2022.05.14 Automotive Meta-Analysis
For many years, I've often joked that the vehicle you drive says a lot about you. As much as I hate to ascribe too much merit to stereotypes, and readily agree that general use of stereotypes is a bad thing, there are still clearly messages being sent. These messages need not accurately reflect the owner/driver of a vehicle, but they remain complicit in them nonetheless. Like the clothing we wear, even if we don't intend to have a meta message, it's still like the tag line of a political ad: "I support this message".
- 1 Pickup Trucks
- 2 Exotic Sports Cars
- 3 Vans
- 4 Regular Sports Cars
- 5 Sport Utility Vehicles
- 6 Luxury Brands
- 7 Crossover Utility Vehicles
- 8 Efficient Vehicles
- 9 shitboxes
Pickup trucks get pinned right the to top of this list because of how much they have been standing out lately on the roads. Because, regardless of what other meta-messages the various ilks of pickup truck might suggest, there is an underlying implicit threat whenever we see a pickup truck on a public road: that they are going to be a massively dangerous idiot of an asshole with even the slightest provocation.
I'm not sure why this is, exactly. Maybe it's because while trucks are the most utilitarian vehicle for hauling loads, they are the absolute worst at everything else, and to expect them to dance in traffic with more capable vehicles is a baseline of aggressive stupidity.
Rugged Work Truck
A simple truck loaded with tools and/or materials says "I've got shit to get done". It also says, "I'm not intelligent enough to do something easier."
Luxury Barge With A Bed
"I want you to think that I am capable of doing hard work."
Lifted Bro Dozer
"I have a lot to prove, but I lack the means to recognize how or why."
Exotic Sports Cars
These are the natural reserve of rich assholes. They can be gorgeous embodiments of a love of aesthetics and function. But, in reality, they're really just extra-embarrassing to do something stupid in.
Ferrari / Lamborghini / Maserati / McLaren
"Look at me! But overlook my lack of personality by fixating on my overbearing willingness to waste resources."
"Look at me! I'm rich enough, and I pay attention when I read car magazines!"
My tendency is to conceptualize vans like the utility shuttles in Star Trek. Sometimes hauling people, sometimes hauling stuff, and vaguely brick-like.
When I was coming of age, minivans were the default for Boomers wildly averse to getting practical but good-handling station wagons, whose only real benefits were functionality for humans. They say, to my gen-X generation and the Boomers who came before us, "I have utterly succumbed to my wretchedness."
Ironically, having briefly tasted the nectar of a good minivan, I can see now how that functionality is rarified utility for a family, and with handling dynamics at least no worse than any SUV or CUV.
Used and abused, these usually look pretty rough. "Fuck around and find out."
Adventure Van / Van Life Van
"Life is a first-person adventure game, and I have questionable hygiene."
"I am a total goofball."
Regular Sports Cars
This is the realm of fun-to-drive but generally useless vehicles... that have been the focus of most of my car attention for much of my adult life. This intensity is probably why this section has so much more nuance, in my opinion.
But, to simplify, all these vehicles say variations of the same thing: "Don'f follow me, I do stupid things."
"'Merica! Fuck yeah!" ...and... "Mid.Life.Crisis."
"At the very first opportunity, I'm going to show off at cars-n-coffee and do a burnout then crash into something."
"I want a pure driving experience, but I want it to be totally safe and vanilla"
"I can't afford a real Corvette."
"I think I can drift!"
"Dignity and comfort have been sacrificed mostly for style rather than performance."
"A gentle cleansing fluid for flushing out a cloaca, and utterly unnecessary."
Sport Utility Vehicles
Be it a Toyota Forerunner, or a Chevy Tahoe, driving one of these has an overwhelming announcement "I have no idea what I want to do with a vehicle, but whatever it is I want to do it poorly."
"My need to occasionally crawl over rocks makes it worthwhile to drive a vehicle that is wildly unsafe and uncomfortable."
Any Jeep other than a 2-door Wrangler
"I am a poser."
"I sell drugs."
"I have money to waste and think aerodynamics isn't real."
There is a two-sided aspect to the ownership of luxury brands - the honest appreciation of having things just be nice, and the desire to be associated with symbols of status. They are not mutually exclusive. But the nature of meta-narratives means that the price of the first aspect is accepting the superficiality of the second.
Mercedes S-class or E-wagon
"Fuck what the peasants think, just give me the nicest everything."
Every other Mercedes
"The appearance of success is all I care about, and I don't mind that the car isn't actually good at anything."
"I'm a Boomer who still clutches to the idea that these are 'the ultimate driving machine' even though they clearly are not."
"I appreciate leading edge aesthetics, and give no fucks about longevity."
"I'm too American to get a real Mercedes."
Crossover Utility Vehicles
Saving the planet or saving money, both appear to make us smug superior assholes.
"Only saving this planet until we can fly to Mars with Elon!"
"I'm the only person who matters. La la la la, I can't hear you."
"I am a pathetic insect."
If your vehicle doesn't fit in one of the above categories, it's probably a shitbox.
"I don't care, and I have places to be."
well-maintained older shitbox
"I am frugal and wise, and probably incredibly boring."
beat-up newish shitbox
"Not only am I cheap, I also make poor decisions."
beat-up older shitbox
"I know how to wrench, and I'm prepared to be massively inconvenienced and uncomfortable to be able to shout it to the world."