...used to think Click and Clack were cool.
If you listen to NPR (Nasal Pretentious Radio) for more than a couple hours a week, you will probably have heard Car Talk, hosted by and featuring the brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi. It's generally one of the bright spots, between banal filed news reports and interstitial chamber music snippets, and ads about how "We don't run ads. This message sponsored by your neighborhood Johnsonstein dealer, serving your community since 1934."
On the show, these old-school car guys, mechanics with years in their own professional shops, diagnose problems over the phone and talk about anything else, with plenty of self-deprecating humor and brotherly jibing. It's fun. And one gets the idea that they are cool guys who appreciate simple, solid, dependable machines, but also the inexplicably endearing old junkers which require a mechanic in the truck. Old-school car guys. Or so I thought...
The show web site http://www.cartalk.com/ shows them in a hip-six-years-ago image from an Apple lifestyle-accessory ad. And their latest online column gives a list of must-have car features that didn't exist in the day when Zenith was an American company and the Camaro was made in the USA.
Radar? Sonar? Extra-annoying audio alarms?? Smarter smart keys?!?
Fellahs - you've lost your way!
To help us get back on the path, here is my list of what every passenger vehicle should have.
1) Good steering feel, with slight predictable understeer right up to the grip limit, at all steering angles. This is what allows a driver to have intuitive control of their vehicle. What's required to get there is engineering rigor, from the tire patch back through the suspension to the chassis hard points. It's tedious, but well understood at this point, and there's no excuse for not getting it right.
2) An entry system that does NOT require me to keep a chunky remote on my key chain, making it look like I've got a permanent hard on when I stuff the wad of gizmos in my pocket. My own preference is for a single flat steel key.
3) Good visibility all around, through the glass and in the mirrors. Again, it's not a challenge, just a commitment to be made from designers and bean-counters.
4) A weight limit, dropping all fuel economy rules. No single number better correllates to safety, performance, and economy than vehicle mass. With current technology, anything over 2500 lb is overweight, so start with that as the limit. [A typical mid-size 'crossover' vehicle would need to drop a full thousand pounds by that rule!]
If I might go a little pie-in-the-sky here, there are some other things I'd very much like to see.
5) A driver's seat in the *middle* of the vehicle. The ideal layout for my daily driver is a 1+2. The driver does not need to have a companion immediately adjacent when going about the business of moving down the highway. [If I want my girlfriend to lean over and give me a blow job, we'll just have to stop for a while!]
6) Kilowatt cell phone jammer. This should give enough range to get people off the jabber box and see me coming in my lane they've drifted into before we get in jousting range.
7) Phaser bank, and like in the old series, where stuff just vanished. It would really speed up my commute some days. But only I get to have this one!