You Are What You Drive

In this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, Joseph Epstein has a high-octane review of Paul Ingrassia’s Engines of Change. Ingrassia’s point, among others, is how our car-buying reflects our persona. Herewith some of Mister Epstein’s musings:

I am not sure how it came about, but in 1969 I owned another of the cars featured in “Engines of Change,” a forest-green Pontiac GTO. Mr. Ingrassia refers, accurately, to the GTO’s “throaty roar” and “guttural exhaust pipes”—it was widely known as “a muscle car,” if not so chez Epstein. I remember that roar and those guttural pipes well, but what I recall most is that the Pontiac GTO required roughly two gallons of gas to parallel park. I drove mine mainly from gas station to gas station. Mr. Ingrassia describes owners of the GTO as “rebels without a clue,” a phrase I view as a most painful gotcha

An older and wiser Epstein can now sagely (or is it cagily?)  respond to his young granddaughter’s innocent query:

The naming of car models is another outlet for Mr. Ingrassia’s wit. He reminds us of the various hype-infused and outright silly names that have been called into service: the Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz, the Pontiac LeMans, the Dodge Swinger, the Porsche Cayenne (driven by Mrs. Tony Soprano), the Toyota Prius (which, for its environmental correctness, has come to be known as “The Pious”). One day I was driving with my 6-year-old granddaughter, who asked why the car in front of us, a Hyundai, was called a Sonata. “I don’t know, kiddo,” I answered. “Maybe because it’s sonata Jaguar.” Perhaps this is the place to mention that I currently drive a black Jaguar S-Type. I’m relieved to say that Mr. Ingrassia neglects to mention what this says about me.

If the book is as entertaining as the review, it’s worth a read while waiting in line at the pump.

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