1960 SUMA M311 SELECTA
“Oh, I hate all the unnecessary shit in the cars of today. Why can’t we just have a normal car, that does car things? I don’t want smartphone connectivity! I don’t want touch screens! I just want low weight and a stickshift!”
Guess what? Here is the car for you. The 1960 SUMA M311 Selecta.
If minimalism had been modern in 1960, the SUMA selecta would have been the pinnacle of chic four-wheeled accessories. Even the door handles are made of stamped sheet metal, the plastic steering wheel is only round and exists and the rubber floor mats didn’t even cover the transmission tunnel. Unfortunately, in that space age era of excess, you could not be any less hip than if you spent your money on a SUMA Selecta, which more or less made a Saarland Adjunkt look like a status symbol.
Yet at a first glance the Selecta actually seems stylish. The lines are very clean and contemporary, and if it wasn’t for the lack of size it could pass as an US compact car of the era, at a first glance then of course. You remember how christmas could be when you were a child, right? You had that toy on your wishlist, and then your aunt gave you one, at least she thought so. But when you unwrapped the package, you saw a box that resembled what you wanted, but very much simplified, and with a much more generic name. Forget He-Man, this is “Mr. Superhero”. The Taiwanese piece of cheap plastic hopefully broke within a few days of use. If not, your friends saw a chance to bully you because you had a cheap replica. I mean, that’s after all kind of socially acceptable, even for the nice kids, right?
And within there lies the problem. Because only three years later, the car that killed all kind of street cred the SUMA ever had, and it wasn’t much to start with, arrived on the market. Enter the Mara Irena!
Was the Mara Irena superior to the SUMA? Well, it kind of was, but with three years of advantage it really should have been. But the Mara was the car that finally achieved what other cars had tried to do for ages. It was the ultra low budget car that was socially acceptable. And yes, it should be said that the Mara like few other cheap cars managed to be a great allrounder without any major drawback that spoiled all its good traits, but it wasn’t like if the Mara was perfect or something. For the purchase price a Mara, or for that matter SUMA had, you had to accept some trade-offs.
But it still didn’t matter. You could tell people that you drove a Mara Irena, it was even seen as an intelligent choice if your friends were the right kind of people, which once again proves that peer pressure is more important to people than anything. It achieved status in its own anti-status kind of way. But the SUMA…despite not being THAT much worse, was now an also-ran. As were many other cheap cars of the era of course. On the other hand many of them are even more forgotten than the SUMA nowadays.
And yet, here it stands. A 1960 SUMA, restored to top notch condition. Cars like this simply should not exist nowadays, but it doesn’t care, and neither does its owner. He could have chosen to restore a Wolfe, a Zephorus, a Wraith…but no, here stands the SUMA. And considering how rare the survivors are he should be seen as the hero. But he is not. Million dollar restorations of muscle cars are still filling up the pages of car magazines, but where do you find the SUMAs there? Looking for them in magazines is more or less the equivalent to having to find an usable email address at a company’s web page when you have a complaint to make. Yeah, there IS a slight chance that you might find it, but it is simply not worth it, and you end up valuing your mental health more than whatever the benefit would be of finding what you were looking for, and thus, you give up.
But here in the wild, we have the 1960 SUMA Selecta. We now have the chance to once again remember, being a cheapskate at the time before the Cuban crisis, what was it really like?
Well, to start with, for a small dog you will probably not need to open the door, since the panel gaps will be large enough for it to get through. I am pretty sure that wasn’t an intended function, but that’s still how it is. Seated inside, the SUMA is a symphony of pure….existance. You can’t even laugh at how bad it is, because it’s not really that bad either. Sure, the tyres are only 125 mm wide and offers the same friction as cottage cheese, the engine has a power band of 1000 RPM from when it starts to lose all of its grunt until it redlines, when all it does is scream “don’t kill me!”, and sure, it feels rather hopeless today, but so do every economy car from 1960. Seen as a product of its time it is just the definition of average, and mocking what’s average is for the most part just to put yourself on a too tall horse.
But since average yesterday is subpar today and most people will find it hard to find any emotional connections to the SUMA, what is the reason for one to exist today? I mean, without at least SOME love, a car would not have an easy time surviving for over sixty years. Unfortunately, we have to dig deep into the dark areas of the vintage car crowd to find an answer this time. And no, I am not going to make this into some kind of hipster bashing, because that would be way too easy. But we are once again touching the topic of peer pressure. We are talking about the people dressing up to resemble people that are in some cases still alive. But the real versions of what those 25 year olds are trying to aspire to is driving fairly new korean shitboxes in white at 20 km/h below the speed limit. That’s something the wannabes would never be caught dead in. Neither would they be caught dead in a muscle car or some other vintage vehicle that people actually like. But on the other hand, a totally forgotten shitbox would not make it either, because it is all about making a statement, and to impress the right people with the statement you’re making, you have to buy something that they approve of. How are they supposed to approve a car they didn’t even know existed? Enter the SUMA Selecta. People remember it and most people remember it as a car giving no status at all. It has finally reached the sweet spot that the Mara robbed it from once upon a time.
So, sorry mr. Tweed cap, you’re not as edgy as you think, and neither is your car. But you are probably already on your way to the next popular antistatus symbol, so it is probably doubtful if you care anyway.
Thanks to @Banana_Soule for the car!