a 60, I came up behind a slug doing about 52. Pulled out to pass (throttle up to 80 for a quick, clean, safe pass) and noticed a black 4×4 pickup approaching about 3/4 mile ahead- he hit the ditch and then rolled down his window to bless me with the sign of the rod. Had it been close all he would have had to do was slow down a bit, but it wasn’t even going to be close, I was back in my lane 15 seconds before we’d have been close.

    I just don’t get it- WTF is wrong with people who have neither judgement, courtesy, nor spirit? I expected to see him wearing a black slave muzzle…

  15. I have always been fascinated with a vehicles potential. Even in my early driving years I was constantly exploring things such as the handling characteristics of a 62 Chevy 6 cylinder 2 speed Powerglide. I cannot imagine having a vehicle in my hands at that time capable of half what modern cars are capable of. Alas, it is short-lived, as their performance is being regulated to death. Isn’t it curious that this extreme enhancement of performance has been accompanied by the rapidly declining adequacy of most people’s ability to use them, or any desire to.

  16. Awww, C’mon, Eric- People from [Cliff Clavin voice] ‘The paradisaical state of Florida’ ain’t used to curves nor hills…plus, that’s pretty much the way they drive in FL, what with the average driver’s age in FL being somewhere around 103, and the average size of those drivers being insufficient to see over the dashboard….. Gotta give a little leeway to out-of-towners.

    • Given the incompetence of civil engineers, and their lack of ability to design intersections that are intuitively understandable, I often look at the license plates of cars near me, and if out of state, give them room to compensate. The same on two lane blacktop. They may be from a State that has few of them, or a city that has none.

  17. This is why I look down on German’s, they got so much potential… and they’re driven like it’s grandma’s camry.

    Also, the Benny’s never went home, and the current crop aren’t the “Fuck outta here” driving like maniac types.
    I was in NYC going home from Long Island after running a work errand, dawn of the dead with most drivers, gotta just say fuck it, and be all balls out driving, saved myself at least a half hour with all the bumper to bumper “Lets stop and take pics of the accidents” rubbernecking.

    Only limiting factor with my driving is a full sized pickup truck and the “Hold up a second” Drive by Wire, otherwise I’d of saved another 15 if I could of pounced sooner. (Upcoming vehicle I’ll just tune, as this one I can’t for work)

  18. “Why do these people drive vehicles that have power/capabilities they can’t or won’t use? Wouldn’t they be better-off driving something like an ’85 Aries K-Car?” -EP

    I don’t have an answer for you Eric. Neither do I have an answer for these perplexing questions.

    1. Why do people drive in the left hand lane of a 4 lane highway 5-10 mph UNDER the speed limit?

    2. Why do people leave 2-3 car spaces in front of them and the next car while stopped at stop lights?

    3. Why do purple haired grannies “wave thru” 3, 4 or maybe even 5 cars to the right or left of them while stopped at a stop sign at 4 way intersections? Meanwhile you wait, and wait, and wait behind her, fuming as she waves everyone thru and actually waves politely to the motorists as they pass her.

    I’m sure I could think of more perplexing traffic questions, but am pressed for time. Those are the 3 that came immediately to mind.

    • 1. The 55mph NMSL speed limit destroyed lane discipline. People were taught to obstruct faster traffic by Joan Claybrook, Ralph Nader, etc.
      2. This is now taught in driver’s ed, traffic school, etc. They even say you need to wait 3 seconds to go after the car in front of you goes.
      3. Backasswards american courtesy. This is the same mentality of A taxing B to give to C. They want to be good people but don’t care about the expense to others.

      • My son tells me that the drivers manual now says to “look away” (actually I think h said “look down”) when some idiot is blinding you with their high beams. NOT flash them to notify them, then if they don’t respond flip yours up full-time. NO, you are to look down at the road. This way, the idiot can continue to glibly blind everyone else behind you, with no consequences. But at least you didn’t hurt his feelings.

        I told my son that when he encounters high beams, do what makes sense – in other words, the old fashioned way – as described above.

        It’s the only thing that works.

        • Yes. Do what makes sense to those high beams. Pull out your .45 (or your .22LR revolver if you want to save money) and pop them out.

        • Given how bright modern headlights are, and the Euro style lenses that spread that light out, it’s damn hard to avoid looking at them without a sack over your head. Yes, one should punish them, because if they continue they are far more dangerous than a drunk driver, since they essentially turn every one they meet into a drunk driver.

        • Don’t get me started on the headlamp regs. USDOT regs are stuck in the 1930s requiring upward light. (to illuminate signs) Upward light blinds oncoming drivers. Never mind we don’t use dim 1930s headlamps anymore, the regs stay the same.

  19. The the ‘one guy’ anecdote: I was riding along a large highway in the 2nd right lane on a 2004 aprillia rsv1000 sportbike probably doing 90ish to pass a guy- shifting into the rightmost lane to do so when this new Mercedes GLC AMG was coming up behind me in the rightmost lane as well. I hit the throttle to stay ahead and pass and this guy must have floored it because he went into the emergency lane and passed me rocketing up to 120+ probably given how fast he passed me and zoomed away in this big SUV. WOW! I was impressed, but I wanted to stay away from him. That was a little freaky and the top speed of that suv is about the same as my almost 20 year old sportbike (though I can get up to speed much faster)

  20. Stupid is as Stupid does…
    The saddest burden is that people have forgotten that driving or even riding is almost certainly the most potentially dangerous activities they’ll do.
    Tires can blow out, brakes can fail, hoses and belts can break, and that’s just your own vehicle.
    Heaven forbid what foolishness and dangers can happen when you add hundreds or thousands of other vehicles on the road, that are operated by idiots that make Clovers look like member of the driver of the month club.
    I’ve always taught my loved ones, put down the phone, fix your seat and the radio, etc. Then start the vehicle and DRIVE and don’t stop driving until you get to your destination.
    And it’s all you should focus on, unless you want to have an accident.
    Just my 2 bits.

    • When I’m driving, that’s all I’m doing. I don’t even turn the radio on. Few realize that a driver going down an interstate highway makes far more decisions than an airline pilot flying the same distance. Unfortunately, many don’t bother to make such decisions, and merely pretend they are driving, while putting everyone around them at risk, because there is no telling what they might do, or not do, next.

    • There’s nothing “potential” about it. Unless you work as a miner, farmer, fireman, or construction worker, it is by far the most dangerous thing you do.


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