Thursday, February 25, 2010

Name That SOV!

(SOV = Single Occupant Vehicle)

(This blog is mostly about bicycles... but I reserve the right to switch topics from time to time.)

I was fortunate to grow up in the golden age of motor vehicles. If I'd been born just a few years earlier or a few years later, the experience would've been dimished.


I was born the same year as the Corvette was born. I was a "spring chicken" when shiny new '59 space-rocket Cadillacs were rolling off the showroom floor.

I was 10 years old when James Bond drove his Aston-Martin DB4 in Goldfinger, and the year the Ford Mustang was introduced.

When I was in junior high school, one of the teachers drove a 427 Cobra... the real deal, with aluminum bodywork, big black side pipes, knockoff wheels, and standard-equipment fire extinguisher bolted into the spartan interior. (We would gather around it in the parking lot after lunch; he'd holler at us, "Don't touch it!" We knew better.)

I had an afternoon paper route. Along the way, one of my customers, Walter, had a new shiny red '63 Stingray. It was a convertible (I preferred the split-window), but it had the fuel-injected 327. My papers took 15 minutes longer than they would've otherwise, because I spent 15 minutes each day, checkin' out that sweet ride.

I was hooked on cars by then. Instead of paying attention in class, I was usually dreaming of the cars I would someday own and drive, or drawing crazy car illustrations like those of my hero, Ed "Big Daddy" Roth. I picked up CARToons Magazine every month. (Think "Mad Magazine," but strictly about cars.) My dad was amused that his punk kid could name off the make and model and year of 'most every car you'd see on the streets.

I switched to a morning paper route, and wasted time at Brownfield's place, ogling their '66 Jaguar XKE with chrome wire wheels. (Still one of the most beautiful cars ever built, in this enthusiast's opinion.)

When I was in high school, the cool kids drove '57 Chevys. '56 Fords. A kid in vo-tech shop class had a bug-eyed Sprite that they'd wedged a 289 V-8 into... that thing could light up the back tires! Joe had a Plymouth GTX. My friend Rick had a ratty '61 Corvette with a 283, three 2-barrel carburetors on a tunnel ram manifold that stuck about a foot through the hole cut in the hood. It was butt ugly, but it was WICKED fast!!

I worked after school at the Chrysler/Plymouth dealership. The owner's kid, Brent, got a new 1971 'Cuda 440 6-pack as a graduation present... with the "shaker" hood scoop.

I did "new car prep," and that was often some sweet duty for a young car nut!

I washed a purple HemiCuda that some guy in Baker, Oregon, bought. He picked it up with a trailer... his intent was to mostly store it and wait for it to increase in value. (If he followed through, it was a very wise investment indeed.) I cleaned up plenty of new Road Runners, including a dayglo green "Superbird" model. A guy in the parts department bought a new yellow AAR Cuda... the model with the 340 6-pack. It was gorgeous, and I coveted it.

A guy traded in a '69 Dodge Charger with 4-speed and 440 motor. They asked me to drive down to the DMV office on State Street and drop off paperwork; I took the Charger. Turns out it was set up for the strip, with exhaust headers and no mufflers. Rumble-rumble!

When I wasn't working, I was checking out the other brands. I saw a brand new Boss 302 Mustang at the Ford dealer. Plenty of Mach 1s and Torinos. Once I saw a new Boss 429 Mustang in pastel blue, already with a "sold" sign in the window. (Wikipedia says only 1358 were built, total.)

I graduated the year after Brent. Joe's grandpa, who had plenty of "old money," bought Joe a new Porsche Targa for the occasion. Mike's dad musta had money, too - he bought Mike a new shiny blue Corvette with the 425HP, 454 cubic inch motor.

Perhaps my best "brush with automotive greatness" happened in the summer of '72. My buddy Mike and I went on a road trip that included Harrah's Car Museum in Reno. Harrah was also the importer for Ferraris. And just by sheer chance, there were a half-dozen or so Ferrari 365 GTB/4s, sitting between 2 of the museum buildings. Fresh off the boat from Italy... not even cleaned up yet. I couldn't resist - I walked over. The driver's side door of the first one was open, so I set myself gently in there to admire and imagine for a couple minutes. Mike stood a few feet distant, figuring I was courting negative attention. And indeed, my brush was relatively brief; a couple of security guys hustled over and politely but firmly encouraged us to move on.

Back in those days, car names conjured up mental images.

Barracuda. Galaxie. Rocket 88. Falcon. Coupe de Ville. Wildcat. Thunderbird.

Maybe the Camaro changed that trend. What's a Camaro? (Besides the car.)

Jump ahead 40 years.

What happened?

For one thing, heightened environmental awareness beginning in the late 60s, combined with the "fuel crisis" of the early 70s, put an end to the era.

Something happened to me too, though. I'm guessing it was the ever-increasing price of cars, combined with the Grim Adult Reality of paying for my own gas and insurance. My sights were considerably lowered. The reality became even more grim when we were a one-car family, and even on those occasions when I did get the car, I was sitting in traffic, trying to find a free parking spot, etc. I (re)discovered that a sweet bike could be had for thousands less than the most ordinary car.

I suppose a lot of folks still consider their vehicle an extension of their personality. (Especially pickup drivers.)

But cars all tend to look alike nowadays. And their names mostly suck! (I believe at some point, computers took over the naming of cars. And the car-naming software is a buggy beta version.)

Alero? What's an alero? Prius? Scion? SONATA?? What would Mozart say? Touareg? Yer kiddin' me! How do you even say that?!?

Other vehicles nowadays just have a string of racy-sounding characters for a name.


That would be pretty impressive sounding, if it were an Aston-Martin, or even a BMW, huh?

It's a Ford Focus! Bleah! (Is it a "performance" package? Instead of the zero-to-60 in 20 seconds, it only takes 18.5 seconds!)

Here are some others:
GSX - Kia
SXT - Neon (Chrysler)
... and perhaps the ultimate...
GVX - Yugo!!

There are two others that I see somewhat regularly, that are real noodle-scratchers.

What self-respecting man would let his wife or daughter drive one of these vehicles???

And... don't any of those Toyota people speak English? Check this one out...

(This particular specimen even looks to be painted with the special "TRD Factory Racing Brown"!)


Clancy said...

The closest I ever came to one of those cool cars was a 1969 Dodge Dart GT. It had the slant 6, so no smoke inducing burnouts.

Anonymous said...

I actually like "Tuareg" as a name for an SUV. It's the name of a nomadic tribe in north Africa, which is no doubt why it was chosen. What they neglected to realize is that it is a name given to that tribe by their enemies. It means: "The Godforsaken". Sweet, eh? Val

Bikeboy said...

Clancy - I wanted a Duster 340 in the worst way! I had it all figured out - 4-speed with Hurst shifter, positraction rear axle. Couldn't decide between a couple favorite colors. (And I was about $3000 short of cash. Other than those little details... I would've had it!)

The Duster or the Dart either one would be worth well more than the purchase price nowadays, in decent condition.

(That's interesting about the VW SUV. VW comes up with some strange names. Golf? I like "Scirocco" - hot air!!)