Monday, March 17, 2014

What's In A Name?

One of my favorite shows to watch on T.V. is Overhaulin' on TLC (The Learning Channel) which is hosted by Courtney Hansen (formally), Chris Jacobs, and automotive fabricator extraordinaire, Chip Foose. On one of the episodes a 1956 Chevy Bel Aire was transformed from its former hardtop self to a super sleek roadster. Throughout the show, Courtney continually and incorrectly, referred to the car as a convertible. I am sure she sees no problem with referring to it as such, but I do because it is a misnomer. Just as U.S. Marines should never be referred to as "Army Soldiers" then cars should be no different. In the midst of my frustration, I have decided to sit down and give a quick lesson on a few auto buzz words that get interchanged all of the time. Some of what I have to say is truth mixed with a little bit of my opinion, but regardless I feel that it is something that needs to be pointed out. Now, let's move on to the meat of this editorial!

Ok, for starters, referring back to the "roadster-convertible" controversy above, a roadster is an automobile that has been purposely designed "sans-top" (without a top). The dictionary definition is: "an open automobile having a single seat in the front for two or three people and a rumble seat or luggage compartment in the back." A good example of a true roadster is the 1932 Ford Hi-Boy. Referring to a roadster as a "convertible" is incorrect because a convertible is just that, a car whose top folds up and "converts" the car to topless. Now, a lot of owners of "true" roadsters will use special modified toppers to shield themselves against the elements when rolling long distances, but such tops usually require extra anchoring points and things that really give a roadster an unnatural appearance.

Moving along, another term that really gets thrown around incorrectly is "import". This is a somewhat new term on the custom automotive scene, though the term "import" is ancient. Compacts in general are referred to collectively as "imports" and this is incorrect because not all compacts are "imports". A Saturn, Chevy Cavalier, and Ford Focus are not imports, just to name a few! These are domestic autos that should be referred to as "sport compacts". Sure they resemble their Japanese and European counterparts, but once again how can something be "imported" or simply referred to as such when it is built here (we are not talking about assembled here by the way)? I guess that depends, as former President Bill Clinton would say, on what the meaning of "is"... is! I believe the whole term "import" needs to go away because a Toyota in Japan isn't a damn "import"!!! That is why the term "sport compact" is a much better term which can be universally assigned to any compact auto. Oh, and just to show you how confusing things get, I have seen and heard many, many times Japanese "imports" referred to as "euros". What the hell!?!?! This further gives reason to why the term "import" needs to go away when referencing sport compact autos. Now, I will give credit to a magazine that is called "Sport Compact Car Magazine" and the many auto shows that use the term "sport compact" over "import". I will be the first to admit that I have been guilty of throwing the term "import" around, but I plan to make future references to "imports" as "sport compacts".

Another term that gets misused is the term "sport truck". When you are referring to a "sport truck" I think of a low truck with a high-powered engine; that is usually a two seater with two doors. In my opinion anything that seats more than three people and has more than two doors is not a sport anything! It can have a sporty appearance, but sport it is not. For instance, I have a 2000 Chevy Silverado that is lowered and is a two door stick shift. By definition, since my truck has been modified to look unlike the traditional pickup, my truck is a "sport truck". Now, if my truck were an extended cab, I would now say, though it has a sporty stance and/or a nifty paint job, it is more like a "street truck" kind of similar to "street rod". I feel that "street truck" is a more appropriate term for all trucks that have been modified and seat more than three and have more than two doors. The term "sport truck" should be true to what the term "sport car" originated from, a two door auto that runs fast. So, I guess the truck would also have to be fast as well. Ford has the right idea in this department with their F-150 SVT Lightning model pickup. It has two doors and Dodge also has it right, or should I say had it right, with the V-10 Dodge Ram pickup which at first was only available in two doors. Now, the Dodge V-10 truck is available in an extended cab version, so I refer to that version as a "street truck". The same goes for the Chevy SS pickup which to me is a "street truck" because of the extended cab design.

In closing, in order to not seem very anal about the whole "name thing", I don't hold it against anyone who refers to a Chevy Cavalier as an "import", neither do I eat someone's lunch over people referring to extended cab pickups as "sport trucks", and I do not get super miffed over someone referring to a "roadster" as a convertible. Simply, I want to set the record straight on a few "buzz" words.

Until next time... keep it legal and keep it safe.