Some of you remember the original VW Beetle. In terms of do-it-yourself service, in terms of an off-the-grid mentality, this car was a work of genius. Two of my housemates once changed a VW engine while it was parked at the curb. They called on me for the initial and final lifts, but most the most I just sat, watched, and learned. .
Here is a Chinese farm ‘truck’ designed in the same spirit. I met it in the Li River Valley of south China. The engine, the transmission, even the gas tank are mounted over the front wheel – not practical in our world of head-on crashes, but in rural China one’s more likely to run into water buffalo. Since these vehicles haul very heavy loads for their size, up to 1,000 pounds in the bed, the weight distribution of the loaded truck was not bad, with enough pull coming from that weighted front wheel to navigate dirt lanes and pot-holed highways. But the real beauty is reparability: no hood, no engine well, everything easily accessible. Need to change something under the engine – say, the main seal? No need to pull out the engine. In fact you could leave your motor at the repair shop, use a loaner, and come back the next morning for yours.
My car is so complex that I can’t repair anything. It has to be connected to a computer. It may be a work of genius, but it is a closed system. I have no idea how its systems work, and my relation to the Mechanic Muse is diminished.