Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Location. Location. Location.

No we’re not talking about real estate; we are talking about cars named after places. Your Pap would like to take the Fans on a walk down Memory Lane, USA. Let’s have a quick look at several American car companies who have named cars after places. We’ve always had a silly fascination for these “worldly” cars and here is just a small sampling.

From the late 70s to early 90s, Chrysler gave us the “Fifth Avenue,” named after the glitzy street in Manhattan where the Fans aspire to keep a pied-a-terre overlooking the park. From 1979-1983 The Fifth Avenue began as a trim-level package offered on the existing Chrysler New Yorker and was called the New Yorker Fifth Avenue. The package included two-tone paint with matching leather interior and landau roof (for the young Fans out there, landau is a simulated convertible look with the roof of the car wrapped in vinyl…you would know this if you didn’t grow up in a household of Mercedes!). While this type of roof treatment seems odd to us today, it signified American luxury back then. Thankfully we’re not seeing this type of thing on even the gaudiest Cadillac DTS or Mercedes S-Class today! After 1983, the Fifth Avenue branched off as it’s own model, no longer a trim level, and got a body all to its own. The Fifth Avenue lasted until 1993, being the last of Chrysler’s V8, rear wheel drive sedan, until the 2005 introduction of the gangsta Chrysler 300...hollar!

Another fascinating name to come from Chrysler was Corinthian Leather. Do you mean leather from the Greek city-state Corinth dating back to antiquity? Nope! – this was a marketing term made up by Chrysler to describe a certain soft, luxurious leather used in Chryslers in the 70s and 80s. The name first appeared in 1974 on the Chrysler Imperial and later made famous by celebrity spokesperson Ricardo Montalban (from Fantasy Island; 10 p.m., right after Love Boat…ABC). With that accent and the way he rolled those rrrrrs, you almost believed Corinthian leather was a supple, exotic hide…from that Greek island. But in fact, there is no such leather as Corinthian leather, and it’s not from Corinth – it’s made in a factory in New Jersey!

Again using Manhattan geography, going a blocks east of Fifth, is Park Avenue…the Buick Park Avenue (1975-2005). Like the Fifth Avenue, the Park Avenue started off as a luxury trim level on another car, the Buick Electra. Not until 1991 did the Park Avenue became a standalone model. The Electra/Park Avenue was a full size, near-luxury car. We’re not sure how a posh New York street complements a car named after a Greek mythological character whose name was adopted to characterize a psychological concept – the Electra Complex. But then again, we don’t understand a lot of things about American cars.

Cadillac’s Eldorado, a large 2-door luxury coupe had a long run, from 1953-2002. For so many years, the Eldorado was the epitome of style and posh motoring. It had the appeal similar to what is today’s BMW 6-series or Mercedes CL. The name comes not from any actual locale, but rather a legendary city of gold in South American folklore. The story of Eldorado is that of European explorers discovering a place of immense riches, gold and jewels. But where is it exactly no one knows…not even Cadillac. Within the Eldorado lineup was the top-of-the line Eldorado Biarritz. Biarritz is the luxurious seaside resort town in southwestern France. Biarritz boasts some of the best beaches in Europe and is also a popular surf destination. The Eldorado Biarritz was a trim level offering even more luxury…again the landau roof with opera lights and velour or leather-covered pillowy seats with tufted buttons that remind your Pap of a furniture in grandpa’s library. We find the name a mismatch – an easy-breezy European coastal resort town doesn’t blend well with the car of a Texas millionaire in a white suit and bolo tie, does it?

Are the fans up to their eyeballs in confusion yet with all this tawk of old American cars? Well your Pap has just the thing to bring you back, right back to that ever so familiar 200ft. long driveway leading up to your Mapleton Drive estate, where you just might be parking your 2010 Ferrari California (your Pap has discussed in a previous posting). It’s an exotic hardtop convertible for daily-use. It’s great fun and frivolity! But just because it’s California casual all the way, this Ferrari doesn’t come cheap...we’re talking $200k+, but hey no problem – maybe you found Eldorado!

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