Girlie Cars of the Recent Past

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There are manly cars and there are not-so-manly cars. And then there are cars that Liberace would have loved. Back in the ’80s, such cars included the VW Rabbit cabriolet – in all white, ideally. But what about more recently? Check out these testosterone-deficient examples of estrogen engineering:

* Acura CL 1997-2003

If Chaz Bono has an opposite number in a parallel universe, he’d be driving the parking brake 180 opposite of this unit. From its tight little rear end to its kissy-faced front end, the CL is arguably the most female car built since the snow-white VW Rabbit cabriolet of the Reagan Years. Acura, belatedly conscious that half the potential buyer pool was steering clear of the CL, tried to butch the car up some in 2003 by offering a Type-S variant that had some real power under its hood, but the effort failed for the same reason that putting an evening gown on Chaz Bono isn’t going to get her onto the cover of the next Sport Illustrated swimsuit edition. Acura bowed to the inevitable and quietly retired the CL in 2003.

 

Volvo C70, 1998-present

If the Acura CL’s a cute young thing, the Volvo C70’s that cute young thing about 30 years later. “Matronly” comes to mind. As in, Mrs. Doubtfire. This one’s husky and a bit deep-voiced; turbo versions even have an Adam’s apple – so to speak. But this one’s as much a guy’s car as meat snacks are your typical female’s  favorite munchie.  Still, she’s solid through the hips – roomy – and does a great job taking care of the family. Think of her as a good earner. Only don’t let your buds catch you behind the wheel.

Geo Storm,  1990-1993

There are chick cars – and there a dude repellents. The Geo Storm being a classic example of the latter. It’s the perfect car… for your girlfriend. She is also probably light, small and kind of cute, too. The Storm is all of these things plus it has an angry-sexy sounding name on top of all that. You can almost imagine your high school GF angrily peeling out of your driveway in one after an argument. If, of course, the Storm’s 95 hp engine had enough scoot to angrily peel out of your driveway.

Toyota Avalon, 1995-present

Does any car say “mom” more? Is there a male anywhere on the planet who willingly bought one of these poufters? In beige or off-white, it is the perfect car for Maybelline deliveries. And grocery runs. And afterschool soccer klatches. In brief, it is the resurrected reincarnation of a 1970s-era Volvo 240, only devoid of the Volvo’s old man lingering remnants of fast-fading masculinity. It is safe, stolid, reliable and dependable. Buy one and get in touch with your feminine side. And wave bye-bye to your masculine side

Chrysler Sebring, 1996-2010

The Sebring has many virtues – including adult-usable rear seats, a feature that’s hard to find in any convertible and impossible to find in an affordable convertible.  It is also an easy driver, a pleasant companion – the ideal car for a nice summer afternoon cruise. But it is about as un-manly as Tom Cruise is not-tall. Hence, the buyer demographic: middle-aged women, over-the-hill men and airport rental fleets. You’ll never see this car being driven by a male under 35 unless he’s borrowing his mom’s car, or he’s in town on business and that’s what Hertz gave him for the week.

And, finally…

VW New Beetle, 1998-2010

The original Beetle crossed all lines of sex, age, income and social class. Many men are onetime old Beetle owners. It wasn’t quick, but it was manly because it encouraged tinkering and rewarded the owner who was a do-it-yourselfer kind of dude. But the New Beetle was just another modern FWD compact with the same computerized over-complexity you’d find in any other late-model car and just as do-it-yourselfer unfriendly. The rugged individualism was gone. In its place? Cuteness. It was the pretty cheerleader of  cars – or the car a pretty cheerleader would be likely to own. Few men were interested, for all the obvious reasons. VW discovered that something along the lines of two-thirds of New Beetle owners were female. Res ipsa loquitur. It speaks for itself. In 2012, VW pumped some testosterone into the (now just)  Beetle. But real men would rather have the real deal. 

Throw it in the Woods?

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31 COMMENTS

  1. Your column was funny, and it’s the proof, (if proof was necessary), that people buy cars for any reason one can name, except practicality. Even when someone buys an apparently practical vehicle, it’s only because they want to look like people who don’t care about the looks of car, therefore they buy for an emotional reason. Makes it very hard for someone who wants to do a market research, about what people really desire in a car.

  2. I always considered the VW Cabriolet the all time chick car. We’ll maybe second to a bycycle with a basket on the handlebars and pink steamers.

  3. It would be interesting to see a list of cars driven by “suburban schmucks”. You know the type – they tend to live in newer or up-and-coming subdivisions with the oversized houses (they still think that their houses are “investments”), they worry about the lawns, and take great pains to “keep up appearances”.
    I recently drove through a neighborhood like this and I’d swear all the cars were the same – scaled-down SUV’s, minivans, or some kind of hybrid of the two.
    When I’m following one of these in traffic, I sometimes play a little game with myself & try to guess where they’re going to exit at. I amaze myself with how often I’m correct.

  4. Whew. I’m glad you didn’t include my Jaguar S-type on the list. I have seen a good number of chicks driving that car. When I see them in the car, I think they don’t know what they are in for when it breaks. I got a dose of that myself and am now prepared to work under the hood if when necessary.

    • Nah! The Jaguar – older models across the range – managed the neat trick of being erotic without being feminine. I luvs me the old XJ series especially and hope to own one someday.

  5. WOW,what a blow to my ego-finding my car on your list.How could this happen?It really hurts because (till now) I agree with you about everything.Not to sound gay but you think just like I do-maybe more than anyone else.So let me plead my case.My first car was fake 1970 GTO judge,since then I have had many Mustang’s,F- bodies and I recently sold my Buick T-Type.So in my book those cars don’t lack Testosterone.So how can my Acura CL-S which is as faster than quite a few of my previous cars be considered girly?

  6. I’ll bite:

    Any minivan
    Any lower-end BMW 3-series (daddy’s girl)
    Cadillac XLR (sure it’s really a Corvette, a really overpriced one that trophy wives drive)
    Geo Metro convertible (the VW Rabbit’s second coming)
    Geo Tracker (what, a Suzuki with an American badge?)
    Chevrolet Aveo first gen (I’m sensing a trend here)
    Dodge Nitro (a car looking for a purpose)
    Dodge Journey (oh, wait…I already said minivans)
    Ford Explorer (exchanged it’s manliness for a unibody)
    Ford Fiesta (it’s a party, but it’s girls’ night out)
    Ford Flex (just like the WNBA, it does a lot of things really well but it’s still boring)
    Ford Mustang V6 (I just want it for the image, I know nothing about cars, I’m just a girl)
    Honda Accord Crosstour (crossing what? touring what? only non-car people are fooled, mostly girls)
    Honda CR-V (need I say more?)
    Honda Element (Pontiac Aztek’s ugly little cousin)
    Honda Pilot (When is a minivan not a minivan?)
    Jeep Compass (guys only…)
    Jeep Patriot (…look at…)
    Jeep Liberty (Wranglers or Grand Cherokees)
    Land Rover Evoque (I…feel…PRETTY)
    Lexus (yes, just Lexus, aside from the LF-A)
    Lotus Evora (they tried to knock one out of the park and ended up throwing like a girl)
    Mazda CX-7 (I don’t wanna minivan. . .)
    Mazda CX-9 (. . .I want a sporty minivan)
    Mercedes C Class (see also BMW 3 series)
    Mitsubishi Eclipse (too slow to be fast, too sleepy to be furious)
    Mitsubishi i-MiEV (where to I plug in my curling iron?)
    Mitsubishi Outlander (a rolling assault on testosterone)
    Nissan Juke (only a few people, mostly chicks, find it cute; unfortunately it’s a great SUV otherwise)
    Nissan Cube (reminds them of shopping since it’s still in the box)
    Nissan Rogue (could’ve picked a better X-Men character)
    Nissan Murano (the Toyota Highlander of Nissans)
    Scion (waiting on something non-chick from them)
    smart (the “not so” is silent)
    Subaru Forester (for crying out loud, it’s a station wagon, not an SUV)
    Tesla (no one with any car sense would buy one willingly)
    Toyota MR2 (’nuff said)
    Toyota Highlander (the original mommy’s too cool for a minivan crossover)
    Toyota Prius (sucks any manliness right out of you)
    VW Eos (wasn’t there a Disneyland movie called “Captain Eo” starring Michael Jackson?)
    VW “New” New Beetle (the attempt to macho it up made it even more sissy, looks like a bread loaf)
    VW Passat (what, thought Motor Trend was on to something?)
    Volvo C30 (nice car, but chick car)
    Volvo XC70/XC90 (Y? just Y?)

    • I have to agree. To me the Avalon is the automotive equivalent of old-man pants: loose-fitting gabardine trousers with suspenders and a rise up to the armpits — worn, of course, with ventilated shoes and a sweat-stained straw hat. But that’s just me.

    • I have a friend who races them – and know of a lot of other guys who do. It’s the ideal weekend SCCA car because it’s a superb handler, and you can run the snot out of it on the track and then drive it to work every day the next week… and do it again, the next weekend, for years – without the car breaking.

        • Yeah, granted, it’s not as macho as an S2000 or 911 or Lotus, but it’s a great car in ever respect. It’s the only true sports car I know of that costs not much more than a basic economy sled, will autocross with cars costing three times what it costs – and is all-but-indestructible. I know guys who do track days regularly and still have the original clutch in the car at 100,000-plus miles. Ask around. People who own/drive these cars love them for good reason.

          • I’ve often wrestled with where to place the Miata, but even acknowledging the comments made by Eric, I tend to place it in the girlie category. I think it’s because of its soft, rounded edges.

          • If it’s girlie so be it! Mine consistently gets 30 MPG, it’s a blast to drive and at 65 in a 55 a State Trooper won’t even give it a second glance. My wife says it looks like a little red clown car from the circus, so I don’t think cops even take it seriously. I consider it to be the ultimate stealth sports car because it’s diminutive with “curvy” feminine lines.

        • I compensate for the “girlie” aspect of my track Miata with a license-plate frame that says “My other car is an M5”

          🙂

          Absolutely love that little car. Picked up a ’92 model with 125K miles for 2500 bucks, put some basic service into it–that is, spent a weekend replacing all fluids, brake pads, plugs, wires, coolant hoses, cam timing belt, and filters. That thing will run another 100K miles easily; it’s just indestructible.

          Any SO MUCH FUN to drive. I never thought you could have that much fun with 120hp and 15 inch wheels. They’re exquisitely balanced…and you never get that sinking feeling of “Oh my god I’ve just burned $300 worth of tires on my last track run”…or “Holy crap the next brake job is going to cost $1200 in parts”.

          Or my personal favorite–“Eh, need a new engine. I’ll have to go pick up a new core for $750 and do a $1000 rebuild.” ‘Cause that’s about what it costs on the Miata…or as much as a set of Michelin Pilots for the M5 (which is why I stopped buying them BTW).

          It really is a killer little car. I find myself driving it more and more just as a daily driver! Now if I could just find a cheap set of coil-overs on eBay…

    • The Miata is a highly unusual car. In fact, it is unique. The Miata is a car that was consciously conceived from the outset as a hardcore enthusiast’s car.

      The Miata has everything that an enthusiast of traditional two seat British roadsters would demand. That is no accident. That was precisely what the car’s creators had in mind. The Miata was explicitly intended as a reincarnation of the old MGs, Triumphs, Healeys, with a special nod to Colin Chapman’s Lotus Elan.

      It was a car with all the mechanicals of a hardcore male car enthusiast’s car. But intentionally or unintentionally, the sheet metal surrounding the enthusiast mechanicals had enough suggestion of “chick’s car” to pull in vast numbers of female car buyers whose primary consideration was that it was “cute”.

      Was this characteristic of the car intentional, or unintentional? Was it a “mistake”, or was it a shrewd marketing move, intended to increase the customer base? Good question.

      Either way, the first generation Miata wound up being a highly unusual car that simultaneously appealed to two very different categories of customers, for two very different reasons.

      As I’ve blogged repeatedly, the Miata has become something of a Rorschach inkblot test of a car buyer’s confidence in his own masculinity. Many men can’t get over the fact that so many women “adore” the Miata because it is so “cute”.

      They can’t see past the image, and get past that to the original intent and the underlying mechanicals, They can’t appreciate the car for its substance, for what it is, a reborn 60s era traditional British roadster, without the maddening Lucas electrics and leaky roofs.

      They are too unsure of their own masculinity to accept the car for what it is, a true blue sports car driver’s car, meant to be tossed around corners with the tail hanging out.

      • One of my comments:

        I really don’t understand these people.

        They’re worried to death of looking “unmanly.”

        Don’t they realize that admitting they are so terrified of looking unmanly, already makes them look unmanly? They may as well stop worrying.

        PS: There are all kinds of fun cars out there. I like the new Miatas as every bit as much as I like the 68 Plymouth Road Runner.

        It ought to be about what’s fun to drive, not what looks “manly” while you’re driving it. 

      • I had wondered about the Miata for years. We lived on a boat for much of that time, so a van to use for off-boat-storage was more important and was our only vehicle.

        After swallowing the anchor, I happened to see one on a local Chevy dealer’s lot. He, surprisingly, let me take it out on my own. Two days later I bought a brand new one.

        I have owned a TR-3A, an Austin Healey 4-cylinder 4-speed, an Alfa Romeo Giulia. The Miata was a combination of all. Tougher than the TR, better handliing and faster than any of them. And like the Giulia, it included a wonderful top and it never rattled. How can you go wrong?

        • Dear Aryliao,

          I owned an Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce 2000 for several years.

          I’ve also driven a neighbor’s 60s era MGA, a long time friend’s Triumph Spitfire, and ridden in coworker’s Triumph TR-4.

          I’ve never owned a Miata, but I’ve ridden in one belonging to a woman friend, who got it with an automatic. But even then I could tell from the seat of my pants what the car was. It was just as you said, the best of all worlds.

          Funny how so many car buffs who claim to value substance over image, can’t get over the image of the Miata they have in their minds, and appreciate the car for its substance.

  7. I’m surprised that you didn’t mention Volkswagen’s New Beetle (1998-2011). It was functionally a cotton ball on wheels. I know you’re not enamored of its replacement precisely because of VW’s efforts to incorporate masculine elements in the design.

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