October 26, 2005

Is she judging you by your car?

Great topic for an article in the big, thick, advertising-padded "Special Section: Cars" in today's NYT.

And yet... cars do say something about you, don't they? I mean, something more than just how much money you were able and willing to spend on a car. But if you're concerned about your sex appeal, what should you drive? One woman says:
First, an expensive sports car, like a red Ferrari, should raise a red flag. "Something's lacking," she said. "It could be an appendage, but it could mean he has a void in his social skills."

Second, a dumpy car is O.K., but only if the driver makes up for it with something else, like a dazzling personality. Third, a funky car is not only all right but also sexy (like the refurbished taxi owned by a guy in her apartment building) because she thinks it shows a man's passions and interests.
My observation: Most people drive unbelievably boring cars! But what does that say? They need transportation and are not that interested in cars. Still, there is an irrational effect: boring car, boring person. You can overcome that, but you do have to overcome that. The reverse is true. We may think: exciting car, exciting person. But the presumption is easily rebutted.

Bonus info:
The idea that there are "chick cars" and "guy cars" is real to many people, said Joe Wiesenfelder, 37, the senior editor of Cars.com, a Web site that reviews automobiles and is affiliated with the NPR program "Car Talk." The radio show did an unscientific survey of favorite chick and guy cars, based on thousands of e-mail submissions from listeners. The survey found that the Top 5 Ultimate Chick Cars of All Time are the VW Beetle, VW Cabriolet, Mazda Miata, VW Jetta and Dodge Neon; the Top 5 Ultimate Guy Cars are the Ford Mustang, Chevy Corvette, Chevy Camaro, Ford F-150 pickup and Dodge Viper.

54 comments:

downtownlad said...

I'm 37 and I've never owned (nor leased) a car. Nor do I ever want to.

What does that say about me?

Ann Althouse said...

It says you live in a big city.

knoxgirl said...

The ultimate "chick" cars are aesthetically pleasing for the most part... but some of those "guy" cars are pretty cheesey.

bill said...

After reading this article, go watch Disney’s Aladdin. Jasmine has no interest in Prince Ali (Aladdin in disguise) until he shows up in his BMW, excuse me - magic carpet.

Ann Althouse said...

Knoxgirl: I'd much rather have a car from the guy list than the chick list. Not the pickup, but any one of the others looks like fun. Of course, I've had two Beetles and a Jetta, and I'd be happy today with a Miata.

knoxgirl said...

No way would you step into a "Dodge Viper"...

Well, I must admit that several of those cars were cool in their original form, but the design became cheesey throughout the years. (with the exception of the new mustangs which I like)

Art said...

A woman in the article said:
"First, an expensive sports car, like a red Ferrari, should raise a red flag. "Something's lacking," she said. "It could be an appendage, but it could mean he has a void in his social skills.""

What about law professors who trade a VW for a pretty hot Audi two seater?

Signed: A guy who just replaced '96 minivan with a used Ford Focus wagon. (It's red. So your cheap shot can go here here)

Goesh said...

Don't quote me, but I seem to recall hearing recently that 2 billion is spent every year 'dicing up' cars. Ever check out the price of those fancy, chrome hubcaps? Dumb me - I always assumed that guys who forked over this kind of serious cash had already made provisions for their children's college education, but I'm told differently by clerks in Auto Zone and other such establishments. Only a man desperate for sex would put $600.00 hubcaps on lay-away. I mean nobody associates wealth and power with fancy hubcaps on a Camry for instance, so what else would be driving such ideas? But maybe it isn't hubcaps that drive women wild, maybe it's designer scents, which can be purchased. Cool looking lights - does this put a woman's mind on sexual intercourse? How about custom floor mats? Myself, if I weren't happily married and driving a late model Corolla, which by the way gets me 34 mpg on the highway, I would be looking for a full-hipped wowan driving a Mercedes minus a wedding band. After all, sex always follows money and power.

Dave said...

Any list of guy cars that does not include a Porsche or a Bugatti is sorely lacking in my humble opinion.

knoxgirl said...

goesh: I love it when I see some raggedly old Civic all pimped out...

Ann Althouse said...

Art: "Trade"? Is that what we call totalling now?

In any case, I disagree with her. I love sports cars and would definitely see it as a plus. But maybe it's a harder message to live up to. In any event, I drive a sports car because I find it exciting to me. That it might make me look more attractive to someone else is a bonus. I suppose, with a man in a sportscar, there is a mystery to be solved: why does he drive it? Compensating for feelings of inferiority might be one reason, but it's not the only reason. I think the woman quoted is overdoing it in a way that says sour grapes.

Ann Althouse said...

I like that TV show "Pimp My Ride." The whole idea is to begin with the crappiest possible car.

Bruce Hayden said...

Some women are into cars and some are not. Overall, I tend to graviate to those who are not. Girlfriend in Austin was into fast sports cars. A Z, then a porsche, and when I was dating her, I think it was a Toyota. So, I got the old Porshe when I would come to visit. I think that she was compensating for having such a boring job (attorney).

But the big exception is my current girlfriend. She loves Mercedes. She has been driving them almost exclusively for 30 years now. She is so bad that her ex repairs them for a living (well, his employees do). Mostly sedans, but I took her to the Barristers Ball one year in her black on black Sportsline coupe. She's also had a Jag and a Corvette, and, unfortunately for all, a minivan. Her ex bought it for her when they had 4 kids at home. It got in 3 wrecks in one year, and he gave her back her Mercedes.

And that may be why we aren't married after six years. She cares about cars, and I don't. I have been driving Audi Quattros for almost 20 years now because they were back then, and I think probably still are, the best for getting you from here to there in the mountains in the winter (and they really pioneered the bun warmer - but that is really a girl thing - I rarely use mine). Much better than an SUV, which tend to run off the road and roll over.

But, other than those two, if I look back over my life, I think that almost all of my girlfriends had nondescript cars. And, I think it is obvious, that none of them were attracted to me because of what I drove.

Rick Lee said...

The kind of car you want depends mostly on the subculture to which you belong. The norms vary widely.

goldsoundsz said...

I am guy (straight) and own a Mazda Miata. I walk to work and so really only drive for pleasure. For that the Miata is perfect. It's affordable, economical and a true sports car / roadster. It's unfortunate people see it as a chick car but I got over it pretty quickly.

Richard Fagin said...

Ford Mustangs belong on both lists. The 6 cylinder models are THE chick car in Texas, while the GTs (8 cyl.) are generally guy cars. My wife had to have a GT because she said the 6s are "girly" cars. Guess I don't have to worry about her running off with Mr. Hayden.

Earth Girl said...

A lot of this discussion applies to one of my 16 year old sons. He talks incessantly about cars and has researched three of the five "men" cars (Mustang, Corvette and F150). His other option is "fixing up" a $200 car, specifically with neon lights and audio. So, I tend to view anyone with a car fixation as adolescent.

Ann Althouse said...

Richard: LOL.

Bruce Hayden said...

So, as a non-car loving guy, what do different cars say to me about the (assuming single) women driving or owning them?

- Ferrari - she has a --it load of money, and isn't afraid of showing it. Not looking for a husband with same, because she doesn't need it.
- Corvette, Viper, etc. - serious issues here. Great for a fling, but big red flag.
- TT, Miata - what those women should have bought if they hadn't had issues.
- Mercedes - ostentatious. Usually looking for another rich husband to leech off of (however, the woman I know with the Ferrari, also has a top of the line Benz). Ditto somewhat for Caddilac. I run.
- BMW - similar to Mercedes, but w/o being quite as mercenary. Could actually have earned it. Of course, by the time I see the car, I have a pretty good idea of whether she has earned it or not.
- Audi, VW, Honda, Toyota, Datsun (i.e. Nissan), Suburu. Sensible.
- Lexus - sensible with a fair amount of money.
- Minivan. Probably means kids, which is fine for me. I have to qualify on ages though.
- SUVs. It really depends on why she is driving one. I first think kids. If not that, maybe an active sports life. And if not one of those? Then I wonder.
- Pickup trucks. Women driving pickup trucks often interest me, unless they are very into the cowboy thing. Often, it means that the woman is going to be quite interesting.

Ann Althouse said...

Doesn't SUV mean: needs a minivan but trying to deny it?

anselm said...

A red miata almost looks like a tube of lipstick. It's a very continental aesthetic.

But the tricked out hondas you see, often in packs, driven by young asians, are hot - small yet powerful and masculine. I prefer it to the endlessly recycled big muscle aesthetic. I find those new throwback mustangs and dusters kind of sad, but they're so popular.

Many asian women like it, and bully for any other cultures that get in on it. I've seen white kids in Iowa driving in a pack of the same kind of cars - but not maxed out on the customization, with a cavlier and neon or two in tow. A decade ago they would have been driving fords or chevies.

Dave said...

Bugatti, Alfa Romeo, Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin.

Those are the only cars worth driving.

Ever.

If you can't afford them, then live in a city. That's why I live in NYC.

phillywalker said...

Ann - I found a poem by one of my favorite American poets (William Stafford) that echoes your reaction to certain car colors:


Yellow Cars


Some of the cars are yellow, that go
by. Those you look at, so glimmering
when light glances at their passing. Think
of that hope: “Someone will
like me, maybe.” The tan ones
don’t care, the blue have made
a mistake, the white haven’t tried.
But the yellow – you turn your head:
hope lasts a long time if you’re happy.

Interesting take on how car colors reflect owners' personalities. I think he caught the meaning of yellow cars very well.

Wade_Garrett said...

The rusty powder blue 1991 Buick LeSabre, lovingly referred to by my friends as 'the blue cloud,' probably didn't HELP me meet women! Then again, since I sold it and got a used (albeit older) hand-me down Lexus, I've been equally unlucky with women!

tcd said...

What's with the bad-mouthing of SUV's? Easy to pick on a car that everyone hates though isn't it? I'm sorry, unless you live in cold weather climate with a lot of precipitation and need the cargo capacity, you don't know what you're talking about. My husband and I couldn't live without our Chevy Trailblazer considering our many trips to the Home Depot & just trying to get out of our driveway after a big snowstorm. We've had an Audi A4 quattro before too and the low ground clearance doesn't help in 3ft of snow.

Stephen said...

I think my Toyota Echo says that I'm pragmatic, tolerant, and cheap.

anselm said...

Women driving pickup trucks often interest me

Ditto. It's not just some suggestion of who they are either. They're actually hotter!

BrianOfAtlanta said...

So, Ann, having second thoughts about not picking the Corvette?

Ann Althouse said...

TCD: You're right about the snow. My old Beetle was really low to the ground and I cracked up a light up in front just trying to drive into my driveway after the snow plow went by.

As for the Corvette, it would not have worked right in the snow. Neither would a Porsche. The car I bought -- the Audi TT Coupe -- is unusually good in the snow (but it is low to the ground too).

Slocum said...

"Women driving pickup trucks often interest me"

Ditto. It's not just some suggestion of who they are either. They're actually hotter!

Lyle Lovett wrote a song called 'Give Back My Heart' about that:

I looked at her and she looked at me
And I looked back and she looked back
And we went out together for a walk
Her eyes were bright just like the stars
She drove a pickup said she hated cars
And loved to ride around out after dark


And I said ooh give back my heart chipkicker-redneck woman
Take your boots and walk out of my life
Ooh give back my heart chipkicker-redneck woman
I can't be no cowgirl paradise


Best lines in the song?

I told her redneckness has got to be a disease
You catch it on your fingers and it just crawls right up your sleeves

Richard Fagin said...

Mr. Hayden made some excellent observations about what women drive. There are geographic variations in the analysis, though. A woman driving a big truck is entirely unremarkable in Texas. Women driving trucks in Texas also tend to want to run off the road everyone driving Audis, VWs, Hondas, Toyotas and other "small" vehicles, particularly Mercedes and BMWs.

Women driving BMWs in Houston - usually are attorneys with attitude problems.

Mercededs drivers here are the same as Mr. Hayden describes.

Interestingly, you will be tailgated by women driving any of the above vehicles on a Houston freeway, as long as the road is reasonably straight, so closely they can read the SAE number molded into your taillight lenses. Only the Corvette and Viper drivers will keep up with you on a cloverleaf or hard turning exchange ramp, though.

I have the Mustang GT now. I had to buy Mrs. Fagin a truck.

knoxgirl said...

But the tricked out hondas you see, often in packs, driven by young asians, are hot

The ones driven by young white boys in Knoxville, TN, are not--must be some other dynamic going on there.

Simon Kenton said...

The Honda engines can take NOX injection, and can rev way beyond what would cause Detroit iron to let go in an orgy of centripetal. Power to weight ratios that haven't been seen since the first GTOs in '64. Great for dragging, and you can do some suspension mods that make them notably adherent for roadracing too. Around here it is young asian males who drive them, but young hispanic males too. Scalded cats....

One of the great things about Moab is that the women drive pickups by choice, not as a divorce result. I am not unaffected by the sight of a bronze river goddess flinging the raft into the back of her rigs.

92 Nissan pathfinder with 228K. It can haul a couple Grand Canyon rigs, and has brought out 2 moose at once. It's not for shit on snow (tires too conventional), but did well on the father-daughter 4-wheeling trip around the White Rim in Canyonlands. My thought is/was that keeping an old car running is a place whence you can divert money into things that matter, like investments and a trip to Africa.

Given that everyone is subject to opportunity costs, I take it this post is really about the things you use to define yourself to the outer world. Like, say, the Kimber .45 and the Excaliber crossbow.

Michael said...

I'm a living testament to the woman's comment about height and pickup trucks. I'm 6'9" - which means when I go car shopping, I really just go sit in a bunch of cars to find something I fit in. I jumped in a new F-150 earlier this year and fell in love. It's gotta be freakin' huge for regular-sized people, but it's heavenly to me. I don't even mind the 10 mpg so much....

Ann Althouse said...

Michael: 6'9"! You could write a blog just about what life is like being that tall. There must be advantages and disadvantages every day.

D-Day said...

I just bought my first boring "grown-up" car a few months ago, a shiny navy blue Honda Accord. Before that, I had a beat-up old PINK Ford Escort that I absolutely loved (too bad it couldn't pass emissions this year). My husband was ectstatic about the new car -- he'd had it out for the "Pinkmobile" ever since the time he had to use it to go pick up a male friend of ours. Apparently, they rode around with the windows down and talked loudly about their trucks whenever they stopped at red lights.

I get fewer odd looks in my new car, but I kind of miss being able to roll into places in my flashy pink car.

XWL said...

The NYT reporting about cars is like the Riverside Press-Enterprise reporting on Paris fashion. Sure they can do it, but they can't help but see it as some strange alien world where people make odd inexplicable choices about objects that have little intrinsic value.

Reverse the reporting and you might get something of value, but when the NYT reports on cars you get silly lists like what's linked.

And since when were gender prejudices OK at the Times or NPR (The NPR program Car Talk generated the mentioned list).

Will they be doing a list of executive positions that are the ultimate "chick" jobs compared to the ultimate "guy" jobs as submitted by the listeners of All Things Considered?.

The "guy"est car I owned was a four door 57 Chevy (with the straight 6) and manual transmission (3 on the tree, baby). Of course I had to do a personalized spray-painted paint job of flames in the front fading into a rainbow at the rear, just cause a beat-up 57 Chevy doesn't stand out enough on it's own.

(I guess gendering of behavior is OK if it makes for a cute story)

(and Prof. Althouse, do you think everyone with a unique perspective should be blogging about their perspective? - let a billion blogs bloom -)

And regarding the flashy red sports car as compensation mobiles. Mini did a commercial in GB years ago where they had a woman judge what car a man drove by observing his member. The Ferrari driver elicited the 'that's small' snicker, whereas the Mini driver (the real tiny Mini, not the newer BMW derived version which is large in comparison) got the 'oh, my god, that thing could choke a horse' gasp.

P. Froward said...

If you buy house that looks good, or if you dress well, is that "compensation"? How about people who buy Apple laptops with the glowing Apple logo, are they compensating for something?

Seems weird to me that people go into all this stuff about "compensation" with cars, but not about a lot of other things you buy that people see you with. This thing about sports cars is no less ridiculous than suggesting that women who wear make up are compensating for being frigid or something.

Here's my radical new theory: People care about aesthetics enough to spend money on it.

MaryGinder said...

When I went to trade my "new" beetle, the salesman asked me why I wanted to trade it since it was only a year old. I told him he might laugh, but I didn't like the demographic of the other beetle drivers. Sheepishly, I told him they were weird middle aged women... and he responded with glee! "Yeah! and they are fat!" Ouch!

ShadyCharacter said...

I remember when the new beetle first came out, I thought it looked pretty cool. I was a senior in college at the time and a male classmate of mine must have been among the first new beetle owners in the country. I was momentarily jealous, but it soon became apparent that the dude was driving a chick car. From the above comments, a weird middle-aged fat-lady chick car at that, though that particular dynamic hadn't yet become apparent :)

It's risky to live on the cutting edge!

What's everyone's opinion on the mini cooper?

LizardAbroad said...

A MUSTANG ?!?!? As a guy car?? No way. Chick car. The Original Sin of being a prettified Ford Falcon is indelible. OK, they have cranked out a few editions over the years that did have something in the way of performance, but even then it's the kind of car for a guy that reads Cosmo to hone his phoniness. These are people that cheat at cards and vote Democratic.

Ann Althouse said...

Mary: Yeah, you have to figure out what a car means before you buy it. But the meaning can change over time. I bought my Beetle in 1999, when there were few of them around. Now they are everywhere. And the meaning changes in different parts of the country. A number of people said to me "I'm gonna smash that bug!" They were joking, but jeez! What's that hostility about? Boomers?

Ann Althouse said...

The thing about a Mustang is: Mustang Sally.

And the thing about a Corvette is: Little Red Corvette.

When a car has its very special song and a woman is driving the car in the song, how can it continue to be a guy car?

Simon Kenton said...

The old Beetle, and the Van, soured me on the breed forever. That number 3 cylinder that always burned out, the lack of an oil filter (but you could scrape the iron filings off the magnetized drain bolt), the need to set the valves every 2000 miles. And those vans: "How many miles you got on it?"

Proudly: "75,000."

"How many engines?"

"Only on my fourth. These are such GREAT cars!"

So engineeringly, it was an utter, inspissated piece of crap. But it was my first acquaintance with really, genuinely successful marketing - the kind that makes for brand loyalty that won't quit, no matter the evidence. People LOVED those pieces of junk. Loved them, when by every standard of safety, performance, economy, comfort, quiet, and longevity, they were the worst excuses for cars then on the road. You have to look forward in time to Pintos and Vegas even to get into the league.

Later I was to observe the same thing with Goretex. It didn't work. Gelid gouts of snowwater came through it. When you mentioned this, an acid salesstaffer would say, "Well, Jesus! OF COURSE it leaks. You have 3rd generation goretex. What did you expect? Eh? What possessed you to buy it? Now! NOW! We have 5th generation goretex."

"Please may I buy some?"

"I'm not sure. You are perilously close to failing our customer qualification test."

<<<<<<

vogqcq - the Cheyne-Stokes death-rattle of a copper-based alien life form

Henry said...

As a teenager, I nearly froze to death over the course of several winters, driving with my brother in my Dad's hand-me-down Volkswagen bugs.

The Pinto was a step up. After the lawsuits, used Pintos started selling real cheap, which is when my Dad started buying them.

* * *

The only car I've owned that I really miss is a Toyota pickup. It was the smallest, lousiest pickup money could buy: No features, no A/C, no radio. But even the worst pickup gives you something that no non-pickup can match.

My wife still misses the Fiat that she and her dad kept running with rubber-bands through her college days, so you can see the bond.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
amba said...

I'm a chick -- or whatever you call a chick emerita -- with a guy car that I bought by accident, and love. It's a Ford Taurus SHO -- a souped-up sedan with a 220 horse Yamaha aluminum racing engine. I bought it from a dot-com-era website called CarDay (which went belly-up soon after I bought the car, which was soon after 9/11) because I just wanted a four-door sedan with some power. My husband is known as "the Impatience Poster Child," and this provides good cover for my own pleasure at bolting out of tollbooths and stoplights with a growl.

Only after I bought the car did I discover (to my delight) that I'd gotten more than I bargained for, and that there are cult websites devoted to this car, like this one. Guys lovingly hand-maintain and rebuild them, and race them.

It looks like a suspiciously sleek, low sedan with a black mask (my brother tells me this is called a "nose bra" -- honest). Guys know about it. Mechanics: "Oh, you got a SHO-car there!"
Kind passerby helping hoist my husband's wheelchair into the trunk: "That car's a hot rod, right?" They open the hood and whistle and scratch their heads as if something sexy just sashayed by. Someone named Dave left a hand-scrawled note on my windshield: "Call me when you are ready to sell."

Eric said...

DODGE STRATUS

Mom: I wish you wouldn't call me a liar!

Dad: Don't raise your voice at me!

Mom: I am not raising my voice!

Dad: You do not talk to me like that!! I work too hard to deal with this stuff!! I work too hard!! I'm a Division Manager in charge of 49 people!! I drive a Dodge Stratus!!

[ their screaming comes to an end, as the agonizing silence returns ]

Mom: Honey, do you want to go to Pottery class with me this weekend?

Daughter: I wish you were dead!

[ awkward silence, a struggle for a normal conversion ]

Dad: I'm gonna take the car into the shop tomorrow.

Daughter: You mean your lame Dodge Stratus?

Dad: You don't talk about my car that way!!

HaloJonesFan said...

Yes, the V6 Mustang is a chick car. This is because every woman remembers being a little girl who wanted Santa Claus to bring her a pony.

"Is she judging you by your car?" Yeah, probably...but in the end, how else is she supposed to judge you? Should we date people for a year on spec, so that our initial impression doesn't matter? It's been my experience that the kind of people who complain about judging by appearance are the kind of people who take no pride in their appearance. I may slob around in jeans and sneakers and ten extra pounds, but I'm not telling myself that women should be loving me despite all that.

Christy said...

Chick here. Spent 20 years driving V-8 convertible Mustangs with manual transmissions and declaring I'd never be with a guy who drove an automatic.

Now in middle age, my peer group are all buying the Prius hybrid.
Can a woman who goes through clutches faster than brakes find happiness in a hybrid?

chuck b. said...

So is the nano-car a boy or a girl?

Francis W. Porretto said...

The ultimate car with which to display sexual attractiveness and prowess would be:

-- One that other cars automatically step aside for;
-- One that sneers at both gas stations and speed limits;
-- One that simultaneously testifies to some other form of stature.

A Bentley Continental GT with twin-.50s under the front bumper, whose owner won it in the National Ironman Triathlon, would come pretty close.

Ken said...

Dave, you're a complete ass. True car lovers all have their own opinions- some love Porsches, some love Aston Martins, some love every Italian car ever made, and some crazy retards are like me and love those crazy Swedes. However, every true car lover shares one opinion- they hate the Bugatti Veyron.

I love the Atlantic and the Royale- if I had nine figures in the bank I would have one of each. However, the Veyron goes against every principle Ettore Bugatti stood by. The Veyron is a big fat heavy GT with a huge engine masquerading as an achievement. It's just something that fat executives will buy because they want expensive cars but they don't have any love for them so he goes with something that doesn't need any sacrifice. Zondas, Ferraris, Lotuses, all require sacrifice- you have to really love one to drive one.

Anyway, if a girl I had just met asked me what car I owned, even if I drove a supercar, I would tell her I had a two-year-old Honda Civic. The shallow sluts who go for expensive cars are out of the picture and I doubt a nice girl would mind if I had drastically understated the glamour of my car.

Ken said...

Dave, you're a complete ass. True car lovers all have their own opinions- some love Porsches, some love Aston Martins, some love every Italian car ever made, and some crazy retards are like me and love those crazy Swedes. However, every true car lover shares one opinion- they hate the Bugatti Veyron.

I love the Atlantic and the Royale- if I had nine figures in the bank I would have one of each. However, the Veyron goes against every principle Ettore Bugatti stood by. The Veyron is a big fat heavy GT with a huge engine masquerading as an achievement. It's just something that fat executives will buy because they want expensive cars but they don't have any love for them so he goes with something that doesn't need any sacrifice. Zondas, Ferraris, Lotuses, all require sacrifice- you have to really love one to drive one.

Anyway, if a girl I had just met asked me what car I owned, even if I drove a supercar, I would tell her I had a two-year-old Honda Civic. The shallow sluts who go for expensive cars are out of the picture and I doubt a nice girl would mind if I had drastically understated the glamour of my car.