Thoughts on Autos...Including a New Favorite

The '50s-'60s-era Rover P4 - I sure wish hybrids (or any new cars) looked more like this (or even like a Mini Cooper).  Fuel efficient underbits shouldn't only come with hideous space craft coverings.   
The American auto industry should be trying to reinvent itself.  But while Detroit implodes and continues to pour out soul-less monster truck ads, Kia gives us a small boy pedaling through Georgia where they're making jobs, robots and energy efficient transportation at big shiny new plants.  It takes South Korea to sell the new American dream, I guess.

Our car ads should be about our complete and utter love affair and emotional entanglement with our cars. VW did it with the wonderful Pink Moon Cabrio ad in the '90s, but where are our American tales of a kid working his fingers to the bone to buy his first car - and sticking to that brand for the rest of his days...the kid begging his dad to borrow his car for prom - and getting to...a middle aged couple going at each other like a couple of teenagers thanks to those easily-to-remove seats in the back of the family mini-van?  

It's important to know that our cars won't kill us (the Germans like to stress this), but I sort of think we all secretly hope that they'll help us get some action (or at least some freedom).

This pristine 1969 Rover 75 P4 is going for about EUR13,000.  So great.


  1. Aron says:

    Those cars are lovely. Ashley and I use to think we would get a vintage car but it does seem hard: While I hate to be boring, the lack of safety features, not to mention the compromise to social responsibility in regards to fuel consumption is a real issue. I wish there were at least a few cars that looked different from every other car out there.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Gorgeous looking car. I'm kind of glad they don't look like this any more - this typifies a golden age of driving no new car could ever replicate.

  3. M says:

    u have turned me into a vintage car lover. the car of my dreams would be a 1980s black saab!!!! i saw one last month and it was live at first sight!!!

  4. dfordoom says:

    I agree very strongly. Cars should be fun, and they should be objects of beauty. They should have style. And they don't, not any more.

    We seem to have lost the art of making useful everyday items beautiful. There's no reason why things like refrigerators and microwave ovens shouldn't be fun and stylish.

  5. RHW says:

    Great post. The Kia ads weren't shot in Georgia, but there new plant is right up the road in West Point.

    I love the European styling of the 80's classic SAABs and BMWs. So much more soul that the junk I see on the roads every day.

  6. ZZ says:

    Stylistically, there's a great love of the past currently. But there's another aspect of the KIA ad that's interesting. We keep hearing how "nothing's made in the US anymore". For example, employment in manufacturing in the US is now back to where it was in 1941! But manufacturing output in the US exceeds the entire GDP of France. US workers in manufacturing have the highest productivity in the world, a function of superior training and work ethic combined with technology and capital spending on stuff like robotics seen in the ad. The KIA ad is a nice combination of that with a love for the past.

  7. "US workers in manufacturing have the highest productivity in the world, a function of superior training and work ethic". That's one of the funniest comments in a while, for sure...

    By the way,mine is a P5B - not quite as cute as the P4 but still an Old World car, and much more convenient as an everday vehicle.

  8. Penelope says:

    I just want something with a good design- most modern cars are so boring! My Dad has a 1956 Morris Minor, he won't let me have it; something about poor brakes or some nonsense. I can't actually drive a car so I don't push the idea that hard, but I'm thinking of learning just to stop him selling it.

    Older cars are a better deal if you ask me- they're built to last and easier to repair than modern stuff -especially if you teach yourself! Also, when you think of how many modern cars a person will go through in their life, the manufacture, running and disposal of them, you can drive a vintage car till you're 100 and still not use the same energy.

  9. Kimberly says:

    I am in the market for a vintage car. I love the glamour and sophistication they offer while being different from the 12,000 Lexus' that I see daily on my suburban Dallas roads. I cringe each and everytime I see those robots building the cars. I'm sure I'll have to walk away from it a few times today during the football games.
    Thanks for the constant muse.
    xxxx kim

  10. Kelly says:

    But if you were drive a motorized two wheeled vehicle what would it be?

  11. Could not agree more. It is so true that there is a "space-craft" look pervading auto aesthetics and this drives me nuts. I'm settled with my Volvo S60 R, but wish it had more of a rough and ready feel...much like the beautiful Rover you pictured. Thanks for your consistently inspiring and tasteful site!

    P.S. Those vintage Porsches are brilliant!

  12. Unknown says:

    Well put, I believe if the American auto industry wasn't weighted down with the concrete boots of the unions, they might be able to dedicate more toward design, engineering and advertising. Not to mention, they could hire about twice as many people. Maybe Obama will make them pay back their bailout loans which would force them to get restructured and profitable.

  13. Anonymous says:

    It's those space craft coverings that in part make modern cars more fuel efficient. See, if an automobile has a big flat grille on its front, passing air hits it like a wall. Bad aerodynamics. Car companies can model the slipstream coming off of a vehicle and guess what? That ubiquitous shape you see is ideal for cutting through all those pesky N2 and O2 molecules floating about.

    And how heavy are those giant hunks of metal? Do they have catalytic converters? Do they even run on unleaded gasoline? City air is A LOT cleaner now than it was fifty years ago (even though there are millions more cars on the road) thanks to better engineering and those "hideous space craft coverings." While I agree that cars, indeed many items we own, should be beautiful, one shouldn't become a slave to style at the expense of more important concerns. Remember this, lest Frank Lloyd Wright come back from the grave to teach you a lesson.