Let Inga Tell You: Fancissimo cars


One night about a year and a half ago, some miscreants wandered up and down our street and smashed the side mirrors and tail lights of more than 50 high-end cars. They significantly damaged our neighbor’s Lexus SUV then moved to our driveway where they whacked Olof’s BMW. But like the Angel of Death, they passed over my 2005 Corolla. I couldn’t help but wonder at the time: was this a class thing? Did they consider my crappy Corolla one of their own? Or, I feared, did they just think it wasn’t worth the effort?

I fully admit that I was born without the car gene. But from time to time some phylogenous artifact of the car genome surfaces in me. This was the case when a long-time friend came to pick me up for lunch in her SUV. She has always driven SUVs but the first thing I noticed was that it was a different color, leading me to conclude that it was new. Cars rarely speak to me but this one did. Dazzled by the dashboard panel, I could only inquire, “Does the Starship Enterprise now come in an Earthling model?” (It was a Porsche Cayenne.) This was one nice ride.

I must confess that I have been slow to master even basic Luxury Car Speak, a required language in La Jolla. I only recently learned, for example, that with really high-end cars, one only refers to it by its letter and number combination, for example, the F12 or the C7. I mentioned to a car-oriented friend that he might like to see another friend’s new Corvette C7. He e-mailed me back: Inga — I cannot allow you to embarrass yourself any further. Corvette owners don’t call their cars Corvettes, they call them C6s or C7s. Um, okay. (For fellow ignorati, the F12 is a Ferrari with a V12 engine.)

Upon further reflection, I realized that a friend who owns several Ferraris only refers to them by number, as in “I’m taking the 458 today.” (I guess if it’s your own car, the “F” is assumed.) Like all devoted Ferraristas, she speaks in the language of exhaust and hangs out a lot of the F-List (the Ferrari owners chat list).

There’s no fancy way to refer to my 2005 Corolla. I could call it a Corolla LE (Luxury Edition) which it is. However, I think that just means it came with a radio.

The car-noscenti, however, are never satisfied. My friend’s new Corvette is not just a run-of-the-mill C7, I’m furthered informed; it’s a C7 Z06 which I understand means it has a really souped-up engine, and should be so referred. He’s taking it to a race track that doubles as a training ground for new souped-up-car owners who want to know what their vehicle can do before they open it up on their usual raceways (La Jolla Boulevard and the Von’s parking lot).

As I’ve written before, I am always fascinated by learning about people who live very different lives from mine, whether it be people from other countries, or people who just seem like they’re from different countries but actually live close by.

I have it on good authority, for example, that you will see no fat people at the local Ferrari dealership receptions. Just like Nordstrom sticking their fat department on the third floor behind the rest rooms, do they fear their image tainted by the unsvelte?

Probably, but after riding several times in my friend’s 458, the more obvious reason became apparent: fat people need a fork lift to get out of them.

Luxury sports cars really intimidate me because there are just too many egregious mistakes you can make. The first time I rode in a Ferrari, I got fingerprints on the roof trying to leverage my bulk out of the seat. I also closed the door pushing on the window when my friend let me out down the street (the unsatisfactory condition of our street’s paving was making her a wreck). This Ferrari (maybe all Ferraris?) does not have a frame around the window so it is bad for the window if you close the door pushing on the window. (All that money and they can’t spring for a window frame?) “This is what the door handle is for, Inga,” she admonished me in a follow-up email once she’d calmed down. (Ferrari people are very excitable.)

My 2005 Corolla knows what it feels like to be disdained, to be looked down upon by all its compatriot vehicles on the street. And still, it holds its hood up high. However, it has also not been lost on it (or me) that Olof pays more for a single “maintenance” visit at BMW of San Diego than I have spent on my car in 10 years.

AND I don’t need a crane.