Save articles for later
Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.
I’ve become a late-onset car nut. Lord knows how this happened. I used to mock people, men mainly, who would swoon over their cars, spending most of their weekly wages paying off a “prestige” vehicle, as if it mattered how you were transported from one place to another. But now circumstance has delivered me a new vehicle – nothing fancy, a base-level ute – and I find I’m in love.
It’s nearly 20 years since I last bought a car. Why did no one tell me how good cars have become?
I plug in my phone, press a button on the steering wheel, and ask the car questions. “How far to Ulladulla?”; “Give me directions to the nearest service station”; “What’s the capital of South Sudan?” – and the car always knows.
Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto in Fast and Furious 6.
I order it to play the new podcast about the novelist Martin Amis, and it does so instantly. It tells me the outside temperature. It reckons it will send an SOS to the authorities should I crash, which is quite likely given my complicated instructions about Martin Amis.
Years ago, I’d roll my eyes when older men would talk about washing their cars, modifying their cars or – most boring of all – their car’s petrol consumption.
“How many kilometres do you get to the litre on a trip to Brisbane?” one old bore would ask the other as they stood at the hotel bar. “Depends,” the other would answer, “as you have to factor in whether we went north on the New England Highway or whether, that year, we selected the Pacific. Now, the New England Highway is longer, that’s true, but you can achieve a more consistent driving speed on the New England which is why, I have calculated, it can mean a cheaper trip by as much as $2.”
This $2 chap would then offer to show his workings, right there in the pub, no worries, he’ll write them out on the back of a serviette, he can remember most of the numbers. Remarkably, the first chap would say: “Well, it’s such an interesting issue you’ve raised. I’d certainly be intrigued to see how you came to your conclusions.”
I find its conversation considerably better informed than the typical ’70s bloke in a pub.
Most of the 1970s was spent having these sorts of discussions. They’d be about preferred routes, petrol consumption and whether Ford was better or worse than Holden. Pubs had to close at 10pm, but only because the authorities feared people would go insane after listening to more than three or four hours of this stuff.
And yet here I am, all these years on, and my new ute speaks to me in very similar terms. Every time you fill up with fuel, a flashing screen invites you to insert the price of the fuel, after which it tells you the price of every trip.
I say it again: it’s the base-level ute, the cheapest in the range, and yet I find its conversation considerably better informed than the typical ’70s bloke in a pub. It also has more cupholders than an under-12 soccer team. And headlights that turn on and off automatically, and there’s a quite sexy – is that an OK word to use? – form of tarp. So neat!
At this point, I should confess that I love my new ute so much, I’ve been buying her – sorry, it – little gifts. My affection is so intense I find myself regularly in the aisles of stores with names like Autobarn, Repco or Supercheap Auto.
Once I enter the store, I realise the truth: roaming the aisles are men just like me, trying to find the right token for their loved one. They are love-struck Romeos wanting the perfect gift to express all that they feel.
If the world were a more honest place, they’d just ask the cashier: “Hi, I want to buy an anniversary present from my truck. We’ve been together a year. I was considering some specialty mudflaps and wondered if you had something really special.”
“I understand,” the salesperson would say, “but here at Supercheap Auto, we believe the best gift is one that lasts forever. Have you considered a new bull bar? I think your truck would look pretty sensational sporting one of the more expensive brands.”
So, there we all are, wandering the aisles. We um and ahh. We pick up items and then put them back again.
What about some wheel-cleaning chemicals? Or an air freshener with “new car scent” (frankly an insult, since my ute already has a new car scent). Or there’s the keychain which features a tiny toy car that’s the same model as mine. Cute? Weird? Sometimes it’s hard to work out a ute’s inner feelings.
Plus there’s a torch – but one meant to be kept in the ute, rechargeable from the dashboard, so really a personal torch for the ute.
So I buy the torch. Plus a new dash mat, thank you Supercheap Lithgow. And new car seat covers, thank you Autobarn Tamworth. Currently I’m drawing the line at the scent, a Nordic tree designed to hang from the rear-vision mirror, but I may buckle.
I’m the end, I’m just a man standing in front of a ute asking it to love him.
Get a weekly wrap of views that will challenge, champion and inform your own. Sign up for our Opinion newsletter.
Most Viewed in Culture
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article