24 May, 2013


I may here be mentioning something as fraught as IQ. It seems that I have a boffin-like disregard for what car I should drive. It has always seemed inexplicable to me that people pay large sums of money for a car when another car at half the price would do all the same things.

I cheerfully confess that I am a Toyota man. I own a small 15 year old Toyota and a small 8 year old Toyota. Neither has ever broken down. I drive the more recent one most of the time and lend the other one out wherever that would help someone that I know.

I have just been reading Kate Fox's book on the English, "Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour", which is, I think, the funniest book I have ever read. And she does explain cars.

She shoots down most of the reasons that people give for buying expensive cars ("better engineering" etc.). She says that in England cars are an index of social class. The makes of cars she mentions apply to England at the time she wrote (2004) so it would not mean much for me to quote specifics (though a Mercedes is not as prestigious as you might think) but what she says does fit with things I have noticed. And in England it would seem that each position on the class hierarchy does tend to have a type of car that goes with it.

I am rather relieved at that explanation as I had seen the purchase of expensive cars as pure insanity. My Toyotas are comfortable, reliable, easy to park and get me through city traffic at least as soon as any other car. So why spend money on a German car at twice the price?

So, as indexed by cars, I am at the bottom of the social class heap in most people's eyes, I gather.

I may however be redeemed by the fact that I also have a really old car for Sunday driving -- a 50 year old Humber Super Snipe, a big British luxury car of yesteryear. The Humber sure gets a lot of admiring comments wherever I take it. Which is ironic. I gather that a lot of people buy a particular car in the hope that it will be admired. But I can't think of any modern car that gets anything like the admiration that my ancient Humber gets. It seems to give people joy just to see it.

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