Being modern: #35 Pimped cars

Robert Epstein
Sunday 11 September 2011 00:00
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Vroooom! Phwoar! Listen to that tuned-up motor roar; check out your fine reflection in those shiny chromes; feel the beat of the sound system shake right through you like an earthquake; marvel at how anyone could possibly think that any of this would ever make them look cool.

We know what you're thinking: this is going to be all about Pimp My Ride. Not so. Well, not yet, anyway. First, let's recount those wonderful jalopies that were its precursors – the autos that surely inspired the programme developers who came up with the over-the-top MTV show.

First there was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the wrecked Grand Prix motor-racing vehicle to which wacky old Caractacus Potts gave new life by adding wings. And songs. Then there was the Knight Foundation's KITT, which could mock David Hasselhoff's hair in a wonderfully sardonic voice. And had a turbo bump to boot. And what about Doc Brown's plutonium-assisted DeLorean? Who wouldn't want a flux capacitor in their back-pocket?

Then there's the lovely, ridiculous (and in the case of the British version, hopelessly awkward) Pimp My Ride, in which old bangers are turned into bangin' clunkers with a flash paint job and steel-reinforcements to hold the weight of the in-car games system. Reactions in the US seem genuine; but in the UK, it's hard to fathom anyone from the Home Counties really feeling comfortable saying, "Ah, that's CRAZY tricked-out, oh MAN..."

Most recently the big screen has seen the Fast & Furious franchise run to five offerings, the latest of which came out on DVD this week. The premise of each: some guys are street racers; others are cops; the girls are eye candy; and there's some nefarious goings-on. But basically it's there for viewers to stare at the cars' absurd lit-up undercarriages, diminished seating capacity and nitrous-oxide kits. (Ask your nearest hoodlum to explain.)

But here's the thing: for all these pop-culture pimpings, it's rare indeed that you'll see a car on the road with anything more ostentatious than a "Cucaracha" horn. Think on that, TV and film execs, think on that.

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