The tricky question of adequacy

On Wednesday, A lapse of journalistic integrity on the part of a prestigious broadsheet newspaper led to a Tweet from the esteemed @TimDavies_UK:

Yeah, that’s right. The humble Casio F-91W. Quoth the Wiki: “Introduced in 1989, it is popular for its simplicity, reliability, and unpretentious clean design. As a result, it is still in production with the same design.” As an affordable timepiece, it’s pretty much beyond reproach, but as an object of desire, in a world obsessed with image, it barely registers a needle twitch on most people’s wantometer.

Let’s be honest, this endorsement from Mr. Davies and, if he’s right, the massed ranks of the RAF’s crack aviators seems pretty substantial. I’ll add my own seal of approval, too;  I’ve had a black Casio square on my wrist pretty much uninterruptedly for nigh-on 30 years. It’s cheap, unerringly accurate, classless and ought really be all the watch anybody ever needed.

Except it isn’t. Far from it.

We’re a fickle, wretched society. We get all turned on by miraculously complex yet entirely unnecessary mechanical movements. Cogs, gears and – in some cases – pulleys that are almost atomically tiny and precise. We love them and appreciate them for the delicateness of their assembly and the passion of their conception. And, of course, we dig their image and prestige. We’d all love a Breitling, a Breguet or a Patek Phillipe (even if we say we wouldn’t), but, if we knew what was good for us, nobody would need anything more than an F-91W on our forearm.

I got to asking myself, what is the F-91W of cars?

Let’s see if, between us, we can reach some kind of consensus. How much car do we truly need? Has the optimum amount of automobile ever been offered? Is it still available today? And, most importantly, would – or could – we really be content with it?

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40 responses to “The tricky question of adequacy”

  1. Wayne Moyer Avatar

    You can get them with a ton of miles for a relatively cheap price and they never die. I give you the eight gen Toyota Corolla. Specifically the 97-2000.

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/08/2001_Toyota_Corolla_S_in_silver_front.jpg

  2. Wayne Moyer Avatar

    You can get them cheap with a ton of miles on them and they just don’t die. The eight generations especially in the 97-2000 guise are hard to kill.

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/08/2001_Toyota_Corolla_S_in_silver_front.jpg

  3. Wayne Moyer Avatar

    You can get them with a ton of miles for a relatively cheap price and they never die. I give you the eight gen Toyota Corolla. Specifically the 97-2000.

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/08/2001_Toyota_Corolla_S_in_silver_front.jpg

  4. Wayne Moyer Avatar

    You can get them cheap with a ton of miles on them and they just don’t die. The eight generations especially in the 97-2000 guise are hard to kill.

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/08/2001_Toyota_Corolla_S_in_silver_front.jpg

  5. Sjalabais Avatar

    Long production run with few changes, cheap, and working well in its intended environment:
    https://i.ibb.co/XjJZ7CY/7dc332e28b6162a9aa90ab0d8b357e01.jpg
    This applies to a few other vehicles, too, and since I can’t always post the UAZ Buhanka, here’s another favourite:
    https://assets.catawiki.nl/assets/2018/12/13/c/1/4/c14163da-9bdb-4966-afdd-e03f06cd417f.jpg

    1. Wayne Moyer Avatar

      I was planning to post that originally and changed my mind because of parts cost.

    2. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      The Oxfordstan certainly has longevity on its side, but I’m not sure it fits the Casio ‘dependable’ brief. 244 is a far closer fit, with the added bonus of a decidedly old-money image.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        Fair point, the Ambassador is “the other reliable”, kind of like a Lada Nova/Riva: It might not be trouble-free, but it can be fixed with a hammer, spit, and some tape just about everywhere you might want to go. The Casio is reliable, proper.

    3. Zentropy Avatar

      I would agree on the Volvo 200 Series, except that I genuinely like them. I’m trying to think of something that would be functionally adequate, but not desirable. That 245 is cool as hell.

  6. Wayne Moyer Avatar

    The eight gen Corollas are hard to kill and cheap to get with a ton of miles on them. They are exactly what you are talking about. They are also impossible to link on here from Wiki as my deleted posts attest to 🙂
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/fcf4a9f2fa0a4d929db5a29626ac7aef7d75aa543df42c465176881966f4d840.jpg

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Good call.

    2. Maymar Avatar

      Most generations of Corolla are all the car anyone needs – the 10th generation’s only common defect was the digital odometer couldn’t tick over 299,999 units of distance, an issue many of them actually encountered. Adequately sized, cheap to run, and completely lacking in pretension.

    3. Zentropy Avatar

      I just… wouldn’t be able to do it. My car-guy soul would literally die on the spot.

    4. Rover 1 Avatar

      Or in NZ. My wagon was retired at 1 million Km after being rear ended and written off due to being worth so little. It still had the original clutch.
      What could replace that?
      https://old.com.au/wp-content/uploads/5317_13.jpg

  7. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

    The Ford Econoline (RIP) and the Chevy Express fit the bill, in production for ages, widely used and mostly fit for the purpose.
    Relating back to the watch topic, adequate and inexpensive is often the right answer. A $30 Jansport daypack with a lifetime warranty is a better choice for schoolbooks than a $150 Gregory and similarly $40 Carharts are a better investment than $200 Fjallravens for most jobs.

  8. danleym Avatar

    I have a 2000 Jetta TDI. It fits the “all that I need, nothing I don’t” bill nicely for me. Though there are a few weeks out of the year that it wont make it up my street because of snow. Then again maybe if I’d just put snow tires on it, it might work fine.

  9. mdharrell Avatar

    I, um… I carry a pocket watch.

    1. Zentropy Avatar

      Picture a reaction completely devoid of surprise. Except, I figured you might just reference a front-yard sun dial beside your front walk.

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        I suppose a sundial in Seattle would work about as reliably as most of my cars.

        1. Vairship Avatar

          So you use a raindial instead? “Hmm, 2 inches so far so it must be 8am.”

    2. outback_ute Avatar

      I’m guessing it is not a feature on your phone too…

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        My phone is of the land line variety. My pocket watch is this thing:

        https://live.staticflickr.com/7363/10559275384_56aa8926c8.jpg

        1. outback_ute Avatar

          When I had a land line it could tell you the time via a talking clock number, however that service was shut down a few months ago in Australia, even though it was still getting 2 million calls per annum. Wikipedia tells me a couple of US states still have it.

        2. outback_ute Avatar

          When I had a land line it could tell you the time via a talking clock number, however that service was shut down a few months ago in Australia, even though it was still getting 2 million calls per annum. Wikipedia tells me a couple of US states still have it.

  10. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    The original Beetle was the epitome of “everything you need, and nothing you don’t” in an automobile.

    As for something you can still buy new, anything from this list will get you to and from work just as effectively as an Escalade:
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f562d16412c34c89e97499d5f43668cc6f19bddc9934df72214e4a138a956660.jpg

    1. Vairship Avatar

      The original Beetle had fancy curved bodywork, though. How about this? Same era underpinnings, but body panels can be created with a saw: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/72/Africar_%286%29.jpg/1920px-Africar_%286%29.jpg

      By Buch-t – Own work, CC BY 3.0, Link

    1. Zentropy Avatar

      And, I just now noticed that smalleyxb122 said the same thing two hours earlier, but my picture-book ADHD brain didn’t spot the comment.

      +1, smalleyxb122!

  11. Scoutdude Avatar

    Hey I’ve got a watch from that family, doesn’t have the same face on its silver body, but definetly has the same non-movement as the buttons do the same things.

  12. salguod Avatar

    It’s hard to beat the Corolla already mentioned, or any base trim Toyota – Camry, Corolla or Tercel / Echo / Yaris.

    But here’s another from my own driveway. The final generation Mazda Protege is a great cheap, reliable car. I’ve owned 3 for my kids, the most expensive one was $2100, that white one was $1700 last June.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cc6a634bb33c70fd60e984a17f42b9ef13a31f87ebd3609093657dcc2b7897f4.jpg

    1. Tank Avatar

      I worked at a Mazda dealership during that era. They were great cars and SEVERELY underrated

    2. Tank Avatar

      I worked at a Mazda dealership during that era. They were great cars and SEVERELY underrated

  13. nanoop Avatar

    I’d expect a G-Shock or what Mr. Davies says in a combat scenario, not a precious, sensitive mechanical contraption that even has something called “complications”…

    I saw a Rolex ad recently, using the CERN as a backdrop for a watch they call “shielded” against magnetism. As if a PhD student (those do the work down there) would spend 9kUSD for a watch that doesn’t make sense at work because a) it would scrape the detector when working in/on it, b) no-one is allowed inside the tunnels when the crazy fields happen, and c) there are no specs wrt. actual flux resistance, so you don’t know what the alleged shielding is actually good for.

    The ETA2893-2 is a time-zone-indicating movement that has a lot of good features (hacking, hand-wind, chrono-specs), so that Breitling is something like a Toyota engine in a brand-priced device, with a dollop of “limited edition”. This makes the Breitling a…. Lexus Corolla?

    So what car is a somewhat nostalgic, formerly up-to-date but still perfectly fine and cheap car? The G-Class doesn’t work, it’s too expensive, as are Morgan’s products. The Jimny was updated recently, is the Lada Niva still in production? Mitsubishi Minicabs?

  14. kogashiwa Avatar

    Strong case to be made for the Nissan B13 Sentra/Tsuru.

    Everywhere else they were superseded by the next generation but Mexico said “no these are fine” and just kept building them, for what seemed like indefinitely.

    https://img.favcars.com/nissan/sentra/nissan_sentra_1991_images_3.jpg

  15. Wayward David Avatar

    Ford Falcons were everywhere (in the USA mainly, but also Australia and Argentina) back in the 1960s because they met the needs of so many people. Cheap to buy, roomy, comfortable, reliable, inexpensive to run and maintain. I remember family gatherings where there would be 4 or 5 of these parked in the driveway and in front of our house. And they just ran and ran…

  16. nanoop Avatar

    I’d expect a G-Shock or what Mr. Davies says in a combat scenario, not a precious, sensitive mechanical contraption that even has something called “complications”…

    I saw a Rolex ad recently, using the CERN as a backdrop for a watch they call “shielded” against magnetism. As if a PhD student (those do the work down there) would spend 9kUSD for a watch that doesn’t make sense at work because a) it would scrape the detector when working in/on it, b) no-one is allowed inside the tunnels when the crazy fields happen, and c) there are no specs wrt. actual flux resistance, so you don’t know what the alleged shielding is actually good for.

    The ETA2893-2 is a time-zone-indicating movement that has a lot of good features (hacking, hand-wind, chrono-specs), so that Breitling is something like a Toyota engine in a brand-priced device, with a dollop of “limited edition”. This makes the Breitling a…. Lexus Corolla Beige Edition?

    So what car is a somewhat nostalgic, formerly up-to-date but still perfectly fine and cheap car? The G-Class doesn’t work, it’s too expensive, as are Morgan’s products. The Jimny was updated recently, is the Lada Niva still in production? Mitsubishi Minicabs?
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/49/Mitsubishi_Minicab_009.JPG/220px-Mitsubishi_Minicab_009.JPG

  17. crank_case Avatar

    There can be no direct analog of the Casio in the car world because watches don’t need to meet safety and emissions regulations. Even long running models have usually had substantial revisions over the years, even to meet 3rd world standards (e.g. the Ambassador swithced to Isuzu engines), but in terms of “no-more car than you need”, not so much an individual car, but an entire class is the embodiement – Kei cars.

    You can have sports cars and serious off roaders, you can have vehicles that can carry up to six adults, or some bicycles, or a domestic appliance, which is more than a lot of supposedly functional cars can do. Do you really need anything more than a 660cc turbo and 3.4×1.48 metres of road space?

    Like the Casio, they are well engineered, functional, reliable and require no real sacrifice, unlike some 40/50 year old designs that have managed to just about hang on.

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b2/Daihatsu_Hijet-Cargo_Cruse_S331V.JPG/2880px-Daihatsu_Hijet-Cargo_Cruse_S331V.JPG

  18. 0A5599 Avatar

    The A-body Dodge Dart. Cheap car, but versatile.
    With the Slant 6 under the hood, it would run forever. With the 426 under the hood, it would run 10’s.
    https://www.hamtramck-historical.com/images/vintage-advertising/71_dodge_dart_swinger.jpg

  19. Troggy Avatar

    The Casio weighs almost nothing at all, which I am thinking might be a factor to consider when G-forces start to rise.

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