28 January 2011

Eleven in '11 ... No. 4 (cars)

No. 4.

Some say it's a guy thing, cars.  Probably is.  Maybe not, though.  Speaking in generalities, men view cars as an end-all-be-all commodity, whereas women see them simply as a means to an end.  One is pragmatic; the other is a healthy, red-blooded Americana lusting of Detroit, Teutonic, or Italian steel.  (Btw, it's not that women don't lust, of course they do.  It's just that they don't usually lust after things made of steel. Men, good criminy, don't get me started on what men will lust after.)

When we were young, many of my XY chromosomal brethren would drive muscle cars that matched toned, chiseled physique, filled with loud, lousy music and women we surely didn't deserve.  In middle-age with some hearing loss -- divorced from those women who were now with men they deserved --some of us attempt to project a sense of fitness and virility with the cars we drive (since chances are, we are no longer either).  Sleek Italian lines hide an unhealthy paunch and double-chin (well, the turtleneck sweater also helps with the chin), and German bravura performance under the hood (or bonnet as those lovely Brits say) supplements our wayward testosterone who went out on a beer run in our late-30's but never came back.

Or perhaps we rock a car that shouts a little too loudly (and tries a little too hard) a wry, eco-sophistication with us wearing horn-rimmed spectacles and tree-huggin' green cape waving gallantly behind our rotund backsides as we, in our Captain Endeavor tights, try to -- say it with me -- "Save the planet!"  Okay, sure, we occasionally and lamely drive something that bellows a "Why yes, my car does cost more than your home" hubris.  And, when old, the typical American male drives the big-bumpered four-door sedan that backs into every car, thing or person in the parking lot with an I-don't-give-a-Depends adult diaper insouciance -- and don't forget the car trunk, big enough to carry golf clubs, two cases of Ensure, and our second wife's wheelchair.

To borrow a line from James Brown, the male's obdurate lust for cars might be "a man's world, but it would be nothing without a woman or a girl."  Lest I be accused of being a sexist pig (J'accuse! FatScribe, J'accuse!), women love their rides as well, as many of you, Dear Reader, have attested to over the last couple of years in this space.  Los Angeles is the car capitol of the world.  I regularly see Bugattis and Porsche GT's and Lamborghinis which cost in excess of a $1,000,000, $500,000 and $350,000 respectively, being driven by those of the fairer sex (J'accuse, encore! FatScribe!).

Many are the magnificent days when I have ogled, er, appreciated the beautiful, confident starlet in her convertible Porsche (Heather Locklear), or her economy friendly ride (Holly Robinson [before the] Peete) or proudly valeting her eco-warrior white Toyota (TV's Donna Mills when she and I were at MGM at the old campus in Santa Monica).  And, we have all been equally horrified at the horrific horror befalling us L.A. drivers as Paris, and Britney and Halle made their collective and curvaceous ways from Malibu to Beverly Hills leaving collisions, lovers (male and female), and empty retail stores in their wake (nod to TMZ for their photographic and video inculpatory evidence submitted to the court of pubic opinion nightly).
Submitted (infra) for your perusal (and input!), a collection of a half-dozen iconic cars that FatScribe would have little trouble adopting any one (or all) as his own.  Here are my choices for:
  • Best Urban Transpo
  • The People Mover
  • The Foul Weather Friend
  • The American
  • The Classic
  • The Guilty Pleasure
  • Epilogue: The FatMobile

Best Urban Transpo: Mini Cooper (convertible, shown atop the page)
Fiat's Urban Transpo U.S. Entry
City cars are de rigueur throughout Europe and much of Asia.  Streets are narrow, gasoline is hugely expensive, and the thought of a big American-type car with lots of steel wrapped around to protect you and your brood seems gauche to a European sensibility.  However, the US is rapidly adapting to these diminutive pocket rockets.  The classic Mini Cooper, replete in rag top is my choice (why not throw a Union Jack on the roof for a sense of occasion for the hardtop), and don't forget the old-is-new-again Fiat500 hits the states this year thanks to a new CEO installed at Chrysler who (what a coinkidink!) just happens to be the CEO also at Fiat, the Italian Barron of Business, Signore Sergio Marchionne.

There are also offerings from Aston Martin, Mercedes, the Americans, and every Japanese company in this category of small and snappy sub-compacts.  What about your choice for urban transpo car?

The People Mover: Porsche Panamera
Four Door Sports Car?
Sorry, but I love this German sedan sports car.  Every design sensitive fiber in my body screams, "Look at the schnoz, Jg.!  It's huge, humongous, like having a really bad nose day!"  I know all that (you alliterative jerk, Jg.), but I can't help myself.  It calls to me, beckons me with its 0-60 times of near 4 seconds, and its limo-like room in the back, forward thinking front and rear cabins and top speed over 160mph. The Volkswagen Beetle might have been designed as the people's car, but this people mover is the upwardly mobile people's car, and it captures my attention in the worst way whenever I see them on the road in front of me, gobbling up corner after corner in the canyon. If four of you are going to Saturday soccer games, or to the Opera, or to the Academy Awards, you couldn't arrive in anything more perfect.  As U2 said, Achtung, baby! 

Runner up for my people mover?  The Maserati Quattroporte.

The Foul Weather Friend: Range Rover Supercharged  
Best British Babysitter on Wheels
This bad boy chews up the scenery like some ham-fisted, over-paid actor who know he's "all that and a bag of salt-n-vinegar chips" (sorry for the odd American FatScribe idiom).  If I found myself in D.C. or NY or some other two-initial city under 18" of fresh winter snow, I'd have to choose this ride to take me and my kids out of the city and down to their favorite uncle's home in temperate S.D. (San Diego). To choose a back-up SUV or CUV (crossover ute) in this category, the Porsche Cayenne or the Lincoln MKX would suffice nicely.  

If you had to choose a vehicle that you felt protected your brood the best, let us all know what it would be ... can't wait to read your choices.

The American: Chrysler 300
Chrysler300 -- 5 mins. from Neptune's Net!
I have given myself the luxury of adding this category because the parvenu Americans have truly turned around their car building prowess: from design to craftsmanship, from sales to resale value. True car-loving aficionados have been aware of this development the past five years.  Really quite a nice development for a homer (I said "homer") like yours truly.  I love when the home team does well, and I don't mind saying that even though I love the Italians and Brits and Germans as well.  But, when the US auto companies do well, it means more cars sold in China (where now, GM sells more cars than here in the US) and abroad and better days for average Americans and their companies, and we all benefit down the line.
Rolls Royce looking in rear view mirror for upstart Americans!
There are quite a lot of lovely American cars to choose from here (Corvette, Taurus, F150, MKX), but I nominate the Bentley and Rolls Royce killer, the businessman's Chrysler 300.  Can you tell the difference between the two photographs above? One features a car that will cost about $250,000 more than the other, but it does have a set of snooty rear doors that open back-asswards.

Sidebar: the Chrysler above is pictured about 5 mins from a favorite place that my kids and family and friends love to eat at on PCH, Neptune's Net.  Decent food, and great location.  My nephew was recently in a surf competition across the street last weekend (sorry to rub it in, East Coast!).

Do you dare, Dear Reader, to nominate any Americans here? C'mon, I double-dog dare you!

The Classic: 1951 Ford Pickup
Classic Ford Pickup
There are some things that don't seem to tarnish with age, in fact, they appear to improve with time.  Off the top of my head: Sophia Loren, your first kiss, and classic pickup trucks.  Now if all three were rolled into one lovely night in 1964, you'd be one heck of a lucky man indeed.  'Nuff said, n'est pas?

The Guilty Pleasure:  Hyundai Genesis
Hyundai Genesis Sedan 
Here is a car (sedan and coupe) that, pound for British pound, dollar for American dollar, kicks the competition's tuchas.  I love that this car can rock the worlds of both Lexus and Mercedes in the class they have traditionally owned like two stuffy-shirted bankers who don't like to share their good fortune with the rest of the class.  Hyundai has gone from perennial joke to the auto manufacturer with strongest growth of sales in the North American market, winning even insurance industry awards for safest in class.  This car is luxurious, fast, and yes, it can even hand the Chrysler 300 its lunch as well. There is an after-market rear nameplate that can replace the Hyundai "H" with a very cool, Aston Martin-like wing badge.  Most of Genesis drivers in L.A. choose this option.  Like I said, a guilty pleasure.  We Angelino's are a shameful lot.

Up next?
No. 5
the grand gesture.

The FatMobile: Lincoln MKX
Epilogue: The Lincoln MKX (FatMobile)

Shelley from Shelley's House thought this piece might be about the cars I've owned before.  Hmm, I'm not really the Willie Nelson/Julio Iglesias sort of guy to peck out some sad/fond/cocksure prose about cars I've loved, mistreated, and left, literally, in a field before. (this needs some clarification: there was a very admirable family car -- not really mine, but the story's worth the telling -- a Fiat Sport 124 coupe, that my brothers used a tractor to bury on the large ranch of Buddy Ebsen. Still there to this day. Great car.)  That would be a terrific idea if I had actually owned any decent cars, but someday I might write about them, Ms. Shelley, but I'd really like to read your post on the subject.  Here though, is my car (supra) and its quick story.  

It was a God thing (literally) when I bought it a couple of years ago.  It has been bullet-proof in its delivery of performance and protection for my two sons.  It's all-wheel drive, and has been to Mammoth (Sierra Nevadas) and San Diego, carrying snowboards, surfboards, skateboards and two boys with their personal gameplayers, music devices, novels, In-n-Out grub-fest and movie-playing laptops.  Plus, it does really look great at night, all shiny with its LED rear panel and very nice, toothy grill upfront (notice, I didn't say toothy girl).  It's certainly not my dream car, but I'm so thankful to have it.


Julia Christie said...

Ahhhh Boys and their toys :-)

Char said...

yes, i think it is a guy thing - i will probably drive my jeep into the ground just like i did my toyota. :)

Sandy K. said...

I absolutely loved stopping by tonight, where I can choose the Land Rover for myself, and the 1951 Ford truck for my husband. Of course, he'll join me on my adventures in the Landrover, but we'll love composing that classic Christmas card photo with a full spruce in the back of the truck as we load it in the snow, dressed in our red parkas, scarves gently flapping in the breeze. BUT, my secret life has a silver Mercedes parked on the gravel drive outside my English country estate. Thanks for the dream time:)

Toad said...

How about a series 1 or 2 Diesel Land Rover maybe with the safari top. Work for almost all the categories. Perhaps a bit agricultural, but stylish as all get out.

Then you'd need a Morgan or Lotus Elite in the garage, just in case.

Kathy said...

JG...You might be a little envious when I tell you that I had a Defender for brief period (yes, about 3 miles per gallon!)..I've always been a Land Rover girl, but alas, my guilty liberal conscience won out two years ago resulting in the purchase of a Prius. Don't worry, I'm not one of those eco-smug owners driving around scolding land yacht captains. I just get to drive in the "special lane" 24/7 because of my "special "plates.
If I win the lottery...that truck is mine (major truck crush since Timmy and Lassie)...have a great weekend...k

Shelley said...

Funny, when I saw the title 'cars' I thought you'd be writing from a different angle, but then I realised this angle is probably unique to me or perhaps a 'girl thing'. The cars I love are the ones I've owned - or that friends have owned - not the coolest thing on the market. That said, when I was younger I did drool over a few metal beasts, so maybe my perspective is an 'age thing' as well. Must write about 'cars I've loved' one day.

Jg. for FatScribe said...

Julia and Char -- totally agreed, it is about boys and their toys (to some extent). but, driving your car (weather a Toyota or a Land Rover or a Rolls) into the ground reveals character, IMHO. My mom drove her mercedes for almost 150k miles and then gave it to one of my brothers who is still driving it 300k miles later (a classic baby blue convertible 500sl)

Jg. for FatScribe said...

Sandy, Toad and Kathy -- yes, envious of all of you re: your land rovers, and your agrarian, bucolic settings. if the prince of wales (and his dad, former prince of greece) can drive the same land rover for decades with panache, why not us Yanks?

Thanks for the conversation about these 4-wheeled inanimate objects that somehow become protectors of kids and pets, bestowed with nicknames, lovingly washed each weekend.

Jg. for FatScribe said...

Shelley -- wrote an epilogue based upon your comment (never done that before), in keeping with my hope that this Eleven in '11 series might be a true two-way conversation on all of our favorite things. as always, appreciate your visit!

christian soldier said...

I miss my '76 International Scout II-School bus engine-8 miles city-

My '03 Lexus will Probably be my last car-I made it clear to the dealer that I did not want a car that 'talks' to me --

Now-all cars 'talk' and are programed to 'out think' the driver..

FS -Great takes though-thanks...

christian soldier said...

as to the Noble-
I know-tacky to link to one's own site but-

My Dog-Eared Pages said...

Two words... deux chevaux! ; ) Barbara

Shelley said...

Lovely to hear you say you are grateful for your reliable car. I think it's important to be grateful for what we have - a major part of the enjoyment of ownership.

Caleb S. Garcia said...

Don't all laptops play movies?- This is 2011.

Great post JG. It was a great insight. To paraphrase Doc Brown "if you're gonna be mobile why not do it in some style?"

Julia Christie said...

Thanks for the visit and your sweet comment about my art and family stories...In reading the comments here after mine, I have to say I am a drive it into the ground gal myself. Practically installed in a Chrysler Towne and Country van that fits all five children and us quite comfortably, I anticipate driving this until at least the 7 yr old has graduated, fingers crossed.

While I secretly lust after the Chrysler 300 or the new Volvo coupe (only TWO doors!) I am very grateful that we can fit everyone safely in one vehicle. (the DvD player doesn't hurt either:-)
Looking forward to the next installment JG.


Dumbwit Tellher said...

I'm surprised that I'm a female; I am most definitely a car kind of gal, and I'd take a nice set of wheels over diamonds or Chanel any day. One of my favorite television shows is Top Gear, enough said. Fast cars and slow motorcycles are just too fun. I approve of your choices, especially the Maserati Quattroporte. The Maserati Q is a piece of art. I might add in the American category the Ford Mustang Shelby GT-500. It will give you 0-60 in 4.3 seconds. I still stand-bye my old Porsche Cayenne; a real joy to drive. I sadly sold my Land Rover for a Honda FIT. Yes...a FIT. Can you hear me weeping? I went from 16 mph to a proud 35. It was the right thing to do at the right time. You out did yourself with your self- (male) deprecating wit. So that's why I wear black turtlenecks!?
GREAT post Jg!!

x Deb