Monday, August 14, 2017

His Car

I noticed it, because I have always been into cars.  I noticed it, because in our culture, our choice of vehicles is understood to speak...for good or ill...something about our nature.

And yes, a car is just an object, an inanimate thing.  Yet it can also be a totem, a marker, a symbol.

The car was a Dodge Challenger, the last of the big American muscle cars.  Both the Mustang and the Camaro have transitioned to being sports cars, nimble and smaller and blisteringly fast.  But the Challenger remains unchanged, hewing to classical muscle-car image of beef and brawn and an aura of menace.

In fact, the current iteration of the Challenger has remained unchanged for nearly a decade, with Fiat Chrysler introducing it back in 2008.  The current versions are much improved, with some impressive gains in materials and some remarkably potent motors.

But the Challenger in question appears to be a first generation model, meaning it's an older car.  Cheap, now.

And though it presents the image of a "muscle" car, that particular model clearly (from its lack of visible dual exhausts) is likely running the harsh, inefficient and underpowered first generation V-6 engine, a motor that has fewer horsepower than my family minivan.

It isn't actually fast, no faster than a Camry.  Not that it needed to be, for that terrible, monstrous purpose.  Any car can inflict mortal harm on our fragile bodies.

Left unmodified, it would be an honest, functional full-sized coupe.  But it has been modified.

There on the back of the trunk, a spoiler had been installed...utterly pointless and incongruous on a vehicle with such a low power to weight ratio and such a blunt aerodynamic profile.  The wheels, blacked out but not alloy, and running stock non-performance tires.  The rear window, cheaply tinted black.  Hoodscoops, which serve as functional air intakes in the V-8 cars, but are meaningless ornaments on the V-6.

Understood through the American lens of car as totem, it is a car that is pretending to be something it is not, a vehicle that displays empty machismo, shallow aggression unsupported by substance.  It speaks of personal and financial insecurity.  It speaks of immaturity.

Perhaps it means nothing.  It is perhaps just a car.  One could own such a vehicle and be an entirely decent person.  Whatever vehicle he used to murder and maim, he would still be a murderer.

And yet.