The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

12 January 2007


In the 1950s, Chrysler came up with a less-than-brilliant idea: they would develop a version of their standard Dodge sedan that would, they thought, appeal to women. I once described it thusly:

The Dodge La Femme was as capable as any top-line Dodge of that era, but it was glitzed up with Detroit men's ideas of girliness, with "accessories" such as a rain hat, bag and umbrella, which stored behind the front seat. The La Femme moved a mere 2500 copies in two years, or about as many workaday Dodges as fell off the transporter on the way to the dealership.

The La Femme, however, doesn't quite meet the contemporary definition of a "chick car," which is a non-gender-specific vehicle bought predominantly by women because allegedly men won't drive it, or at least won't want to be seen in it. Associate Blowhard Donald Pittenger has an interesting piece on the subject which, like most bloviation on the subject (including this), really doesn't answer the question of how they got to be chick cars in the first place.

David W. Boles' Urban Semiotic offers a definition and ten candidates:

[W]hen we say “Chick Cars” we mean these are cars women should drive and no self-respecting man should be caught dead driving or even riding shotgun — because these cars have feminine curves, engaging personalities and bleed XX chromosomes.

Never seen a Corvette or a Lamborghini do that. (Then again, apart from videotape, I've never seen a Lamborghini do anything.) One of the cars he mentions is the Nissan Maxima, presumably a blow to my self-respect, since Gwendolyn, an Infiniti I30, was the Maxima's snootier sister back in the day.

One of Mr Pittenger's commenters notes:

Ford has been trying to market the entire Mercury lineup as a "chick brand" in a possibly last-ditch attempt to keep Mercury from going the way of Oldsmobile and Plymouth. There have been quite a few Mercury ads on television in recent months, and unlike most car ads they don't feature the vehicles being driven at high speeds (hence no "Professional Driver — Closed Course" disclaimers). In addition, the on-camera announcer in the Mercury ads is a woman, and she has the attractive-but-not-stunning looks that have been shown to appeal to women.

Steve Miller would be appalled:

You know that gal I love
I stole her from a friend
Fool got lucky stole her back again
Because she knowed he had a Mercury
Cruise up and down this road
Up and down this road
Well, she knowed he had a Mercury
And she cruise up and down this road

I should point out here that the women I tend to fall for generally ignore these considerations; a salon staffer performing a routine pedicure has no way of knowing that this particular right foot, strappy sandal notwithstanding, is solid lead up to about here and can punch the loud pedal with considerable vigor.

Posted at 8:19 AM to Driver's Seat

When you talk about cars women drive and men don't, the first thing that comes to mind is the minivan. Not exactly a babe-magnet. Men only drive them with the entire family in the vehicle. When I drop my kids off at school, there are 50% minvans lined up, 45% SUVs (its a private school), and about 5% Jaguars and such, all driven by daddys.

Women are just so durn practical. Rain hat and umbrella, indeed!

Posted by: Miss Cellania at 9:50 AM on 12 January 2007

Last time I went car-shopping, I looked at the Mazda5, the mini-est of all minivans, on the basis that it was so thoroughly steeped in uncool that it might actually be cool: an unabashed dorkmobile that makes no apologies for itself. Unfortunately, new ones were out of my desired price range, and old ones don't exist yet, since it's a relatively new model, so I talked myself into an "experienced" (formerly "pre-owned," and before that "used") luxoboat.

Posted by: CGHill at 2:55 PM on 12 January 2007

so thoroughly steeped in uncool that it might actually be cool: an unabashed dorkmobile that makes no apologies for itself

A classmate of mine in high school hoped his moped could do that.

Posted by: McGehee at 3:29 PM on 12 January 2007

She don't love me, she loves my automobile,
She don't love me, she loves my automobile,
She'd do anything just to get behind the wheel.

Posted by: triticale at 4:21 PM on 12 January 2007

A Lamborghini is a 'chick car'?? Since when? A Lamborghini is a car men buy to show their earning power, thereby attracting chicks. Very few women who qualify as 'chicks' could afford such a vehicle.

I have a rule of thumb about what qualifies as a 'chick car'. If it looks as if you could stick a big key into it and wind it up, it's a chick car. The Mini, Jeep, and Beetle easily qualify. Corvette is borderline but acceptible (somewhere Sam Malone is screaming 'Nooooooooo' in that Kirk-stranded-on-a-barren-planet kinda way). The others are pretty acceptible, too, but the Lamborghini doesn't fit. You might as well call Chris Nolan's Batmobile a 'chick car'.

Posted by: Mister Snitch! at 4:38 PM on 12 January 2007

I think Mr Boles threw in the Lambo just to prove he wasn't too serious about it, especially since contemporary models are angular to the point of being jagged. (Or maybe he was thinking Miura.)

Were I inclined to buy a vehicle to illustrate my earning power, I'd be in something like my daughter's hideous '91 Olds Bravada.

Posted by: CGHill at 5:07 PM on 12 January 2007

I have no issues about my womanhood. I drive a Ford F-150. :-)

Posted by: Lynn at 6:32 PM on 12 January 2007

You could make a case that women love trucks. Ford sent over an F-650 (!) to Automobile magazine a few years back, and the female contingent (including then editor-in-chief Jean Jennings) swooned, while the guys shook their heads in disbelief. Jennings even had the temerity to write about dismounting in a skirt, which event apparently drew a crowd in Ann Arbor.

Posted by: CGHill at 6:42 PM on 12 January 2007

Corvette? Mustang convertible? That's an odd list.

The only chick mobile on the list is the New Beetle-but that's more of a GirlMobile..mostly driven by feamles under 20 or so.

Posted by: John Salmon at 7:40 PM on 12 January 2007

Ah, so either the marketing is totally going over my head or I'm one of those practical people. I don't care what the vehicle looks like. As long as the car goes, I'm happy.

Posted by: sya at 12:28 AM on 13 January 2007

I sure break that stereotype! LOL Although the Fury III was considered a family car mine at least has the advantage of being a two door hardtop...

Posted by: Diane at 8:07 AM on 13 January 2007