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this year's model
everybody gets a car! everybody gets a car!
by russ carr (@DocOrlando70)

Maybe it was this morning on the way to work. Maybe it was just a few minutes ago, as you arrived home from the office, the store, your campus, whatever. But a some point today, it's likely you were in your car.

Your car. That rolling bit of home. That piece of crap on wheels. The two-ton money vacuum that leaves you with an Amoco bill the size of Ted Kennedy's bar tab. The fastest depreciating "durable goods" you can buy.

Isn't it time you had a new one?

Yank the Filet-o-Fish wrappers out from under the seat, scavenge your loose change out of the ashtray, throw out all those "Best of Queen" cassettes hibernating in the glove box and, by all that's holy, leave the windows down overnight so you can get THAT SMELL out. You know the one I mean.

Then push, pull, drag your hunkajunk down to Intrepid Motors, where we'll give you TOP DOLLAR on your trade, no matter WHAT the condition!

Now that you've got an empty garage, a clear conscience and a big wad of cash (hey, like the fat man sang, two outta three ain't bad), take a walk through Detroit's Cobo Center with me. The North American International Auto Show wraps up this weekend, and there's no finer place to kick the tires.

Just inside the doors we find the 2006 Dodge Charger. Hey, a familiar name from a familiar company. And say, what curious timing! You might recall a famous orange '69 Charger that straightened the curves and flattened the hills in Hazzard County every Friday night in the early 80s. I'm sure it's pure coincidence that this summer tosses a "Dukes of Hazzard" movie at us, once more pushing the Dodge Charger front and center. Expect to see car lot salesmen demonstrating the proper way to slide across a car hood and climb in thru the windows. This being a Dodge, of course, yes -- it does have a "hemi."

Moving on, we come to the 2006 Pontiac Solstice, the latest entry in the roadster category. Approaching the Solstice from the back is like walking up behind an incredibly hot bikini-clad girl on the beach...only to go around and discover she's got the face of Margaret Thatcher. Wow. The silvery grille work looks like buckteeth, mounted on a weird bulge between the headlights. Think Bugs Bunny with a bad case of mumps. Some cars make a statement. The Solstice's statement is "I need rhinoplasty."

Let's ditch the local crew and see what those crafty Nip...er...those diligent Japanese engineers are offering. Here's the Scion dais, where Toyota is trying to steal the pimp demographic from Cadillac. The looks-like-a-box, drives-like-a-box g-money Scion xB "sedan" is already on the streets. Please tell me how they can call this a sedan? Meanwhile, this is Scion's "hatchback," the xA. Obviously Toyota isn't wasting its best and brightest in the Scion division's marketing department. But when you're pushing spinners and a neon package standard, my guess is you're not trying to appeal to the customers' literacy. Himitsu wo shiri tai!

Okay, so most automakers aren't changing their lines much this year, and what few new models there just plain blow. But hey, that's only half the auto show. The real tricked out rides are the concept cars. You know the stuff strutting down the runway, that no reasonable human can wear? These are the cars that no reasonable human can drive. And once in a great, great while...one of them escapes and becomes a production car. So let's see what's left, hm?

Not far from the Charger sits the Chrysler Firepower, the unrepentant pace car of the New America. If the name alone weren't enough, the growling 6.1 liter V8 practically demands that we invade another oil-rich nation. Chrysler is pushing the Firepower as a "Corvette killer," which is industryspeak for "bigger penis." This being a Chrysler, of course, yes -- it does have a "hemi."

But if that's still not enough for you, right next to the Firepower is the Jeep Hurricane. This off-roader is so masculine, only Janet Reno could drive it. The wheels can turn 90 degrees in each direction, so you can actually drive sideways, in case you've gotta parallel park halfway up K2. This being a Jeep, of course, -- it doesn't have a "hemi." Nooooo. It has two of them!

If you know the tune, sing along:
Hemi, hemi, twice a hemi, not the hemi, Demi, hemi...

It's hard to top a vehicle with two hemis. General Motors is testing the Sequel, a car that replaces most mechanical parts with electronics. It also begs the question, "Sequel to what?" Chevrolet has a PT Cruiser clone. Infiniti has a Mini Cooper clone. Just about everyone has a squashed lozenge of a car with wide tires and a roofline lower than Lindsay Lohan's pantyline.

But here, finally, is the car for you. It's an SUV, really, and at a distance, it seems to share the body style of that ineptly named sedan from Scion. This is the latest concept from Ford.

It's called the Synus.

Now I don't know how it's pronounced. It's either SIN-us or SINE-us. Either way, it's the worst name for a car, ever. I hope it's the latter pronunciation, and I hope the car is a raging success, so on traffic reports I can hear all about the Synus congestion on Highway 40.

If you've clicked the link, you've seen that the Synus resembles an armored car -- a Brinks truck. It's got tiny little slit windows on the sides, a chunky body and a combination lock to open the doors. When it's parked, armored shutters close up over the windshield and side windows -- just like the Batmobile. And there's no rear window; instead there's a giant LCD screen on the back hatch with cameras that project the rear view for you.

And get this: it's smaller than an iPod. No, really. The Synus is built on a Ford Fiesta frame. Back in high school, we called it the Fiasco. We joked that Fiestas were the free toys in a McDonald's Happy Meal. This thing is TINY. But to fulfill the Synus' other role as swingin' hot spot, the steering wheel folds under the dashboard, and the front seats are padded on both sides, so you can slide the seats back to the dash and sit facing the other way. It's not just a car! It's a rolling movie theater with bulletproof glass!

On second thought, maybe you don't need a car after all. Have you considered the relative merits of public transportation?


If the media is the eye on the world, Russ Carr is the finger in that eye. Tune in each month to see him dispersing the smoke and smashing the mirrors of modern mass communication. The world lost Russ on 2/7/12, but he lives on.

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could you play that song from that commercial?
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topic: advertising
published: 3.19.03


juli mccarthy
1.21.05 @ 12:10a

Hee hee..."Best of Queen" cassettes.

Between the Tourag and the Synus, it seems we've completely run out of common sense when it comes to naming cars. Whatever happened to the Dart, the Chevette, the Galaxy?

sandra thompson
1.21.05 @ 8:55a

When my grandgeek's Toyota Camry lay down in the yard and died, he traded it in for a brand new Scion hatchback. His mother, great great aunt and I love it, and make him haul us around to movies and out to dinner every chance we can manage to get him to call us back on his cell phone. It's a very comfortable car for middled-aged and old ladies to be driven around in, and he says it's even fun to drive. It has a kickass sound system. I might trade in my Chevy S-10 pickup on one of those things. There seem to be much more efficient elves living under the hood than on our older vehicles.

matt kelley
1.21.05 @ 10:51a

That Synus is just synful. It shouldn't even be on the road. ('Course in RDU, nothing's on the road but 1/4" of snow and Yankees!) I was stunned to see the new Saturn Sky. Very cool and very NOT Saturn. Don't forget the new/old Mustang. I got to sit in the '05 Mustang pace car at the NASCAR race in Kansas City last fall. Not accomodating for a 6'4" Iowa boy, but sweet lines, reminiscent of the old 1960s Pony Mustangs. Call me when they reissue the '70-73 Mach I with a 351 Cleveland. Hemi? Pah.

russ carr
1.21.05 @ 11:08a

Oh, man...there was a senior girl at the combined jr/sr high school I attended in DC, and she drove a shiny red '73 Mustang convertible. I've never been a big Ford fan, but that car was SWEET. (The girl wasn't bad, either.) I remember one day at lunch some guy came in off the street and asked her if she wanted to sell it.
In regard to the Saturn, which just missed inclusion in the column... Funny how Saturn started out as GM's answer to the Asian carmakers. Saturns were supposed to be fairly conservative but innovative... reliable but unpretentious cars, with simple names (SW2) that referred to the body style. There was the whole "Saturn Family" concept, with touchy-feely dealerships and commercials that sold charm as part of the driving experience. All that seems to be out the window, now.

matt kelley
1.21.05 @ 11:23a

I had a red '73 Mustang in high school too but, uh, that wasn't me, dude. As much as I loved the car and desire another one just like it, the upkeep on a 32-year-old vehicle would be ridiculous. Ditto lack of airbags, decent suspension, cruise control, a working A/C... That's why I'm hoping a Ford rep reads this and goes retro with the next in-car-nation of the new-old Mustang. Anywhere between '70 and '73 would be fine, thanks.

sarah ficke
1.21.05 @ 3:02p

It's not just a car! It's a rolling movie theater with bulletproof glass!

You know... that's actually kind of attractive. I'd hate, hate, hate not having a real rear window, though.

I guess this is why I buy Subarus.

russ carr
1.21.05 @ 3:57p

This Sunday afternoon at 1pm eastern time, NBC will be running a special from the auto show. See all these really silly cars up close...

tracey kelley
1.21.05 @ 11:48p

....so on traffic reports I can hear all about the Synus congestion on Highway 40.


I've always yelled "Sorry 'bout your penis!" as middle-aged men drove by in Corvettes. Astronauts or no, there's compensation involved somewhere along the line.

And for the record? I am totally in support of my husband investing in a classic Mustang. But note the strong conservativeness demonstrated in his above post.

robert melos
1.22.05 @ 1:15a

I currently own a Saturn LS-100. I avoid the saturn dealership, simply for the reason it has lost that friendly atmosphere. I'm hoping this car lasts me at least until I hit my mid 50s. Okay, I know that won't happen.

The best car I owned was a 1978 Buick LeSabre. It was green with a tan vinyl top, but it ran better than any of my cars, since or previous. It also have more room than any other car I've owned. I'm actually considering a pickup. Probably a Chevy, but Toyota or Nissen might sway me. I did own a Nissen Sentra that lasted a long time before I ran that one into the ground, so I'm partial to them.

russ carr
1.23.05 @ 5:36p

Back to that Mustang, sorta.

On the way in to the office just now, I took turns passing and being passed by a 2005 Mustang. I've gotta say, this is the first car in 32 years that deserves the nameplate. It reminds me a lot of a '68 fastback in its bodystyle.

michelle von euw
1.23.05 @ 10:53p

I think the Solstice is adorable. Of course, it reminds me of those sports cars only driven by men over a certain age, who, incidentally, don't appear to fit in their cars. The sporty-car look is always ruined by a guy with a bad comb-over protuding waaaay too far from the driver's seat.

juli mccarthy
1.24.05 @ 2:28a

I've always yelled "Sorry 'bout your penis!" as middle-aged men drove by in Corvettes.

Heh! This is what I say to guys who drive Hummers. Through downtown Elgin, Illinois.

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