I’ve often wondered why it is that when you see a car coming up behind you in your mirror, you can almost anticipate how that driver will behave when he or she is behind you. Ahh I hear you cry – I’m going into to blatant stereotyping mode, but don’t tell me you don’t know what I mean.
Picture the scene: it’s 8:40AM on a Monday morning, you’re on a single carriageway A-Road things are flowing at a claggy but not unacceptable 50mph, the traffic is heavy, and you’ve just noticed that the town you’re heading for is still 20 miles away and you’re supposed to get there for 9:00AM. A typical day on British roads, then. Up ahead, you see a hill – and an oasis in a world of plodding monotony – a short stretch with an overtaking lane.
Cars as people? Why not – who would
your car be?
There are cars ahead, and undoubtedly, most will want to overtake the truck that is inevitably there (instead of the motorway where it belongs), so there’s no reason to rush – wait in turn for the cars ahead to do their stuff. Obviously, before you pull out for the overtake, you’ll have looked in the mirror, and this is where you’ll be taking a judgement on what the driver behind is going to do. If cars and their drivers display body language – call it car language – you should have a good idea what’s on the mind of your pursuer.
Riding close to your offside rear, you know he’s in a big hurry, and he wants round you.
Directly behind, but a car length or two behind, he’s keeping a watching brief.
Further back, he’s in no great hurry…
Of course, it’s not so straightforward as this, but you get the picture. Part of car language is the type of car and its colour, and it here that I like to think the car plays a bearing on how it is driven. After all, don’t we all dehumanize these things to a degree? We don’t look inside the car to see the person, we don’t really get further than the car itself, so why not go a step further and identify cars with people?
- Take the BMW 3-Series – a bit of a thug and none too clever, even if there’s talent there: David Brent
- Or the Audi A4 – young, thrusting, pushy and slightly arrogant, but smooth – that has to be: Clive Owen
- Or the Mercedes-Benz E-Class – he’s made it, but won’t think twice about crapping on you: Tony Blair
- Or the Saab 9-3 – Self assured, alightly aloof and knows better: Frasier Crane
- And any Jaguar: why do I always think of Arthur Daley? (I think that’s different)
…but what about the Rover range of cars? Well, they seem to be driven with a degree of passive-aggressiveness, usually quite slowly and not too keen to be passed in the right circumstance. A bit of an old grumbler then. If you drive a Rover, next time you see it, say hello to Victor… Victor Meldrew. Mind you, these are all men, so where does that fit in with those people who chose to refer to their cars as, “she”?
And that leads on to the final point – now you’ve humanized the cars around you, it’s almost too easy to work out what they’re going to do. I guess it’s not just Minis that have feelings, then…
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.