Years ago, I read Road and Track magazine every month, drooling on the pages as I admired creations by Lotus, BMW, Ferrari, Mercedes and most every foreign manufacturer except for a few who made cars out of egg crates and powered them with mice on treadmills. I was a self-professed car nut, and I could own any auto I wanted, in my mind. And the mind — unlike the real world — was a great place to own some of these cars: no maintenance schedules, no repair bills, no oil leaks, no insurance. One of the best parts of Road and Track was Peter Egan’s column. Peter knew his cars, but he also knew how to write about the art and love of cars in a way that made him my favorite automotive columnist. Looking back, I can see how he influenced my own writing style, even though I know just enough about cars to sound five feet north of ignorant town. So when I write about cars, I’m probably out of my league. But given current car design theories, I don’t think I’m alone in that condemnation, so here goes my rant.
I don’t understand the fascination with giving faces to cars. This will poison your daily drive for sure when I tell you this, but if you look at most cars today, you’ll see a face. I’m not talking about the road rage face that guy gave you when you didn’t use your turn signal; I’m talking about a face modeled into the car’s body. Look around when you walk through a parking lot. You’ll see cars that look like cartoons. The headlight eyes, the grill nose, the bumper mouth: You’ll see it, and you’ll be unable to stop seeing it. I can’t stop seeing them. The car in front of me is smiling. The car behind me is winking. Every car I see — with few exceptions — has a face, and it’s looking right at me.
You would assume that car designers could see the faces in their models. You would think they would want to correct the models so the cars don’t look like cartoon characters. Well, I guess we’re assuming too much. These faces are so obvious and such grand cliches that they can only be intentional. Maybe we’re so used to cartoon characters, anime characters, and bobbleheads that we expect our cars to have faces too. “Oh, look! That car looks like Pikachu! He’s my favorite Pokemon!” Cars with wide, wise eyes; cars with stubby noses; cars with big smiles, just like Bender on Futurama: this is what I see when I’m driving. And it makes me sad. I don’t want a clown car. I definitely don’t want a car that looks like a clown.
I have a 1998 BMW that I bought back in the day. It was the entry level model, the bottom of the barrel. Its name is Lazarus. Lazarus was dead for a while and feared lost to the recyclers, but my mechanic brought him back to life, and I’ve scrubbed him up and made him into a beauty. But even Lazarus has a face — a bucktoothed sort of pig-snout face. I don’t like to think of Lazarus with a face. I feel silly enough giving him a name. I suppose it’s a blessing that I hardly notice Lazarus’s face since I’m usually in the driver’s seat, sitting behind his smile. So it’s not so bad. I’ll keep Lazarus until he finally goes on up to car heaven, and then I’ll search for a replacement — one that doesn’t look like a Pokemon or a bobblehead or a Saturday morning cartoon. And I’ll pray that this fascination with faces doesn’t extend to washing machines, refrigerators and espresso machines. If it does, I’ll start making some faces of my own, and they won’t be very friendly.
David McCoy is a lifetime resident of “The Glorious South” and a repeat winner of the Georgia Press Association’s Joe Parham Trophy for his humor column, Pecan Pie for the Mind. David lives in Covington, Georgia but can often be found among the North Georgia mountains, depending on the weather and the availability of clean towels and fresh, hot coffee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.