Opinion: Why I've always loved cars above other creations

A stretched Hummer, of all things, stokes the fire in Cockburn’s belly: we must dream big again

Why I have always loved cars

Who would’ve imagined that a Hummer limousine could remind me again of why I have always loved cars above our other creations?!

Yet such a behemoth, hired by my daughter to cart the poultry on her hen’s night, had me all giddy and giggles today, just the way my first ride in a sports car did long ago.

Okay, the lovelies hovering around it, ready to set the night alight, neatly disguised the brute’s lack of beauty but that wouldn’t have mattered anyway...because when the door was opened the impact was breathtaking: a seduction of soft lighting and lounges, afloat on music, afresh with scent and awash with beverages. This thing was created to please beyond all reason.

And so was every car that ever mattered.

Stretch -HummerDamn near every other piece of domestic machinery is designed to do its job and nothing more. Okay, dishwashers and vacuum cleaners may flirt with fashion but no other apparatus transcends its role like the automobile.

Required by common sense to do nothing more than shelter a small group of people and transport them at a sensible pace, the thing’s instead evolved into elaborate artworks capable of performance beyond either belief or purpose. And it was that very extravagance that caused so many of us to love them. Not just for what they could do but for where they could lead our imagination. For the stirring they brought to our souls.

And all that we once imagined eventually became real. So why did it take a butt-ugly, slug-slow Hummer to bring back the stir? Because it surprised me. Because it exceeded all expectation. And that’s what cars must do again to remain more than just machinery.

But their makers now need to find new ways to excel, because the traditional gotchas are gone. Styling, for instance, once the principal excuse for an annual unveiling that made each previous model instantly obsolete, no longer stuns us. That ship has sailed. For sheer indulgence nothing will ever better the ’59 Cadillac and, for a drop-dead breakthrough in beauty, the E-Type’s impact 50 years ago is never likely to be matched.

Jaguar -E-Type -RoadsterNor is power the persuader any more. Not when damn near every car made can double our motorway speed limits with the more boisterous of ’em having top-ends that can’t be sampled on any road or even raceway in all the land. Nope, we need a new approach and that’s the point the Hummer made: Bugger the box…Excite Us When We Open It! And isn’t there room for improvement in there?!

Okay, the gadget-gang’s changed everything to keep the driver enchanted and, charmed by the re-invention of the starter-button, distracted by the handbrake hunt and dazzled by control options that’d tax an astronaut, he/she can at least play pilot games to pass the time. But sitting in the dock as a passenger, clamped firm and bored rigid, is hardly the stuff of dreams. But the Hummer said it could be.

Stretch -Hummer -interiorSo let’s dream. About an interior glazed in smart glass that instantly dims between any source of glare – sun, reflections, headlamps – and any occupied seat. About seats like armchairs capable of facing forward or back and offering full-length reclining support.

About the immediate availability of hot or cold refreshment in spill-proof vessels. About amusements such as individual entertainment choices and interactive games and conveniences such as reading/writing surfaces and snack service. And whatever else you could wish for that would make daily driving a pleasure for everyone in the car – and thereby redefine its possibilities.

Over the top? Of course. But so was every car that ever mattered.


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Paul Cockburn

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