My El Camino is Cooler Than Your Hybrid.

This one was inspired when my Brother In Law had a Ford Escape Hybrid. At the time I had my Porsche 911, a 1966 El Camino, Infiniti G35, MG Midget, Miata Race car and a gorgeous 1978 Mercury Colony Park Station Wagon. The CP was parked in front of his hybrid and I pointed out that all the “good” he was doing for the environment, I was undoing.

I have since traded the Elky for a motorcycle. I miss it, but I wasn’t driving it. It just say and collected pine needles.

Marketing hybrids is a challenge. You just can’t get past the one failing point of hybrids. Hybrid are simply not cool.

Deal with it. Do you know what is cool? An El Camino is.

Save your redneck jokes, my red El Camino was born cooler than your hybrid when it rolled off the Fremont California assembly line in 1966. Sure, all the Hollywood A-Listers have a Prius, or a Leaf, or an Insight. But I have rarely looked to those who occupy the gossip columns to cue my behavior. After all, I have been married for over 10 years, apparently 3 months is en vogue. The last time you saw an Elky with the Hollywood crowd was on “My Name is Earl,” incidentally, the story of moral virtues in pursuit of good karma.  I get it; it’s the mullet of cars, business in the front, party in the back and redneck all over. It doesn’t matter, my El Camino is cooler than your hybrid.

Hybrids are “in,” and owning anything less is considered unfashionable, irresponsible and it helps the terrorists win. This was the same line that was used to hawk giant SUV’s and the same celebrities drove them because they were safe. My El Camino was better than those as well. So while green hipsters glob onto this latest fad, I’ll keep my ‘neckmobile.

Making hybrids “cool” has degraded them into fashion accessories. An Elky was never the choice of the jet set, and you will never see Paris Hilton driving a pink one. No, an El Camino is a purpose made device. Utilitarian by nature, the El Camino was designed to reduce, reuse and recycle from the day it was sketched onto a sheet of draft paper. One device built to do the work of two, reducing the need for more. As any 1st grader can tell you, one is less than two. Any college activist will tell you, less is good and excess is bad. So the old Elky may not seem as cool on the surface, but by being less, it is good. Good is cool.

Hybrids are now built on existing platforms to have a driving feel like conventional vehicles, but at the expense of efficiency. A standard American pickup averages 15 MPG, the hybrid version yields a mere 5 MPG advantage. Perusing will show the folly of several hybrid options. After all these decades, my “personal pickup” still nets mileage in the high teens, almost par with the 20 MPG of a full size hybrid truck. Annually, a non-hybrid full size pickup or SUV will cost you around $3700 in fuel; a Hybrid will save $1300 a year. The small block Chevy in the Elky will consume $3200, less than the regular truck, but still a chunk over the $2400 you’ll feed a hybrid. But, my Elky cost 1/6th the price of a new hybrid. So in a hybrid you get 20/23 MPG, a cattle drive slaughtered for the interior and a roughly $13,000 premium. The return of investment on that vehicle is 15 years. By then something way more fashionable will have come along. Meanwhile, my 3600 lb beauty will continue being a simple honest transport. Honesty, like money, is also always cool.

Finally, despite all the talk, unless you live in the great Land Down Under, you can’t purchase a new El Camino. By rights, any Elky you lay your hands to is (to a degree) a classic. More so, since they don’t make them anymore, they are also a finite resource. You read that correctly, resource. If you can use it (remember, an El Camino is a tool), then it is a resource. Regardless, you have a period object of limited availability, like a collectable wine. It may not age well, but it will appreciate. My Elky bottomed out the depreciation curve when Gerald Ford was still president. So just like an old pair of jeans that still fit, my Elky is only getting better. Not just financially, but fashion-wise because it is a vintage piece. Those same hipsters who swear Hybrids are “in” also wear distressed clothes and have thrift shops all over the country prospering. Because vintage is cool.

So go ahead. Talk all about your regenerative braking systems that recover kinetic energy. Prattle on about your in car DVD, 16-speaker surround and hybrid electric drivetrain. It doesn’t matter. The Elky will still get thumbs-ups from truckers, frantic waves from small children and approving nods from bikers, hot rod owners and anyone working at the auto parts store. A hybrid will never generate that reaction, because no matter what the “in crowd” says, a hybrid is not cool, but an El Camino is.


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The odd musings and automotive observations of a guy who willingly calls himself Mental

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