When the initial rumors of David E. Davis, Jr.’s passing crept up Sunday, I remarked to some colleagues that the inevitable onslaught of Car and Driver nostalgia commentary wouldn’t be far behind. But instead of a long-winded, reflective piece detailing DEDJr.’s career, we’re simply going to take the next few days to revisit some stories that we think Mr. Davis would have appreciated. Godspeed, David. Wherever you are, I’m sure there are no boring cars.
When I concluded part I of this feature last week, I said that this piece would be about the Sonata and Optima. It will. But for those of you who came looking for a more traditional road test, I must apologize. You won’t find that here. Feel free to ask specific questions about the cars, but for this piece, we’re going down a slightly different path.
If you ask somebody on the street to identify the most “American” car they can think of, you’ll probably get a predictably narrow subset of answers. SUVs and pick-up trucks will probably top the list, with the occasional Corvette or Mustang thrown in for flavor. Some may even identify entire brands–Jeep or Cadillac, for instance. Others may reflect on our heritage of being one of the largest sources of mass-produced goods in the world, and then prattle on endlessly about the Model T.
But they’re all wrong. You see, the above cars may be icons of the American auto industry, but they simply represent what we’re good at. Those are cars of and by Americans, but not for. Anybody can appreciate a well-built truck or a go-anywhere SUV, but for our purposes we must look elsewhere. Indeed, to find a reflection of American culture, you need to look a a segment which, ironically enough, American manufacturers seemed to have virtually abandoned until very recently–a segment so seemingly devoid of character that it has been dominated for nigh on twenty years by the Toyota Camry. Yes, dear reader, the quintessential American car is the mid-sized sedan.
I’m looking out the passenger window, taking in the beautiful Southern California landscape. It’s going by rather quickly, as it happens, but that’s not unusual for today.
“That’s a hundred…”
We’re on an arrow-straight stretch of desert mountain road, climbing toward the next of what feel like endless rocky peaks. The last car we saw was an overburdened Civic, and we weren’t with them long. Everything’s brown and rocky; abrupt, but beautiful, at least in the eyes of a man who spent a good bit of his life in the desert southwest. I nod absently at his latest update.
We’re getting a bit short on straight road and the upcoming crest is obscuring my view of the scenery. My attention shifts back to the car and the journey at hand. We have a driver change coming up, then a lunch stop in–wait, what was that last bit he said?
“One hundred and tweennnnntyyy… that’s the limiter.”
I shrug slightly, taking in the sensation. Feels like seventy, I think, giving a half-nod of approval. “Not bad.”
by Carl Modesette. NAIAS Photography by Zerin Dube, Mark Fields photo courtesy of Ford
From 10,000 ft, the glow of Detroit after sunset could be that of just about any other Midwestern city. Altitude and darkness impose a serenity that belies the nocturnal unrest below. Even the vast expanses of unused industrial property and the inch-thick dusting of snow that come into focus right about the time the landing gear drops are anonymous this time of day. The nighttime approach is a stirring equalizer. With the departure of the sun goes any character, and it’s not until you cross over from the too-white lighting of the airport terminal into the dingy glow of sodium-vapor lamps that your senses really have a chance to recalibrate. By the end of your cab ride, reality has set in.
Unfortunately, the rumors surrounding our friends over at 0-60 Magazine are true. The paper side of the operation has been officially dropped by parent company Harris Publications.
Word from 0-60 staff is that they plan to continue with the magazine’s online operation and blog/news format, which can be found (for the time being, at least) at http://www.0-60mag.com/. Keep an eye there for any announcements or changes.
It’s always a shame when a glossy closes up shop, especially when it’s one of the good ones. If you can get your hands on a back issue or two, I suggest doing so.
The pilot episode of “The Wire” opens with a scene between Baltimore City homicide detective Jimmy McNulty and a young eyewitness sitting on a stoop, overlooking a murder scene. The victim was shot after running away with the pot from a dice game. The witness explains that the victim, “Snot Boogie,” would come to the game every week and let the pot get thick, then pull a snatch and grab. Normally, the other players would chase him down and kick his ass for trying to make off with the cash, but this week somebody got tired of the routine and shot poor Snot Boogie dead. McNulty is puzzled, and asks the witness why they continued to allow Snot Boogie to play if he always ran off with the money. The witness looks at McNulty and then back at the body, then says, matter-of-factly, “You got to. This is America, man.”