Murdered-out Chevette

If you google ‘Murdered-out Chevelle’ and click on images, your screen will fill with hundreds or even thousands of examples of all black 40-year old cars. If you put ‘Murdered-out Chevette’ into google and click on images, you see some random pictures of cars, which may or may not be Chevettes or Chevelles and maybe aren’t, and maybe are black, and maybe aren’t.

To be honest, I’m not even sure this is a Chevette. Maybe it’s a Japanese import from the same time, or something else. On top of that, I broke the cardinal rule of blogging, and took bad pictures. We pulled up behind this car and I wanted to get out and take pictures, but there wasn’t time so I did the best I could. I’m sure I will see it again, though, these things have a habit of popping up more than once.

But this thing is a trooper. It has a huge exhaust pipe, but not in the import racer style. I think this may have been diesel swapped, and it definitely looks like the ride height has been changed. The roof rack makes it look extra ready for action, if that even means something. If you have read any of my other posts, you’ll note the bodywork, or lack thereof. Maintenance of the quarter panels is evidently low on this person’s list of things to do.

I like the second picture, of it passing in front of the grafitti’d junction box. I wish I had taken the photo later so as to see the car better, but I like the juxtaposition.

The car reminds me of a comment on a popular car blog a while back – this article, if memory serves. The readers/commenters were talking about the Chevette, and how it eventually morphed into the Isuzu Impulse. Someone said, and I can’t find it, so maybe my recollection above is wrong, that Isuzu had to – and I quote – “breed the stink out of it.”

On it’s surface, this is a very mundane, and relatively funny comment. But behind the humor and obviousness is something deeper: given enough time, the end user will make the product work. This idea has a name in various cultures. In hindi it is called jugaad. While speakng with someone from India, I asked him to define this concept. He said ‘it is getting something done no matter what’.

Is the idea that the end user will fix problems a profound truth? I don’t even know it’s true. But the sheer number of workarounds for various problems in every industry leads me to believe it’s true. If a defective product has a functional workaround, and possibly one that is later officially implemented, it’s lifespan is lengthened considerably.

For car companies this idea should be important: the initial investment costs are enormous. But manufacturers don’t receive diminishing returns – in fact, having payed off the cost of tooling and training employees, each car can be sold cheaper (to a point, and if anyone ever reads this who is an economist and wants to correct me, feel free!) Should manufacturers implement a kaizen philosophy to further streamline their process, more money can be saved (in theory, at least).

What does this mean for auto designers? Could an idea of ‘don’t make any big mistakes’ actually be better than ‘the pursuit of perfection’? At what point will the consumer accept small problems knowingly? Is it better to openly acknowledge a products weaknesses as a manufacturer than to pretend that it is the best product on the market, end of story? Is it better to sell a Volkswagen Beetle or Ford Panther platform for 20+ years or to redo Toyotabarus every 5? I have some thoughts as to the answers to these questions, but nothing definite. If anyone ever reads this please chime in.

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