Come on, let it all out
Words by: Adam Allen
Don’t pretend like you reach to change the station, instead, begin belting out the lyrics to Carly Rae Jepson’s enduring earworm “Call Me Maybe” when it comes on the radio. There is no need to hide your pickle and mustard sandwiches at the back of the fridge either. These are but a few examples of things in life that we really enjoy but perhaps admitting to enjoying might be considered taboo, or at the very least met with a puzzled expression. Never fear, because the Carpages Garage is your ‘Trust Tree’ destination, a place where all your guilty pleasures are free from retribution, no matter how weird. We’re not here to talk about the fact that you still have your childhood teddy bear close at hand but instead, we will focus on all things automotive. As petrol heads, we all have questionable cars that we like- even love- and cannot, or will not, explain why. In order to alleviate the burden of all your dirty little secrets without fear of reprisal, allow us to tell you about some of our own unexplained and potentially embarrassing confessions about cars we love in secret.
We have divided our automotive guilty pleasures into two distinct camps. One is filled with cars that are not necessarily embarrassing to love, but that without fail are met with a blank stare or a ‘huh?’ and the other covering examples that threaten to discredit us dyed in the wool enthusiasts with a healthy degree of street cred to protect. Why not start off with the Ford Thunderbird SC (Super Coupe) which roamed highways and byways in the 1990’s. This is a coupe that is on the huge side- look how long it is! - but to our eyes, it’s a looker. It captures the quintessential 1990’s styling cues but manages to do so without being too contrived. Perhaps the most intriguing bit of the T-Bird SC is that it boasted some features that were ahead of their time. It had independent rear suspension and there were two very sweet engines available- the 5.0 V8 cribbed from the Mustang, or a supercharged V6 (a rare thing when pretty much everything on sale at the time was naturally aspirated) which was actually more powerful than its eight-cylinder counterpart. It also had four-wheel disc brakes which was sophisticated in 1995. You can find OK examples for purchase for next to nothing but competition for these cars is not exactly fierce- these are usually sought out exclusively by oddballs like us. In fact, most people don’t even remember this car, but that does not make it any less cool in our eyes.
We also profess our love for the Ford Probe/Mazda MX-6 corporate cousins. Likewise hailing from the late ‘90’s these two were built on the same exact platform and yet they managed to look and feel remarkably different. The Mazda was positioned as more of a GT car, offering a very plush interior and all sorts of standard kit whereas the Probe was the more focused sports car of the pair. One common thread between these two is, in our collective opinions, one of the finest V6 engines ever made, the 2.5 litre Duratec V6. A 4-speed slushbox was an option, but the manuals were the ones you really lusted after. While this engine could only muster 170 horsepower, it still gave these cars an impressive turn of speed- remember that cars back then were not afflicted by the same bloat we’re familiar with these days and weighed significantly less. But they also boasted an incredible smoothness and a soundtrack to match (“like ripping silk”, a descriptor used tirelessly by so many auto scribes of the time) making them amongst the best sounding accessible cars from the late 1990’s.
On the flip side, General Motor’s 3.8 litre V6 engine was most certainly NOT one of the best sounding engines you would have encountered. Instead, it sounded like a multiple pack-a-day smoker running a marathon as it went about its business. But what it lacked in aural pleasure it made up for in reliability- this engine was as faithful and predictable as the tides, and it was virtually bulletproof. In later years, GM added a supercharger to it and they made an impressive 240 horsepower. They also found their way into the engine bay of many a Chevy, Pontiac and Buick which meant that the generous thrust of the 3.8 could be paired with the living room on wheels kind of comfort you would get from such large, roomy cars with very softly tuned suspensions. Too bad there is nothing like the Buick Roadmaster or Pontiac Grand Prix on sale these days- in fact, sedans are now on the automotive endangered species list, right there with the internal combustion engine itself and manual transmissions.
Let us now talk about more contemporary cars, shall we? The humble minivan, which gets no respect, seems like a good place to start and we are partial to pretty much any offering currently on sale. Yes, they are the antithesis of cool, but let us ask you this- when you show up to a party in your crossover SUV, do you think people are casting envious glances your way? No, they are not. But what a minivan lacks in style it more than makes up for in capability. They are massively capacious and, in a pinch, can even double as nicely furnished accommodations if you find yourself camping and it begins to rain- we speak from experience. The question when taking a road trip of ‘will it fit?’ simply does not apply here. Nowadays, they are chock full of desirable features like a loudspeaker system so you can be heard clearly when yelling at the whippersnappers in the rear seats and even onboard vacuums. For those Millennials reading this thinking “I will NEVER find anything to like about a minivan”, just wait…. it will happen to you.
Somewhat related to the humble minivan is the station wagon, but these get much more love in conversations than their family bus counterparts. Notwithstanding Mom’s Ford Country Squire or Chevy Caprice Estate, wagons have achieved acceptance, even desirability; look no further than the bonkers Mercedes Benz E63 and more recently, the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo. If these are examples of wagons that thrive in the collective subconscious of enthusiasts, the Honda Accord Crosstour exists on the other side of the spectrum. Few cars in recent memory that are so unfortunately styled as the Crosstour. It is seriously U-G-L-Y, and it ain’t got no alibi. If you can ignore the cringe-worthy duds it wears and focus on its virtues the conversation changes tone dramatically. At its core, it is an Accord, a car that we have loved throughout every generation since Honda started selling it. It can be had with a powerful V6 engine and all-wheel drive. That makes it a comfortable, practical, even decently quick car that might still be on sale today were it not for its hideous styling. And speaking of styling, is it just us, or does the ubiquitous Toyota Corolla look kind of fetching in SE trim, what with its sharply styled wheels, dual exhaust, and fake diffuser? We think that until the 2022 Civic comes out, this is the most handsome subcompact car you can buy provided it is turned out in the right trim level. We did not think we would ever utter such a sentence, but there we are, and we do so without any shame whatsoever. See, admitting to loving these cars can be therapeutic!
So, tell us: what love for strange, weird, and perhaps even uncool cars do you have lurking in your subconscious? We would love to hear about them, and just think how much lighter you will feel getting this off your chest.
Now if you’ll kindly excuse us, we are having trouble deciding which image of a Toyota Previa looks better as our computer’s wallpaper.