Opinion: On Mainstream and On Unusual cars

One day, a thought came to me, that many of the most-loved motor vehicles in the world were in their heyday some of the most popular and best-selling cars to the general public. Think about it. From top of mind, examples range from the Model T to the Type 1 Beetle, and in between an assortment of muscle cars. Locally we treat the Escort and Starlet as veritable classics, and my generation are going gaga over any 90’s Corolla or Civic as a hot car to mod up. You don’t see many people have much passion towards say a Suzuki Fronte, Daewoo Racer, or a Volkswagen Polo.

Why do we like these popular models so much? I surmise that since many people bought them, herd mentality dictates that the car must really be good. I think the Hyundai Elantra is a great car, and probably the owners of the surviving of 2000 officially imported units would vouch for it as well. But in the Philippines, Toyota probably sells like 2000 Vios per second or something.* We in the minority have no voice. Maybe we Elantra boys should set up a party list.

There are fringes of wackos like me, nutjobs who like obscure cars. I went to see a tarmac rally in Subic once, and among the multitude of Lancer Evos and B-series’d Civics that stormed by my vantage point, I heard a banshee wail emanating from the craggy forest. The aural assault of pistons flailing in motorcycle-like revolutions sounded rough and high-pitched, unlike any car I’ve ever heard in my life. It turned out it came from – wait for it – a Nissan California. Now how can such a phantasmal reverberation come from a car whose body shape is probably designed by a kid with Legos is beyond me. But there are weird people in this world, and some of them make 8000-rpm screamers out of blocky station wagons.

Unfortunately there are those who denigrate you to pariah status when they find out you don’t have a mainstream enthusiast machine. Ive been to a few tuner shops and saw some eyes roll in apparent humor and derision when I say that I need xxxx and have zzzz done to my Hyundai. I’ve had their customers ask me, “Why in the world did you choose to soup up an Elantra? You can make a better EG/WRX/MX-5/[insert alphabet soup here] with what you will spend in your Korean car.” In retrospect, they were right about the money part. But damn if I will be told by a stranger how I will go on and live my life.

And plus, while you will see SIRs decked to the hilt with all kinds of bolt-on cutlery and streaked with Type-R rouge, you don’t see a drift Multicab or a mid-engined Alto or something like that everyday. And the owners of those cars will surely have interesting stories to tell. I want to meet the guy who shoe-horned a complete LanEvo powertrain – 4WD and all – into a Daihatsu Charade. And in this age of commercialism where people sell off their cars merely because of boredom, I find my friend’s Nissan Sentra very riveting. It was my friend’s dad’s first ever car, and he bought it months before my friend’s birth. My friend is now 22, and they still own it, and they use it everyday. The patina on that thing… If cars can only be anthropomorphic like that Pixar movie…

I believe that weird cars deserve some love as well. Who else to do so than those who already own them? As such, we should act as vanguards for the next generation, who will definitely find them as novel artifacts of a time long gone.

On that note, I’d like to make a grossly shameless plug: If you have an interesting car story, similar anything I’ve mentioned, or anything really, I’d love to write about you and feature you in kuhol.net. Don’t worry, libera est. Shoot us a message at kuholtees@gmail.com.

*Can anyone tell me what is the plural of Vios? Vioses? Vii? Which reminds me, Toyota is figuring out the plural form of its mainstream hybrid-powertrain’d Voltes-V shoe of a car, the Prius via public vote. If you play Car Town in Facebook, as I do, you will see an ongoing promotion as far as this grammatical exercise is concerned.

And it’s official: the Vios is the Philippine’s best selling car of 2010.

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