Automotive Wanderings

About Automotive Wanderings: A periodical journey through whatever automotive topic is around the next corner from Bozeman, MT. What are we buying next? What's happening in the automotive industry? What have we recently done in our own garage?  We make no guarantee that this will be interesting to anyone but us. This is the journalistic equivalent of "As Is." Welcome!

9/28/2021:
The Prindle: Sometimes Progress is Anything But

Story by Christian

Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive, Low, or PRNDL. Five letters in sequence burned into the mind of anyone who has driven a typical slush box tranny. In fact, so ubiquitous is that series of letters that automotive engineers and designers often refer to the lever or selector for an automatic transmission as a "prindle."

The prindle is one of the more vexatious intersections of engineering and design. It is a critical physical input, yet to serve its full function in modern cars nothing more than a simple lever (or even a button) is needed. At the same time, it has long been a prominent design feature of modern cars. The center console mounted prindle (between the seats, like a manual) became a symbol of something sporty and modern in cars. The old column mounted prindle was reserved for the likes of your grandmothers Grand Marquise. And so began a "progression" from the slim, chromed handle finished with a delicate knob of an early Mercedes to a bloated plastic appendage with wart-like buttons and faux-wood veneer in the 90s and 2000s.

Some cars even have a useless leather shift boot, reminiscent of a real manual gear lever. Let's be honest, the fake boot only serves to reinforce the fact that the pussy that ordered that slush box in his 3-Series knew that a manual was the right choice, and is trying to hide his regrettable decision.

But the true nadir of the prindle likely came when pick-up trucks, trying to look modern and sporty, started to clog up valuable space with levers comically towering above a hollow console below. That is why I was struck by a breath of fresh air when I bought a new Silverado (2021 model year), and saw that GM has stuck with the column mounted prindle, reserving the center console for useful things, like storage. (Ideally, I'd prefer no center console at all, like a Work Truck spec Silverado).

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Interestingly, the automotive press has long been knocking the Silverado/Tahoe/'Burb for use of the old school column mounted prindle. And the reviews of the 2021 Silverado all talk about a dated interior in desperate need of a refresh. Living with one just reinforces the fact that most of the new car reviewers are desperately looking for some difference to write about, and glom onto something obvious like the gear selector. In reality, the column mounted selector chooses gears just as well, it is out of the way, and increases space. How is the center console mounted appendage progress?

At left, you can see the nicely laid out storage space afforded by the column mounted prindle design. Although not the focus of this rant, I think this picture also demonstrates the useful and straightforward design of the Silverado interior. Physical controls, clearly marked, and well at hand. This interior is not going to please most Volvo owners. But it's a pickup truck. Function is it's reason for being!

Alas GM has succumbed to the scribes, and created a new interior with a center mounted shifter and looks to suit a Swedish design house in the new for 2022 Silverado. And it does look nicer, it just doesn't function nicer. And in a pickup truck, how is that progress?

UBU: Ugly But Useful
UBU: Ugly But Useful
The Apogee: MB 280 SL
The Apogee: MB 280 SL
The Nadir: 2nd Gen Tundra
The Nadir: 2nd Gen Tundra

9/14/2021:
Today I discovered my ideas are not a snowflake,
they are not original and unique

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Story by Christian; Photos by mschoemann via www.bringatrailer.com

A few months ago my wife came home with these Mexican mineral waters I'd never seen before, called Topo Chico. They were delicious. Refreshing, and yet with a bit more chewiness than mere sparkling water. I said to her, "what a great discovery, you're really onto something here, these are fantastic, wait'll we tell our friends!"  And then I started looking around, and everyone in Bozeman including their Yellow Lab (probably named Bridger) is drinking fucking Topo Chico.  There was no discovery that had occurred. Nothing spontaneous, organic, or original about the way this product made it into our fridge.  Some buyer at a major beverage distributor decided that next year Americans will drink Topo Chico. And a year later my wife and I "discovered" this beverage.

Well, a few weeks ago a retro-review came across my YouTube feed for late 90s classic Acura Integra Type-R. My first car was a used '94 Acura Integra LS that had been ridden hard and never put away, not even wet. It was pretty much poverty spec and had about 60k miles when I got my hands on it, but it was fun, reliable, had a manual, fit my friends, and even a keg in the back in a pinch. It was a rad car for a high schooler. So I've always had a soft spot for the Integra, although I hadn't thought about them in quite a while, until this video was "chosen" for me by the YouTube algorithm. Watching this guy rip this little car to 8,200 revs really got me thinking. Then a few popped on Bring-a-Trailer and sold for big money (like the one in the photos here, credit to mschoemann). And then a few more videos popped up in my feed, and I noticed articles by the big publications. Interestingly, they were all done with the same car, a beautiful yellow example from Honda's museum.  Then I noticed that all the reviewers were saying the same things, almost like the PR people at Honda had delivered the same spiel to them just before they drove the car (Best FWD car ever! Double wishbones up front, like the new GT3!). Light finally dawned on Marble Head when I saw that in August Acura announced a new Integra Type R coming in a year or two.

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Acura has been chumming the waters behind the scene for a about a year. Whoring out their yellow museum car to Doug DeMuro, Smoking Tire, Motor Trend, anyone who would drive it (and who wouldn't?). And so what I thought was perhaps a diamond in the rough discovery by me was actually hand fed by Acura's marketing department, courtesy of automotive journos. There was nothing random or accidental about the fact that I just "rediscovered" the Integra Type-R. (NB: don't mistake me, I know these cars have had a loyal following since new, but the soup d'jour fed to the internet masses seems to be "modern classic" Euro sports cars and sedans, and so this seemed like a bit of find to me at the time)

I must say, when I saw that press release by Acura, I felt a bit duped. My wife hadn't discovered Topo Chico, and I hadn't re-found the Type-R.  Rather, they were very intentionally planted right into our path. After smarting for a bit I realized that doesn't diminish my fervor at all.  These cars are rad, and I want one again. Although I might try to find mine with the more squared off JDM headlights...

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