Motoring as we know it. An Obituary? 

-February 2, 2017-

Motoring as we know it. An Obituary? 

Kris Clewell

The snow outside is probably going to stick. The salt trucks are out here in Minnesota. The road and cars are covered with the white dust the county lays out on the road to keep us all from freezing to death in a ditch. This means my ‘72 911 is tucked safely away in the garage. I didn’t even have a chance to take it out one last time.


Winter rolled in more swiftly than usual this year, once again putting motoring itself in extended stasis. With the 911 parked morosely in my garage for 7 months, the rose-tinted glasses of motoring bliss are off, and I’m faced with the harsh reality that in my lifetime, I may not even be able to drive that car regularly on public roads. New generations are doomed for a distant future of self driving A-to-B utility vehicles. Motoring in the sense of a national pastime will eventually decline, and in the meantime, everyone is celebrating the technology-first vehicles which telegraph its demise.


We’re all going about our motoring lives posting on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and snapchat. Viral videos of burnouts and Gymkhana runs are everywhere. There are shows for everyone. You can watch two guys dial in a Charger they dragged out of it’s coffin beneath a barn in Omaha and drive it to Los Angeles. The so-called “influencers” fly around the world creating epic adventures for us to live vicariously through from the comfort of our couch. Even if you’re you’re old school and don’t indulge in the fantasies purveyed by the internet, the vintage motoring world is almost as good as the real thing. Cars are being loved, appreciated, and restored.


Given enough capital you can own anything car related since the inception of the combustion engine. We really are in the glory days of motoring. So what is there to complain about?


It’s only a matter of time before the sensory experience and the nostalgia of American motoring just isn’t enough to convince legislators we deserve freedom. This sounds a bit like the premise for the first book in a dystopian future trilogy, but isn’t it? At least, in the context of driving? Motorsport is half in the bag with the hybrids. Sensory deprivation at the track is in full swing. Ear plugs aren’t even needed in Formula One anymore. At what point does striving for performance gains sacrifice the experience itself? The discussion is no longer if electric cars will be the norm and if we’ll even be allowed to drive, but when. The curmudgeons like myself will fight it, but we’re soon to be overwhelmed. It seems like a long time away, but it’s been proven that the human mind perceives the years shorter the older we get.


In the meantime, a younger generation is growing up. Kids are inundated with talk of climate change, and electric vehicles. Young boys and girls won’t look forward to the freedom a driver’s license represents. Fathers won’t teach their sons and daughters how to drive stick in empty parking lots. Huge cultures existing purely as conduits for enthusiasts to get together will vanish. Without the experiences enthusiasts my age had growing up, and even today, what is going to inspire these kids to carry the torch? Answer: nothing. Motoring has been under assault—rightly or wrongly, that's another debate for another time—by governments signing world climate change accords. Manufacturers are being forced to push to market increasingly complex and expensive technology to keep up with CAFE and other world standards. The demise of the combustion engine is not only inevitable, but it is planned. Consumers can fight it all they want, but governments around the world don’t care. Electric vehicles are going to save the earth, and your life. There’s nothing you can do about it.


I envision the day in the quite distant future where I take back the keys to my 911 my family appropriated from me to protect me from myself. I’d lead a chase through a dystopian city zig zagging around auto piloted electric machines. I imagine an equally stale populace, deprived of sensory input for their own protection. The sounds and smells of an antiquated combustion engine would rapture off glass buildings. It would probably end in jail time, but at that point, what difference would it make?


Climate change policies are having an immediate effect on our hobby. This dystopian future is an ever closer reality. For enthusiasts, it’s turning into a nightmare. If you think hip, always in the red, tech industry government-subsidized cars, or even the latest super-duper fast hybrid supercar, is going to save us, you’re wrong. If I hear that a $40,000 electric car does 0-60 mph in 2.5 seconds again, I’m going to lose it. Who cares? Is that all motoring is? These mainstream electric vehicles are not a replacement for the experience you know and love.  This is all just a bridge to the inevitable. It’s the placation of the masses. It’s the unintentional black hood of climate change politics when it comes to motoring. We’re transitioning to a world where it’s no longer considered safe for you to transport yourself, and no longer considered climate-conscious to enjoy doing it. “Morally reprehensible” will be the term used for for the car you love. Those willing to buck the masses will be rebels. Hopefully I have the courage to be one of those people, holding white knuckle to what once was a defining piece of American history.


Society now knows nothing of the benefits of many industrial revolution breakthroughs. It only knows the fruits of decades of advancement. This is evident now more than ever. The new electric hybrid cars will never have a respectable heritage or pedigree. The tech side of the vehicles is so integrated into the fiber of their function that the majority of their benefits as we see them today, will be worthless in a few years. Just like that desktop you bought in 2003 just to keep in the basement simply because it still “works”, the cutting edge vehicles of today will turn out to be undesirable relics. They’ll be great for recycling but bad for writing interesting books about. They will be inefficient but in an uncool way.


Sure, my 911 doesn't get the greatest fuel economy, but man does it turn the knobs to 11 on my senses. Not being able to pair your future digital whatever with a 2010 Tesla and having archaic apps and operating systems isn’t going to be seen as romantic. We aren’t building anything nostalgic anymore. It’s a garbage-time race to the top of the lazy don’t have to do anything yourself just because it’s the safest most efficient way mountain. Except they aren’t competing against anyone but the consumer.


Many movies have been made depicting a dystopian future where the banes of today's societies have been cured—crime, pollution, risk, death, and any other number of other evils. In the cult classic Demolition Man, Sylvester Stallone ends up driving an Olds 442 through a glass window, shattering the “perfect” world around him with the sound and underground rebellion that the car represents. In iRobot Will Smith rips through another perfect future on an MV Augusta motorcycle. Both films show a system where the populace is stripped of risk. Film is often used to show that a dirty, filthy society that is free trumps a clean, perfect, and morally superior one brought upon by force.  The plots revolve around human beings breaking free of this system, and the screenwriters have used motoring as an allegory representing that forgotten free society. In that free spirit is represented the inherent risk that you take driving yourself, essentially controlling your own destiny, and where you go and when.  Motoring isn’t the only part of our lives that's being mortgaged under the guise of protecting us from ourselves. The real question is, IS it worth it? Is sacrificing expediency, and efficiency worth ceding yet another part of ourselves to someone else worthy of the consequences to the environment or future economy?


This isn’t to say we cannot have a compromise. Throughout motoring history there has always been the person that wants to do more, go faster, and overcome restrictions placed on vehicles like the speed limiters on ECUs. Society may eventually forget what a combustion engine is all about and why it was so cherished once, but perhaps a new generation of tuners will take over the mantle. We’ll have kids hacking electric cars, taking control of their operation. Maybe we’ll have insane batteries and electric motors ported in from industrial applications.


Perhaps it isn’t the fear of motoring's death that I’m afraid of, but the selfish fear of losing of what I cherish the most—of what I know. I may struggle with an incurable myopia concerning burning fossil fuels, but it’s time to admit that I’m doing nothing but carrying a fading torch. Hopefully some of the warmth in my hand rubs off on the future, and all is not lost. Maybe us old guys will inspire the young enthusiasts and they’ll do things with the new generation of cars we’ve never dreamed of.


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Comments on Motoring as we know it. An Obituary? 

  • thekhalfani

    i’m 16 years old, and I’ve been pondering this topic quite a bit lately. It’s pretty conflicting as someone who cares about the environment but also loves cars. i’m thinking I’ll make up for my cars by making every other aspect of my life green haha. As a part of the younger generation and possibly last few generations of true enthusiasts, I definitely notice my peers bleak attitude towards cars. I’m hopeful the cars we love remain legal and cherished as artwork in the future. And who knows, maybe the scarcity of truly amazing cars will create a more tight knit, but stronger car culture as a whole. I’m real glad to see your article tho, because thinking about the future of car culture alone is a little scary lol

  • headcache

    Thanks Kris. I share many of the sentiments you’ve outlined. I imagine these questions and concerns are being discussed within formal and informal motoring organisations, and if not, I think it’s up to us (as you have in this article) to initiate the conversation.

  • Kristopher Clewell

    What do you consider a formal motoring organization?

  • headcache

    Not sure if there is a clear definition, but I think groups such as show organisers, print & digital media outlets, incorporated clubs with official affiliation to auto-makers, the after-market industry? The conversation should probably take place at all levels, even amongst friends who get together. Then there are the celebrities :)

  • Dustin Faulkner

    I definitely can understand where this article is coming from. I am a car enthusiast and have been since a young age, but also an animal lover, and someone who cares about our planet. I have been vegan for a few years and a lot of the information surrounding veganism points towards animal agriculture being more of a player in climate change than cars. It irritates me that governments want to focus more on the car aspect than the larger factors driving climate change. Although we all love our cars, I think we should all be able to agree that the planet is more important. I guess time will tell what happens. We need more vegan car enthusiasts (LOL but for real. I can hope)!

  • simman77

    My uncle has a country place / That no one knows about / He says it used to be a farm / Before the Motor Law…

  • Gerard77

    People who think eletrecic cars is the future are either blind or ignorant. It’s impossible for humanity to produce enough electricity to replace all of the energy produced by oil and gas. Just technically impossible. Electric cars are a marketing fantasy. This winter again most of European countries are barely able to provide enough eletricity to their citizens because every year, around December/January, everybody is using more electricity for heating. Do you realize the amount of electric power a country would have to produce to replace every single petrol engines by electric powered machine? Unless you want to see everyone with a mini nuclear plant in their gardens. Or replace agriculture by solar panels fields, but then what will we eat as there will be no space for agriculture anymore. A lot of manufacturers know it, such as Toyota, BMW… who offer electric cars at the moment because that’s hype and trendy (=money) but know the future will be made of cars powered with things such as the hydrogen engine.
    On another note, we talk about cars all the time… how about planes? Boats? I’ve recently watched a documentary on the local TV here, saying that only a few dozens of biggest super-cargos, used to carry all our precious goods (including electronic/electrics goods) from Asia where everything is made now, accross the oceans to European and American markets are causing the same damage to envirronment than the billion of cars currently circulating all around the world. And that’s only the first few dozens of cargo boats, being part of a fleet of 3500 other cargos who are circulating around the globe 24/7 (and not even counting oil super-tankers and boats carrying people).
    And to finish, thinking everyone agrees with the eco-friendly mentality that’s trendy since a few years is wrong, and is a lie made up by medias. The vast majority of people are aware that politicians and medias are lying and are hypocrites, and that this is just marketing manipulations where a lot of money is involved on these new markets. People are not stupid. They now, for example, that Dicaprio making beautiful little speechs about saving the planet is plain hypocisy. That guy is flying around the world 24/7 in private jet planes to go from mansions to mansions, and he’s there teaching lessons to people about how they should live their lifes. Again, thankfully people are a lot less stupid than what Dicaprio and the medias think. And them telling lies to people only have to opposite effect. That will be their loss, but that’s another topic.

  • Gerard77

    Dustin Faulkner agriculture as a whole, indeed causes a lot more damages to envirronment than cars. Same goes for super-cargos and super-tankers carrying all of our beloved goods and devices from Asia to their markets. Something that politicians -the same politicians who will tell you that driving your car is “bad”- have helped by doing nothing when factories closed down to go to Asia, causing these ships to go all around the world 24/7. But there’s money to be made here, and a lot of interests involving huge corporations, politicians and the medias. So the easier thing is to blame the guy who use is car everyday to go to work and pay taxes and to feed his family. Not to mention a lot of these lies regarding envirronement are used as a good excuses to create new taxes and for people to accept it.

  • Gerard77

    And great article btw.

  • Gerard77

    Another “funny” thing, here in Europe everyone is praising Germany
    for giving up on nuclear electricity. But did people even try to wonder
    how they are producing electricity instead? Germany is advertising solar
    energy and other forms or green energy. In truth, almost everything is
    now bought to Poland, Czech Republic, and other eastern european
    countries where evirronment protection law are almost inexistent… and where electricity is produced mostly by burning coal. So
    congratulations Germany, your idea of being eco-friendly is to hide the
    problems to another place and to replace nuclear plants by something
    even worse and less efficient. And of course, european politics will continue to guilt-trip people when they are (and their friends from big corporations) the first persons responsible for this mess.

    Okay let’s imagine for one second all of the cars all over the worl running on electricity : I wonder what lies they will come up with to cover the fact that pollution is always the same (and is still rising) since cars were not the first cause of it to begin with, and a huge part of the damages to envirronment is now caused by methods used to produce said electricity.

  • JP911

    “Perhaps it isn’t the fear of motoring’s death that I’m afraid of, but the selfish fear of losing of what I cherish the most—of what I know”
    Hit the nail on the head.
    I have never made a post on any Stanceworks article before but this really provoked me as I think about this a lot. How we will eventually translate. I also happen to own a 911 (’74) and although I feel much of what you feel – we have seen this exact thing before with the transition from the horse to the car. I’m sure people in the 1800s said the exact same thing. Protective metal shells driving around will kill the horse industry. And in a way it did – some would argue for the better.
    In the same way that stables and farm fields aren’t going away anytime soon – racetracks won’t be either. For the general population, getting from point A to point B in the safest most efficient way is the top priority. In reality we share near nothing in common with those people. We are hobbiest. You just can’t compare.
    The world keeps moving and hobbies become obsolete. There’s nothing we can do. There is a reason why cars from the early 1900s are not popular with the majority of auto enthusiast of today. They didn’t grow up with them. And it will be the same with the next generation. And the next. And the next. Not something we should be bitter about. Perhaps promoting it will help prolong the eventual shrinkage of our car community. won’t stop it from happening though.
    Just needed to write that down to get it out of me.

  • BrianMR

    Great article.
    As a 1969 Nissan Bluebird owner that I WILL NEVER SELL this really hits home. I will say that although you hit the nail on the head with course of society, regulations and internal power plants are are going concerning cars, I take a different outlook. I for one can’t wait to one day, when the process can be done tastefully, upgrade my precious ride to a more renewable engine such as electric. Will I miss the sounds and smell my senses tingle with when ripping through the gears on some twisty road? Of course! But I know that holding onto a dying path will eventually end the possibility of driving a vehicle I have some to love at all. Climate change, effiecency and safety are just some of the reasons you covered. What happens when the fossil fuels run out? Or gas is to high to waste it and wars are fought over what’s left? No I won’t wait for that day. The combustion engine is just “part” of what makes my classic car special. To ensure its future on the road I will embrace a new destiny. Now that doesn’t mean I’m ready to plug in my ol’ girl to an outlet just yet. But I open to the possibility one day.
    “Whitebird” owner

  • shiftyXTI

    @thekhalfani  Fight for planes & boats to become clean – 1/10th of the world’s planes pollute as much in a month as all the cars do in a year, boats, super tankers especially, are even nastier and produce 10-100x times more pollution than all cars combined.

    Crushing an old car and manufacturing a new one is soooo much worse for the environment than maintaining a less efficient, older vehicle. As if foundries, factories and fancy paint booths run on hopes and dreams…

    Keep questiniong everything you hear and read and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise about owning a fuel burning car, especially an old one. The greenest thing you can do it keep it running and share your experiencing working with your hands on your own car to someone else. Pretty soon the only “tool” people will know how to use is the internet so hang on to your wrenches!

  • Jason Blair

    Bought my 1986 6.9 4-spd diesel single-cab F250 “dream car” four years ago. Slow as dirt, noisy as shaking a dozen wrenches in a coffee can, and 12 mpg on a good day, but I love her, matte black paint and all! The future may be here, but I doubt it. They’ll have to pry my cold, dead hands off my skinny steering wheel before I let her go. We have time ladies & gentlemen. Don’t moan about what may be, do something about it. There’s still plenty of cars, or trucks, out there to rescue. And drive!

  • Ricard Lopez

    The future is here i guess..
    I live in barcelona..i was born here,and due to incompetent fellow citizens and corrupt political class in 3 years it will be ilegal some days (pollution levels will decide these days)to drive any car made before year 2000 if petrol engine 2006 for diesels.

    Definetly motoring is changing not.only in the u.s..

    Feckin sucks

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