Good morning, and happy Friday to you all! Today is all about second chances, as we pit the week’s second-place finishers against each other. But of course, to do that, we need to find out our fourth contender, so let’s see how yesterday’s vote went:
Well, that’s pretty decisive. I would still have a very hard time choosing between them; the Alfa would be a lot more fun to drive, but I get the feeling the Rover might be more fun to own.
By the way, there will never, ever be a “Neither” option, not while I’m at the helm around here. I’d post two real nightmares, you’d all chicken out and choose “Neither,” and what fun would that be? No, you must choose. The shitbox gods demand it.
So, we’ve got four cars to choose from here, but I feel like I ought to give you a use-case scenario to help you decide. How’s this: Your significant other’s seventy-year-old Aunt Silke is flying in for a visit. You’ve offered to pick her up at the airport, about an hour away. Silke’s cool, and always has the best stories; she was a roadie for ABBA on their first farewell tour, and she once starred in a Mentos commercial, but no one is exactly sure which one. She’s also a bit of a gearhead, with a pristine Gilbern Genie in her garage that she claims to have won in a bet, but won’t elaborate. Silke knows that you’re the car person of the family, and has made mention of leaving the Gilbern to you, so you want to stay on her good side. Unfortunately, your shiny new Giulia is in the shop again, so you need to borrow one of these four to go pick up dear old Aunt Silke.
Oh, and for our purposes today, we’ll assume that the Saab has been returned to running condition and the Rover’s brakes are brand-new. So what’ll it be?
Pros: Bona-fide European classic, smooth ride, nice clean interior
Cons: Somehow dull and weird at the same time
If cars were only bought by people who love cars, Saab would not only still be around, they’d be a roaring success. We car nerds all seem to love their quirks, their unconventional but brilliant engineering, and their funky style, but the general car-buying public for some reason preferred their Camrys and Accords. This early 900 is what happened when Saab tried to be normal: it’s a four-door sedan with an automatic transmission, still possessed of all the Saab oddities but not much of the charm.
Still, it’s a mighty nice car, and it seems to be in great condition. The low mileage helps, of course. And driving a forty-year-old Saab instantly marks you as one of the chosen few – eccentric gearheads. If you’re reading this, you’re already one of us; might as well put on the uniform.
Pros: Roomy, efficient, practical
Cons: Cheap interior, looks and feels like a rental car
Of course, Saabs are an acquired taste. Your own personal flavor of weird might come in the shape of a Korean compact wagon that looks a bit like an Imperial Stormtrooper’s helmet. Or maybe you just want to prove to Aunt Silke that you can drive a stick. Behold, the Kia Soul, in all its manual-gearbox glory.
The trouble, of course, is that it’s a Korean compact, built to a price, and it shows. And if it’s anything like similar cars I’ve driven, and I’m sure it is, it’s a tinny, buzzy little box on the freeway, Maybe that’s why they put a big kick-ass stereo in it, to cover up the road noise. Also, they’re everywhere, so it’s not going to feel very special. There’s no sense of occasion to it.
Pros: Super-comfortable, big trunk for luggage
By contrast to the Kia, noise, vibration, and harshness are not words in the Buick LeSabre’s vocabulary. From its pillowy-soft seats to its floaty Dynaride suspension, this car is all about not letting you know anything about the surface of the road. Yeah, it has a Stone Age engine and a Playskool dashboard. But who cares? Point this barge down the highway, and just sail.
The trouble, of course, is that it is completely devoid of style or personality. It’s just a big dumb cruiser. It’s really good at being a big dumb cruiser, but it’s not the sort of car you can look cool leaning against the fender of while waiting for someone.
Pros: Classy, stylish, great presence
Cons: Always a chance you won’t make it there, or back
Now, you want to talk curb appeal, here it is. This old Rover looks like something Mr. Incredible might drive, resplendent in baby blue and chrome, with that glorious mid-century modern dashboard. And this one has just the right amount of patina to give it cred. Pull up to the airport curb in this beauty, and the cops will be too awestruck to tell you to move along.
However, it is a fifty-seven-year-old British car full of no-longer-available parts. Demons of all sorts lurk under its sleek bonnet, waiting to spring on the unwary traveler and utterly ruin an otherwise pleasant voyage. At least you’ll look good waiting for a tow.
OK, so the scenario is a little silly. Ignore it if you want, and just pick your favorite. Or imagine yourself crusing down the Interstate, coming up on a sign that says “Arrivals – Next Exit,” on your way to pick up an older woman and enjoy a nice drive home full of pleasant coversation and, if you’re lucky, some of those almond windmill cookies she always seems to have with her. You’ll get crumbs on the seat, but that’s all right. Which steering wheel are you looking down at?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)