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Home  /  December 2022  /  Comment

It’s the season to get depressed and angry. Twenty readers, including those on safari in Africa and Peppermint Grove, what is happening to our world?

People are being killed on our roads and the politicians’ answer is more speed cameras making record revenue to spend on more tollways – to make even more money for private speed camera operators and the tollway owner.

Let’s charge people more money to park in parking stations so they must park on the street and must pay $100 fines. Let’s allow companies to charge what they like for petrol on the basis it will help the energy transition. Let’s allow car makers and dealers to do buyers over.

In the US, JD Power research shows car dealers have been marking up cars, trucks, and SUVs in record numbers.

“The practice hit mass-market customers more than it did premium-vehicle buyers. Over 25 per cent of those who bought mass-market vehicles paid over the recommended retail price compared to just 19 per cent of those who bought premium vehicles,” the report says.

Interestingly, Kia bottomed the list, while Subaru was the most customer friendly. Then there are the quality issues.

If you paid $265k for a big Ram truck in Australia, then bad news. The maker, Stellantis, is recalling about 1.4 million of them because the tailgates may not close completely and cargo could spill on to the road.

In 1976, Australia’s Peter Finch had the answer in the movie, Network. Playing newsreader Howard Beale, Pete looks into the camera and yells: “I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression.

“Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. We sit in the house and all we say is: ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything.

Peter Finch in a scene from the 1976 film Network.

Peter Finch in a scene from the 1976 film Network.

Peter Finch in a scene from the 1976 film Network.

So, here’s some things you can do. New Year’s resolution No.1 is, have your kiddies learn to drive on a manual car.

Now, I realise if you are a Generation X, Y, Z or iGen, you probably don’t know, that for a long time, you actually had to change the gears by pushing a stick on the floor or moving a stick on the steering column with your left hand while taking your foot off the right hand pedal and pushing your left foot down on what we call the clutch pedal.

Yes, this is and was complex but it is great for your brain’s neuroplasticity and demonstrating you are not going to take electric cars anymore.

Of course, this is why, the Greatest Generation (born 1901–1924), the Silent Generation (born 1928–1945) and the Baby Boomer Generation (born 1946–1964) are the smartest and most chic. But don’t be too depressed; you can get yourself, your loved ones and your family up to this standard by learning the joys of shifting.

To do that you need to have a manual, non-electric car. And our friends at Jalopnik, a website about cars, have just published their list of the best manuals to learn on and so have we.

So here goes in no particular order: 2005 Honda Civic (from $3k), any Mazda MX-5 (from $10k), Nissan Pulsar (from $1k), Hyundai Excel (from $1.5k), 1990 BMW 3 Series (from $16k to $150k for ours), any tractor and any car that’s not yours.

New Year’s resolution No.2 is to teach your kiddies how to use a manual car radio. In depressing news, we see an increasing number of automakers are not putting AM radios in their cars.

To begin with, car makers took away gear changing then they took away ciggie lighters, wind-up windows, chokes, ashtrays, keys, CD players, radio antennas, vent windows, bench seats and carburettors.

Then the final indignity. No AM radio. While we have no pollies in Australia who care about car owners, in the US, Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts is on our side. This month Ed wrote a strong letter to 20 manufacturers telling them to keep putting AM radios in their cars even if they are EVs – or watch out! Ed is our hero for 2022.

We don’t need him to tell us he is a consumer champion and national leader on energy, environmental protection and telecoms policy with a deep commitment to improving the lives of the people of Massachusetts, the planet and the known universe; we just need him to stop the madness.

“Despite innovations such as the smartphone and social media, AM/FM broadcast radio remains the most dependable, cost-free, and accessible communication mechanism for public officials to communicate with the public during times of emergency,” Ed told me via the psychic internet.

Talking of parking, our choice as best book of 2023 (it will be published in May) is Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains The World. We all intuitively know that the most stressful thing in life (after learning to drive a manual car) is searching for a parking spot when you’re running late, the kiddies are screaming in the back seat, the phone is ringing with what sounds like an emergency call from the school to tell you little River has run off with the music teacher, the auto park feature on your Telsa is stuffed and your roadie is empty.

Journo Henry Grabar spells out how “parking, quite literally, has a death grip on America: each year a handful of Americans are tragically killed by their fellow citizens over parking spots”.

But things used to be worse: “Parking on the curb was not such a great option in those days. In 1990, 147,000 cars were stolen in New York City — one theft for every 50 residents. The revival of Manhattan around the millennium, which often took the form of apartments replacing parking, and the concurrent decline of car thefts, which fell by an astounding 96 per cent between 1990 and 2013, put a lot of pressure on the curb.”

Talking of madness, the Melbourne Grand Prix is just 93 days away and is basically sold out except for a few at $4k. But don’t cry. For $1.5m, Wynn Las Vegas will sell you and the family six tickets for the inaugural F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix.

I know we’re all doing it tough. But with power nationalised, a glut of EVs and most fruit and veg prices coming down, you can’t tell me $250k a head is a bit over the top. Look what you get thrown in with the tickets: Four nights in a two-storey, three-bedroom duplex with billiard, dining and fitness rooms; a 3l jeroboam of Dom Perignon and a selection of caviar – and six tickets to the show. Awakening, where the audience joins the quest of the beautiful heroine and her two fellow travellers as they seek to restore beauty and love to the world in a 360-degree theatre infused with modern day myth and magic and performing persons with not many clothes on.

And talking of more madness, head to Paris in February when RM Sotheby’s auctions off a 1965 Alfa Romeo Giulia Tubolare Zagato. I know that only reader Pete Matthews buys Alfas but this example of one of Alfa Romeo’s most successful racing cars would be a steal at around $1.5m.

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