Bored and in need of entertainment on Twitter one day, I asked to review the cars of followers. The response was overwhelming; it turns out that not only do people enjoy talking about their cars, but they enjoy them no matter what they may be told about what makes a car "good" or "bad" or "currently on fire and spitting parts after crashing into a daycare."
In that spirit, I asked for readers to send me their cars. Again, I got a whole fleet in my inbox before I could blink, because people love their cars, and seem to love them more the shittier and older they get. So the following reviews don't reflect any rational understanding of what you might consider to be quality. If anything, I'm reviewing these cars from a post-quality sense. Most of them run; most of them do so without exploding; and most, given time, become a sort of pet. You know what I mean: the pet that's supposed to drink antifreeze.
The selected cars:
Here's a 1976 MG ... Midget I owned this year. Can you say midget still? It's a 1976 MG Little People.
No, you cannot say "midget." My dad had one of these. He was working a catering gig and had a gargantuan tub of baked beans in the back when he whipped the whole thing around a corner, turning the infinitesimal backseat into a live well full of beans and stray pieces of golf equipment. He said it ruined the car but my dad has terrible taste for someone in the restaurant industry, and I for one would welcome a car rich with the fragrance of bacon-laced legume. I rode in the back of this car as a baby because it was the 1970s, and children were treated as cargo, and not particularly valuable cargo at that. (For the record, I estimate my own value as a child at somewhere around $57.82 adjusted for inflation, depreciating through adolescence and onward.)
This MG Little Person is impractical, likely seconds away from burning down in an electrical fire, and would turn to metal confetti in a collision. Given a lingering smell of beans or other spilled food, it would be perfect.
Significantly Rusty, ill running 318 V-8, smells of mouse droppings. Headliner falling down. B1G country -- come at me bro.
OH JOEL THAT RUST. Look at it. It's the sediment at the bottom of an ancient and precious Burgundy. It's the streak of white hair on Emmylou Harris' head that somehow made her 150 times more majestic than any other person on the planet. It's not even rust: it's places where the car's badassness has scattered like pollen through the world, fertilizing budding flowers with tiny little '74 Chargerlets.
The real charm in the Charger (or a lot of other original muscle cars) that you can't see in the photo lies in the steering. That is: there isn't any. The steering wheel is this great, grippy leather suggestion box. You tug to the right, and if you're driving a 100 percent bonafide American muscle car, there will be two or three inches of gap that simply does nothing at all, and then another two or three radial inches of gentle nudging. Driving one of these is like being at the helm of an oil tanker that can go 90 miles per hour on the water: you'll want to turn early, and will need several hundred yards just to begin stopping. Horses are more obedient, far more fuel-efficient, and safer when they start going sideways.
Contra to that point: unlike the '74 Charger, horses will not make you feel like you're wrestling with the iron arms of the electric devil himself.
The mouse droppings are a bonus, though the geography works against a super high score. If you were from the Southwest, I would have awarded extra points for the casual daily risk of Hantavirus. This car looks like Wisconsin's soul. You don't even need to see the trunk open to hear the beer cans rolling around the bare metal of the trunk.
1997 Isuzu Rodeo
Acquired on 16th bday in 2000
5 speed manual transmission (very rare)
4 cylinder grill guard (for vehicle with 2 wheel drive and zero off-road capability)
paint cancer on hood
Folding back seat leaves perfect amount of sleeping space
radio still works
dent on front left earned when backing into tree (with door wide open (idiot)) in 2002
The Rodeo in another form was sold as the "Isuzu Wizard," another point to people who believe that everyone overseas gets everything cooler in the car world. Say it out loud to yourself: "I DRIVE AN ISUZU WIZARD." Bad names kill potentially successful cars every year regardless of their overall quality, which is why the Pontiac Aztek would have been way more successful if they'd just gone hard and called it "THE PONTIAC GRUNT." Shit, if it's already obviously a bomb rolling off the assembly line -- "Sure, that car with a built-in tent is gonna kill, Ted" -- then go ahead and try to sell it as the giant trash-can sandwich everyone knows it is.
Paint cancer is a strong pitch. When you move to Florida you learn a lot of things, like that people will still voluntarily live in a place so brutal and unfit for human habitation that the paint on their cars is blasted clean off by salt and the fiery radiation of the sun itself. It requires a belief system that includes the statement: If I eat enough Checkers apple pie bites, that surely won't happen to my fleshy, non-metal skin. Then again, this description also includes "can sleep in this car" as a resume line. You probably already live in Florida.
Also this is an Isuzu, joining the ranks of Saab and Oldsmobile in the list of cars you automatically like because their companies imploded or simply stopped making cars. They're the raptured souls of the car world, wandering the earth without their makers. From an existentialist point alone, I respect the hell out of that.
How about a station wagon with a supercharged corvette engine?
I had to take my whole family to a wedding in California last year. If you've never flown cross-country with young children, it is really not the claustrophobic torture experience most people make it out to be. Most kids like to look out the window, watch iPads until their brains ooze out of their ears, and play with the seat tray in front of them. That part's easy.
The crux comes when you land. At that point, with the fun flying over huge cities and mountains over with, your children have exited the orbit of "YAYYYYY WE'RE ON A PLAAAANE" and are firmly in the grip of a fiery re-entry into being their normal, needy selves. Edit: their normal, needy selves who have just awakened on the left side of the continent on an entirely different schedule, and likely in need of food. Everyone starts crying simultaneously; your spouse gets the kind of thousand-yard stare usually only found in veterans of intense combat.
The point is that I might have gone straight to the Hertz Gold line and said GIVE ME WHATEVER YOU HAVE I WILL PAY IT, and gotten a Cadillac SRX for slightly less than four hundred dollars more than I would have paid otherwise. Like everything Cadillac makes now it was stupidly plush, had a gigantic planet-choking engine, handled like a butter snowman butt-surfing down a greased teflon ski-slope, and made me feel every mistake I had made in life by not being the kind of person willing to pay more than $20K for a car. Crying children will make you do things. Terrible, luxurious things.
This is a fantastic and perfect car, and my score reflects my immature hater-ish envy of you.
p.s. Cadillac now makes a 600 hp sedan. The past was shit and we should never mourn it.
Frankenstein? Check. Ozzie seat cover? Check. Minnesota plates even though it has been in Austin, Tex., for at least 2 years? Check.
I bet there are three other vans exactly like this in Austin. Windowless vans get a bad rap for being synonymous with crime, but in reality they're mostly used for the most mundane things on Earth: utility work, mobile pornography, failed bands, and low-level breaking and entering cases. The humble workhorses of our economy's most important activities get zero respect, and all just because Marv and Harry drove one in Home Alone.*
*Ohhh, but Ted Bundy drove one, buddy. Stop. Home Alone is the basis for all modern epistemology, and no one remembers anything before 1999.
The outdated plates, Ozzie seat covers, and tasteful rust patches give it a patina of trash livin' I can't deny, but you know what really ladles on the charm-gravy? That black shit speckled all over the roof. It's lived outside like a dingy dog of the flock, shepherding you back and forth to failed band practice without a complaint, only to be left out in the cold where it's happy. This van is the dog you pet even though you know you're going to have to wash your hands afterwards.
From Jacob in Atlanta:
It's got 178,000 or so on it. Needs a new wheel bearing. But it gets me 42 mpg and the interior pleases me.
I cannot emphasize how important "the interior pleases me" is. I had a Ford Escort Station Wagon with a plush interior in Florida. This meant a torrent of ass sweat the instant you sat in it, followed by subsequent sauna conditions for the rest of the ride. It was like driving a kiln, even before the air-conditioner failed, and the ventilation system began blowing black mold from the air vents.
It looked like the embodied soul of a fax machine to start with, which I could have pardoned if it was super comfortable, but that's kind of the point here. You have to drive with your butt, and if your butt isn't happy sitting in a car, then go get another car. The ass is the most important evaluator in driving a car, and you need to treat yours as well as possible. You've done well, Jacob.
My driver was security for Sein Lwin. Apparently it was gifted to him. I'd prefer not to have my name on this as hiring ex-Burmese special ops to drive one around is a bit flossy.
[CLASSIFIED] did not want his name on this, but he wrote back and confirmed that this is not just the former head of security for one of Burma's most evil dudes ever's car, but was a gift from strongman Ne Win himself. If you don't know who Ne Win is, we will help you with a sort of relevant passage from his very long and very taxing Wikipedia entry:
Ne Win was well known for his penchant for numerology and yadaya (cabalistic rituals and spells performed in order to ward off misfortune). When his soothsayer warned him that there might be a bloodbath, he would stand in front of a mirror and trample on meat to simulate the blood then shoot himself in the mirror to avert the possibility of an assassination attempt.
There is zero chance Jim Harbaugh does not begin every morning doing the exact same thing.
Check the body panels for stowaway heroin bricks and T-Bills, and appreciate how every Mercedes ages into a burly, wheezing aristocrat of a car. The very engine noise itself sounds like complaints about capital gains tax and selfie sticks! Normally this is like a 7/10 because Mercedes just doesn't move me at all, buuuuuut "certified warlord car in gold" has to count for something in this life.