The New Car Scent

In 2007 I married my way into Volvo ownership. Our 1987 Volvo 240 might have been falling apart on the outside, but it had a strong heart, and bravely carried us over mountain passes, through winter storms, and proved to not shy away from -30 temperatures (even without a block heater).

Our Volvo wasn’t new, and far from shiny, but it was a solid, dependable vehicle, dents and all.

New and shiny

But don’t you also love new stuff? Isn’t the fresh car scent so appealing? Any marketing message would gladly have you believe that your old vehicle is far inferior to the new, shiny model.

I’m sure there were lots of reasons to leave our old Volvo for a newer vehicle long before we did.

The life-cycle for many products has only shortened, as new models of phones and fashion are released almost before you can walk out of the store with the previous “new” model.

Trying to keep up is exhausting.

Sometimes I wonder, if someone came up to you and showed you a shiny, polished iPhone 3GS (though so 2009), and maybe played you a fancy video filled with vignettes of the spotless production of this beautiful device, complete with Johnny Ives waxing poetic about the intricacies of the design, could you be convinced that an 8-year-old device was also new and shiny?

Is our discontent with what we have real, or do we only realize that what we have is old because there’s a shinier model to compare it to?

Making the old new again

I love looking at old ads, to see how we were talking about things that are now old back when they were new and shiny. Back when they too were full of hope and promise, their future stretching ahead of them like an open road. It’s helpful to see that things age, that the fresh car scent doesn’t last. Even the newest thing we’re excited about now will one day (soon) be dull and old.

Volvo’s ads from the 1980s are particularly clever (William has a great collection of them).

By comparing these ads to those products now, some still on the roads, others in scrap heaps, we can start to see the temporality of the fresh car scent. And maybe we can even be grateful for the things we have, on their paths from new and shiny to old and discarded.

And if you’re feeling discontent with what you have, it’s amazing what a good carwash some some “leather scent” spray will do to your perspective. 😉