So here I am cruising along an unsealed section of Larapinta Drive in central Australia. I’m listening to some beats on my four-track Pioneer Quadraphonic under-dash player ($120 from katestrackshack.com: “Your One Stop Internet Home For Inexpensive 8-Tracks and Much More!”) when on comes my own compilation of the world’s worst songs.
The Fuller -Dymaxion - a 'zoomobile' designed by genius R. Buckminster Fuller.
Who couldn’t resist singing along to failed classics like My Humps by the Black Eyed Peas, which one reviewer called “the nadir of human achievement”? With the opening lines “Whatcha gonna do with all that junk, All that junk inside your trunk”, even Stevie Wonder could see where this one is going.
Or Alison Gold’s Chinese Food, “which combines the musical mediocrity of (her last song) Friday with the casual racism of your least-favourite grandparent”.
Then there’s my fave, Miracles, rapped out by the Insane Clown Posse, two former wrestlers turned chanteurs going by the names Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope. The Guardian calls Miracles “a quasi-mystical number about all the wonders of the natural universe that Insane Clown Posse don’t — but more importantly, don’t want to — understand”. Who cares?
When I join them singing lyrics like “f. king magnets, how do they work?” I’m with Violent J when he says (for their fans) “we’re like Bob Dylan and shit”.
So — after singing along with the original German version of 99 Luftballoons, which I always thought was a harmless kiddie tune but turns out to be about children’s balloons that start a 99-year war culminating in a nuclear winter where everyone on Earth and everywhere else is dead except singer Gabby Kerner — I had to think about the world’s worst cars.
Friends, let’s not get into an argument about this but surely any list would include Uriah Smith’s Horsey Horseless, which was, well, let’s be straight here, a car with a big wooden horse head stuck on the front of it. Another example of Uriah’s genius was that the head contained the highly explosive fuel needed to run Horsey.
Then there was the Fuller Dymaxion — a “zoomobile” that could “hop off the road at will, fly about, then, as deftly as a bird, settle back into a place in traffic”. Or as you and I might describe it, a plane with three wheels, no wings and no stability. It was designed by genius R Buckminster Fuller, who Time called one of the century’s great nutjobs. He witnessed one of his car’s first drivers killed in a prang.
Because I’ve been roaming around this great red country of ours and haven’t had time to write a proper column, I decided to call on some members of the WART advisory panel to nominate the world’s worst cars on the road today.
The Violent J of WART, Michael McMichael, who was in the front bar at the Kenso when I rang at 10.30 this morning enjoying the Coopers 2018 vintage ale with new malt and hops from France, succinctly said, “the worst cars today are all Jeeps and anything European”.
Let’s ignore the last category since as you know Mick is the prince of BMWs in Stepney Street and probably had a hard, early start on the tools.
Former Porker technician turned dealer executive turned car buyer and adviser to the stars such as moi (executivecarbuying.com.au) David Wheatley, also went for Jeeps, citing their tendency to lower themselves towards the ground at 120km/h. David said to mention he has a “near new” 911 Turbo S for sale with massive savings off the new-car price for this column’s readers.
The Shaggy 2 Dope of our team, racing coach and supplier of track cars and days, Phil Alexander, nominates the Volkswagen Toureg, Audi Q7, Volkswagen Passat and Golf, saying once they are three years old they become extremely problematic. Phil also has a nationalistic streak to him, mentioning the Holden-badged Daewoo cars — Holden Viva, Holden Barina and Holden Cruz — as duds.
Of course, my special is the Mazda CX-5. Readers are still writing to me about them, and Mazda still refuses to acknowledge the problem.
Maybe this is why new-car sales were 8 per cent down last month. Passenger car sales, particularly big cars, were down 20 per cent. Even the darlings of South Yarra cowboys, cowgirls and cowothers, SUVs, were down 1 per cent.
Or could it be the tolls, speeding fines and other hand-in-wallet and handbag tricks governments of all states and territories use to prop up their lavish spending on anything other than motorists?
Australia’s dominant toll collector this week said they took $2.3 billion in silent charges (except for the beep). Not content with that, the ABC reported leaked documents showed that in 2016 Transurban collected $153.4 million in fees from its customers using toll roads across Australia.
The company charges punters fees for e-tag devices, for having bills sent to them and for matching licence plates to CityLink accounts. The documents show an e-tag costs Transurban just $10, but users are charged $55.
Then there’s speeding fines. All of us get it that the faster you drive the more the risk and the nastier the prang. But does 4km/h above the limit in a 110km/h zone mean you are a potential killer?
Not only do those states that enforce this sort of bad joke make drivers contemptuous of the law, they also make it clear they are about raising money rather than addressing the real issue. A great 2014 Bureau of Infrastructure report showed that better roads and particularly more roundabouts would dramatically cut deaths and injuries. In fact, our cities have the lowest death rates.
The most dangerous places to drive in the OECD world are Chile and the Northern Territory. But if governments were really serious about addressing unnecessary deaths in Australia, why not put the money into cutting the suicide toll, which is more than double the road toll? But then again there’s no money to be made in trying to slow down this growing epidemic.