Over the course of automotive history we’ve encountered some pretty creative technology including vacuum line powered filp-up headlights, dash-mounted 8-track players, and dozens of other terrible ideas. About 4 years ago, I purchased my most technologically advanced car yet. It’s a 2009 Nissan 370Z Touring with touch-screen satellite navigation, MP3 player that reads a Compact Flash card, power everything, and computer controlled vehicle dynamic stability control. In ’09 it was a technological marvel. Now it’s 2014 and already those techno-toys are becoming dated. Compact Flash has lost the portable media war, the iPhone 4 connector is useless, and my nav system relies on maps created five years ago.
If you’re a gear head like many of my readers, you probably have at least one “one day I’ll own one” car. You probably have three of them actually. I’ve been chasing the 1963 split-window Corvette and a late 60’s fastback Camaro for over a decade, but I sincerely doubt my 2009 370Z will end up on some dude’s auto wish list. In ten years, the power seats won’t work, the dynamic stability control will be replaced with cheaper, faster computer solutions, and you won’t even be able to find Compact Flash disks on ebay’s collector’s forum. Seems unlikely that Year One will start cranking out power window modules and hatchback struts for 2000’s Nissans, don’t you think? But when we consider the 40 year old technology that powers a 1968 Chevrolet… Well, people have been getting in line to order replacements since before I was born. Why? Because iron intake manifolds don’t plug into a USB port. If classic car collectors and parts manufacturers have taught us anything it is “the fewer moving parts the better”. The simple truth is: If you have to plug it in, power it up, or push more than one button, it’s probably already too complex.
So, this is usually the part of the blog post when the writer starts complaining about disappearing standard transmissions, the discontinued use of fuel-burning only engines to create super cars, and the great “death of the American muscle car”. Sorry to disappoint, but I’m not playing that card. Although I am unhappy about the majority of those topics, I actually believe we’re kind of lucky to be involved in the next evolutionary step of automobile technology. 30 years from now, new drivers will have no idea where their audio systems came from, how they work, or just how we got by with radios not connected to the global wireless network so you can access your music from anywhere (that is going to be freaking awesome). They’ll have no understanding of crankshafts, pistons, valves, turbos, or direct ignition systems once they’re replaced by the Apple iCombust (probably already patented).
But we will have that knowledge. Having lived through the grey area between evolution’s footprints, we will have the gift of perspective and respect that the next generation can never appreciate.
Wow, I just realized how much I sound like every gear head grandfather when I read that last sentence.