On my visits to the Republic of Ireland I notice what seems to be a local peculiarity, the neglected high-end car.
Here we have a Mercedes SLK accumulating algae and moss, seen in late December. Nearby I saw a six year old Audi A4 cabriolet where the paint was visibly worn along the bodysides and the ragtop scuffed. I can’t fathom what it would take to make paint wear down to the primer.
The interior resembled a bin: a beaker from Mickey D’s in the cupholder, cigarette packets on the console and rubbish on the rear seats and in the footwells. It looked like a waste sack had been emptied into the interior. The car had a valid insurance card. Evidently it was in use. Last summer I spotted a trashed Cadillac BLS: not three years old. Its paint still had the new look to it but every panel was dented or scratched and the wheels scuffed. It had been bought and never cleaned or treated carefully, just thrown around.
Characterising these cars’ treatment is a complete indifference to material value on one level and, on another, the need to display status by having a prestige car. The only place I have ever seen a trashed Lexus LS is Dublin. Ditto a trashed SL 500. It’s peculiar to want a smart car (which implies one cares about status) and then leave it filthy (which implies one doesn’t care about how one is seen).
Gavin Green wrote an editorial in Car about how cool it was to have a high-end vehicle and to leave it unwashed. I think he imagined a freshly waxed Bentley with a fresh coat of mud. Or did he mean a neglected, dented Bentley, treated like a pick-up truck? The semantics of this, the meaning of this is clear: the owner is too rich to care.
I don’t find that so very pleasant an ethic. It’s a way of showing off, like the Swedes who buy two bottles of champagne and pour one down the sink. These trashed prestige cars seem to be indicative of a similar mentality or perhaps that the owners are like barbarians in a mansion. They understand that the vehicle represents a higher status but they haven’t internalised the other values of a civilised way of life such as orderliness, a respect for others and a respect for the scarcity of resources.