The Big Issue : Edition 442
THE BIG ISSUE 27 SEP -- 10 OCT 2013 29 culture police Fiona Scott-Norman ILLUSTRATION BY GREG BAKES; ORIGINAL PHOTOGRAPH BY MILES STANDISH TODAY'S AUTO INDUSTRY HAS DRIVEN US TO INDISTINCTION. THE CARS THAT ATE PASSION For virtually more FSN, visit fonascottnorman.com.au, or follow her on Twitter @FScottNorman. IF YOU'RE UP for a weep, the Chevy car people have made a cracker of an ad. Using the strap line 'Chevy Runs Deep', the mini-doc promo is a true story, capturing the moment American retiree Herb Younger is reunited with the 1965 Chevy Impala he was forced to sell 20 years previously. His two sons spent fve years tracking down the gorgeous cream- coloured behemoth, and when Herb catches sight of that old car, it's a showstopper. Partly because, for a couple of seconds, he genuinely looks like he's going into cardiac arrest, but mostly because ineffable joy is a rare commodity. The ad demonstrates a cultural truth: it is possible to love a car. Plato didn't get around to discussing that particular subset of human relationships, but then Plato never owned, say, a 1972 burnt orange Valiant Charger. Secondly, in the year 2053, no one will suffer angina because they're reunited with their 2013 Hyundai Getz. No one, frankly, would give a rat's. They may be surprised that their bitumen grey Toyota Tacoma hadn't been sold for parts, but the fact is most contemporary cars have all the personality of a block of tofu, and are about as distinguishable. You may as well try to become emotionally attached to a brick of Lego. Recently in the market for a motor, I've been scanning the roads, and it seems we are accelerating towards a vanishing point of similarity, where the only difference between cars is the badge. Vehicles are now essentially like shopping centres: unremarkable to the point of utilitarian invisibility from the outside, and equipped with top-end climate control and piped music once you're sealed inside. In April this year, Apple registered a patent for iCarPark, which is basically a bluetooth application that will locate your car from among its hundreds of identikit cousins. We have come to this. How depressing. On some dreary level, I suppose it doesn't really matter if your car is just a thing that gets you from A to B. It's only a machine, after all. So long as it works. We don't expect sexiness and distinction from a photocopier or fridge. But, then, unless you've been living according to the principles set out in the ‘saucy’ 1986 flm, 9½ Weeks, your fridge doesn't deliver sex and freedom as well as keep your vegetables crisp. Hands up who hasn't had sex in a car? I feel gypped, to be honest. This is a beyond-tedious era to be buying a car. I've been driving since I was 18, yet have mostly owned hand-me-downs from friends. I've never owned a car less than 20 years old and, until I was nearly 30, my idea of a luxury vehicle was one in which the handbrake functioned. My frst car, an Austin A40 Farina Mark 2, cost me $50 from a vet student at uni. In Perth, back then, roadworthies were unheard of, so it was perfectly legal for me to own a rust- mottled relic with no clutch to speak of, and a driver's door that few open when you cornered. I called her Wilma, and painted her black with a white roof using gloss house paint. Great car; sold her two years later for $100 to a guy who wanted to race her. I fgured she was going to a happy death. After that, my dad, inexplicably, with zero consultation (which, to be fair, is how he made ALL his decisions), bought me a second-hand Suzuki Carry van -- three-stroke engine, sounded like a sewing machine, every young girl's dream. I drove in constant fear of rear-ending someone and losing my legs. Then there was Steed, the Austin 1800 I had for years. I loved that car; I hand-sewed leopard-skin seat covers and was frequently spotted under the engine whacking his recalcitrant starter motor with a spanner. After Steed passed over, I was gifted a friend's mother's 1978 Mazda 323. The Silver Lady's main features were rust and a clapped out carburettor, but she was unstoppable. Quite literally -- the brakes were dodgy, too. I drove her (veeeeery carefully) until a friend married up and sold me her 1990 Subaru Liberty. The Subaru, recently deceased, had only one downside; I couldn’t fnd her in a car park to save myself. White, square and effcient, I never found a nickname that stuck. So here I am. Carless once more and, now I fnally have a choice, there's nothing to choose from. Where's the car that will make me cry?