Not sure if you should wear that Tommy Bahama shirt out tonight? The magnificent bastard is here to help. Go ahead. Ask away.
Dozens of readers have written in to ask what constitutes an MB car. We haven't answered any of them.
Here's Fussell's take.
The automobile, like the all-important domestic façade, is another mechanism for outdoor class display. Or class lack of display we'd have to say, if we focus on the usages of the upper class, who, on the principle of archaism, affect to regard the automobile as very nouveau and underplay it consistently. Class understatement describes the technique: if your money and freedom and carelessness of censure allow you to buy any kind of car, you provide yourself with the meanest and most common to indicate that you're not taking seriously so easily purchasable and thus vulgar a class totem. You have a Chevy, Ford, Plymouth, or Dodge, and in the least interesting style and color. It may be clean, although slightly dirty is best. But it should be boring. The next best thing is to have a "good" car, like a Jaguar or BMW, but to be sure it's old and beat-up. You may not have a Rolls, a Cadillac, or a Mercedes. Especially a Mercedes, a car, Joseph Epstein reports in The American Scholar (Winter 1981-82), which the intelligent young in West Germany regard, quite correctly, as "a sign of vulgarity, a car of the kind owned by Beverly Hills dentists or African cabinet ministers."
Q: My fiancée recently left me for various reasons. I think the main reason could be my recent car purchase. It's a 2003 Mini Cooper S. It's fun and quick and a great driver's car, but I've also had some other comments from people saying how 'super cute' and 'adorable' it is. I find it hard to believe a supercharged 6-speed car would be anything but MB. Also, don't feel bad about the ex-fiancée. Her mother ended up getting me those nice Fratelli Orsini gloves you recommended for Christmas. So I still feel like I came out ahead.
A: The good news is those gloves will last a lot longer than your marriage would have, if all it took your fiancée to dump you was your suspect taste in cars.
The bad news is, yes, we did just say "suspect." In our estimation, Mini Coopers are the automative equivalent of a hummingbird. Zippy, adorable, kind of annoying. We're not saying you should dump your car like your girlfriend dumped you -- love is blind, after all. But, no, the Mini Cooper -- no matter the number of speeds or supercharging -- is not on our list of favorite cars.
Q: First off, I'm a junior at Cornell University and have been using MB since my first year, and I love it. Second, I recently purchased a tailored dinner jacket from Indochino, and a tux shirt. I was wondering if you have any suggestions on studs for the shirt as I was hoping to get a look more similar to Daniel Craig as he wears only buttons, and I made the unfortunate mistake of ordering the studded tux shirt. Thanks so much for your time, I really appreciate it.
A: Seth, we're honored that an Ivy League lad like yourself would read state-school products like us (UW-Madison). Thanks. Anyhow, about your shirt dilemma, you could probably mitigate the error by buying a set of mother-of-pearl studs, but this is throwing good money after bad. We treat clothing purchasing mistakes much like former Packers GM Ron Wolf treated his draft choice mistakes: don't hope it will work out. Recognize your mistakes early, cut 'em, and move on.
So go ahead and put that Indochino shirt on the waiver wire. If you want a tuxedo shirt like Daniel Craig's Bond, we say get the tuxedo shirt worn by Daniel Craig's Bond. Contact Turnbull and Asser (email link) and have them make you one, either with the concealed front placket of Casino Royale or the full-button placket of Quantum of Solace (top). Yes, it will cost more than the Indochino equivalent, but it's surprisingly affordable and, far more importantly, you'll end up getting exactly what you want.
Speaking of mistakes and James Bond, on the heels of his 1964 Aston Martin DB5 selling for £2.6M ($4.13M), Christie's is auctioning James Bond's infamous Walther LP-53 air pistol, used to promote From Russia With Love (bottom), expected to go for the relative bargain of between $23K-$30K (in 2001 it sold for $20,437.41). When Bond's standard Walther PPK didn't show up for the From Russia With Love photo shoot, photographer David Hurn's air pistol was substituted. He said he'd airbrush out the long barrel to make it look like a PPK, but lied, and this ersatz weapon was used to promote several more Bond flicks.
In other words, Seth, don't feel so bad.
Q: Pardon me if this is out of your normal realm. But I am about to turn 17 and am in need of a car. I have it narrowed down to an '80s era BMW 325i convertible, or an '80s era Jaguar XJ6, and I just can't make up my mind. Please help.
A: Adam, you're new around here, aren't ya? This is a no-brainer, and not just because the Jaguar was made in England (see previous posts about Anglophilia). It's more obscure, consumes more gas, and will only run when the sun is fully shining. All the BMW has going for it is the convertible, which is only useful to achieve superbly artfully disheveled hair.
Q: I am going to be coming home after a year long deployment to Afghanistan later this year and I am planning on buying a vehicle and would like your thoughts. It's down to either a 2009 Triumph Bonneville or a 1970s International Harvester Scout II (with no top). Both of them have a senseless lack of utility because they aren't driveable in the rain and are also completely impractical. I think the Bonneville has a little more understatement going for it and Steve McQueen used to ride one, but the Scout is more exclusive because it's older and it has a much higher chance of constantly breaking down. What are your thoughts?
A: Blake, we have an unhealthy (and expensive) obsession with vintage International Harvester trucks -- we have one on the farm in Pulaski -- so it's an easy call. But even if we didn't we'd still vote IH because everything else being equal, vintage always trumps new.
Stay safe, brother.
Q: My wife says only girls and toolbags drive convertibles. I know you're not a car site, but you've commented on vehicular accessorization before. Convertibles seem impractical and can be exclusive. Does it depend where you live? We've been polling our friends and only my male friends that drive convertibles seem to disagree with my wife. Please advise.
A: Nicholas, this is most certainly not the first time, but your wife is wrong. Yeah, it's pretty easy to conclude "toolbag" when a moustachioed Guido is cruising chicks in a late-model Mustang with the top down. But what else is a convertible but the unstructured blazer of automobiles? As you suggest, they're impractical -- if you think cars are really just bulky umbrellas. But think of the possibilities. They let Mother Nature style your hair. They give you the opportunity to wear a cool cap. They serve as a rolling stage for your magnificence. Or to put it another way, your wife is going to have a hell of time explaining these guys away as chicks or toolbags:
Top: James Dean demonstrating confidence, artful dishevelment, and profoundly good layering technique in his 1954 356 Porsche Speedster.
Middle: Steve McQueen hopping into his 1956 Jaguar XKSS, with perfect cigarette dangling angle.
Bottom: Anyone can get chauffered in a limo, but it takes an MB to get chauffered in a convertible, like the Pope in this 2007 Mercedes-Benz G 500 Cabriolet.
Please accept my nomination for TOW (Toolbag of the Week). Kevin Jonas, of the Jonas Brothers tucked his jeans into his rather feminine looking boots AND is wearing a shawl collared sweater with ghastly patches, stripes and a soccer player design on the breast.
A: Matt, this may qualify as TOY (Toolbag of the Year). The worst part of this ensemble is the Lamborghini. It screams TTH. The principle of artful dishevelment extents to an MB's automobile. Kevin Jonas might've even made those boots work had he arrived in a rusty '81 Chevy Caprice.
(Again, someone please explain why we're wrong about pant tucking.)
Q: Forgive me if this question is outside the realm of the MB: What's the best method of automotive transportation for an MB? I get mixed signals in an age of "going green" and MB principles of exclusivity, understatement and bastardness. Something ostentatious like a Hummer is no doubt passé and a Prius is too ubiquitous and trendy. My main mode of transport is a 40 MPG, 1997 Honda Civic HX with 256,000 miles. It's a great car and has never broken down but I suspect it's neither magnificent or bastardly. Thoughts?
A: This question no doubt deserves full treatment in the form of an MB Scientific Chart, but we're currently all too drunk from free booze at several GOP Convention parties to put one together. In the meantime, your instincts on the Hummer and the Prius are right on, and you're obviously understanding core MB principles like exclusivity and understatement. But the '97 Civic violates another core principle: a senseless lack of utility. Your car doesn't break down enough. Sorry ... where were we? Tune in later for a chart.