Saturday, November 21, 2009

Just One More Bit of Evidence of the Decline of Our Civilization

I like to take long road trips in a convertible. My little mid-life-crisis car now has over 100,000 miles on it (it had about 30,000 when I got it, maybe four years ago), and although I suspect that, with a little care, it will go another hundred thousand, I've started thinking about what to get as a replacement. Since I've no intention of buying a new car, I figure that any car that's brand-new now will be about the right vintage when I do go to buy; so new convertibles are what I've been looking at.

And I've noticed that almost all convertibles fall into two categories: (1) those that are too small, or ugly, or commonplace, or unreliable -- in short, those that are too wrong for me; and (2) those that have convertible tops that recede into the trunk for that smooth flush line look.

My car's top, when it's down, rests in a well behind the useless back seat. It sticks up above the line of the body, and I have a leather cover that snaps into place to protect it from the elements. A minor inconvenience, having to get out of the car to cover or uncover the top, but it forms a traditional convertible hump and looks, I think, pretty damn sharp. (The picture above is of a friend of mine in a similar car; mine's the one next to, but this is the best picture I have to illustrate how the top looks when down.)

Similar new models, though, have tops that fold completely into the body. The result is a straight, smooth line from front to back. The body of the car is pudgier than mine, and looks heavier, like it will soon need fat pants. It's purely a stylistic choice by the designers, done because the convertibles made by Jaguar's competitors have all gone to that look.

I've looked at those competitors' convertibles, thinking maybe one of them would be my next road car. In all of them, what remains of the trunk is useless. It's so small, a single medium suitcase may not fit.

This is fatal, as far as I'm concerned. I don't travel particularly heavy, but I do take a small suitcase, my computer, my speed bag and tripod, audiobooks, maps and guidebooks, plus a cooler in the back seat. If anyone travels with me, more stuff goes along as well. Almost none of that stuff would fit in the residual trunk of a new Jaguar, BMW, or Mercedes convertible. And no matter how sharp the thing looks zipping down the road, it does me no good if I have to leave everything at home or pull a trailer.

So: the upshot of this is that market forces, as read by automotive designers, value appearance over practicality to excess. We are one small step closer to barbarian invasions and the Apocalypse. I can only hope that, by then, the new Camaro will be available in a convertible.

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