Why Do We Hate American Cars?
If you haven’t seen it yet this week, Chevrolet posted an engaging video that shows the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 attacking the Nürburgring at a pace faster than that of a contemporary Lexus LFA or a Lamborghini Murcielago LP640. For the record, the Lexus LFA starts just north of $375,000. The Lambo is $380,000. The Z/28 is expected to sell at $55,000. The fact that you'll soon be able to buy an American car off the showroom floor that will turn a lap at the Nürburgring faster than Italian and Japanese cars that cost seven times more should be cause for any car fan in America to rejoice. But we're such inveterate snobs, we can't appreciate it.
Here is a sampling of comments I got on my Facebook feed when I posted the video:
"In the end though, you're driving a Camaro and 50 large is a lot of dough for a Chevy. I'd put my 50 on a nice late model 911."
"It would have been even faster if it wasn't a 4,500lb pillbox on wheels."
"Are these Chevy numbers?......I'm not buyin it until I see it for myself. They used to call the Corvette the "best handling car in the world"
"Usually its bad interiors, cheesy styling cues and more focus on cup holders than vehicle dynamics. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. I just don't want to be fooled. The 911 has been a constantly improving icon over the years, refined and honed. There is no embarrassment to owning one of any vintage, a race pedigree for 50 years and no screaming chickens plastered over the hoods."
"Around here, 90% of the time, Camaros can be found with a cigarette hanging out it's cracked window. And then, a good portion of those, you can see the driver is a middle age woman with a Marge Simpson hairdo."
If this was a pair of pants or a cordless drill or a television that performed better than its more expensive Japanese counterpart, there would be entire television shows devoted to it, and we'd be waving flags until the cows came home.
For some reason, reasonably knowledgeable, college-educated Americans HATE American car manufacturers.
Let me digress for a moment: In addition to being a lousy mechanic, I’m also a lousy guitar player. I’ve bought and sold a bunch of guitars and amplifiers on Craigslist. Invariably, the first question anybody asks when you’re selling one is “Is it American?”
Guitar players will gladly lay out three to 100 times – yes, 100 times, and that’s not even the top of the range – the asking price of a Chinese, Japanese or Korean guitar to get one that’s made in the United States
And when they’ve laid out the money and finally taken delivery of that beautiful Fender Custom Shop La Cabronita “Luchador” Stratocaster, $5,400 worth of wood and wire, they’ll happily load it in the trunk of a Hyundai because their great-aunt once had a Pontiac Astre in 1976, and boy, was it a piece of crap.
Guess what? So were the Strats Fender built when CBS got its mitts on the company. In the era between 1966 and the mid-1980s, Fender built cynical, poor quality products that were a shadow of the great products it turned out in the earlier 1960s. All vintage Fender products today carry a significant premium, but most CBS-era Fenders are typically regarded with outright animosity.
Is any of this sounding familiar?
For some reason, we can see clearly enough to recognize that the current guitars Fender produces have little to do with those built during that dark period in the 1970s and 1980s, but that doesn't extend to the cars we drive.
We have exceedingly short memories for foreign cars. When I graduated high school in 1986, Hyundai was a nightly national joke told by the likes of Johnny Carson. When I first started writing about cars professionally in the late 1990s, one of the first press cars I ever drove was a Kia Sportage. It remains one of the most universally awful vehicles I’ve ever driven, and I owned a Vega. Eighteen years later, we buy Hyundais and Kias at a record pace.
Which is fine and completely understandable, because it's a better product than it ever was, sold at a reasonable price.
But so is a Buick LaCrosse. Yet, when you try and recommend a Buick as a solid alternative with some interesting advantages over a car like a Lexus ES350, it’s like you recommended Tofurkey's advantages over a farm-raised, free-range bird at Thanksgiving.
Now hear this: The United States is now capable of building performance cars that will handily take on everything Europe and Japan has to offer, at a fraction of the price of the world’s supercars.
It is the greatest performance era in our entire automotive production history. Even your basic Camaro SS can easily eclipse the performance of the fastest, most legendary, hand-built performance cars of the muscle car era.
Most Americans buy cars like they buy appliances, I get that. They listen to whatever Ralph Nader or Consumer Reports says, and they buy refrigerator white Toyota Corollas by the boatload.
But us? We’re not most Americans. We love cars, and we love performance. And we love when one of our own – a badass, fire-breathing, hard-braking, corner-turning, fully equipped, 3,800-pound Tomahawk missile of a car – beats Porsche and Lamborghini at its own game.
I’ll quote Phil Hartman's comment to Sinead O'Connor in the SNL skit The Sinatra Group: “Next time you see Old Glory riding up that pole, you better sing that anthem.”
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