It's Time For My Christmas List

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

Now it can be told: Perhaps the most cringe-worthy moment of my life was my own “Affluenza” episode, otherwise known as “The Time I Wrote A Poem About Not Getting A BMW 2002 For Christmas.”

I was eighteen years old and busy failing to fulfill my potential at university. I was already on my second car, the infamous Red Marquis, having unceremoniously crashed my 200SX on my first unsupervised day as a temporary-license holder. During one of our brief telephone conversations that fall, my father asked me some questions about “old BMWs,” with particular focus on the 2002. My fevered imagination had grasped that straw and run with it until I was honestly surprised to get two sweaters and a couple of shirts on the blessed morning of the 25th.

I went back to school early so I could mope in private and write a poem about it, the worst couplets of which I’ve retrieved from memory for your amusement:

The gift that I had expected to view

The chrome on a vintage Bimmer ’02.

Something I’d hoped that you had found

With pre-impact bumpers and taillights round

We can draw the curtain on this, I think, because at this point I’d really like to get in a time machine and slap myself across the face for that. Why I thought my father would buy me a third car to celebrate the series of non-accomplishments that had blighted my first semester away at a school for which he was paying the entire tab … Jesus. Sorry, Dad. The worst part of it was that I insisted on doing a dramatic reading of the whole thing for this gorgeous little brunette I knew, and that I stood up with absolute seriousness and bellowed each line as if I was performing a close reading of The Waste Land. Sorry for that, Deidre. No wonder it didn’t work out.

Let’s get to my Christmas list for this year. The chances of me getting anything on this list, which is addressed to the automobile and motorcycle manufacturers out there, are about the same as my actual chances of receiving a pale blue, round-light 2002 back in 1989. But now as then I suffer for a sort of impudent optimism that tells me of the possibilities to be grasped if we will each but stand up and ask for our heart’s desire. So, as Eugene Henderson once said: I want, I want, I WANT!

A lime-green turbocharged Civic Si, making at least 250 horsepower and featuring a six-speed manual transmission. I don’t think there should be a problem making this happen. Every year there’s some wacky color on the Civic Si. The past few years it’s been the orange that I associate with my old friends at Compass360 Racing. Why not use lime green instead? If they build it, I will buy one. I don’t mean that in the Jalopnik commenter sense of “I’ll totally buy one of those once they fetch $2,999 at the local buy-here pay-here, assuming my parents pay off my student loan debt and I win the lottery.” I mean that I’ll put a deposit down when it’s announced and then I’ll show up with the rest of the money when the car arrives. Simple as that. Make sure the car is appropriately lime green. Get it done, Honda.

Corvette Grand Sport. The standard Corvette is one of the most brilliantly conceived and executed vehicles I’ve ever had the pleasure of driving. The Corvette Z06… well, it’s very fast in certain conditions. Clearly, the C7 is calling out for the Grand Sport treatment. It could be a riff on the C6 Grand Sport, with the wider tires and functional aero of the Z06 coupled to the basic LT1 engine, or it could be a more exciting throwback to the C4-GS with a special version of the NA motor tuned for more power and more drama. You can’t tell me that the LS7 cannot be resurrected for this application. Maybe it could be tuned even further. Don’t forget to bring back the sharky vents, too. Poof! The best Corvette ever.

Charger Hellcat with manual transmission. What’s stopping this from being built? No stick-shift center console in the existing inventory? FCA won’t sell too many of them, but the people who will buy them will be enthusiastic and devoted ambassadors for the brand. This is another car which would significantly raise my purchase enthusiasm. With the Hellcat run being perennially sold-out as is, I can’t imagine this one will ever get built. The aftermarket will do it eventually, I suppose.

A Porsche Speedster that adheres to the original tradition. Remember the original 356 Speedster? It was meant to be a true entry into Porsche ownership that preserved the dynamic qualities of its betters while offering little in the way of comfort. The 911 Carrera Speedster of the ’80s, by contrast, was a remarkably crass lash-up that looked like a developmentally-handicapped toad and served primarily as an announcement of wealth acquisition that was both staggering and staggeringly recent. Let’s not do that again. Instead, let’s have a 718 variant that comes just one way, in just a few colors, for some outrageous price like, oh, $39,999. It doesn’t need a lot of motor. Doesn’t need a lot of wheel and tire. Vinyl interior, no fuss. Six-speed manual. Four-speaker stereo. Make it a car that young upwardly-mobile singles can afford. You know, the kind of kids who buy a G35 or 328i right now. Announce that it’s a loss-leader financed by sales of Panameras or something. Create a new generation of Porsche loyalists that has no ties to oil money or overseas stock exchanges.

The return of the Camry hatchback. Come on. You know it would be cool. A nice long liftback terminating in a discreet Kamm flip. All the versatility of a Saab with none of the flakiness. Obviously, it’s best served as an XSE V-6 manual, but I know that particular combination isn’t available right now. Still, if they did it, I will waive my consulting fee for suggesting the name: Camry SR5. Or SR6, maybe. If Honda wants to beat Toyota to the punch, it would be simple. Crosstour-ish body, standard ride height, dump the SUV styling cues.

Mustang Super Bullitt. Dark Highland Green Mustang fastback with GT350 engine but none of the handling stuff. Just a bad-ass street warrior with no track pretensions. Every. Single. One. Would. Sell. Immediately. Make the automatic optional if you don’t mind.

A full revamp of the Kawasaki Concours C-14 with the full ZX-14R mill. This one’s personal, too. I want a ZX-14R but I’d also like to take some pressure off my oft-snapped wrists and arms. Cruise control, 208 horsepower, a nice comfy seat, large fuel tank. Something to ride across the country at triple-digit speeds.

My last Christmas wish has nothing to do with cars. It’s the wish that every member of the Best & Brightest would take a few minutes to choose American-made clothing, appliances, industrial goods, and tools in the upcoming year. If you’re reading this from within the states and territories of the USA, then it’s simple patriotism and economic sense for you to buy American. If you’re one of those foreigner types, then consider it a great way to express your gratitude for keeping you out from under the thumb of Hitler or Tojo or Brezhnev. If you’re a member of ISIS, then for the love of G-d please consider taking that plumber’s contact information off your new truck. That’s all, folks!

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • Tbp0701 Tbp0701 on Dec 24, 2015

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and everyone as well. I can't say I've ever asked for nor expected a car for Christmas. Musical instruments (and all the accessories) and books have been on my list since I was about eight, though. However, my car wish list would feature a return of the S2000. As for finding good, US made stuff, I have some suggestions, although it’s a little late for giving this year. I've had good experience with most of these (I haven't bought all those guitars, though). - Tom Bihn bags ( ). I used to go throw a bag or two every year, but I’ve had a Bihn bag for about seven years, and it’s barely aged). - SAS Shoes ( ) Just good, Texas made shoes. - Grado Labs ( ). Headphones and phono cartridges. It’s been a while since I bought one, but I think they’re still US made. I think the SR-60s are a far better choice than anything Dr. Beats, anyway. - Couch straps ( ). I first heard of these from one of Jack's articles, and they’re pretty cool. Anyway, guitar straps, wallets, etc. Made from vintage vinyl and other materials. - Sterlingwear Peacoats ( ). They’re peacoats. If it’s too cold or you’re not feeling cool enough for a leather jacket, there’s always a peacoat. - Wassookeag Moccasins ( ). Despite being tough to remember or spell the name, I’ve given two people these at Christmas, and they’ve been a big hit. Take a while to get, though. - Guitars. I believe the US is still at the forefront of making high quality guitars. Besides the big three (Fender Gibson and Martin), there’s PRS, Heritage, Taylor, Collings, Santa Cruz, Huss & Dalton and a whole lot more. Of course many of the companies make instruments in other countries as well. There are others, but I thought I’d share some ideas.

    • See 4 previous
    • Jack Baruth Jack Baruth on Dec 28, 2015

      @tbp0701 Not unwanted on my part. Thank you for posting it!

  • Scott Seigmund Scott Seigmund on Dec 26, 2015

    Jack, You may be the only auto journalist to articulate the disappointment of C6 Z06 owners about the C7 Z06. I'm disappointed enough in the C7 to sit this generation out in hopes of something better. It's not like GM is losing much with me thought, as I’ve “only” bought one Corvette in my lifetime. Corvettes were so far out of my brain space for so many years, I wouldn't turn my head to look at one. That all changed with a business trip to Miami a few years ago when I got "stuck" with brand new Hertz ZHZ for 9 days. I hated the automatic transmission, but the new LS3 was brilliant. I was stunned to learn that the LS family of engines still used one cam and a bunch of pushrods. That "inconvenience" of my Hertz Gold Membership got me to researching Corvettes, and I learned about the option called RPO Z06. My first test-drive of the Z06 was absolutely riveting, and I soon had the FOB to my very own Z06 in the hip pocket of my U.S.A. made 501s. I haven't had so much pure enjoyment from a car since I was 16 years old. This 7 liter stroke of corporate brilliance got me involved in HPDE and now looking to pursue a NASA race license. After years of driving SUVs and growing increasingly tired of the ritual driving in Mid Atlantic traffic, I’m head over heels in love with a car again! So is the C6Z going down in automotive history as a corporate outlier? A tongue-in-cheek prank of some car enthusiast at the peak auto industry excess before the great recession? The current Z06 is a Swiss Army Knife made to do too many jobs for too many customers to be brilliant at any one thing. The LT4 is a thuggish and lazy solution to increase power and contributes a great deal to the weight gain of the C7. Massive computational intervention is now required for self preservation of the engine as well as the driver. Like a lot of guys (may not a lot after all) I wanted a Z06 100 kilos lighter like the new Miata and maybe another 50 or 60 hp. For the effort put into that idiot supercharger might we have had active aero instead that stupid air brake perched on the ugliest ass ever seen on a car? What is your honest opinion of the Cayman GT4? Happy New Year! Scott

    • Jack Baruth Jack Baruth on Dec 28, 2015

      Honest opinion of the Cayman GT4? It's over-priced and under-engined.

  • Varezhka I have still yet to see a Malibu on the road that didn't have a rental sticker. So yeah, GM probably lost money on every one they sold but kept it to boost their CAFE numbers.I'm personally happy that I no longer have to dread being "upgraded" to a Maxima or a Malibu anymore. And thankfully Altima is also on its way out.
  • Tassos Under incompetent, affirmative action hire Mary Barra, GM has been shooting itself in the foot on a daily basis.Whether the Malibu cancellation has been one of these shootings is NOT obvious at all.GM should be run as a PROFITABLE BUSINESS and NOT as an outfit that satisfies everybody and his mother in law's pet preferences.IF the Malibu was UNPROFITABLE, it SHOULD be canceled.More generally, if its SEGMENT is Unprofitable, and HALF the makers cancel their midsize sedans, not only will it lead to the SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST ones, but the survivors will obviously be more profitable if the LOSERS were kept being produced and the SMALL PIE of midsize sedans would yield slim pickings for every participant.SO NO, I APPROVE of the demise of the unprofitable Malibu, and hope Nissan does the same to the Altima, Hyundai with the SOnata, Mazda with the Mazda 6, and as many others as it takes to make the REMAINING players, like the Excellent, sporty Accord and the Bulletproof Reliable, cheap to maintain CAMRY, more profitable and affordable.
  • GregLocock Car companies can only really sell cars that people who are new car buyers will pay a profitable price for. As it turns out fewer and fewer new car buyers want sedans. Large sedans can be nice to drive, certainly, but the number of new car buyers (the only ones that matter in this discussion) are prepared to sacrifice steering and handling for more obvious things like passenger and cargo space, or even some attempt at off roading. We know US new car buyers don't really care about handling because they fell for FWD in large cars.
  • Slavuta Why is everybody sweating? Like sedans? - go buy one. Better - 2. Let CRV/RAV rust on the dealer lot. I have 3 sedans on the driveway. My neighbor - 2. Neighbors on each of our other side - 8 SUVs.
  • Theflyersfan With sedans, especially, I wonder how many of those sales are to rental fleets. With the exception of the Civic and Accord, there are still rows of sedans mixed in with the RAV4s at every airport rental lot. I doubt the breakdown in sales is publicly published, so who knows... GM isn't out of the sedan business - Cadillac exists and I can't believe I'm typing this but they are actually decent - and I think they are making a huge mistake, especially if there's an extended oil price hike (cough...Iran...cough) and people want smaller and hybrids. But if one is only tied to the quarterly shareholder reports and not trends and the big picture, bad decisions like this get made.