Category Archives: Automobiles


I need to say, at the outset, that I’m not a car person.  I don’t own a car; I don’t feel I need one to be complete as a man or as an American; I consider them a means of transportation and not a member of the family; and I certainly do not want, as one recent commercial would suggest, to have a relationship with a car that smolders for a long time (the relationship, not the car).

One of the more successful government programs to stimulate the economy has been a grant of up to $4500 to people turning in old cars, for the purpose of buying a more fuel-efficient new car.  I’m not sure how much it is actually stimulating the economy, but it’s making people feel better, and I’ll grant that that’s worth something.

I accept, on an intellectual level, that the cars turned in under this program should be disabled so that they (1) can’t be turned in again, and (2) won’t appear on the roads of America (or anyplace else).

But the method for disabling the cars upsets me on a visceral level.  The engine oil is replaced with a solution of sodium silicate (brand name: Castle Clunker Bomb) and the engine is run at moderate speed to grind itself to destruction.

I can understand why the bureaucrats came up with the method: it’s effective, relatively safe, requires little mechanical skill, and doesn’t depend on the configuration of the engine.  But I can imagine myself as a mechanic, after a lifetime of training and experience in keeping cars running smoothly, having to listen to the sound of the engine destroying itself.  I’d want to tell my boss to go to hell; I’d rather drill a hole in the engine block (one of the methods that was considered and rejected).

When we kill living things of necessity, we try to do it cleanly.  I said at the beginning of this entry that I’m not a car person.  But the thought of enlisting a machine in the cause of its own destruction really bothers me.

Is the Clunker Bomb a metaphor for our world, in which productivity is turned to destruction?   Is it that my mother told me to ‘waste not, want not,’ and the thought of destroying thousands of car engines seems spectacularly wasteful?

Or is it that a society that destroys its cars–almost as near and dear to our hearts as Americans as our family pets–in such a horrendous manner will one day devise a similar method to destroy its people?