Rant and Rave
Updated whenever Tom gets off his big wide duff.
By the way, for an explanation of Ranting and Raving, see The Rant and Rave Primer by Dr. Thomas L. Magliozzi.
Enough Is Enough!
An Open Letter to the 'People in Charge' at All the Auto Companies
by Tom Magliozzi
Listen up, because I ain't kidding.
The other day, I had occasion to drive a BMW M Roadster (the souped-up version of the Z-3), and although I used to think I'd never meet a convertible I didn't like, I didn't like it--mostly because it is grossly and unnecessarily overpowered. That got me thinking about other unnecessarily overpowered vehicles which really shouldn't be on the road. After all, they serve no purpose other than to get people into trouble, into accidents and into the obituaries. (Keep your pants on. I know about fun. I'll get to that part.)
As Americans, we've been taught to believe in the power (and the sanctity) of the "free market." Except in rare cases, we don't want the government sticking its inept, corrupt nose into our business. We won't accept governmental controls that would prohibit Ford from manufacturing a Mustang Cobra--or Chrysler a Viper, or GM a Corvette. Our belief is that the free market will take care of things. If people don't want it, Ford (or Chrysler or GM or Toyota or BMW) won't make it.
Personally, I don't completely agree with this philosophy. It allows individuals and companies to pander to the lowest levels of intelligence and the highest levels of bad taste. In the media, it gives us the likes of Jerry Springer. Jerry Springer and Vipers don't make us a better people, nor do they make this country a better place to live. But Jerry Springer is only Jerry Springer, whereas in the case of automobiles we have an entire industry from which we have the right to expect more. We expect highly paid, presumably intelligent executives to have the intelligence and wisdom to go beyond the anything-for-a-buck mentality.
Some of us had the audacity to think that the horsepower wars of the '60s were mercifully coming to an end. On the contrary, the trend seems to be moving in the opposite direction. BMW, which had a perfectly fine sports car in its four-cylinder Z-3, felt the need to turn it into an outrageously powered car. Mercedes is getting power-crazed. Even mild-mannered Toyota is touting the power of its vehicles. And the Viper--along with the people who produce it--makes me puke.
Am I just an old fart trying to take away people's freedom and their joie de vivre--the enjoyment of driving a sporty car? I don't think so. I have owned an MGA, a TR-6 and a Fiat Spyder. (And you certainly have to be a "sport" to drive a Fiat!) One doesn't need excessive, unnecessary horsepower to have fun driving. A sports car doesn't need to have 350 hp to be a sports car. Is the Miata not far more of a sports car than the Mustang? And let's not forget that the car that introduced a sports car "for the people" was the 1964 Mustang. Hundreds of thousands were sold with a perfectly adequate six-cylinder engine (145 hp, I think).
So, what can we do to fight the sanctity of the free market? First, we have to accept that no matter how highly paid and intelligent executives may be, it appears they can never be trusted not to succumb to the siren call of the almighty buck. Given that fact, they simply can't be trusted to "do the right thing." It's hopeless. If they exhibit no moral sense, then I suppose those who do have some sense have the right to tell them, and to attempt to stop them.
If we are constrained by the "sanctity" of the free market, the automobile industry will continue to make ridiculous, dangerous vehicles as long as someone buys them. And as we well know, there will always be testosterone-poisoned buyers.
So here's the plan devised by my clever brother and me: You want to make them? OK, go ahead. And the morons want to buy them? Go ahead. But we, the people, don't have to allow you to drive them on the roads that we use.
That is, we won't allow you to register them!
Here's my plea.
I'm looking for a few brave, levelheaded politicians--whom the auto and oil companies don't have in their pockets--to help me write legislation that will prohibit the *registration* of certain vehicles. It turns out to be easy to identify such vehicles. You can't just limit horsepower, because big, heavy vehicles do need lots of horsepower. What we need to do is prohibit vehicles that exceed a maximum horsepower-to-weight ratio. Here are some numbers:
|BMW M Roadster||.08|
|Camry||.04 to .06|
It's pretty easy to identify cars that shouldn't be on the road. A horsepower/weight ratio for sensible cars--cars that have plenty of power, by the way--is .06. Note that the Suburban (with a 255 hp engine) has a ratio of only .05 because it weighs more than 5,000 pounds. The ridiculous Viper, weighing 3,400 pounds, has 450 horsepower.
I'm going to send this rant to my state legislators. If you're interested in doing the right thing, you can do the same. You can find your state legislators right here: http://www.govnetworks.com/legislat.htm.
Thanks for listening.
Follow-ups to this rant:
What do you think?
Any ideas out there?