When I was around six years old someone told me girls were icky. I’m not going to lie and say that I have ever completely overcome that. Four decades later I can tell you that for the most part girls are OK, but on some levels they remain strange, unknowable creatures. To attempt to understand them is to flirt with madness. They like things I could never like, “The Real Housewives,” cats, and leafy green vegetables are just a few examples and, what is worse, they have the expectation that if they bring these things into the home that I will somehow learn to like them too. In the 1970s, marketers discovered that women wield a considerable amount of control over the household finances and they began to target of their ads directly at them. They also began to introduce a lot of products intended specifically to appeal to women and, although it is acceptable for a woman to purchase products not specifically aimed at them, it is a major mistake for a guy to ever buy something aimed at the female market. Picked up a box of tampons for your wife at the drug store lately? Then you know the shame involved. So, listen up now, this is the important part – the car companies are targeting our women folk and if you aren’t careful, you might just end up driving a “girls’ car.”
I put “girls’ car” in quotes because it is one of those things that us traditional cavemen, men who were raised in the days when manly heroes like John Wayne and Rock Hudson were still on the silver screen, understand without it being explicitly explained. I don’t know what it is, whether it is a particular shape, body line, color or model name that sets off my inner alarm bell but I know that it is there and that it has saved me innumerable times. Today’s young men, however, suffer from the undue influence of a left wing media that has bombarded them from birth with images of smart, authoritative women contrasted by weak, buffoonish men and I thought that, in order to save them from an embarrassing mistake, we might take a stab at defining it once and for all. I don’t think this is going to be an easy task and I think we are going to have some disagreements along the way, but we are men and we must do the difficult.
Let me begin the discussion with the 1987 Nissan Pulsar NX. Built on the Nissan Sentra chassis, the Pulsar NX is a cute little liftback coupe and even an optional Turbo engine for added performance. Nissan also offered an optional “sportbak” – a canopy that should totally have made us compare it to the decideldly many El Camino – but despite these manly touches this thing just screams “girls’ car.” A lot of cars get better with age, I don’t know why that is, maybe because the boys have broken up all the other toys from that era and we don’t have those to compare to this, but no, my alarm bell is ringing and I wouldn’t drive this if you gave it to me. I’d take it if you gave it to me, sure, but I’d trade it off on a ’74 two stroke Yamaha enduro or something really manly and then ride that to school in the rain.
Let’s talk about the Toyota “Paseo” next. This little car was a derivative of the Toyota Tercel and should have been a budget alternative to the Toyota Celica, a car that started out as, if not a man’s car at least something fairly androgynous but morphed into a girl’s car once they spun the Supra off into its own design. I thought for a while that the only problem with this otherwise fine looking car was its name, “Passeo.” Say it with my now, “Pass-ay-oh” even if you have the accent of Ricardo Monteblan in the Wrath of Khan the word ends up sounding like “blah-say-oh.” That’s the problem, right? No. In Japan, this car is called the “Cynos.” Look at the car now and say in your best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice “Cynos.” Did it make the car more manly? No, it didn’t, sorry.
The Japanese are not the only offenders. Ford hit us with the EXP and then followed that up with the ZX2. Hey, look, nothing against you guys who like these, but back in the day most of the guys I knew who just had to have a small sporty Ford opted for the more practical Escort GT for whatever reason – maybe so they had an easier time loading their pre-ban assault rifles and ammo boxes in the back. Sure, these things look like fun, but don’t be fooled. While nobody will try and collect your man card if you buy one of these, peope will still know and your email address will be spammed with ads for herbal Viagara and Christian dating sites.
Two cars I won’t be mentioning here are the Nissan 200SX and the Dodge Shadow. Both of these hatches were totally cool, especially when equipped with Turbos like the ones I had and they both had lots of room in back for my parachutes, spear-fishing gear and all those MREs I bought at the military surplus store in case I got trapped out in the wilderness when I took the cars up logging roads those times I went looking for bears to wrestle. No, not those cars, they were totally manly. Cute, but manly.
Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.