Fox Hunters and Cowboys
Topics: Top Gear, Ford Mustang
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.
February 20, 2013
At the end of the episode of Top Gear that aired on BBC America last week, featuring a new Shelby GT500 Mustang, Jeremy Clarkson closed the show by saying that American cars are cheaper because they aren't as refined as European cars. It's true, and I don't have an issue with the accuracy of that statement. I may, however, have an explanation as to why this is...
Now, I know I'm going to make some broad generalizations here. The United States is great for having a little bit of almost every culture around the world in some part of the country here, and Europe itself is a patchwork of various different cultures, and this does not apply to everybody.
A lot of Americans are, fundamentally, a very practical people. We take pride in our practicality, taking the discomfort in stride a badge of honor if the job is done effectively and efficiently.
Pop culture and big-city life aside, this attitude definitely spills over into most aspects of life for those who life in America's heartland. England has fox hunters in resplendent red jackets, America has its cowboys in Wrangler jeans. England has Sir Patrick Stewart, America has John Wayne. We're a country of pickup trucks and "if you can't duck it, fuck it" repair work. England has Adele, we've got Rascal Flatts. The Queen is expected to be elegant, we love it when our President rolls up his sleeves at his desk and goes out for a big-ass cheeseburger at Five Guys.
So when it comes to cars, we overwhelmingly pick Chevrolet Corvettes over Ferraris, proud of the fact that something made in Kentucky for less than $100,000 can keep pace with Maranello's quarter-million dollar machines. So what if it's a little gaudy and your back hurts a little after driving it, you got the adrenaline rush, saved the price of a house, and you take pride in not being so soft that you need to spend a ridiculous amount of money to have your ass coddled in the name of "refinement."
The same with the Shelby Mustang, which may not have the handling to match but puts supercar horsepower within the reach of the middle class. Oh, heck, it's better than supercar power, because it's low-rumbling, tire-smoking, hairy-chested, barely controllable muscle for the price of a midsize diesel sedan from Germany. At that price point, they wonder how we can live with body gaps and cheap plastic interiors, we wonder how they can live with only two hundred and ten horsepower.
That's just in the new car market. If you want to see how extreme this attitude can be in the secondary market, just look up "rat rod."
Now, this is of course a generalization. Europeans own Ford Mustangs, and BMW sells a lot of cars in the United States. But the prevalent cultures, the ones that are tied to our national identities, have some fundamental differences, and in each case our choice in which automobiles define our national industries are extensions our national cultures.
But we have one thing in common: we all buy the cars that work for how we want to live. Of course a Ford Mustang isn't going to work for Jeremy Clarkson, but then a Range Rover Evoque isn't going to work for an American family with a fifth-wheel horse trailer. Neither one is superior or inferior, so long as we are all enjoying ourselves. That's the important thing.
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