"Married... With Children'"s Al Bundy (Ed O'Neill) had it rough. He was a struggling women's shoe salesman, his wife was a couch potato, his daughter was, well... "fast," and as the song goes, his son tried, but just couldn't do it. However, Al could always (Well, usually) rely on one thing... his trusted car, frequently referred to as "The Dodge."
But it turns out that poor Al's car wasn't a Dodge at all. It was, in fact, a 1972 Plymouth Duster. Why, in at least one scene, you can even see the Gold Duster decal on the "Dodge"'s front fender.
The car uses a screwdriver as the ignition key, and music is piped in via a period-correct 8-Track tape player. And in addition to many memories, some going back to his high school glory days, the "Dodge"'s trunk also held Al's collection of "Big 'Uns," a magazine dedicated to the finest of adult male entertainment.
I love being an ‘80s retro nut. I get a thrill of finding stuff related to the decade. It’s the reason why I found out about the track whose music video was used for a successful Carspotters’ Challenge. The beauty of it all is that while making that post, a recommended video listed on the website’s sidebar had a certain Chevrolet pony-car as its icon. I’ve always had a soft spot for those cars, so of course I clicked. Thank goodness that I did, because it was good. Good enough to do another Carspotters’ Challenge video in the same vein as the one featuring the final chase scene of The Driver.
As we join in hot pursuit, what vehicles are we narrowly missing?
I must also ask: was the TV series good? What other TV series would you compare it to?
(Sung to the tune that opens "The Andy Griffith Show:")
♫ Well now, take, down, your fishin' pole, and meet me at The Fishin' Hole,
We may, not, get a bite all day, but don't you rush away.
What a great, place, to rest your bones, and mighty fine for skippin' stones,
You'll feel fresh, as, a lemonade, a-settin' in the shade.
Whether it's hot... whether it's cool... oh what a spot... for whistlin' like a fool.
What a fine, day, to take a stroll, and wander by The Fishin' Hole,
I can't think, of, a better way, to pass the time o' day. ♫
The name of that song is "The Fishin' Hole," and those were the words to the whistling theme you heard every time you saw Sheriff Andy Taylor and his son Opie walking toward Myers Lake in Mayberry. Of course Myers Lake didn't exist, so maybe surprisingly, the title openings of the show were shot here.
Just like the music in "The Andy Griffith Show," cars also played an important part. In fact, several of their best episodes were written around them and the people who were driving them. So let's take a gander at a few of these machines... some of them might even surprise you a bit!
There were probably close to fifty vehicles that were in attendance at one point or another over the span of five hours, and it was a pretty eclectic mix.
Here's some of what we saw.
The vehicle to the right there probably doesn't strike anyone as being particularly significant; for the most part it's not. Just a basic early 21st century compact Compact Sport Utility Vehicle (CUV or SUV), not too different from half a dozen other similar vehicles we see about a thousand times a day on the streets of our fair cities, 'burbs, and rural roads. Just a fairly basic 2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i.
It has a couple distinctions though. For one thing, it was Motor Trend's 2014 SUV of the Year:
The Forester combines the practicality of a small, wisely engineered SUV with the fun enthusiasts will enjoy. . .The Forester has the right combination of attributes for many SUV buyers, and seems to do the impossible: It has more power than before, with better fuel economy, is fun to drive, offers generous ground clearance, and achieves all this at reasonable prices. The Forester isn't a wagon anymore. When a vehicle does this much and does it this well, it truly earns the title of Motor Trend's 2014 Sport/Utility Vehicle of the Year.
So it's a decent little SUV. And as a matter of fact, it is now not only my primary vehicle, but the final contestant in an almost year-long search for something to take me into the field and back, albeit not quite at the sub-$10k amount I'd intended.
Even more than that, this thing has the distinction of being the first vehicle I've purchased since George Bush was president.
That would be George H.W. Bush.
We all know Aunt Bee (Beatrice) Taylor from The Andy Griffith Show. She was a pivotal character, one that the show could not have survived without. In fact, the show's first episode is titled "The New Housekeeper," referring to Aunt Bee's arrival at the Taylor home. That episode set the stage for the show's eight-year run, and we saw Aunt Bee in many episodes of the spinoff Mayberry RFD (1968-1971) and once on Gomer Pyle, USMC as well.
I will proudly admit that I am a huge fan of the show. The black & white episodes are my favorites, most of which include Don Knotts as Barney Fife, MD (Mayberry Deputy). I've also had the priviledge of meeting Hal Smith (Otis Campbell), George Lindsey (Goober Pyle), Doug Dillard (One of the Darling clan), and Howard Morris (Ernest T. Bass) through the years.
And the telephone Aunt Bee is using here on the right? As a token of my affection for the show and all the years of happiness it has brought so many people, the dial-less phone now sits on an end table in my home with a small authenticification note from Ken Swartz, the show's Set Decorator.
While I haven't had a list of tremedous vehicles I've driven, what I lack in quality I make up for in quantity.
My first two cars were Toyota Corollas. I started with a 1979 in white with 4 doors and a 5-speed manual. We got this from some relatives and my parents drove it for a year or so before I was old enough to drive. Unfortunately, I don't own photos of most of my vehicles (or most of my childhood). We didn't own a camera most of my life (crazy huh?) and it just was never a concern of mine to document these sorts of things. The '79 was a great learner car. It was a stick, and it was slow. So I got good experience but was limited in how quickly I could do stupid things. Eventually the clutch cable broke, and the car wasn't worth fixing with some of the other issues that began to crop up with it.
The second Corolla was a dirt brown 1978 2-door with the automatic transmission (was previously my grandparent's car). The only option it had was a rear window defroster. Both Corollas were glorified beer cans with wheels. I give thanks I was never in an accident in them. The only claim to fame for the brown car was that we sold it with nearly 300K on it for something like $500. The body was shot, everything mechanical worked, but barely. Suspension was laughable. But 4 years later the same guy who bought it was driving it around town still. You just couldn't kill it. A cockroach of cars.
The next car I got was a 1984 VW Rabbit. 4 doors, tan everywhere, and epically slow. My first front wheel drive car and my first hatchback. It was as uninspiring as a car could get, but it served me well until the distributor broke off in the motor. I regularly ferried about a half ton of offensive linemen home after football practice in this little car. Rear bumper just barely above rubbing pavement. Imagine three linemen in the back seat of a VW Rabbit. Yeah.
I'm not actually going to write a Car Lust for a Geo Metro, simply because it doesn't generate lust for me. I have a lot of respect for the Metro, but as we can see in other walks of life, respect does not always equal lust. My respect for the Metro is a purely intellectual response; the only real emotion the Metro prompts in me is a slight tinge of ennui.
(Note that this isn't really true of the Metro's predecessor, the Chevy Sprint--its turbocharged variant will be appearing in this space someday as a bona fide Car Lust.)
Yet the Metro, in its own way, was as superlative as any Porsche, as extreme a performer in its sphere as any Ferrari. Its forte? Providing maximum fuel economy and usefulness for the minimum price. Within that context, the Metro was the ne plus ultra.
There has been a lot of conversation lately about alternative-fuel cars, hybrids, electric cars, hydrogen-fueled cars, Smart cars, and the like--all very cool developments, all interesting additions to the automotive world. Then fellow Amazon blogger Rich Sloan blogged about his friend's Smart fortwo--and subsequently got roasted in the comments for saying that his friend's fuel costs were $0 after 142 miles.
All of this really puts into context just how amazing the Geo Metro was--or, possibly, that we just haven't made much progress on fuel economy in the last decade. I like both the Smart and the Prius--there's something gadgety about them that appeals to me--but if your goal is just to have a useful gas-sipping car, it would be hard to do better than a Geo Metro.