QotW: What car-related things are you thankful for?

This week is Thanksgiving (if you’re reading from the US), that time of year when we talk about the things in life that, big or small, we are grateful for. In the very futuristic sounding year of 2023, we are thankful for many things, but chief among them is the fact that carmakers like Toyota, Subaru, Mazda, Nissan, and Honda still make sports cars. That’s more than one would expect in a class that conventional wisdom says is dying, and it gives us hope that the next generation will still have fun with cars.

What car-related things are you thankful for?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What technology made modern cars less interesting?“.

We expected more recent technologies to elicit a lot of anger, but some readers went way back, as MikeRL411 and interstataphobia did to unleash their ire  for the automatic transmission. The next oldest invention was probably Crown‘s 5-mph safety bumpers, mandated in 1974.

We’re not going by when these technologies were first invented, but when the became commonplace. The next era included contrivances such as speedie‘s cruise control, Chet Manley‘s power windows, TheJWT‘s turbos, and Franxou‘s safety regulations that allowed for the disappearance of pop-up headlights.

Moore’s Law has made microprocessors cheaper than ever and thus irresistible to engineers and designers alike. Jeremy A. understandably  computational fluid dynamics

Not surprisingly, most comments were inflamed by technologies that became widespread in the last couple of decades. For Art it was the artifice of the drift button. Steve cannot abide the electronic throttle body, and Sammy B  was incensed by the associated rev hang. Fred Langille was irked by the silence of EVs, while エーイダン expressed his righteous discontent at the ever-present crossover.

In the end, it was Alan‘s screed about the superiority of the original Playstation classic Final Fantasy VII as compared to its recent remaster that won the week. It reminded us of an interview we once read about the music composers of early Nintendo games explaining why those titles had such memorable tunes (It was the limitations of the beeps and boops available at the time that forced them into creating masterpieces):

They recently remade Final Fantasy 7. It’s been completely revamped with ostensibly improved graphics, sound, gameplay, reduced load times, etcetera. But I have less than zero interest in it, because it was the very limitations of the PlayStation’s primitive architecture that made the original great. Unspoiled by near-limitless processing power and memory, the artists and designers behind the original FF7 were forced to dig deep to do more with less, and created something magical and transcendent in the process.

The problem with modern cars is parallel in both concept and timeline; the dawn of cheap processing power supplanted the creative impetus of engineers with the promise of free power steering (EPAS), instant gearchanges (DCTs), and seamlessly linear (uninspiring) turbocharging.

Why spend precious resources and man hours carefully calibrating a rewarding ride and handling balance when countless suspension “modes” are available at the touch of a button? Why design an engine to make a pleasant sound when a barrage of pops and bangs are as simple as programming the injectors to dribble out a few more drops on the overrun? Because they feel and sound phony, like ten thousand lines of code, and not the passion and hard-won knowledge of an expert driver/engineer.

Software is not a satisfactory substitute for a touch of human spirit in our stories and machines.

The 8-32 Bit and Analog Car Eras were Zeitgeist defining, just as the games and transportation devices of the 21st century are of a desperate dystopia.

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

JNC Decal smash

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9 Responses to QotW: What car-related things are you thankful for?

  1. Jesse says:

    umm… direct-port nitrous… uh… injection, four-core intercoolers, an’ ball-bearing turbos, and… um… titanium valve springs. Thank you.

  2. Ian N says:

    The accelerator pedal – and to perhaps a lesser degree, the brake pedal. Brilliant inventions.

  3. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    My neighbor, a shipfitter at a nearby shipyard, who took me in when I moved from Japan to the US. I arrived here at 15 1/2 years old & was a bit confused with the “Driver’s Ed” class on my schedule (driving starts at 18 in Japan). I had to find a way to fund my own car quickly. My gracious & patient neighbor took me in & taught me all things mechanical. With that & a afterschool job in an autobody shop, I became the family fleet manager. I marveled at his knowledge of not only automotive things but as a shipfitter, he showed me how to do tremendously big things with the simplest of tools (jacking up a house with wedges & a sledgehammer for example.) Forever greatful to Don…

  4. Taylor C. says:

    Many things to be thankful for, but let’s start with the physical things:
    * Thankful that my car battery has enough cold-cranking amps as we get into the cold months here in New England.
    * Thankful that there are still some parts available for my old cars.
    * Thankful for straightforward car repairs. It’s so easy for an old car’s “1-hour job” to turn into an all-day affair.
    * Thankful for those all-weather floor liners, they definitely help preserve the interior.
    * Thankful for manual transmission and the fulfillment it provides; I know I’m probably the last 1% still rowing the gears around town.

    The Mental thanks:
    * Thankful for how certain vehicles elicit a certain feeling that can’t otherwise be brought out. Driving the Miata brings out this very young, youthful feeling. Maybe it’s because I can floor it all day but still barely break the speed limit. Driving the 300ZX evokes a very mature and suave feel. Driving the old Prelude just brings back the days of simplicity, low sightlines, and analog interaction. All something I know I wouldn’t get in most modern cars. I’m thankful that I have been fortunate enough to hold onto these cars over the years, as I will one day pass them and their memories to my kids. I am thankful that, in today’s heavily social media / AI-focused society, that they have a range of automotive interest.

  5. Jim Klein says:

    Car websites such as this one for example as well as many others depending on one’s particular interests. There is no better way to somehow get none of the essential daily chores around the home or office done than to start reading and then descending further and further down various rabbit holes that present themselves…

    In a greater context, prior to car websites, forums, (and YouTube) it was difficult for the fairly common man (or woman) to really deeply engage in the car hobby, especially if your location or your desired vehicles were not the norm in those places. Nowadays anything that breaks or goes wrong with virtually any car in and from any corner of the globe can generally be easily looked up and researched within minutes as more than likely someone else or many others in the last thirty years has/have had the same exact issue and often took the time to explain it, how to correct it, and what was needed to do so. This has had the result of making many cars FAR more approachable to many, and far less daunting, never mind less expensive to keep running and maintained. Sure there was SportCompactCar and HotRod magazine and others of their ilk with little ads in back and some tech how-to articles but that didn’t really cover all that much and forget about the minutae of fixing and tuning a Supra in the midst of Chevy-land or figuring out how to import your own Skyline and then getting parts for it down the road etc.

    Without the benefit of the internet far fewer of us would be driving, keeping, and improving cars that are really of interest to us, or at the very least, have fewer of them in the garage or scattered around the lot. We’d likely not even be aware of many of them in the first place.

  6. Alan says:

    High redlines, individual throttle bodies, and manual transmissions.

    Thanks for the win, JNC.

  7. steve says:

    Paper Car Brochures: Let me explain how these wonderful emotional publications stirred the soul in a young boy that eventually lead to life full of cars, racing, rallying, design and models – while having a satisfying career along the way.

    We didn’t have a lot of money in the 60’s-70’s. Dad would take me to the dealers every September where I collected the brochures. I would cut out mainly the side views of the cars and play with them on Mom’s carpet. They were everywhere. I created my own scenes and loved the sports cars, the wagons and the dumpy sedans. I learned about cars. I learned about perspective views, and I learned about design by studying these free toys.

    I was hooked on cars. Dad took me to races, I was hooked. Dad bought me a few model cars to build. I learned about construction and assembly of motor vehicles. One Christmas I received the “Visible-V8”. I asked a lot of questions, and learned about the 4 cycles. I drew cars in Math and Social Studies classes, and got told “you will never amount to anything” for scribbling in a notebook. I took shop, I graduated High School, then went to VW Apprentice Training Center and worked as a wrench. I built a rally car (Datsun 510). Learned about being on time and working hard every day and night. Went rallying Professionally for 5-6 years. I still scribbled in notebooks, so I sold ALL of my rally cars and parts to go to Design School for 4 years, where I actually cut out paper cars again (cut out vellum sketches to paste on media board – LOL!), graduated, and have worked in the Design industry ever since. I went racing and rallying for fun with the money I made. I worked my way up to Design General Manager and pretty much feel that I “Never Worked a Day In My Life”. It was always fun (except maybe 3 or 4 days).

    All from being influenced by my Dad taking me to look at new cars, every September when it was a thing, and collecting the brochures and playing with paper cars. I am so fortunate that I found the passion for something that I was able to enjoy right to this day. I am still working on model cars, in a work environment for money and engagement. I am a lucky guy.

  8. Jonathan P. says:

    I’m thankful for car meets and cruise nights to go to. At cruise nights, I get to see what all the grandpas have had stashed away in their garages most of the year. Or I get to see what the local guys have at car meets.
    I’m also thankful for old school car videos on youtube that give me a little window into older tuner and car culture. I have to admit, I’m fascinated by the tuner era of the late ’90s and early 2000’s. From guys uploading their home videos of the 3 A.M. races to the Mischief series, there’s all kinds of content to watch.

  9. エーイダン says:

    The mate with a car or license who owes you a favour. Hands down best thing ever, especially if they have a truck or van.

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