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Pimp My E!

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You might have gathered somewhere on TCC that I'm one of the few auto journalists to actually own a new car. Usually there's no need - we drive everything, and the river of press vehicles dries up only on occasion. Still, we've found it useful to keep a city car on hand for in-town business, and a small SUV for weekend trips and guaranteed access to an automatic transmission. (I won't embarrass him even more, but someone in our two-car-plus household can't drive stick.)

So my car, an '03 Element, is nearing the end of its warranty. And here's where things get interesting. Paul and Greg and I, and the TCCers you don't read regularly, have been talking about car TV lately. The truth is, not much of it is very good. The "buff book" shows play out like magazines read to an audience, with ubiquitous tire-smoking footage running in the background. Whoa, was I asleep? Did I miss Desperate Housewives?

Ironically some of the best car TV is made by the amateurs of the TV world. Overhaulin' is a great show on a network that by all rights shouldn't own it - why isn't it on Speed TV?

And one of my favorites is MTV's Pimp My Ride. Now, I dropped off the MTV bandwagon back in the late '90s, when I interviewed for a spot writing Web copy and showed up to the interview in a casual sport jacket and khakis. I knew I wouldn't get it for two reasons: 1) the woman interviewing me was wearing hot-pink ponytails, cow-print spandex pants and had more piercings in her face than a pie safe, and 2) because MTV was undergoing its annual reorganization and Cowgirl likely wasn't going to be around to acquire a matching animal-print halter top. Seriously, GM has had fewer directional changes than the House That Carson Rebuilt.

Anyway, Pimp works so well because it takes beater cars and restores them to a glory they never saw. And while I don't have the not-classic to do that, I finally have a car to call my own, after years of living on a steady diet of press cars. And since I moved in December, I have a garage where I can store my ride from the ravages of idiotic Atlanta drivers.

So the Element's going through some changes. First stop is the audio-video shop. KVH Industries makes an in-car DirecTV unit that fits right on the Element's roof rack, no drilling required. Let's see, we'll need an in-dash DVD/XM player with flip-out screen to go with it. Then, once we pass the magic 36,000-mile barrier, it's time to crack open the engine and see if there's anything to this whole turbocharging thing.

Yeah, I know. It's an Element. Not an El Camino. Not a Mustang. Not even a Corvair. But it's mine, it's "paid fa," and I can pimp anything I want to as long as it belongs to me. Right?
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Comments (2)
  1. I agree 100% on your assessment of American Car TV.

    Nothing can compare to Top Gear/5th Gear as shown on UK TV.

    They combine humor, real world road tests, track testing, and audience participation to create a highly entertaining show about cars.

    Shows like MotorWeek and Car and Driver Television PAIN me to watch. BUT, there's not really another choice, so watch I do.

    By the way, good luck on playing with the Element. If it wasn't so damn ugly, my wife would have bought one instead of her Subaru Forester XT :)
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  2. In my opinion one of the most well written and performed automotive shows is BBC's "Top Gear". So much of the material on speed channel consists of teams of reviewers reading a script and seeming to enjoy every car that comes onto their program. "Top Gear" is so refreshing because they are not afraid to say when a vehicle is a completely unengineered embarassment for the company. Not only are the reviews superior but instead of just driving cars on the road and on the track they put well thought out material into the show. One of my favorite examples was the 1500 Pound Porsche challenge where the three presenters had that budget to purchase a Porsche and then had to put them through a series of tests. One of the best TV segments I have ever seen. I only wish that something of that caliber was offered on our channels, but until then I am glad for bit-torrent.
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