I am a car nut. A complete, undiluted, unapologetic petrolhead. Like all true petrolheads (or “gearheads” for our Yankee brethren), I love fast driving and fast cars that handle well. More specifically, I like fast driving and fast cars in the correct situation (which is usually on a track – basically somewhere where it’s appropriate and no one else could possibly get hurt by my actions). This is important background knowledge, considering what I’m about to say.
Catriona Stewart, I think it is safe to say, is not a petrolhead. She enjoys “pootling about” in tiny, cheap city cars. And that’s fine. I have no issue with that at all. Each to their own.
Unfortunately, Catriona doesn’t feel the same way. Apparently, anyone that buys an expensive or fast vehicle is “immoral”, “ostentatious”, “selfish” and basically just a big show off. Unusually for a young, female journalist, she also seems to believe that the only people that love fast cars are men that aren’t “confident in their man credentials”. I can only assume that famous female petrolheads like Jennifer Saunders, Jodie Kidd or Amy MacDonald have passed her by. Not to mention the thousands of women that visit car shows and tune/tweak their own cars up and down the UK every weekend. My wife, for one, would be incandescent at the thought that fast cars are the preserve of men. She wants a Lambo.
Anyway, I digress. To get to my main point. Catriona has written an article decrying owners of expensive, fast cars as immoral and condemning them as worthy of having their property vandalised (for which the criminals should receive medals, apparently). You can read her dribbling here.
Back? Excellent. Nonsense isn’t it? Catriona, I hate to say this, but your entire supposition is fallacious, idiotic, factually incorrect and simply dangerous. Which is quite good going for a couple of hundred words. I couldn’t write something that terrible if I tried. Before we address the “moral” issues you raise, let’s address some facts. With you being a professional journalist and all, you’ll be interested in facts, right? You’ll have done your due diligence, right? Hmm, let’s see…
Aston Martins – not as swanky as you think
Firstly, you claim the car was “an Aston Martin V8 Vanquish”. Nope. It was a V8 Vantage, not a Vanquish. A Vanquish would set you back around £200,000, not the £90,000 you claim. Even the V8 Vantage starts at £85,000. Great research there. Very professional.
Also, you’re assuming the owner bought it new. The starting price for a secondhand V8 Vantage in good nick is about £40,000 (even less if you look hard). That’s not ridiculously expensive. You can easily spend over £30,000 on a Golf these days, or even a Ford Mondeo. In reality, £40,000 is mid-range, well-specced BMW, Audi or Merc territory – not exactly “a proper full-on swanky car” as you claim.
You also claim that “You can’t spend more than a house worth on a car and claim the moral high ground”. You can buy a house for ninety grand? Where, exactly? And it must be somewhere where the chance of getting stabbed and robbed is at least acceptably low. A normal house in a half-decent area, pretty much anywhere in the UK, will cost you at least £200,000. Only a very tiny handful of cars cost that much, and you really don’t see them very often. I know, because I spend a lot of time looking out for them. Of course, we wouldn’t want you to let actual facts get in the way of a good rant though…
Secondly, very few real petrolheads drive irresponsibly on the public road. Why? Well, those of us that can afford to drive quick, sporty-looking vehicles. This already makes us targets for police. The last thing we want to do is lose our licence – driving is the thing we love! If we do open the pipes a bit, it’s on a track, or at 1am in the middle of nowhere. I’m not sure where all these supercar drivers are that are hooning around town centres at breakneck speed – I’ve certainly never seen any.
OUT OF THE WAY, MANIAC!
If you’re interested in stopping really bad drivers, may I point your attention to the tens of thousands of BMW/Audi/Merc rep-mobiles and middle-management mile-munchers. Or the ‘Chelsea Tractor’ driving ‘soccer moms’. These are the tailgaters, lane-hogs, road-bullies and general nutters that can make motorways and A-roads so unpleasant. The real lunatics in cities? Careless drivers in small city cars who pay no heed to other road-users, text while driving, comb their hair, put their make-up on or (and I have seen this) eat cereal and drink coffee while driving through crowded city streets. You can’t do any of that in a performance car, because you have to concentrate. Otherwise you’re upside down. And embarrassed. And on fire.
You then claim that these cars are all about showing off wealth. Well, for some they may be. In reality, however, if you buy an Aston, a Lamborghini, a Porsche or a Ferrari, you do so because you love driving and have the money to buy a great car that drives beautifully. You don’t care what anyone else thinks. You buy it because you love it – it’s a work of emotive, engineering art. Beautiful, sublimely put together and incredible to experience.
If you want to show off your wealth, you buy a huge S-Class Merc, a Rolls-Royce, a Bentley or a Maybach. Not a sports car or supercar. Naturally, however, we wouldn’t want these facts to get in the way of your own personal little vendetta.
Morality, measured in bhp
Your next claim is a bit of a humdinger. Apparently, people in bog-standard, cheap cars are more “moral” than those in fast, expensive cars. What? Really? Please quantify that for us.
In terms of morality, let’s consider driving for a moment. Some of the most irresponsible driving I’ve ever seen is from useless, uninterested drivers, usually in city cars (like the Fiat 500). They are oblivious to other road users, often attempt to do things they shouldn’t at the wheel (texting etc.), have terrible lane-discipline and frequently completely ignore the rules of the road. Twice my wife and I have been on the receiving end of such oblivious, careless road users. Neither time was the other driver in an Aston Martin, or some other supercar. No, it was a lorry and a Vauxhall Zafira, if memory serves. Both times they lied through their back-teeth about what happened too.
Linking morality to what someone drives is idiotic and simplistic in the extreme.
Then, finally, you play “people owning supercars is evidence of how terribly divided the world is” card. Now, I don’t own a supercar. I would love to, but I can’t afford one so I don’t. So I must feel outrage every time a MacLaren or Ferrari driver goes past, right? I must think “ooh, there he goes in his flash ride, making me feel all poor and deprived”. No, I think “ooh, look, a 458! I hope he blips the throttle on his downshift…”
Yes, the world is “wealth-divided”. Yes, that is awful. Are sporty cars the great symbol of division you seem to think they are? Don’t be ridiculous. £35,000,000 mansions are a symbol of division. Handbags that cost more than the average UK worker’s yearly wage are a symbol of division. Cars you could buy five of for the price of an average house are not.
If you feel that strongly, why not sell all you have that you don’t actually need (which’ll be nearly everything you own except food, a couple of changes of clothes and, er, that’s it) and give all the proceeds to the poor. Then you can moralise. Otherwise, please keep your opinions to yourself.
The simple fact of the matter is this: if you don’t want to go to prison, don’t do something you might go to prison for. It’s not rocket science. If I drive like an idiot and get caught, I may go to prison and that would be my own fault. If I willingly vandalise someone else’s property and get caught, I may go to prison. And guess whose fault that would be…