Motorcycle Explorer Issue 17 - Page 10

MEM Column: kevin turner

You could submerse that car in a bath of ACF50 after every journey and I suspect it would still be little more than rust and plastic by the next election *. This is true of almost everything built post 2007, when manufacturers ditched any notion of quality in favour of short-term lease agreements that let them pile out cheap rubbish in bulk and then take it back before anyone notices it is absolute crap. Of course, it’s not only cars; the clutch cover bolts on my friend’s new Honda NC700X turned from something like metal to something like gloop in about four months of constant use.

Until my editor James begins paying a fair market price for these rants (and he knows damn well my rates are top end) I will never be in a position to purchase a new motorcycle; but that’s fine. I don’t want one. In 2002, Kawasaki was still making bikes to last and with careful maintenance and the liberal application of the over-mentioned ACF50 (credit where it’s due, the stuff is miraculous) my bike remains in near showroom condition despite edging 40,000 miles.

Which certainly won’t be the case of anything that’s trundled off the production line in the last 10 years, full of exciting electronics and designed to last just long enough for the owner to get itchy about trading it in for the latest model in 18 months’ time. “What’s that? It’s has an extra 2bhp AND the display changes colour with the season? Well pass me a pen and sign me up now. This old thing? Ah, scrap it; it’s got almost 1,2oo miles on it now anyway.”

The UK recently introduced a long overdue charge on plastic bags; they now cost five pence and this will almost certainly help diminish that big non-biodegradable island currently wreaking havoc on the shipping lanes in the mid-Atlantic. But will it save the world? Not when we’re scrapping our cars and motorbikes every three years. We have a generation now that feels entitled to a brand new vehicle, or phone, or laptop, or TV with a horrible regularity; they have been conditioned to feel and think this way having grown up in an age where advertising is such a constant that it passes for entertainment. There’s no need to look for the sneaky product placement when the entire film is about an animated iPhone…

Ah, enough; take a breath. Relax, enjoy the madness. Yes, the world is fucked, but I’m neither the first nor the most articulate to say so. A lot of smarter people than me saw this coming a long time ago; they now run the marketing departments at Honda and Kia and their subordinates call them ‘master’ or ‘grand lord’.

Ed – and they don’t advertise with me, so your pay rise is just as fucked as ever mate.

Then again, wasn’t Colin Chapman doing the same thing 40 years ago, when he scared the holy bejesus out of generally fearless men like Clark and Rindt by building cars designed to fall apart as they crossed the finish line on the last lap?

But there was an artistry to Chapman’s method that is as far away from these soulless days as you can get and still rely on physical imperatives like gravity and the third law of thermodynamics. Chapman was like a sculptor, chipping away at an ugly block to reveal the beauty within; and if he sometimes chipped a little too deep in his quest for perfection and cracked the stone as it were, building a suspension strut that might collapse at any point on the fast downhill from Flugplatz to Aremberg, well, that was the price for his vision. A high price admittedly, if you happened to be at the wheel of a 49 at the time, but only a cynic would put a value on art.

The suspension of Dave’s Kia will likely collapse too; but not because it was designed with poetry and art and grace in mind; more because it is cheap and ugly and symbolic of this age we find ourselves wallowing in. Still, no matter, there will be a warranty and somebody else can worry about it. Dave will have traded it in by then anyway.

* this article was filed moments before Theresa May called for a snap election in June. To clarify, and to be fair to the guys at Kia, Dave’s Sorento almost certainly has more than six weeks of life left in it…