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Understanding The VIN

by james on 02 Sep 2016
Understanding the VIN   Every vehicle manufactured since 1954 carries a unique identifier, the VIN (Vehicle Identificati...

Who Made This?

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Achilles' Heel and the Pursuit of Perfection

 by james on 24 Feb 2014 |
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Even the greatest, despite enormous effort, are flawed.  In Homer's Iliad, Achilles was the greatest warrior.  His mother was Thetis, a nymph, and his father was a king.  Thetis tried to make her son immortal, by dipping him in the river Styx.  Despite being a nymph, or possibly because she was more beautiful than clever, it never occurred to her to double-dip him.  And so he had one weak point on his entire body.  His heel, where Thetis held Achilles when she dipped him the Styx.  

And that heel, a small, weak piece of flesh, was enough to be Achilles's undoing.  A Trojan arrow pierced his heel and he died.  And the rest, as the saying goes, was history.  Or, in this case, myth and legend.

In the olden days, sports car manufacturers could double dip their progeny in the Styx.  More accurately, they could develop their cars in endurance racing, before releasing heroic motor cars to the public.  Ever shorter product lifecycles with equally short development cycles mean that since the late 90's there have been many cars by medium to major manufacturers which have had issues.  If a car went to market with an Achilles' heel, and many did, the first the proud owner knew of it was usually when his car burst into flames, collapsed or otherwise suffered a serious case of "They all do that, Sir." 

 Today, armed with the internet, prospective owners know all too well and all too easily the foibles - I'm being polite - which can afflict their car.  This is the second attempt I've made at this blog entry.  I'm used to some editing, but not often a re-write.  And the problem was that I originally wrote a litany of issues surrounding the models that I sell parts for.  It looked like my intention was to badmouth these cars, when nothing could be further from the truth.  One of the things that I enjoy about doing what I do is that I am selling parts that I genuinely believe to be good quality for cars that I equally 
genuinely believe to be worth owning, even if they aren't perfect.

And there's the rub.  It's worth living with the idiosyncrasies of a car which delivers that ephemeral ingredient - fun.  As cars have become more and more reliable, safe and dependable, they've largely had the fun engineered out of them.  As typical owners have demanded more safety, comfort and reliability from their cars, so cars have put on weight.  When the original Golf was launched, it weighed around 800kg.  Forty years later, the seventh iteration of the car weighed as much as 1,400kg, almost twice what the original car weighed.  

Modern cars may have more power than their ancestors, but they also weigh a lot more, and all that weight dulls them.  A lighter car, other things being equal, will accelerate, brake and turn quicker than a heavier car, which makes it harder for a car to put a smile on your face.  If all we cared about was reliability, we'd all be driving Toyota Camrys and Honda Accords; there's nothing wrong with them, they're just not very interesting.  Nobody ever looked at a Camry, grinned a grin and announced "Today I'm going to drive the long way home!".

In fact it's worse than that - cars in general have become more average.  Just as it now takes real effort to seek out a truly awful car, it takes just as much effort to find a car that really excites.  Maybe it's the imperfections, annoying and frsutrating as they may be, that make interesting cars interesting.

That said, in a recent US reliability survey, Porsche were ranked second, behind Lexus.  Perhaps Porsche have (re)-discovered the secret of dipping their cars in the Styx after all.

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