Forbes recently published a glossary of automotive technology. This was not meant to be all inclusive by any means but it did cover terms as diverse as deuce and tiptronic. The one that caught my eye was as follows: “Hoopty, Hooptie, Hoopdee: A piece-of-junk car. Driven as a badge of pride--or at least authenticity--in some areas, as a badge of shame in others.”
I have seen a few of these and in these times of economic uncertainty they have become more prevalent. The definition is right on target because one person’s pride in driving something so attention grabbing is another person’s source of utter disgrace. Pride comes from a place where it is good to be frugal, resourceful and downright oblivious to the opinion of others.
The disgrace comes with the territory the owner finds himself calling home. It’s usually about the lack of funds it takes to repair the hoopty. So with each successive failure, whether it be mechanical or cosmetic, the “character” of the vehicle is raised as is the embarrassment of the owner. What determines whether your chest puffs out or your face turns red with hooptie ownership is about choice.
The owner who takes pride in his ability to keep his car on the road despite its appearance probably has the financial where-with-all to replace it if he must. In the meantime, it’s easy to bask in the light of its quirkiness and soak up its value as a conversation piece at cocktail parties and golf outings. On the other hand, the cash strapped hoopdee owner is playing the lottery each day when he sets out for work. Besides not attending many cocktail parties or knowing a nine iron from a driver, the only time he refers to his piece of crap car in conversation it’s spiked with various and sundry epithets. For him it is the best he can do at the time--no choice involved.
So what are the distinctive features of a hoopty? The use of duct tape is one. The versatility of the product shines in its automotive application. Need to reattach anything from a tail light lens to a side view mirror, go for the sticky gray stuff. If your winter coat caught the turn signal handle as you exited the driver’s door, there’s a fix for that--two wraps of duct tape. It is absurdly obvious to mention duct tape’s ability to mend torn seats, but did you know when strategically placed on a door panel it can hold a handle in place well enough that you won’t have to exit from the other side.
Hoopties are usually found with a trunk full of all the functional fluids used in a car. These vehicles leak fluids of all kinds, so if you want to keep them kinetic, directional, cool and stoppable you better have the equivalent of a Pep Boys fluid isle in stock at all times.
There may be one way to determine the type of hoopdee owner without considering his demeanor or cocktail party etiquette. Look in the trunk and if there isn't a usable spare you have most likely found the proud owner of a hoopty. The embarrassed owner’s spare is already on the car.