Ruth Brandon: Just fill her up to defy global ageing process

Will people buy this stuff? Of course. Do women think they can look like Claudia Schiffer? Absolutely

Los Alamos brought you plutonium; now, here are a range of new transuranics - Boswelox, Retin-Ox, etc - that will magically iron out your wrinkles (though not quite so finally, let us hope, as plutonium would). And now, the oil companies are jumping on to the bandwagon. Total has been festooning its garages with welcome banners for a brand new compound of its own: Excellium. Naturally, however, this wonder product is available only in its pricier products - unleaded 98, premium diesel. Even though fuel is getting dearer all the time, who is going to begrudge a few extra pennies if the result is eternal automotive youth?

Excellium is clearly versatile stuff. In April 2004, it came to the attention of America's Food and Drug Administration. Excellium capsules were being purveyed as a dietary supplement, particularly efficacious, it was claimed, in cases of gout, diabetes and psoriasis. The FDA, however, was not convinced, and had them taken off the market. Cars, however, have different needs (though many, including some I've possessed, look distinctly psoriatic). What will an Excellium supplement do for the wheels in your garage?

Always eager to deprive the oil companies of profits in any small way I can, I generally stick to the basic unleaded 95. But this time, the desire to experience the latest in automotive excellence on behalf of The Independent overcame principle, and I treated myself to a tankful of Excellium. And what do you know? The car goes along. Excellient! On the other hand, the ordinary stuff I've used till now also has that very same effect...

Pseudoscience - who can resist it? It has been invoked to substantiate the incredible ever since the first spiritualist mediums submitted themselves to eager physicists desperate to prove, in the post-Darwinian religious void, that life after death could be scientifically attested. Everyone knew that the spirit manifestations were conjuring tricks, just as everyone knows that, once the wrinkles start to appear, no cream on earth is going to make them go away. But they didn't want to believe it, just as no woman wants to believe that she really won't ever look young again. So spiritualism and beauty creams flourished (and flourish).

Excellium, too, tells us what we want to hear. Everyone knows that driving pollutes the atmosphere and hastens global warming, that maintaining your car is horrendously expensive, and that the upward impetus of oil prices, which so-called "oil analysts" persist in referring to as a "spike", is in fact just the beginning of the biggest shock that the global economy will experience in our lifetimes. The trouble is, nobody wants to stop driving, or could, even if they did want to. So fill up with Excellium, and lighten your heart! You're not just driving - you're actually cleaning up the atmosphere! And getting more miles out of a tankful (though, maybe, if you count up the extra pennies, it's not quite as economic as all that), and getting your car serviced as you drive along!

Will people buy this stuff and other "premium" fuels? Of course they will. When the spirit mediums confessed that it was all trickery, who wanted to believe them? Nobody! When women look at pictures of Claudia Schiffer, do they really believe that Boswelox or Retin-Ox will make them, too, look like that? Absolutely!

And do drivers want to hear about a miracle substance that will remove all sense of unease from driving more and further than ever before, in the face of impending global disaster and probable bankruptcy? You bet they do.

I'm thinking of launching a new brand of motor oil. It's going to be called "Snake".

motoring@independent.co.uk

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