The joy of cars

It is fashionable among religious and political liberals to bemoan the existence of automobiles, particularly because their environmental impact. I do it all the time. Of course, if you’re like me, you’re familiar with various counter arguments that tell us why cars are not so bad as all that:– we know that suburban sprawl began long before the automobile age, and so doesn’t require automobiles — and that having automobiles was better than using horses for transportation purposes, since the exhaust put out by horses in cities is arguably more noisome and a greater public health issue than automobile exhaust, and the maltreatment of horses when they were used primarily as transportation is arguably an ethical problem as serious as that of sprawl.

However, I don’t see many of us paying attention to what might be called the cultural argument in favor of cars. This argument is presented quite well by Agatha Christie in her autobiography:

Oh, the joy that car [the first car she owned] was to me! I don’t suppose anyone nowadys could believe the difference it made to one’s life [to own a car for the first time]. To be able to go anywhere you chose; to places beyond the reach of your legs — it widened your whole horizon. One of the greatest pleasures I had out of the car was going down to Ashfield and taking mother out for drives. She enjoyed it passionately, just as I did. We went to all sorts of places — Dartmoor, the house of friends she had never been able to see because of the difficulties of transport — and the sheer joy of driving was enough for both of us. I don’t think anything has given me more pleasure, more joy of achievement, than my dear bottle-nosed Morris Cowley.

Yes, I hate suburban sprawl, and I dislike having to commute to work by car,– but I too, like Agatha Christie, love to drive. And I have found that it is no use to me personally to address the first two points without acknowledging that last point. What about you?

10 thoughts on “The joy of cars”

  1. One of the things we miss about living in the Lower 48 is the ability to just get in the car and drive–pretty much in any direction. The road system here in AK is so much more limited, and a ferry or the AK Hwy separates us from the rest of the US.

  2. I both love and hate driving. Suburban driving can be a real drag. There are so many HUGE cars driven by people who are sure of their own goodness and, therefore, believe they always have the right-of-way. However, growing up in Maine (and still today) I love a long drive in the country. I remember my first car very well (a 1979 VW Rabbit…in 1989) and agree with AC in your quotation above. I wrecked my favorite car ever (a Saab 9-2x or “saabaru”) this past winter (yes, in self-entitled suburban traffic) and am still in mourning. Man, it was fun to drive…

  3. Thank you! I often feel that I am the odd UU out for my love of cars. They have always been a passion of mine – especially classic British cars. I also argue that a well maintained and tuned older car can actually be more green than a lot of modern cars. The amount of energy it takes to create a brand new car is far more than it takes to run a correctly maintained older one. Yes, junkers should be taken off the road, but not all old cars are junkers.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am also a strong advocate of biking, walking and public transit systems. I think there should be a lot less cars on the road. If there were, those that were on the road might be in better shape, there would be less accidents, and the people driving might actually enjoy themselves more!

  4. Heather @ 1 — Oh, but that drive from Anchorage down to Seward is spectacular! And some day I want to do the drive from Anchorage up to Fairbanks.

    Adam @ 2 — I once owned a 69 Plymouth Valiant, which I bought from a direct descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Still miss that car…

    Michael @ 6 — I agree with you about older cars. I drive a 93 Camry, and intend to keep it on the road forever. And while I still miss my 93 Toyota Corolla, which I gave to a friend’s high school aged daughter when I got the Camry from my mother-in-law, that whole family love to work on cars so they will probably drive it forever, or until New England winters rust it away.

    And yeah, while I love my car, and love driving, we walk to the grocery store, use public transit whenever possible, bikes, etc.

  5. Bottle-nosed? She must’ve meant a bullnose Morris Cowley. Not that that was the point.

  6. Mike @ 8 — So I see. Wikipedia has a good entry on the Morris Cowley, with no mention of a “bottlenose” radiator. So bullnose it is. Since Christie bought her car c.1925, presumably this was the car she owned.

  7. The Morris Cowley–it’s so not the point that I’m sorry I brought it up. I used to love driving SO MUCH years ago, when I was in my twenties. Now it mostly seems tiresome, tiring, and dangerous. Although if I had a bullnose Morris Cowley to drive, I might feel differently. I’d even settle for a little Aston Martin. But back in the day, my ’65 VW Bug was all I needed or wanted, flying down the country roads through the green rolling hills on a Spring afternoon.

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