After a day of sanding the floors of the new house I’ve been building on-and-off for three years or so, my son Will and I headed out to try out a new small Chinese cafe in our neighborhood. It’s in a longish strip mall, but it was easy to find by the cars parked out front.
We’ve covered this before here, but the University of Oregon is particularly popular with Chinese students, and a good number of them come and buy their first new car here with virtually no budget attached. The result can be…amusing, especially watching newly minted 18 year old drivers struggling to park their baby-blue matte-finish Bentley GT, or puttering down the street in a Lamborghini slower than anyone else, looking a bit terrified. At least this cute pink Cayman is parked properly. Sadly, it didn’t have any Hello Kitty stickers.
On the other side of the entry drive were these two, both models particularly popular with this crowd. There’s always a few GT-Rs around, and its a bit sad to hear their muted snarl as they are driven eight blocks at 25 mph from their apartment to…someplace to eat Asian food. Needless to say, the Panamera competes with the Cayenne for being the most popular Porsche model. And ironically, I have never seen a 911 in this crowd.
Curiously, the Audi A7 is another big favorite with Chinese students. It’s kind of like buying cell phones, right? Some like Apple, others favor HTC, or… Well, it does seem like these cars are getting bought like cell phones, because their owners clearly have no real connection to the heritage of these brands, especially the European ones.
The food was fantastic; the best Chinese in town, which of course explains the clientele. Over dinner, I tried to give Will a sense of how things have evolved.
In the early days of the post-war sports car boom, guys (mostly) bought MGs, Triumphs, Jags, Corvairs and Porsches so that they could actually race them on weekends, even if it was just a course set out on the abandoned airport, or a few miles of country road closed for the occasion. And then drove them to work on Monday morning. There was a reason they called them ‘sports cars’.
If the guys who were spending evenings figuring out how to squeeze a couple more horses out of their engines or get around a corner faster could see how the ‘sports car’ has evolved into a very expensive 200 mph fashion accessory in which to putter around campus, they’d spin in their graves.
When I first saw these appearing on campus, I was a bit sickened. But now I find it humorous; it really is a fitting end to the whole arc of the automotive era, at least as we knew it. If these kids think they’re cool, its because they’re utterly unaware of what is cool in these parts. This is not it.
And then I pulled out my phone and showed Will a picture of an exquisitely patinated ’63 Econoline I had just shot earlier that afternoon. This is cool, I said. Given his automotive proclivities (he’s owned two older Benzes), Will looked at it, paused some, and said; hmm, yeah; that’s pretty cool. Give him a few more years.