Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Tale of Two Vehicles

Vehicle the First

The owner shines up his vehicle, tunes it himself, ensures it's in top working order, adjusts it to suit his transportation needs and self-image, then parks it in a prominent location, for all to see. 

Sleek, simple lines, shiny finish, heart of steel, power transmission incarnated

Is there a certain degree of pride of ownership of such a pure, straightforward expression of the transmission of power from source to ground? Yes. Does the owner use it for trips around town, too, not just as a show piece, an ego prop, a garage ornament? Yes, both of vehicles shown in this post were seen parked in mall parking lots, at a busy time of day. 

One has no brakes, fixed gear with no pedal clips or straps AFAICT

Both are bastard children of the streets--out of place, intended for other uses than trips to the mall, somewhat impractical for the task, at least in their original essential forms, yet adapted to the task by their owner with care and thought.

Another way to take the kids to a movie at the mall

The second is surely about physics and greed. Please share if you think otherwise. Consider the application of the categorical imperative in this case: what if all vehicles on the road were this truck? In their thousands, a rush hour stampede down the freeway of growling wheels, roaring exhausts, and enhanced body lean and rocking through every dip and turn. Would the parking lots all need to be redone, or would we just settle for all the wasted half-spaces that would result, since these don't fit in one normal space?

Is there a particular reason either vehicle was chosen for its purpose by its owner? Is there a particular message being sent, a particular impression that is intended to be made? Do you feel different reactions yourself, when you see them out on the road, or parked at the mall? I know I do. One makes me smile, stop and look closer, while my kids chide me for taking pictures of it. The other, I just shake my head, and walk away.


  1. Well, #2 is for sale, though, so I wonder what he wants instead and if someone else will be eager to buy his dream/image/ego prop? Oh, and I think #2 is hideous.

  2. Consider the application of the categorical imperative in this case: what if all vehicles on the road were this truck?

    Well, I'm going to change the question to “if all personal motor vehicles…?” because that indeed is a kind of question I wonder about a lot.

    If all personal motor vehicles were like that truck, then one possibility, as predicted by Jevons effect, is that there would be fewer vehicles on the roads. And maybe bikes and other alternative forms of transportation would make up the difference.

    Jevons effect predicts, for this case, that if all personal motor vehicles were as voluminous and gas-inefficient as the truck in the photo, then the rate of consumption of roads and gas would decrease, not increase. And because each vehicle would be consuming a bigger slice of a smaller pie, our happy motoring ecosystem would support fewer personal motor vehicles. So freeways would have fewer lanes, parking lots would be smaller (though with bigger spots, for sure), and gas would be cheaper.

    Of course, Jevons effect may be meaningless for answering this question. But I like to think of ways that conventional wisdom in answering hypothetical economic questions might be wrong.

    1. Thanks Craig. While I'm not sure that these trucks should be considered as the type of improvement in technology or efficiency that is the premise of Jevons effect, the Brandenburg Corollary, that bicycles would make up the difference, is a grand thought. Perhaps you were thinking of the hybrid "eco" version of a monster truck?

  3. The first is a thing of beauty....the second - well even by motor vehicle standards it's a pretty grotesque and twisted example..!


    1. I know that in one sense, the second vehicle is a celebration of the freedom of expression combined with a display of wealth, since it must cost about $100K or more to bolt together something like that. As I tried to figure out the messages the owner/driver is sending us by driving it, I came up with an easy method: park a Smart Car next to this, and just as it's pretty straightforward to understand what the owner/driver of the Smart Car is saying, you can understand the monster truck as the negation or opposite.

  4. Hot Dang! I sure do LAIK nummer TWO! Golly gee whiz, yew could git mah ENTIRE FLEET o' bicycles in thar! Take 'em all MILES away and ride 'em ALL ... the SAME DAY! (Notice: thet thar las sentance RIMES; I'm an arty fella.)

    Sheet, Jack, ain't that thar whut REAL transpurtaeshun is ALLABOUT?

  5. The first makes me smile and shake my head and say "oh now, the kids these days..."

    The second makes my shoulders fall a little and then I turn around and walk away.

  6. I regard the first with fascination and wonder about it's rider. The second results in an eyeball roll and an unkind snap judgement about the owner. I must admit that when I met the man who is now my husband I worried on the type of car he drove but was relieved when it turned out to be a beat up Jeep Cherokee, completely practical for a man who spend many years living in a high elevation Colorado ski town. Of course, now we a fuel efficient Honda and a garage full of bikes.


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