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Sophisticated Side

6 August 2002

By David Rubie

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Have you ever bought a car that had structural damage due to speaker installation? There's a breed of criminal out there, equipped with a portable grinder and a selection of stupidly deep speakers who will happily cut chunks out of a car to fit them. I'm sure we've all seen the results. Big chunks of the bottom of a door removed to fit a $50 6x9 inch speaker, a huge jagged hole in the steel covered up by the plastic grille. Perhaps the same tools taken to the entire parcel shelf of a sedan to fit five dollars worth of timber and a random selection of cheap speakers with all the sound quality of Rolf Harris' wobble board.

Normally, it wouldn't bother me. I think the car subwoofer was invented to warn normal humans of the impending arrival of a complete idiot, to give us a chance to get out of the way. It's really a very clever invention, being self-activating in that way. In fact, it didn't bother me until I had to put back some of the steel that one of these idiots took away. Friends don't let friends cut cars up. Especially cars I like. Nineteen-eighties VL Holden Commodores are hereby decreed as fair game, but please, please don't let any more idiots get hold of the original Honda CRX.

Next criminal on the hit list is Gimmick Guy and Gimmick Girl. Gimmick buys trinkets, useless gauges and baubles and destroys interiors in order to fit them. Gimmick man, if you're out there reading this, let it be known that Super Glue is not appropriate for car interior decoration. I don't care how many Smurfs you collected in 1980, do not glue the entire tribe to your dashboard. It's over. Do not stage a Pokemon versus Smurf war across the rear parcel shelf either. Don't hang your wife's garter from the rear view mirror. Think twice before buying that putrid car air freshener doodad that smells like your uncles armpits.

You do not need a change-up flashing light and buzzer in a 1982 Toyota Corolla, unless you set the thing to 4500rpm it will never go off. Surely the scary thrashing noises from the engine bay are enough! For that matter, LED based, home-made kit tachometers aren't accurate enough to use for anything other than declaring your geekdom to the world. They are on the same social rung as graphic equaliser stereos with 'visual sound displays'. I am ambivalent about neon lights fitted externally, as they serve the same purpose as sub woofers for the hearing impaired, signalling the arrival of an idiot. If you have to fit that stuff, try to keep the inevitably poorly drilled mounting holes out of worthwhile vehicles. VL Commodores were made for this kind of stuff.

And as for sign-written "For Sale" guy, the car vigilantes are coming after you. "For Sale" across the back window in large, white laser-cut letters almost always signifies that the car in question is NOT for sale. The sign advertises the mistaken idea that the owner thinks his ride is SO cool that everybody wants to immediately dial the mobile number and talk to him about the car. If you ever try phoning sign-written "For Sale" guy, he will almost invariably tell you three times during the conversation what he thinks it's worth. Maaate...

As if a window tint, a set of cheap wheels and budget wide tires will double the value of the car. Add another $500 if his neighbour/brother/cousin, while fitting the new speakers, took the grinder to the springs. While this particular breed of car criminal doesn't do any lasting damage (unless you count limousine tints that are impossible to remove without destroying the rear defroster circuit), he annoys me mightily.

The in-car smokers of the world better hope that cancer gets them before I do. Smokers get picked on an awful lot today for very good reason. It's a vile, dirty, lazy, ugly habit that leaves a stinking, messy trail across every surface. Besides the lazy buggers flicking the butts out the window, emptying ashtrays at the lights and leaving an ugly yellow stain on the steering wheel and main controls, the smell is almost impossible to eradicate. It infiltrates the headlining, creeps into the fibres of the carpet and will never be entirely removed. The ash drifts around under the dashboard and settles on the wires and every other surface. Every time you turn on the heater fan, a gust of Marlboro will be fan forced out of the vents.

The previous owners of both of my old dunger vehicles are very lucky they didn't set fire to themselves: I've found cigarette butts in the carpet where they've escaped an overfull ashtray, the burnt underlay fibres next to them indicating a couple of very lucky people. I'd like to take my stinking fingers from working under the dashboard and stuff them right up their nostrils. It wouldn't do any good though, the dirty beggars couldn't smell it anyhow.

Last on my list is the phantom re-wirer. The Phantom, as I like to call him, has no need of wiring diagrams and can ruin your electricals with five minutes, a pocket knife and a roll of black electrical tape. There's a good reason black electrical tape is used sparingly by professionals: the adhesive doesn't last very long. It eventually turns into a sticky mess. The Phantom doesn't care. The dodgier the connection, the more tape he uses. He isn't satisfied until there's a knob of tape the size of his head decorating the wiring loom.

He's also an expert at adding car stereos by baring two pieces of wire and twisting them together. Why bother with soldering irons or crimp connectors when you can just twist that stuff together? For that matter, who cares what colour wire you use? "What have I got in the junk pile here?", says the Phantom, before happily wiring a hot circuit with a piece of ancient black wire he retrieved from a 1965 Volkswagen. "Where can I get power from?", asks the Phantom. Right from the battery is the answer, so he runs six metres of (black, inevitably) wire around the engine bay.

If you have committed any of the crimes listed above, please put your car keys and registration in a big envelope and send them to AutoSpeed with details of your actions. Both will be returned to you after an appropriate period of penance. The staff promises to regularly exercise your vehicle, unless it's covered in Smurf plague. In that case, just burn it with a misplaced cigarette butt. The rest of you, please take a minute to think about the next poor owner of your beloved chariot before firing up your grinders!

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