Betsy Shebang - Column for 10/30

Barbie's Death Jeep

Been shopping for a new car, so every traffic jam or toll booth commuter backup is now composed of vehicles I might own. Some would require dents or scratches or burn scars or blocks instead of wheels before I could afford them, of course, but if I find just the right vehicle for my lifestyle, perhaps those could be covertly arranged.

Recently got a ride in a friend's Toyota RAV-4 that smelled like his dog and rode like a telephone booth balanced on a skateboard. Clever engineering feat: didn't feel heavy, yet did feel top-heavy. Adorable little death box on wheels. A GI-Joe command vehicle with a real motor and space for shit to collect behind the seats. Barbie's Death Jeep. Noted that instead of "Options" it came with "Accessories". Roof had large built-in compass; trunk area contained adventure rope and unusable binoculars made of solid plastic.

Considering Toyota Prius, an innovative car with a gas-saving hybrid electric engine. Wondering if name was meant to be intentionally meaningless as means of sidestepping prejudice against self-righteous environmentalists. Honda's hybrid vehicle, the "Insight", has failed in this regard.

Somewhere there are teams of Name People in a room cooking up titles for cars not yet on the market. They've run out of ideas: consider the Toyota Starlet, the Suzuki Esteem, the Daewoo Leganza, the Daihatsu Rocky, the Isuzu Hombre. (All real names - look 'em up!) Yet still they search, combining syllables from "Name Your Baby" books with words found in the theasaurus under the headings "Adventurous", "Dignified", "Fun-Filled" and "Meaningless combinations of letters and numbers meant to sound tehnical".

New for 2002:

To convey the traditional American sense of youthful vehicular indiscretion: The new Isuzu "Whoops!"

To suggest the smooth, careful ride of the golden years: the new Plymouth "Breathalyzer". (This vehicle, made in America, uses the same drive train as last year's Toyota "Retirement Party", and is comprable to Honda's popular "Rheumatism-LE". Both are available in wagons.)

To illustrate the powerful wrath of the modern SUV: the Ford "Head-On", their latest entry in the "Collision" class. General Motors is launching their new "Tipsy" and "SPLAT!" models to compete. Side-, roof- and windshield-impact airbags will be available as a protective option, although safety-conscious drivers purchasing SUVs are still cautioned to fill cabin with styrafoam peanuts before making turns or attempting freeway travel.

Lastly, to join Toyota's "MR2" model in the driven-fast, named-too-quickly sports car market, Daihatsu will be introducing their "MT-1-X" convertible and Subaru will be reviving their ZX-XXX Roadster, briefly marketed in 1994, to compete directly with the Pontiac "D-I-V-O-R-C-E - X" model, which was originally designed only for celebrities, but has now available to the general public. In response, Chrysler is reportedly planning a 2-seater "KK-ME" model. Rear-impact airbags will be standard.

Columns by Betsy Shebang