In response to:
The American Way of Death from the April 28, 1966 issue
To the Editors:
I liked Lewis Mumford’s article in your April 28 issue, despite its sometimes hysterical tone. What, however, is this bit with the Volkswagen? I know that Mr. Mumford mentions the Volkswagen in a context of sensible styling versus neurotic styling; but to praise this particular car in any way in an article calling for safety in automotive engineering strikes me as a rather egregious blunder. After all, the interior of a VW is a notoriously unfortunate place to find yourself during a crash of any sort, and particularly during a head-on collision.
Another inconsistency appeared in Mr. Mumford’s diatribe against the lowered center of gravity featured in today’s cars. Although low cars do present problems in gymnastics, as Mr. Mumford explains, they also are more difficult to roll than the older, highercentered machines. The low center of gravity, after all, does give the car additional stability.
What bothers me most about the article is that Mr. Mumford seems to be indulging in too much gratuitous scapegoating. After all, the American public is getting what it wants in the way of automobiles; to expect the manufacturers to act paternalistically is absurd and deluded. Of course they’re greedy hogs. We all are. Isn’t the right to be a hog guaranteed by the Constitution? Isn’t it slightly totalitarian to foist safety on a masochistic public? If we’re going to indict, let’s indict ourselves. Mr. Mumford does this in his last paragraph, I know, but he certainly takes his time getting there.
By the way, I used to own a Volkswagen and I now drive a Corvair. Flirting with death adds that little extra zip to my daily commutation.
H. Dalton Foster
May 26, 1966