By on November 5, 2019

Image: Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, by Corey Lewis

“How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?” – Charles de Gaulle

I have a friend, one whose living room is decked out in red shag carpeting, who often jokes that his tastes in fashion and other trappings of life tend to straddle the line between respectable and… over the top. Cheeseball, in other words. Many times I’ll find myself suggesting, in that delicate manner long-time friends are so good at, that perhaps he’s teetered off that fence and fallen solidly on the wrong side of it.

In the auto realm, cheese is more than ever relegated to the aftermarket, but perhaps OEMs haven’t left this dairy product entirely in the past?

It was Matthew Guy’s mention of Altezza tail lamps that got me thinking of loud, “look at me” displays of bad automotive taste. In the early years of this century, back when Corey was tooling to school in his Audi, Nelly blasting from the stereo, those tail lamps — often combined with a tacked-on spoiler, do-it-yourself yellow mirrors and rimzz, and oversized subs pumping out the bass — signalled to everyone in sight (or earshot) that your soul was empty, your imagination was nonexistent, and your wardrobe would be outdated in two years.

Yet once upon a time, automakers bent over backwards to give those of questionable taste exactly what they wanted. The Seventies brought the mother lode. If you were into vanning, jeans, or screaming chickens, domestic automakers had the ride for you.

Looking for bodyside stripes that match your rainbow suspenders? Order it from the factory!

Wishing you could be a high-rolling pimp but fearful of the legal consequences? Premium marques have what you need!

These days, and for some time, really, automakers have cooled off, producing vehicles increasingly born of committees and focus groups, specializing in offending no one in order to attract the broadest range of buyers, while at the same time reducing build configurations to keep the beancounters happy. The Germans seems to have things under control, for the most part. Japan, too, though the Civic Type R is a prime candidate for this debate.

Larger bastions of free expression remain, however, and if you’re thinking of the truck segment, your mind is on the right track.

While our question today is “do cheesy vehicles still exist in factory-fresh form?”, this writer posits that, in the absence of Testarossas and Trans Ams, and with the C7 Vette now in the dustbin, the truck world is where you’ll still find cheese. Power Wagon, anyone? Sure, it mingles with fearsome capability, but it’s over the top, nonetheless. (Which isn’t to say it’s undesirable, as an overstuffed Eldorado from the mid-70s still has a lot going for it.)

What say you, B&B? What new vehicle would you consider “cheeseball”?

[Image: Corey Lewis/TTAC, Honda]

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47 Comments on “QOTD: Pass the Fromage?...”


  • avatar
    dividebytube

    MINI still allows a lot of “cheese” – stripes and roof decals and other little easter eggs. But for the MINIs I do see on the road, a lot of them are shades of gray or white or black with minimal character added. I suppose these were the cars bought off of the lot.

    My wife is really into this kind of stuff – she wanted to add a huge Finnish flag to her Infinity; she had already ordered a vanity plate with a take off on Infinity/Finland. It’s sort of a memorial idea for her dad who is a second generation Finnish Yooper.

    And she loves big stripes and weird car colors too. Surprised she decided to buy a boring silver sedan but its best for her job to be a little incognito.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      If I was going to bother with a Mini I would have it customized to the hilt including flag roof and mirror caps etc.

      But then I’m one of those people where if you are going to bother with a more special vehicle than an ordinary grey CUV then I would want to stand out like that.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    McLaren seems to fit the ‘cheese’ bill lately for me. Pastel colors and for whatever reason, the owners seem to ooze cheesiness. To be avoided at C&C at all costs.

    Jeep Wrangler: the aftermarket pretty much has anything and everything for you to let your freak flag fly. Beyond the obvious lifts, their are the few with 24” white wheeled low profile tired against an all white Jeep 4 door cruising with what seems like 10k watts of noise emanating.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Don’t forget the aftermarket “pi$$ed off face” grille. Gotta have that!

      https://turn5.scene7.com/is/image/Turn5/J111776?wid=810&hei=608&op_usm=0.8,1,10,0

  • avatar
    Jon

    Kia Soul, Honda Fit, Nissan Cube, all the box cars.

    Unfortunately, “cheesy” seems to be in style.

    At the same time, fewer people (than yesteryear) care about their car enough to put their own character into it.

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    I think you could argue there is a lot about full size trucks that are over the top. No doubt they are more capable and reliable as ever. But some of these grilles and packages associated with these trucks appear to me cheesy. To each his own.

    Someone on here recently posted that the biggest advertising coup was convincing the US consumer they needed a truck. That was so on point.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      I dont think anyone can really argue with truck cheese. Trucks must account for 9 out of 10 vehicles on the road that are pathetic screams and pleas to be noticed. “Look at me….I make poor financial decisions and am by far the biggest d’bag in eyeshot”. I have a theory that most of them are probably pedophiles because, seriously, underage boys are about the only demographic that is impressed by such displays.

      That other one out of ten vehicles though has to go to the fast and furious crowd. Man, just save the money you spent on all that garbage and buy a faster car from the factory.

      • 0 avatar
        Jon

        Wow.

        How many bags of concrete, 2×4’s, pavers, etc. can you fit in that “faster car from the factory”.

        You see, young men purchasing trucks, often leads to them choosing the life of a working man (at least in my area). That is not something to be discouraged.

        • 0 avatar
          thegamper

          In keeping with the spirit of the article, was referring to the cheesed up trucks, not every truck. You know, lift kits, massive wheels, enough lights to illuminate a stadium, vertical pipes, painted up to look like the owner is Captain America or something. You know, trucks that are far more ridiculous than the factory versions.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          Most guys that actually work with their trucks don’t build brodozers. I have seen the occasional “royale avec fromage” as a work truck but that is the exception to the rule.

  • avatar
    Thomas Kreutzer

    The cheese is out there, and it’s coming from Asia where it is rapidly taking root. Look at the odd creases and body lines, the tremendous grills and chrome covered front fascias like the one on the Toyota Vellfire vans, and the weird criss-cross patterns on the new high-end Hyundais shown here last week. There is an entirely different sensibility at work there and one day people are going to look at these designs in the same way we think about the body cladding craze of the mid-90s.

    I think the Chinese market, which seems to me to be a lot like the expansive car market the US enjoyed in the 1950s, is driving this. There is pent up demand for cars and people want something that is distinctive and over the top. Until that market is mature and the buying slows, we are going to see lots of designs trying to get attention there.

    For now, the American market is still important enough that we aren’t seeing the oddest deigns, but they are coming for sure. Gird your loins.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      +1

      This, exactly. Pretty much any vehicle designed for the tastes and preferences of the Chinese market looks cheesy to my eyes. I’ve thought that the over the top flame surfacing, cartoonish grilles, and over sized badges have a lot in common with the worst excesses of the late 1950s – only without the kitschy retro cool factor.

      To pick one example among many, compare the tasteful, understated look of an E38 7 Series with the garish hot mess that is the new X7.

      I really think we’re living in the era of peak fromage…

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      You are on the ground in the continent so I take your opinion with much weight, but the Chinese I interact with have much better taste than styling by Roger Rabbit. I think its an issue of putting designers in charge who think (and act) like children instead of adults.

      • 0 avatar
        Thomas Kreutzer

        Perhaps the Chinese you interact with are from a higher social class? I think rich Asians are already a mature market probably go for things rich westerners go for – the expensive but decidedly under-the-radar Land Cruiser, for example.

        I think the ostentatious design elements are coming from the social climbers and the new middle class. They’ve finally made it and they want to show the world.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    Two words: BMW Grille

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Pontiac dropped the Cheesy Tape Stripe flag around 1981; Dodge / Ram picked it up and carries it to this day. Flat-black “Daytona” stripes on a four door sedan with the same paint color as the fro-yo I had the other day? You betcha! All you need is a compilation CD featuring Molly Hatchet, Ram Jam and Skynyrd, and you’ve got your dream ride…circa 1979.

    (Worth noting – Dodge does this for the same reason Pontiac did back in the day – to “freshen” designs that are as old as dirt.)

    Honorable mentions: the racing stripes on the Mustang, and the flat-black hood on some Camaros.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    At one time I, mistakenly, thought that the Lowered Miata with wheels at least 2 inches wider than the tires and 5 degrees of negative camber, would slowly fade away.
    Nope they are still here and now have wings, roll cages, loud(er) exhaust, and lights that look like a spider’s eye.
    Now is that Stilton or Wensleydale?

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I know I already posted….as this was my first thought when I read the post.

    I think their is not enough ‘cheese’ in the market today. Too many people driving potato designed CUV’s in bland colors with little to no styling. My hood’ has a little of everything if you look, which is awesome. A murdered out late model Camry roams around and is quite eye catching surprisingly as an example along with countless other examples of lifted trucks, classic cars. My current favorite is the HS kid with a standard eco boost Fusion with the boost turned WAY up so the blow off valve whistles with every shift, even when doing 10 mph. Good for him, no different than chrome Cragars and a cherry bomb on a 70’s four door Impala.

    For me, my car/truck whatever has always been an extension of my personality and assuming thinking someone who drives a pick up is a pedophile? Come on man, give it a rest. Judging that other people make poor financial decisions because they like a lifted/lowered/wide tired/ faster/louder/ whatever that you don’t like is contrary to gearheads everywhere.

    I say, customize to your hearts content and don’t let other peoples bad attitudes get in the way of building what you want. And yes, you may look back and think that was silly but most always you will think back to the good fun you had in said rig.

    • 0 avatar
      N8iveVA

      “Judging that other people make poor financial decisions because they like a lifted/lowered/wide tired/ faster/louder/ whatever that you don’t like is contrary to gearheads everywhere. ”

      Exactly. I used to hate those lowered Civics with the fart can mufflers. But then I thought, hey, he’s a car guy that loves his ride too. We have that in common even if we don’t like the exact same things,

  • avatar
    spookiness

    I really want some interior cheese. Choices of burgundy and blue velour, with lots of pillowy button tufts, woodgrain, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      I agree 100%. I want rich tufted velour in a pastel colour with the instrument panel in a matching colour, and matching shag carpetting, including on the interior door panels.

      60/40 split front seats.

      Some nice ‘woodgrain’ accents on the instrument panel, would also be nice to have.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Given the many OEMs’ insistence on monochromatic models with, at best, some “sticker love” with appliqués, clearly they don’t like individualism in their vehicles. If anyone wants a color the factory doesn’t list, the owner either has to go to a skin shop or a body shop for a complete re-paint. Since I already have a number of ‘parking lot ‘ dings, I’ll be visiting a body shop next year to turn my blue truck green. (Found just the shade I want on the Camaro paint chip card.)

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Color change on a new truck? That’s a bold (and spendy) move. I know you own it, but you are going to be buried in that thing unless you have a body guy that owes you a giant favor. I get it and have done it. I loved the result, but it was a 10000 dollar 5000 dollar car at the end (did some rust repair too)

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    All this talk of cheese has left me a bit peckish for some cheesy comestibles. Brought to by Monty Python’s Cheese Shop!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hz1JWzyvv8A

    Dodge and Ram seem to me to be largest purveyors of factory-ready cheese. Although the cars/trucks usually have the performance chops to back it up.

    “John Cleese: Red Windsor?
    Michael Palin: Normally, sir, yes. Today the van broke down.
    Cleese: Ah. Stilton?
    Palin: Sorry.
    Cleese: Gruyere? Emmental?
    Palin: No.
    Cleese: Any Norwegian Jarlsberger, per chance?
    Palin: No.
    Cleese: Liptauer?
    Palin: No.
    Cleese: Lancashire?
    Palin: No.”

  • avatar
    TheDutchGun

    Every truck needing a trim sticker on the sides of the bed. FX4, STX, Sport, 4×4. I immediately had said decals removed from my F150 for nice clean blank sides.

    In a similar vein, why the giant and I mean giant ram lettering on the tailgate, or F150 being literally stamped into the metal. Why is this necessary.

    This is modern factory cheese.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I don’t care for the GIGANTIC branding like the billboard size RAM on a truck but I do like some of the sticker packages.

      If I was going to buy an F150 tomorrow I would seek out an STX 4×4, extended cab, short bed. There’s something about “the look” that I like.

      GMC has recently come up with an “X31” package and the local dealer ordered so many I had to go online and look up what the heck an “X31” was. Maybe that’s the point of some of the badges and stickers? Advertising?

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I don’t mind stamped tailgates…that is actually old school, though on the Ford I would prefer them just stamped “FORD” and without the blue oval above it. Just like back in the day.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Badges and stickers can be removed, but the stamped F-150 in the metal would honestly discourage me from buying an F-150 unless I could afford a Platinum (which doesn’t have it).

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        No, but the Platinums (and Limiteds and some King Ranches) have the chrome bar across the tailgate that is the definition of gaudy.

        It’s too bad that it’s tough to get a truck with a well equipped and comfortable interior but a restrained appearance outside.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          The bar is brushed metal, not chrome, and honestly it doesn’t bother me that much. In a world where money grew on trees I might have a body shop paint it body color.

          Somehow I find giant stamped (or stickered) lettering far more offensive.

          • 0 avatar
            jack4x

            Hmmm maybe it’s just the Super Duty that has that bar in bright chrome.

            In any case, at least on the F250/350, the Platinum style tailgate applique is not just a piece placed over the regular stamping, it’s held in by clips and has extra holes for them. Removing it leaves an ugly mess.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Yeah, I wouldn’t want to try to remove it. Just paint it (or, if it’s not chrome, maybe leave it alone).

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Used to be, back in the proclaimed on these forums “golden era” of trucks, the tailgates were all stamped and the higher trimmed trucks got a metal trim panel that covered the stamping.

        The Chevy’s of the 90’s had a smooth tailgate which you could pull the metal piece off (it was stuck on) for a smooth look. I helped one of our mechanics do it back in the day when I was a detailer.

        The platinum may have it…just covered up. Either way, it’s how trucks did it forever, though I’m not wild about the F150’s style on the current models.

        • 0 avatar
          TheDutchGun

          Personally, I much preferred the 15-17 pre-refresh F150.

          The F150 I had previously was 15 FX4, but I removed the FX4 decals.

          I don’t disagree with the above that trucks have always had the marque stamped on the tailgate, I just feel it was done better back then.

          80-90s 2-tone GMC/Chevs come to mind.

  • avatar
    Hogey74

    I find current trucks to be hilariously OTT! They’re like cartoons drawn by boys. Vastly better than previous generations but so cheesy in their aggressiveness.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    We are eventually going to see “skid plates” molded into CUV fascias and black plastic cladding as just as cheesy as opera windows and vinyl tops.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    I think “Peak Cheese” was the Mustang King Cobra (The one Farrah Fawcett drove in Charlie’s Angels”.

    The most modern example I can think of was the 2011-12 Leaf that had the Giant “Zero Emissions”sticker on the bottom of the car down the whole lower side. Seriously it looks bigger than the STP logos on Richard Petty’s stock car. They went more restrained in 2013+ models.

    Currently available, Civic and maybe the Kia Stinger.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    It is slightly unfair to pick on the screaming chicken while leaving the chaparral bird untouched.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    I was going to say the Raptor was peak cheese, but FCA (who’s rightfully listed in the lion’s share of answers) has the Ram Rebel, which looks like their take on Raptor, without all the actual modifications.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that though, better than another silver RAV4 or Rogue.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    I can think of 2 off my head: FJ Cruiser and 1st gen Ford Fusion’s front grill.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    In matters of taste, every one else is wrong .

    =8-) .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I must have become desensitized to cheese, or I don’t quite understand the reference. Mostly what I see are factory fresh tacky designs (such as the Civic), but those are all that’s available for those nameplates.

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