Letter from the Editor

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Everybody dreams of a hot ride, even the Pope

In this economy, we can't afford a Frankenstein Caddie for Obama. It's time to rethink options.

I suppose that everybody has a dream car. Something exotic that would require the sale of a couple of children plus a major organ or two just to be able to afford insurancce on. Or perhaps a ride they remember fondly from their childhood, before they realized dad was blowing their inheritance on it.

Our manager, Bob Madsen, lusts after '57 Chevys; I dreamed of a classic racing green MG roadster, until I instead obtained a spouse that turned out to be even more expensive to maintain; sports editor Trent Johnson no doubt would drool over a Viper in Hawkeye black and gold; reporter Lorri Glawe needs her own Bluebird school bus for her sizeable brood; and reporter Jennifer Nelson would just like a vehicle that gets to Alta and back with all the parts it began the trip with.

I never pictured the Pope being in that car dreamer group - you know, being the sort of a guy who maybe likes to turn a few doughnuts in an icy parking lot when nobody is looking, or lay down a little rubber at the stoplight on Main Street Vatican City. At least I didn't picture him that way until I saw the guy being handed the keys to his new personal car - a racy, menacing Volkswagen Phaeton rocking a V12 6-liter with 450-plus horsepower.

No sissy environmentally-friendly hybrid for the Pistoning Pontiff, Might be a little snow on the roof, but you can still have lead in the foot. The pricetag for such a speed demon would put my kids through Catholic school for approximately 128 years.

Frankly this has to cheese the Italians off. Right in the middle of Ferrari/Lambo country, Benedict XVI is tearing around Rome in a 200 mph... V-Dub? But His Holiness is German, so what can you expect. Besides, if somebody gave me a hot car for free, I wouldn't kick either.

'Couse he could sell the thing and feed a small third world country for a year, but hey, that's his call.

I tried to get the options list on this baby, but all VW is saying is that it was "specially equipped" to meet the Pope's comfort requirements. I'm thinking cooler, one of those suction-cup radar busters you slap on the windshield, a pine tree air freshener, fuzzy dice (do they make fuzzy bingo balls?) for the rear-view mirror, and bass-cranking stereo. A guy with 450 horses under the bonnet isn't bopping to Gregorian chants here either, he's gotta have maybe Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" blasting when he's cruising the Ponte Milvio to Burger King. Rumors of special cupholders that runneth over are unconfirmed as of presstime.

You may recall that the Holy Father's last VW, a boring econo-beater "Golf" he bought when he was plain old Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, sold on eBay not too long ago.

The beauty of this story is that after the newly-chosen Pope unloaded his outdated ride, a 21-year-old kid named Ben picked it up off the used car lot for a few grand, and only after noticing the owner's name on the old registration did he realize the heavenly good fortune of his transaction. He made $244,590. Blessed are those with resale value.

Come to find out, hot cars and Popes go together like peanut butter and jelly. Pope Paul VI lived large in a sweet Mercedes, and Pope John Paul II's personal ride was a nifty long-wheelbase Lancia Dialagos concept car - though John Paul was a humble man who probably preferred his old Ford Escort, which he is said to have piloted himself.

I must say that the Pope's car kicks butt on President Obama's. The O-Bomber gets a freaky new Cadillac limo monstrosity, bolted on a medium truck chassis, with Escalade headlights, grille and taillights off an STS, and spare parts out of the bins of a half dozen other assorted models. Wow, if this is the best we can do, no wonder the American auto industry needs to get bailed out.

All the armor renders the thing about as aggressive a performer as those three-wheel scooters the park cops toodle around on in Storm Lake. It couldn't hit 60 if you dropped it out of Air Force I.

It does get kitted out with an embroidered presidential seal seats, which even Snoop Dogg doesn't have, 10-disc CD changer, an independent oxygen supply, fire-fighting system in the trunk, a couple of pump-action shotguns (Cheney probably kept 'em on hand for drive-bys), night-vision cameras, tear-gas cannons and Obama's own personal storage of blood. Shouldn't that be at the hospital? What would he do with it in the car?

Fuel-economy? Well, the man with the "green" policy gets 7-8 mpg. Hypocrisy included at no additional charge.

In this economy, I suggest that we simply can't afford the limosine expense. Besides, it's kind of silly to hide the dude behind tinted mirror glass and then attach about 40 flags to the darn thing and figure nobody will notice.

If stealth is our mission here, this is what we do. Find ourselves a 1977 Smokey and the Bandit Trans Am with a little rust and bondo on some used carlot in the deep south, with 6.6 liters of all-American muscle and a t-top so Michelle can wave to the truckers, and we've got Obama loaded for bear. And there's not a terrorist alive with the kahonaes to mess with Burt Reynolds' car.

As for the Pope, my projections are that at current pace, the next one's chosen automobile can only be...

The Batmobile.

I think we need to take the image makeover in a new direction. A Honda Gold Wing would be cool. And make it white, this time. I'm still working on ideas for converting the pope hat into a helmet, though.

For the record, the Pope always gets a custom license plate labeled SCV 1 - some Romans joke that it is an acronym for "Se Cristo Vedesse" - if only Christ could see this.

I checked with the Vatican. Six-car garage. Checked with the White House too. They say they don't have a garage, just something they call a "portico" which sounds like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean to me. Obama parks his Caddy out front by the porch when its not in storage off site. How tacky - that gets you a nuisance fine in Storm Lake. And with no garage, where's the guy gonna have his barbeques to bring the neighbors over? Think of the cash taxpayers are missing out on from potential Obama White House garage sales.

For the record, Obama used to be ridin' dirty in a big old foreign oil-dependent Chrysler 300C V8, but traded it in for a more politically correct Ford Escape Hybrid just before announcing his candidacy. His used 300C sold for $271,000 recently. Hillary Clinton and Al Gore whir about in Escape Hybrids too; but eBay isn't coming calling. No pretense for Johnny McCain, who once sported a 1958 Corvette, but now tools about in a hot rod Cadillac CTS.

We simply have to get a fund drive started to build a garage at the White House. Can't have the man parking on the lawn like some kind of hillbilly when the foreign heads of state come to call.

Obama is supposed to be a real guy, and guys need a garage.

In fact, according to a survey in Men's Health magazine, 1 in every 6 men say the garage is their favorite room in the house. 68 percent say they have so much stuff in their garages that the car no longer fits. And 2 in every 5 admit to having had sex in their garage. Ahhh, there's something about the smell of a hot lawnmower. You really just have to wonder what's wrong with those other three.

For the record, 2 in every 7 guys keep enough amenities stored in their garage in order to live there for a few days at a time in the event of marital discord.

So if the White House didn't have a garage - I can only image that left Bill Clinton literally in the doghouse.

Send your blank check donation today to Get Obama a Garage Fund, in care of Dana Larsen, at my Swiss bank account address. If this works out, there may just be an MG in my driveway after all.