On a tip from a friend, we bought and watched volumes 1 and 2 of All Cars Go to Heaven at The Smoking Tire web site. They enlarged our understanding of car culture.
We at Grilled Tees love the beauty and character of the grilles Nathanial Havholm finds on the streets of Los Angeles. The formal beauty comes from a designer’s happy inspiration, as does much of the character now blanded out of American automobiles. The rest of the character comes from the lives of particular cars. The gorgeous cars in Hemming’s Classic Cars go to shows; our cars go to work.
Cars on The Smoking Tire go to their deaths—followed by gales of laughter on the sound track.
What’s going on there?
The two All Cars videos are about brutally punishing off-road drives through spectacular remote country—by guys who dent their cars for fun. Matt Farah says about what they do to cars on The Smoking Tire, “I believe most cars have a soul. Of course enthusiasts’ cars have a soul because they inspire us. But what about more mundane cars, not born with a soul? The soul has to be added later. Through adventure.”
In Volume 1 they do everything they can to kill a Toyota Tercel over 600 miles of dirt road featuring boulders the size of bread loaves. They don’t just drive it over punishing terrain. They race it. Their perfect journey is in Vol. 2, when the two beaters they’ve been abusing arrive at the end of the trail in Utah (they started in Phoenix) and “both had had it and couldn’t go any further.” They’re left by the side of the road with the note: “Free cars. Runs, drives. Climbs mountains better than a horse.”
The Smoking Tire off-road trips begin with wrecks. They find their beaters on Craig’s List, so they start with scary brakes and noisy front-end alignments. Then they extend the wreck over 600 to 800 miles off-road. Partly because of terrific editing and partly because of the guys’ infectious enjoyment of simple pleasures (breaking stuff, fireworks, vodka), the trip is hugely enjoyable.
You could say that putting a beautifully preserved classic car into a museum display case marks one end of car appreciation, and grinding a beater into soulful glory marks the other.
We’re at neither end. Not too many perfectly preserved 1939 Packards park on the streets of Los Angeles, and the cars Nathanial photographs are not on suicide missions—though we admire the museum pieces and we enjoy relaxing into the laughter of Smoking Tires.
Our place in car culture is somewhere near the worn beauty of a perfectly designed, cherished tool—the quality of its design made unique by long, skilled use.