Sunday, February 3, 2013

Driving Mademoiselle Cynthia

© 2013 Cynthia Hinson
            As you might recall, the last post ended with a thought about the type of car we might eventually buy.

             The last cars we had in the States were a Lincoln LS and a Fiat 500. We bought the Fiat thinking that it might be easier and cheaper to take a car with us, an idea that turned out to be one of the most stupid I ever had. And to get the 500, I had to give up my Mazdaspeed6 (MPS in Europe), which Cynthia was not sorry to see go. Even under the best conditions, I'm not a patient driver with the added curse of a lead foot. The Mazda was only the second car I owned that I really wanted (The first was the '65 GTO I bought a frightening 42 years ago at the age of 18) and I drove it like the name suggested I should. At 18 this is expected of you but at nearly 60 it borders on pathetic and stupid, even if it's still damn fun. This will not be an issue here, especially since most of what is sensibly priced runs on diesel.
            Unlike the Mercedes-Benzes, BMWs and other European makes in the U.S., the average car driven in Europe is an underpowered slug, probably because the price of fuel has always been so high. Remember when we saw Monty Python or Upstairs, Downstairs on PBS, thought all British TV was like that and lamented that we couldn't get it here? The reality was that what we got was the best they had and almost everything else was mediocre to down right awful crap. So it is with European cars and it's hard to decide what to buy.
            I've already eliminated most of the field by refusing to even consider anything from the former Soviet Bloc or with less than 100 horsepower. As someone who's been driving American cars for over 40 years, I'm accustomed to a certain level of power. I started with 335 hp in the GTO, the Mazda had nearly 300 (and would have blown the doors off my beloved Goat) and even the Lincoln had 232. The Fiat, while a fun little car, had a piddling 101 and so prepared me for life in the slow lane.
            If the criteria for buying were just the model name, as a musician and bebopper I'd go with a Honda Jazz, a Hyundai Getz or a Citro├źn Saxo. But the Honda and Hyundai are the kinds of cars driven in the states by frumpy women in dirndls and Doc Martens who haven't shaved their legs since 1969. And the Saxo's been out of production for years and was a piece of shit anyway.
            If it hadn't already been eliminated, I'd avoid the Czech built Skoda Roomster because it sounds too much like a Wagon Queen Family Truckster (for those too young to remember, this is a reference to the '70's movie "Vacation" with Chevy Chase). And because some names just don't sound right in English, I'd have a hard time with a Leon. This is a model of Seat, a carmaker in Spain and even if it's Spanish for lion, in English it's still Leon. They're not bad looking cars, score pretty well in reviews and I'd probably get over the name eventually.  But when I see one there's this mental image of a salesman telling me, "You know, the Leon's great car but for not much more I could put you in a Sidney."             
            One model has, in fact, been eliminated based entirely on its name. This is despite the fact that during our first trip to France over 10 years ago, we were given a forerunner of this car and I actually dug driving it. It had plenty of headroom and space and there was an attractive je ne sais quoi to how dumb it looked (ask anyone driving a Cube or Soul.) But I look at this thing now and think, "Bipper Tepee? Bipper Tepee. Bipper.....Tepee." What images this conjures to a Frenchman, I couldn't tell you. Maybe it's a reference to Marcel Marceau or something but they couldn't have given it a dumber name if they'd called it the Steaming Turdster. Come to think of it, I might still be adolescent enough to actually buy one of those.
Me in 2002 with a Peugeot Partner © 2013 Cynthia Hinson



  1. Does the name mean something? Does anyone know why they would call it that? I have to agree with you on eliminating it strictly because of the name.

    1. Actually, I probably should have included this. Bipper, as far as I can figure, is a Francophonisation (is that a word) of "Beep", i being pronounced ee. The Road Runner is called "Bip-Bip" in France and I'm wondering if this word existed in French before the cartoons. This, however,while making sense of "Bipper" makes the whole thing even dumber because tepee means the same thing as in English. It's not really something you can ask a French person because, not only don't they know, they fail to see the humor in it.