I LOVE CARS — The Greatest Invention of Mankind - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
I LOVE CARS — The Greatest Invention of Mankind

So… It is a beautiful, spectacular day here in Los Angeles. I am sitting at my desk and looking out at the swimming pool and I am thinking a DEEP THOUGHT:


I don’t just like cars. I don’t just think it’s good to have a car. I LOVE CARS. And I include trucks there, too, of course. I LOVE CARS!!!!

The car is the greatest invention of mankind. The car is what makes all of the difference in life.

Before the car, man was pretty much just an insect. He burrowed and crept along the ground. He moved very slowly. He was subject to the cold and the heat and the rain and the snow and the sleet. He was pitiful. Even once he had the horse, he was still outside. He was still going to get pneumonia and die if he rode around in the winter. He was going to get soaked if he rode in the rain.

Even if he or she were an Emperor or an Empress like Napoleon or the Tsar or Queen Victoria, he was going to have a miserable bumpy ride in a carriage, lurching back and forth, getting miserable and nauseated and still sweltering in the heat and freezing in the cold.

Man has existed in roughly current form for 50,000 years — which is how long it seems to take to get any help from your cable company. But for all but the last roughly 115 years of that time, man was a pitiful, vulnerable creature, not much different in 1860 from what he or she was in 50,000 BC.

What changed it? Well, air conditioning is bliss. The Internet is nice. I happen to love TV and movies. I love vaccines. I love anesthesia.

But what really made all of the difference in human life was the car.

With the car, man was transformed from a worm to a god. With a car, man has superhuman strength. With a car, man can go every day at speeds that would have been incredible even when my grandfather was born.

With a car, we have immunity from the elements. You can drive to Rancho Mirage when it’s 115 degrees outside and in your car, you can be cool and hear great music or Sirius XM broadcasting from London. With a car, my son and I could go up on high mountains in North Idaho to snowboard — he did the snowboarding, I drank hot chocolate–and it would be minus 10 degrees and snow would be falling. And I was as comfortable as if I had been in Newport Beach at the Balboa Bay Club on a fall day.

With a car, I can go through any kind of weather and be comfortable. I can hear great oldies from 1955 and I am in total comfort.

Julius Caesar never had anything this good. Not even close. The emperors of China had hundreds of concubines, which sounds good when you’re young — but he never had anything like the luxury of a car. The car is what makes a man or a woman divine.

And for pennies. You can get a perfectly great car, air conditioning, power steering, great stereo, back view camera, for a few bucks a day. This is incredible.

For the daily price of a Starbucks latte, you can have a machine that transforms you from a mortal to a god.

And modern cars are so incredibly great and reliable: they just don’t break unless you take a crowbar to them. They last and last and service is cheap and often under warranty.

Plus, a car — or a truck — tells the world who you are and what your image is of yourself.

When I first moved to California, I had just come from working as a columnist at the Wall Street Journal in New York. It was a great job. But I took the darned subway everywhere. It was hot and crowded and got stuck when my stomach was upset.

Then I moved to California and I went in to buy a Mercedes 450 SLC. Coolest car on the planet in 1976. And when I hesitated at the price, the salesman, a genius, asked me, “What’s the matter? Don’t you believe in your own future?” Sold! I bought it.

Yes! I did, and girls loved that car. They loved me, a big Republican goofball, and thought I was cool because of a car! Yes, you can get more sex with a cool car.

I mean it: Don’t let anyone ever tell you that a car means nothing to the opposite sex. Or the same sex.

When I was 27 years old, in 1972, and a miserably unhappy trial lawyer in D.C., I summoned up my courage and went down to rural Virginia and bought an extravagantly souped up, fire engine red Corvette. 1962. The best-looking car mankind has ever made. It cost me 1,800 dollars. It was worth 18 million dollars.

I felt like a new person in that car. A cool, powerful person. That car could go 150. It caught rubber at 120 shifting into fourth gear. That’s how much torque it had.

Little Red Corvette. Baby you’re much too fast. Girls — yes, girls, not women — loved me in that car and ignored me without it. I mean they loved me.

Sold. I loved that car and I should never have sold it. I felt the best in that car I ever felt.

I have had many cool cars since then: many Benzes. Two Porsches. Many super-powerful Caddies. I LOVE THEM ALL and think of them the way I think about old girlfriends. With love and longing. 

When I have had a bad day, a sweltering, miserable hot day, I slide behind the wheel of my super-charged Cad STS-V. I turn it on. I put on the AC. I put it on XM radio. And I am no longer mortal Ben Stein dreaming of Richard Nixon. I am an immortal deity. That’s what I am.

When I am ill with a cold or a flu, I actually feel a lot better in that car, inside that steel and chrome and glass armor with my negatively charged ions of air-conditioned air blowing on my face than I do in bed. I feel stronger, calmer, more prepared once I have that car around me. I feel better taking a ride in my car than I do in taking any medicine and I feel good right now just writing about it.

And buying a car has gotten to be so easy. No more guessing at the price. No more haggling. No more going back and forth between dealers beating them down to a lower price. You look up the price online and that’s the price. You get a great warranty. You get a smile when you bring in the car for routine service.

If America is a banana republic, what is the banana? The car and wow, those are some big, round juicy bananas.

The car. The truck. The greatest inventions of man’s history. They make mortals into Greek gods.

Ben Stein
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Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes “Ben Stein’s Diary” for every issue of The American Spectator.
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