Mechanical evolution

To a degree taking delivery of a new motor vehicle is not entirely novel to me. I have repeated the ceremony regularly throughout the past forty-five years beginning 1975 when my father bought me my first automobile, a green 4-cylinder manual transmission Ford Mustang. This afternoon I re-enacted the ritual by completing the purchase of a Lincoln Aviator.  Aside from having stuck with Ford Motor Co – what I regale a “domestic” manufacturer – a good deal of the event today was considerably different not only from forty-five years ago abut also from just last year.

Pointedly the so-called “delivery” of the new vehicle took place in a largely empty parking lot adjoining a small mall in Bells Corners about three miles west of the dealership.  This peculiarity arises from the pandemic virus which has effectively closed “business as usual“.  The other oddity is that we switched the old licence plate from the Continental to the Aviator – for the similar reason that the Ontario Ministry of Highways has closed its licensing bureaus during the pandemic. Normally I would have insisted upon new plates as but a small acknowledgement of the fresh start – a metaphor of burgeoning significance as one ages. The final misfit of today’s handover is that the vehicle itself is off the lot; it is not the one I ordered.  Once again the alteration arises because the virus has caused the manufacturer’s factory to be shut down temporarily and as a result the assembly of the vehicle which I ordered is on hold for an indeterminate length of time. When as recently as yesterday afternoon the gentleman at the dealership told me the vehicle on the lot was almost identical to the one I had ordered – in fact precisely the same though slightly more upscale – I rapidly concluded it was no time to stall. It nonetheless surprised me to receive an email very early this morning from the salesman (with whom I routinely deal) that he proposed meeting this afternoon at 2:30 pm to complete the transaction. He dutifully arrived complete with face-mask and walked me through the purchase in the same manner as he has done on previous occasions – though admittedly with some concessions to my patent familiarity with certain of the standard issues and technology. There was no hand-shaking at the conclusion of the deal though I made it clear to the salesman that he had once again done a great job of ensuring my purchase unfolded professionally and comfortably.

Though the legal, financial and social aspects of the transaction are important, the sine qua non is naturally the performance of the automobile.  As unusual as it may sound, I had never test-driven the vehicle.  When I drove off the parking lot today, that was the first time I had driven the new car.  This apparent omission is notable in the other vehicle purchases I have made.  My reasoning is that, assuming the cars have anything approaching the perfection they are advertised to have, my driving experience is not likely to afford any basis for dissatisfaction. It’s like trusting the chef at an authentic Chinese restaurant to bring what is edible and desirable; I don’t need to look at the menu or pretend to know exotic foods. The only qualification or “reservation” I might employ is the avoidance of vehicles which are clearly wrong (like two-door convertibles with large engines or half-ton pickup trucks).  For those models the issue isn’t performance of the automobile but rather dysfunction of the driver!

Having said that the inescapable singularity of the Aviator is that it is an SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) or more exactly, it’s not a sedan.  To be clear, the SUV is not the historic choice of old fogeys who have more than a passing acquaintance with Florida. There are indeed similarly historic accusations against those who drive SUVs – namely, that the owners tend to adopt more sheet metal than feasibly necessary, that they cocoon themselves in blatantly truck-like models suitable for cowboys, or that the overwhelming size of the contraptions suggests a Freudian corruption.

Weighted by these native comparatives it required an active element of intellectual adjustment to bring myself to consider the Aviator. Indeed the first occasion on which I had ever seen the new model – about six months ago – the dealership owner practically had to crowbar me into the driver’s seat to force me to get a cursory look. My ignorance and disinterest were for him no doubt painfully obvious. What however altered my thinking was the awakening perception that the sedans were doomed even for their remaining two years to suffer entire ambivalence regarding on-going technological advances. Meanwhile the Aviator was on the leading edge of motor vehicle technology.  The fact that the carcass for this scientific development was an SUV and not a sedan was just one of those blunt realities.

Interestingly the salesman told me this afternoon that the demographic for the purchase of the Aviator includes both young and old. Putting aside the racy feature of an SUV (or its suitiability for families with children) it is indisputable that old people like to able to slide in and out of an SUV as compared to having to fall into a sedan and afterwards pry oneself out. By contrast the second and third-row seats are not hot items for the elderly. Indeed it was first act of my insinuation to collapse the third-row seats as redundant.  Their inutility competed with the voltage outlet at the rear, something the salesman laughingly suggested could me useful for a cooler or some other picnic-style device.

Yet in spite of these prongs of compatibility the real success of the product is that it answers the predominantly youthful market to which new automobiles have always appealed. For me to have hung onto a sedan is the modern equivalent of keeping one’s horse and buggy. No amount of resistance will go anywhere to legitimize holding back.

Now for the real meat of the matter.  From the moment I checked the side mirrors then slowly pulled out of the parking lot onto the boulevard and highway, all was well! Mr. Ford has done it again!  It is quiet, powerful, comfortable and – yes, I’ll admit it – even a bit fun! The surprise was that it is almost less trouble parking at the condo than the Continental. Not quite certain why that is, perhaps because the new cameras as so good, or maybe – as I have been told – the Aviator is actually 1″ shorter than the Continental.  The Aviator looks to be wider than the Continental but not sure about that either.  Anyway, all told, the car runs well and I am pleased.