Thursday, November 3, 2016

Cars: Campaign Edition: Vehicles That Match Today’s Candidates

Automobiles are a wonderful distraction during this seemingly endless political season. Coming models, horsepower stats, and design analyses provide a welcome break from lurid insider e-mails and questions about which candidate has bigger hands.

But then the whiff of smoke from an ill-considered burnout brings reality surging back, reminding us the toxicity and apprehension of this presidential campaign shares more in common with burning tires at a Mogadishu militia checkpoint than the staid lessons from our middle school civics text.

Of course, even cars can be political. The Obama administration’s recently released guidelines on autonomous vehicles remind us that Washington has a strong hand in the automotive industry, and should Donald Trump be elected, we are assured that Mexican built Fords will soon be replaced by chains of Lada dealerships set up by some guy named Vladamir.

Party Preferences

Politics even has a role in car purchasing. Automobile Magazine not long back published the results of a study by market research firm Auto Pacific on car preferences by political affiliation. Unsurprisingly, political alignment suggested clear brand preferences, but it seems common ground can be found in what people did NOT like – not a single Democrat or Republican polled wanted to buy a Smart.

Maybe whoever wins on November 8th can unite the country around a common hatred for tiny city cars …


Cars: Campaign Edition

This of course got me thinking about cars and the political candidates themselves. Ever wonder what car many of the candidates themselves would most prefer? This is a bit of a trick question, since I suspect they would all be safe and claim to prefer something wholesome and American made. Except for Bernie Sanders, who I suspect prefers a bike, and Trump, who people say has his eyes on a Russian made Zil limousine.

Maybe the better question would be what cars most remind us of the political candidates? The Disney Pixar movie Cars offered a brilliant assessment of the personality of certain forms of transportation, making race cars the equivalent of human athletes and minivans – what else – suburban parents.

Here’s my suggestions for what cars should be chosen to portray recent presidential candidates if Disney ever decided to make Cars: Campaign Edition. Of course, if Disney ever made such a movie it would receive an R rating, but at least we could walk out of the theater if we didn’t like the movie.

That’s an option we’ve not had during this campaign season.

Supporting Characters

AMC Pacer as GOV Chris Christie

The pugnacious Chris Christie could be cast as a number of cars of a similar personality. The trying-a-little-too-hard-to-be-butch Hummer H2 comes to mind. The Ford Raptor might fit as well, as it’s all machismo but spends most of its time trundling to the grocery store for a pint of cherry vanilla ice cream. But once you’ve seen Chris Christie from behind without his suit jacket on, only one car suits the role: the bubble butt AMC Pacer.


Apple iCar as Vice President Joe Biden

Biden’s role is well suited to be played by the mythical Apple iCar – that great hope for something better that constantly tantalized but never quite arrived. Of course, we know damn well that if Biden had run, we’d be disappointed, just as we would be if Apple actually built a car.

Like Biden’s habit of putting his foot in his mouth just as we start to love him, the iCar would be great until Apple pushed the latest operating system update, moving all the controls somewhere new and slowing the car’s progress by half.

Citroen 2CV as Dr. Ben Carson

I know, I don’t get the love affair for either Carson or the 2CV either, making them a perfect pair in the movie. Both are impractical, contrarian, and better suited to another time. The 2CV’s glacial pace also reminds me of Carson’s plodding manner of speech that leaves you wondering whether he’s just stroked out midway through a conversation. While there is something to be admired about both, if we were honest, we’d all admit that we simply breathe a sigh of relief when both arrive at their destination without the doors falling off.

Citroen 2CV

VW Eos as Senator Lindsey Graham

Like the cute and slightly feminine Eos, Graham is upfront, intelligent, and imminently practical. Unfortunately, like the candidate Graham, the Eos is the car you consider, maybe test drive, but never seriously buy. They both remind me of that old joke about mopeds – they are fun but you don’t want your friends to catch you with one. Graham’s role in the movie is inevitably a tragic one, as we won’t recognize all his positive qualities until it’s too late.

GMC Sierra Pickup as GOV John Kassich

The GMC Sierra pickup perfectly suits John Kassich’s image as a solid, middle America, “aww shucks” every man. Scratch beneath the surface, however, and you realize Kassich’s role is really played by the Denali edition of the venerable pickup, whose blue collar origins are swathed in hand stitched leather, 22-inch chrome wheels, and a price tag close to $60,000.

Both are easy to live with but have come a long way from their farm boy origins.


1970s Volvo 240 Wagon as Senator Bernie Sanders

You know Bernie’s role could only be played by something as plain, humble, and sensible as this boxy old wagon. Both are utilitarian and share a Swedish sense of social equity, and both have a huge following among hipsters and college kids.

Be forewarned, however, this seemingly ordinary character winds up being very expensive to live with.

1983 Chrysler Executive as GOV Martin O’Malley

Never heard of the Chrysler Executive? Neither had I, making it a perfect representation of the wildly overshadowed former governor of Maryland. Chrysler built less than a thousand of these stretched LeBarons, which is about the same number of votes the equally stiff and awkward O’Malley got in the Democractic Primaries.

O’Malley’s role in the movie will be brief and forgettable, just like the Chrysler. Don’t blink – you might miss him.

Chrysler Executive

Starring Roles

Jaguar XJL as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

This venerable marque is a perfect representation of Hillary Clinton. A well-known name loved by some and hated by others, the big Jaguar is a model plagued by a history of reliability issues. The latest XJL is solid and sensible, but is now getting long in the tooth and has a funny looking back end. Like the modern Jaguar company, the Clinton brand is poised for success, but the past history of breakdowns has challenged a comeback.

Zimmer Golden Spirit as Donald Trump

There can be no better car to play the Trump character than the over-the-top Zimmer Golden Spirit. The Zimmer is all ludicrous flash and ostentation without a hint of class. It’s bedecked in gold, has an absurd top, and comes with so many horns it is always tooting.

As with Trump, the Zimmer may be an idea whose time has come and gone, and both probably need to be locked away behind glass in a museum as a cautionary tale of poor taste and over exuberance. As awful as both are, however, somehow we just can’t look away from either.

Jonathan Orr is a writer, car aficionado, PR pro, Afghanistan veteran, and proud father. He considers his beloved Porsche 911 a member of the family. If you would pick a different car for a politician on this list, tell him your selections on Twitter: @jonathanjorr

Editor’s Note: The thoughts and expressions herein are strictly the writer’s and do not necessarily reflect the political thoughts, sentiments, or affiliations of this publication. 

Zimmer Golden Spirit

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