Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Did you know the Zulus gave us Impalas long before GM?

The G word of the week is a Gazelle. The term gazelle is used for animals that belong to a wide range of antelope. Gazelles are known for their speed and ability to run for an extended period of time. It is time to name a car a Gazelle. Chevrolet does have an Impala. For many years taxonomists incorrectly placed Impalas in the same species as Gazelles. The word Impala come from Zulu and the Zulu’s did not distinguish between gazelles and impalas they simply called any animal that looked like an impala an impala. The Zulus were driving Impalas long before Darwin and the study of Origin Of A Species.

This makes me think that all cars are beginning to look the same. Engineers at the various auto companies test shapes of cars for aerodynamic drag in wind tunnels and either they are all coming to the same conclusion on the best shape to minimize the drag coefficient or they are just copying each other and producing cars that all look alike. The 2009 Chevrolet Impala looks like the 2009 Toyota Camry. This was not the case in 1959 when the car that Toyota made could fit in the trunk of a 1959 Chevrolet Impala. The 1959 Chevrolet Impala had fins the size of a great white shark and an engine the size of a locomotive. Maybe we are lucky that just about all cars are looking the same and almost performing the same. All this sameness means that most car brands are now a commodity and they simply have to lower their price to sell to the average Joe.

On my way to Starbucks this morning I passed by the Porsche dealership and they have a bunch of used cars for sale. Interesting two used cars on the lot that were parked side by side had the same sale price of $16,999. These two cars were a 2005 BMW Z4 Roadster and a 2009 Smart For Two. These are two cars that do not look the same nor perform the same, although they both only seat two people. The Z4 is a zippy car that kind of like looks like sports cars out of the 1950s and the Smart For Two is the car of the future. The Z4’s engine has three times the displacement of the Smart (three liters versus one) and the Z4 has four times the horsepower, yet the Smart has the same price. Does this mean value is now being placed on fuel efficiency and ease of parking or is this simply a fad that Smarts are cool to drive? I hope it means that we are now making that sea change in our driving habits and we are once again not simply ignoring the rapid depletion of the fossil fuel reserves on the planet and the concurrent increase in carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. The Zulu word for being a fool or not so smart is Mampara and growing up as a child in South Africa we would tease each other that we were Mamparas. Today is April Fools’ Day, but now that the world depends on wise choices in our collective energy policy let’s not be Mamparas .

6 comments:

  1. Hmm...I wonder if my 98 Jeep would be equivalent in price to a Bianchi bycycle in which case maybe I shoud not be a Mampara and start biking to work. Good article - it's always fun to read your blog.

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  2. Jen

    Your 98 Jeep is worth less than Bianchi but more than a Schwinn so keep the jeep but buy a Schwill for most of your commutes. As for being a Mampara, I know how smart you are so you a chocham, the Yissish word for Smart. Maybe Smart Cars should be called Chochams. The Zulu word for a bug is Chocho -- Lindsay

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