Theme: Aftermarket – Let’s All Think About This, Shall We?

I will try to focus this one on the aftermarket wheels and not the car they happen to adorn.

1991 Opel Omega B2

It’s a 1999-2003 Opel Omega (B2 to those in the know). As I said before, in the aftermarket we find tricky ground. Who am I to say these wheels are not the ones for this car? My argument is that the wheels have really low-profile rubber and they do not help the rest of the suspension do its job which in this car’s case was high-speed stability and comfort rather than maximum grip at intermediate speeds.

1999 Opel Omega B2

The climate in Denmark involves long winters and the sufficient frequency of snow to require the salting of the roads. Alas, there is not often enough snow to make decent snowmen or to use toboggans. Factory fitted alloys don’t have an easy time if left on during these winters. Many owners do have winter wheels and winter is defined in part by the time when ugly black wheels are fitted. Many other owners do not have winter wheels and so, after a while, the originals are corroded and then replaced. Some choose simply to fit steel wheels and bland hubcap-covers. Others take the chance to find something eye-catching but inappropriate as we see in the instance of this otherwise fetching example of Ruesselsheim’s design talent.

The wheels raise the vexed question of what is appropriate, of matters of taste. Appropriateness is to do with what fits. I will try not to use the loaded term “taste”. Taking the standard car as the frame of reference, such wheels as we see here are not in keeping with the visible intent of the car. I see that as a formal, comfort-orientated saloon. However, for the owner it may very well be the case that the aggressively sporting appearance of the wheels was intentionally chosen so as to have the exact effect it is having on me. It is entirely conceivable that the owner likes the mismatch or contrast.

I have said before that often people have difficulty telling if something is good or terrible if the effect depends on contrast. As a critic of Danish modern architecture, I have concluded that architects around here frequently deploy contrasting, unharmonic solutions (wrong colour, wrong scale) because they are misled by their taste into thinking that striking means good. A lot of good things are striking but not all striking things are good: a sunset or a goat’s turd in consomme would be two examples.

More generally, there is a structural tendency for cars like this lovely Omega to attract these kinds of wheels. I mentioned the salty winter roads. Additionally, such saloon cars are the ones with below-average resale values: Vectras, Mondeos, 406s, Mazda 6s and the rest of the mundane C-D class are ideal low-price cars when the odometers start displaying big numbers and when eight or ten years have passed after they trundle from the showroom. (This Omega is worth about three thousand euros in Denmark, if you can find one).

They tend to end up in the hands of people with lower incomes and perhaps lower educational levels (the two are correlated in our society). People’s taste varies from person to person and from group to group. Unavoidably there is a degree of class in this matter. Snobbery is not a pleasant trait so I want to quickly note that to treat someone differently, to act towards them differently on account of their taste, is bad manners and unkind. Having said that, one is also entitled to have preferences otherwise we’d all be same. With this in mind one can precisely say one might not care for the wheels (in this case) but it would be uncivil to express that point to the owner of the wheels. I am forced to acknowledge that my taste is very probably as class-driven as anyone else’s.

1999 Peugeot 406: http://www.the-blueprints.com

The owner of these black, racing alloys would probably think that the alloys on my car are boring or dated. What makes my choice of wheels different (the difference in rationale) is that my car’s wheels are probably all but invisible to the kind of person who buys aggressive racing alloys whereas the aggressive alloys are not invisible to me. Am I allowed to say there is a small (and small it is) degree of bad manners in jarringly inappropriate alloys? I’d never mention it though, not in person.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

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