The Thing.

“Beautiful Ugliness in a Wheeled Breadbox” is how a 1974 issue of Popular Mechanics described The Thing. “I saw the Thing and it was so ugly it was cute,” one owner said, describing his first encounter with his Thing.

Perhaps no other car has so perfectly typified its nameplate than the Volkswagen Type 181, known in the US as The Thing. Though I was just a wee lad when it was first introduced to the North American market in 1973 I recall that it was billed as the quirky, fun successor to the original Type 1 Beetle. It certainly was quirky.thingorange

Recreational off-road vehicles were becoming more common in the late ’60s and early ’70s thanks to the budding environmental movement and the continued rise in discretionary spending among younger buyers that had made the Mustang so popular years earlier. Jeep CJs were abundant and Ford’s Bronco, introduced in 1966, contributed to the rising popularity of what would eventually become the SUV. Into this growing market segment stepped … Volkswagen?

Note: This is not a post about the song or The Thing.

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Dekotora

giphy

Dekotora: Japanese word usually defined as ‘Decorated Trucks’. Alternate spelling Decotora also accepted. ‘Art Trucks’ is another suitable name.

You gotta love dekotora. I mean, how could you not? Just look at ‘em! In this side of the world, we’ve probably been exposed to them, albeit briefly, through movies like Black Rain. Trucks transformed into rolling artwork and/or light shows are nothing new. Every country has their take. This is Japan’s. I’ve been fascinated by dekotora for some time now, but writing about it would’ve proven difficult because of how little information there is about ‘em. Usually, all I’d find would be image collections and a Wikipedia copy-paste. Thankfully, thanks to both a Jalopnik video post and a Speedhunters article, I feel that I’m better prepared to discuss dekotora a little better than a year ago. The following video documentary has been re-posted on a couple of websites already, but I feel it’s worth sharing not just for the glimpse inside the world of dekotora, but because what the truck driver says resonates with the automotive enthusiast as a whole.

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The Cars of The X-Files: 23rd(ish) Anniversary

WANT TO CAN’T

BELIEVE

. . . .that it’s been 20 23 years since The X-Files debuted on television. Actually, at the time of this (second) writing it’s been over 23 years, but who’s counting after this long? (Me. It was 8540 days ago) It was September 10, 1993 (a Friday) that the longest-running science fiction television show (9 seasons) brought its own brand of creepiness into our homes on a weekly basis. IIRC, except for Twin Peaks this was probably one of the darkest of programs (literally and figuratively), although imbued with a strong sense of (again, dark) humor as well. Between Twin PeaksThe X-Files, and its spinoff, Millennium, viewers in the 1990s not only got a weekly dose of paranormal criminality, they also got a firm sense of what sort of place the Pacific Northwest was: cloudy, dark, and rainy for 9 months out of the year (all were filmed, in part, around the Seattle/Vancouver, B.C. area).

xfiles1And The Cars of The X-Files? Creepy? Cool? Quirky? Errr, no. Not even close most of the time. As a matter of fact, when contemplating this post I was rather hard pressed to find something interesting to say about them, some “hook” to highlight an unusual or interesting feature of the automobiles used in the show and what they implied about the collective Car Lust zeitgeist in the 1990s. In truth, and with few exceptions, there is a dearth of really neat cars presented to pique our Car Lust interest.

So why does this post even exist? Because despite a relative lack of noteworthy rides throughout its 9-year run, there is still a lesson or two to be learned from how automobiles were used and presented in this show and others of the period (and before and since for that matter). A lesson that I try to keep in mind even while I write soaring prose to famous and not so famous cars that capture my attention and that I develop strong feelings about, whether positive or negative. And a lesson we might all keep in mind when looking at, drooling over, and sometimes even dropping some major coin on a car of our dreams:

Sometimes a car is just a car. Continue reading