"$670,000 for a car!" Normally a quiet man, you could hear his gleeful cry across the house.
Let's put this in a bit of perspective. I drive a used 95 Geo Metro. It was given to me by my father, who also bought it used and drove it as a commuter vehicle for several years. This is our family's view of a sensible car purchase. My dad upgraded to a (gasp) Chevy Prism, but only after several years of having to stick his leg out the door and help push trying to get the Metro over the Altamont. In a neighborhood whose driveways are populated with Mercedes and BMWs (with a Jaguar and a Hummer that are regularly sighted passing through), he still refers to the Prism as "the good car".
He's not a stingy man, or opposed to the finer things in life. With a little extra time off over the Holidays, he doesn't go to the movies, he takes my mother to live performances in San Francisco. In their used Prism. The heart of the matter is that he feels no need to spend tens of thousands of dollars on what he would call ego inflation. Why spend fifty thousand dollars on a passenger car when the one for ten grand will get you there in adequate comfort and safety? And why would you do it while people are starving?
That being said and done, he has quite the sense of humor about it, because the second thing out of his mouth upon reading about the Enzo was, "I wonder how long it would take the Metro to get to 60 mph."
That sparked a bout of "father-daughter" quality time, the likes of which I rarely get now that I'm grown and have a daughter of my own. Time spent avidly researching the net to find car specs so that we could compare my heirloom Metro with a Ferrari Enzo. We came up with some of the following conclusions.
- Price. The Enzo: $670,000. The Metro: $8000. A person could buy a Metro every six months for forty years and still save money. You could buy one Metro a year and then spend $8000 on explosives to detonate it with on the yearly celebration that would come to be known as "New Car's Eve". Or, with the money you save not buying an Enzo, you could buy a Metro for everyone in your family, all your close friends and probably for your co-workers and general acquaintances, too, though whether they would thank you for it would be another story.
- Engine. The Enzo: 12 cylinders, 660 hp. The Metro: 3 cylinders, 55 hp. Actually, 3 cylinders in a Metro is an optional feature. It comes standard from the factory with a squirrel in a wheel. The rotation produced when the squirrel runs winds up a rubber band, which in turn drives the axles as it unwinds. You can pay a little more and get pedals for the passenger seats. (If you have more than one person in the car, you'll probably need the extra power anyway.)
- Performance. The Enzo: 0-60 mph in what some reputable sources have clocked as 3.14 seconds, with a top speed of 218 mph. The Metro: 0-60 mph in less time than it would take you to watch Lord of the Rings. Probably. I can confidently say you can get from 0-60 in three installments and an intermission. Now, there were specs on the internet that suggested the Metro has a top speed of 100 mph, but given the horrible shaking that happens when I drive mine at 65, and the bits that start flying off at 70 mph (isn't it funny how many extra parts they put on cars? ...I hope), I have to wonder at the sanity of anyone who would drive one at 100 mph. Of course, most people wonder at my sanity driving a Metro at all.
As a side note, finding specs on the 0-60 and top speeds for the Enzo was easy. Finding them for the Chevy Prism was impossible. Nobody cared. For the Metro, they took apathy a step further and one site actually left the specs area blank and said flat out, "If you're buying one of these, you obviously don't care about this stuff anyway." I came across the specs on the websites of small-time enthusiasts, including one young man who had proudly posted photos of the stereo system he installed in his metro, and who referred to the car by name. ("The Chief-Mobile") Obviously, some of us love our Metros enough to take the time to determine specs that the callous auto industry feels are too lofty for us to even bother participating in. (14 seconds to 60 mph, by the way. After which the car should be pulled over and allowed to rest for 48 hours.)
At the end of the afternoon's research, as the family gathered together over the traditional New Year's meal and cackled over someone putting an expensive sound system in a Metro, I asked my father if he was ready to upgrade to an Enzo for the commute, or if he was going to wait until they installed a few more gas stations along the way. "No," he said. "I'm definitely leaning towards another Metro. Don't make any plans for New Car's Eve."
Comments and New Car's Eve ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org
This article first appeared in the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin