Friday, January 23, 2009


At a recent environmental conference, I met up with several graduate students from all over the country: east coast, southwest, northwest, and midwest. Everybody had some experience with environmental consulting. And everybody whose car was less than 5 years old had a hatchback or small wagon. I believe the lineup went something like focus, yaris, matrix, 3 (mazda), golf, focus.

It’s not surprising – hatchbacks are relatively cheap, can park anywhere (and a small turning radius is a huge help when you keep missing turns on your way to a new field site), don’t use much gas, hold a lot of field gear (although my particular storage criterion was a standard Christmas tree), and for people of a certain age, they don’t carry any particular stigma. You can get one with all-wheel drive, too. If you’re a more, ah, engaged driver, you can compromise on the mileage and the cost and get more of a pocket rocket. My car was the latter. I had a great deal of fun when I first bought my car and nobody knew what it was. It’s always amusing to surprise teenagers who seem to think that stickers and a spoiler make a car go faster.

Hatchbacks make sense for field folks. If you’re in a field that involves working outside for relatively low pay, you’re more likely to pick practicality over luxury when you’re car shopping. And as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t consider SUVs to be necessarily practical. With that being said, if my car dies tomorrow and I win the lottery, I would get something like this:

(Mercedes B200 sports turbo)

Oh yeah. You can’t get it in the US. Ok, so if I won the lottery, I’d keep my car and get a non-field car.

(audi R8)

Mm…head-turning, mid-car engine, all-wheel drive, and at just breaking 6 figures, semi-affordable compared to some other exotics.

Of course, I’d need a house with a garage for it. So I’d need to win a really big lottery.

Note: I have a long weekend of travelling, so I won't have a new post on Monday. Also, I added a "driving" tag, since I seem to discuss it a lot.


P said...

I have a Tacoma currently, but I miss my old Subaru. Going back to a Subaru once the truck dies.

Elli said...

My greatest field vehicle was a VW Beetle RSi--only 500 ever made and only street legal in Europe (field work was in Switzerland). It was silver (they all were) with bright orange racing seats. If you want to see the actual car, the pics are here. My father contributed to my brother's purchase of the car with the stipulation that I had to be allowed to borrow it for field work during the summer. Boy that thing could a) drive fast and b) handle wonderfully :) My brother is still mourning the fact he had to sell the car when he moved back to the states.