Drive-in dreams

Posted on 04 Oct 2008 at 7:50pm
By Casey Williams – Auto Reviewer

Can your car reflect your taste in movies? It can with one of these specialty looks

Drive-ins were always about more than locking face and twitching about on the wide bench seat of a muscle car, pickup or your mother’s woodgrain wagon. They were as much a part of young love as club hopping and back room banging are today. Somewhere between sucking face and running for the refreshment stand, teenagers actually watched movies.

Drive-ins still have their fans in Texas, but a gay moviegoer needs to show some style, matching his ride with the film du jour. A real fashion queen would accessorize her movie with a conveyance like these.

Horror flick: 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1

The stunning new Corvette ZR-1, above, could practically outrun a sunbeam. For a more family-friendly ride, the Ford Flex, below, is ideal for the couple with kids.

No horror flick gave me more nightmares than Spielberg’s "Duel." In the 1971 telefilm, Dennis Weaver’s nerdy character drives a Plymouth Valiant and is chased through the mountains by a Peterbilt tanker that looks like it crossed over from hell to ravage unsuspecting motorists. No matter how fast the Valiant went, it couldn’t outrun the hefty demon.

Ferrari, Porsche and Viper owners will live a rerun when they encounter the Corvette ZR-1.

Corvette engineers are never satisfied, so they supercharged the base Vette’s V8 engine to produce 638 horses. Expect 0 to 60 runs in about 3.5 seconds and a top speed in excess of 200 mph. Those are numbers that put any previous Corvette into the next county’s weeds and are plenty to outrun any lurking 18-wheelers. Still breathing? Scared? Me too!

For ultimate ZR-1 performance, excessive amounts of aluminum, magnesium and carbon fiber were integrated into its design. Wider carbon fiber front fenders and hood are beautiful and light. An air splitter and ZR1-specific spoiler with raised outboard sections prevent the front and rear from levitating.

In Corvette tradition, the ZR-1 is designed to be daily driveable. Magnetic Selective Ride Control provides a comfortable ride by checking the road surface 1,000 times per second and making instantaneous adjustments. When put to the test, it stiffens up immediately and helps the Vette turn in over 1g of cornering grip. Carbon-ceramic drilled disc brakes dissipate heat like a blown radiator.

With impending fuel efficiency standards, cars like the ZR1 may become endangered species. Until then, we’re in for an incredible adventure — a freakin’ horror flick not only for passengers, but also for Lamborghini, Ferrari and Dodge. Ready for a duel?

Scare up $104,820 for one to be yours.

Family comedy: 2009 Ford Flex

-PHOTO COURTESY FORD MOTORS

For families ready to hit their own Holiday Road, watching "National Lampoon’s Vacation" is more of a horror flick than family comedy, but Chevy Chase and his entourage made it hysterical. In a starring role in it and the sequels were Ford "family trucksters."

If a Subaru Outback is the symbol of gaytopia, then the Ford Flex — with its mega Mini looks and corrugated bodysides to simulate woodgrain — could become its larger alter ego.

The Griswold clan would be envious of the Flex’s DVD entertainment system, in-dash navigation and Sync, which was co-developed by Microsoft. By the magic of Bluetooth connectivity, cabin microphones and a button on the steering wheel, you can make phone calls, check e-mail, access music and conjure up directions … all by voice command.

Three rows of fold-flat seats can carry up to seven cohorts, or open a mega rumpus room. When it comes to really steaming up the windows, you don’t want to be bothered with leaving the vehicle for any reason. Sneaking in snacks is oh-so-risqué, so stuff the Flex’s optional rear seat refrigerator with all you munch and sip. It can hold up to seven 12-ounce cans, four half-liter bottles or two 20-ounce bottles.

Instead of a squawky microphone, maybe future drive-in owners could broadcast high def sound through the in-car satellite receiver. If not, there’s always the Flex’s own entertainment system, which puts a drive-in in any driveway — no need to hit the road.

Borrow $28,995 to start your vacation.

Date movie: 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe

DEAD SEXY: The Pontiac Solstice, above, boasts the luscious curves of a steep mountainside road, and has the engine to make it up any hill in style. For rough-and-tumble cowboy types, the F-150, below, is macho reliability incarnate.

One of my favorite movies is "Under the Tuscan Sun" starring Diane Lane. Based on a book by author Frances Mayes, it is set in Cortona, Italy, where Lane’s character buys a dilapidated farmhouse, then goes through the adventure of restoring it. In the end, she finds love. I, of course, imagined screaming through the Italian countryside in an Alfa Spider with my lovey at my side.

This was close to the movie playing in designers’ minds when they created the Italianate Pontiac Solstice roadster that looked like it came from Maranello instead of Detroit. If only they could get enough luggage in the trunk, a couple of lovers ensconced in this tight cabin could make steam and rock its tight little suspension off its low-profile tires. To make the moment last, Pontiac is introducing a Solstice Coupe.

As with the roadster, two powertrains will be available. Base models come with a 173-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine while GXP editions step up to a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that generates 260 horsepower. Keeping that in perspective, a 1990 Corvette generated 245 horsepower from a 5.7-liter V8. Expect scorching 0-to-60 mph runs to fall below 6 seconds for GXPs.

Nobody knows how to build a sports car like GM. Corvettes are comfortable, fast, solid and reliable. By leveraging all it learned from the Solstice, and looking up to its big brother from Chevrolet, the Solstice Coupe touches all the right spots. Not only does it look hot, like a downsized Corvette, it opens up reasonable storage under the hatch and lets in the sunshine and starlight through a removable targa top. Ah, the romance.

This movie date starts under $30,000.

Western: 2009 Ford F-150

-PHOTO COURTESY FORD MOTORS

On the silver screen, John Wayne played ruffians who could shoot straight and work hard. Off screen, after his job was done, he was debonair in shirts and tails. If the Duke were alive today, he’d drive a Ford F-150, which can turn from ranch to spa just by opening the door.

If you need it for rough or tumble, they don’t call the backs of trucks "beds" for nothing. Bicycles, mulch, dirt, kayaks and camping gear all fit. A full range of V8 engines offer enough power to haul heavy loads, pull big trailers or just impress cruisers with tire-smoking zeal. All-wheel-drive, electronic stability control, four-wheel anti-lock brakes and Trailer Sway Control make hauling those loads and persons a ton safer.

All of the popular models return, however, with the demise of the Lincoln MK LT, Ford is introducing a Platinum edition for trendier drivers. You’ll know it by its big chrome eggcrate grille, 20-inch chrome alloy wheels and silver-faced dashboard. Tuxedo stitching on the seats, satin gloss rippled lacrosse ash woodgrain on the center dash, and power-deployable running boards elevate truck customers to a new plane. It is a Lincoln without the flashy badge.

Introduced in 1948, the Ford F-Series has sold more than 33 million units — more than twice the number of Model Ts. From generation to generation, the full-size trucks have served with the undying loyalty of a cowboy’s pooch. Like Olivia Newton-John, the F-150 is looking great at 60. Circle the wagons and make heat; the F-150 is hard to beat.

Prices start at $20,345, but top $40,000 with all the fixins.



DRIVE

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice Drive print edition Fall, 2008.

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