The Italian Junkyard

Thoughts, ideas, criticism about cars. Interesting news and facts from the world of the automobile. Events in Italy and Modena. What you can find elsewhere, filtered through the eyes of a discerning enthusiast. Design, style, everything on the chopping block. Nobody is safe anymore.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

0.2 Why The Name

To be honest, I didn't mean to use the Italian adjective, the name I wanted for this site was simply “The Junkyard”, but it wasn't available, neither some derivative, thanks to some too enterprising bloggers creating a page just to say “Hello”. The Internet definitely needs a deep clean up.

This just to say I don't to make a big deal about the fact of being Italian and all the consequences it can raise when talking about cars, special ones perhaps.

I'm aware that this country has given birth to so many masterpieces, and that it's the motherland to some of the most famous companies and coachbuilders, but I don't want you to think that I feel to know more about cars, style and design than anyone else just because I'm Italian too. It's one of the main fault of Italian enthusiasts, the so called Tifosi when talking about Ferrari.

Being born in a certain place, or even if a certain family, doesn't give you more points than anybody else, but surely living in Modena since 4 years allows me to visit factories and museum, along with sightsee some rare cars in the wild, that the average guy living in Tyler, Texas, can only dream of.

That said about the nationality, why The Italian Junkyard?

I'm not interested in exploring abandoned junkyards, barns, or garages, neither I want to talk (exclusively) about forgotten cars, masterpieces and one-offs. Rather, it's something more metaphoric. The junkyard has a lot of meanings to me, and I found it very representative of the car world.

For example, the junkyard is supposed to get rid of all those old cars, out of service, inefficient, broken down and fallen apart that the world doesn't need anymore, in order to create space for the new, hi-tech, advanced and simply better products we can design, to create a more efficient way of commute ourselves everyday. But it's not that simple. We can't simply delete the past, and look at the future only in a purely idealistic way, believing every change is better, that all technologies are good, safe and most of all useful. We need a critic approach, and proper instruments, something more than silly marketing researches perhaps. As an old Bugatti could be discovered under inches of dust in a barn, there are solutions, ideas and designs from the past, even from the beginning of the car's life, more than 100 years ago, that can be used again, re-elaborated and adapted to these days. Some would be surprised to know the first electric car with four in-wheel motors was firstly designed and built by Porsche himself and unveiled in 1904 at the Paris Mondial de l'Automobile. It's not only about the technical point of view, but also about the style, with the very simple example of the revival of classic designs like for the present Ford Mustang and its rivals, or something a little more subtle and even less intriguing as for the Maybach 62S Landaulet. Even modern interpretations of old cars and trends car could bring some interesting developments to the car as it is now. That's to say, modern Mini and Fiat 500 should stand for something more than just a revised old look, as their ancestors did.

Also, the junkyard is where a lot of modern cars should go, rather than infesting our streets. I could simply give you as an example the average SUV, but it's not as simply as usually reported, it's just the easiest theme to develop. Or even the load of crossovers we are supposed to buy. But what was wrong with wagons and minivans? This trend of multi-purpose vehicles that actually are capable to do them only at an average level, or “quite good being such a car” at best, bother me, it's not providing something new, just mixing what was already here, a fresh hand of paint, and here it is your brand new type of vehicle. Just marketing, if you ask me, and another form of consumerism defended saying “we sell what people ask”. In this way we'll never have a real improvements and real new products. As if the customer knew about cars, generally. By this way of doing things, we wouldn't have cars at all.

To me, all these weird mixes of genres stand for a lack of personal opinions, new ideas and thought-out purchases, both from the point of view of the designer and of the customer.

Being everything and basically nothing at the same time isn't a good characteristic in my opinion.

Another aspect in common between the junkyard and the modern automotive's market, is the silence, and the homogeneity dominating in both environments.

While walking in a junkyard, you would probably find yourself wrapped in the silence, if there isn't any kind of an heavy machine torturing some chassis, free to hear just the sound of the the wind trough the empty and rusty body, the noise of the metal while deforming under the heat of the sun during summer, while, invisible, slowly and unstoppable the rust covers everything making harder and harder to recognize each car which is condemned to look like just a mass or red and brown metal in some years time. And so it's the market, and what automakers are mainly offering us. Cars are slowly evolving, not only they look all the same, revamping old style themes (here comes the Mustang again, the retro style proved to be a boomerang), or iterating the style instead of rethinking it or creating a new one (and here comes the Volkswagen Golf, or even the iconic 911), without trying to give a new light or interpretation to the brand, but just playing it safe, but also they are technically the same. We are graced with small updates and improvements every now and then, even if they were available and even tested since many years, for the sake of marketing's and profit's laws, or following the popular will of alleged green cars, while the same people willing to drive ecological cars, being hydrogen powered or electrical, don't know anything about what being green actually means, let alone known what they could do with their present cars for being greener themselves. General economy, market shares and productions figures together with costs, forced automakers to share parts, not only among their own line-ups but with other companies too, condemning individuality, personality and originality not as the bounded result but as a choice, it seems.

But is all of this necessary, mandatory, required by some weird and unknown law?

Is it so difficult to give a new life to cars, to the market, without being antediluvian, archaic and out of time?

Is there anymore space for the real innovation, avant-garde ideas, for a new approach to cars?

Being an enthusiast since many years, I found myself thinking cars are dead, or going to die, if something doesn't change more often than what I would like to think.

While trying to design self-driving cars, electronic aids for the driving, we are just underlining the fact we don't need the car as we knew it anymore, or that we don't want it. Designing just cute and fashion city cars or common looking executive sedans, perhaps we are saying we are interesting in something looking cute and fashion, or understated, but regardless the fact it's a car or a cellphone.

Maybe we are wrong, maybe I'm wrong, but it's with this attitude, and so many other ideas now I can't summarize, that I want to develop this site and the articles it will contain.

post header source: Ferrari 308 GTB Studio Aerodinamica S/N 23611 (Millechiodi)

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