The Perfect Foul-Weather Car

Over the holidays I took a trip back to the homeland to hang with my family for a few days. I flew in to Albuquerque then rented a car for my trip north into the mountains.

I reserved an economy car, of course, in the cheapest price tier available. Certainly no need for anything more.

The flights went well and I was on the ground in Albuquerque at the appointed time. I made my way to the car rental place, where a man named Mario helped me out. He asked me where I was heading. When I told him I was heading to Los Alamos he said, “It’s snowy up there! Snowed yesterday, gonna snow again tonight!”

“I grew up there,” I said. “I’ve driven in the snow before.”

“All right,” Mario said. He tapped some keys. “I’m going to be putting you into a Mustang tonight.”

Because there’s nothing like a muscle car for slick conditions. “You don’t have anything with front wheel drive?” I asked.

Mario tapped the keys for a while, but I’m not sure why he bothered, since they didn’t have any other cars except giant (and expensive) trucks. Mario muttered quietly to himself as he scanned the inventory, “Muscle car… muscle car… muscle car…”

“Normally I’d love the chance to play with a muscle car,” I said, “But as you said, things might be slick up there.”

He kept pretending to look for a different answer, but there was none.

I’ve kept an Alpha Romeo on the road during snowstorms up there; a Mustang shouldn’t be that bad as long as I’m light on the gas. “OK,” I said, “Put me in a Mustang.”

A few more key-presses later, and Mario handed me the fob-without-a-key for the car I would be driving for the next few days. Not just any Mustang, but a Mustang GT with the five-liter V-8. Because when you’re in slick conditions, what you really need is more power.

I will leave my impressions of the car for another day, except to say that it was my first time driving a car with a touch screen or one that had a backup camera. I liked the latter much more than the former.

While in the Atomic City, I met with old friends. One chilly afternoon I pulled up at Bill’s mom’s house and saw another Mustang on the street.

Yep, that was John, with his rental from the same company.

7 thoughts on “The Perfect Foul-Weather Car

  1. The unnamed car-rental company we got our cars from only rents Fords in Albuquerque, though apparently they rent Hyundais in other markets — thus the ability to reserve a subcompact car at ABQ. However, Ford has announced that henceforth the only non-SUV they will produce is the Mustang (not to be confused with the electric SUV that will carry the Mustang name too). Will they stop offering non SUV/performance options at the Sunport? Will they add Hyundais to their rental fleet? Or will they simply offer Mustangs as the only non-SUV option, because it’s the cheapest thing to do?

    They sure seem to have a lot of Mustangs.

    • On further reflection, in past years I’ve rented non-Ford vehicles at that counter. For Christmas of 2017, there was a crowd of people all waiting for big SUVs to be returned and cleaned, and the only cars available were convertibles. I was given a choice of a Mustang or a Camaro. It’s a mystery.

  2. Just returned from Los Alamos two weeks ago. Reserved a compact. Drove a way from Dollar in a 5.7 liter Hemi Challenger. (Used mom’s Subaru to drive up to the ski hill.)

    • Hemi! Because in the ’50’s hemispherical cylinder crowns or combustion chambers or valve guides or some other part of the motor was innovative. I could look up what the hemispherical thing was, but I suspect there are others around here who can do better than barf up Wikipedia.

      Is muscle-for-rent a New Mexico thing? Is about the population density of the state? Highway deaths per capita?

      • The “hemispherical” head has the intake and exhaust valves on opposite sides of the dome-shaped combustion chamber, with the spark plug in the middle.

        It was easier with an inline engine and an overhead camshaft, and the inline double-overhead-camshaft layout like, say, your Alfa, existed for no other reason.

        But Detroit had to brag about stuff, and Chrysler came up with an elaborate cross-over pushrod system to move the exhaust valves to the outside, thus “inventing” the hemi.

        I grew up with a Ford Flathead V8 shuttling the family around and spent decades wondering why nobody ever made a hemi flathead. Youtube has since taught me that the hemi-flathead, better known as a T-head, was one of the earliest designs, mainly remembered now in 1920’s firetrucks with straight-six engines with 10 to 20 liter displacements. Which is to say the pistons were basically the size of paint cans and the heads generally had two, or more often three, sparkplugs — just to ignite all the fuel floating around under a dome fit for a termite Superbowl.

        You didn’t really ask, and I’m sure you now regret that you left the door even a smidge open.

        But remember that time we were driving back from Bayfield in my parent’s Subaru wagon? The twilight ground-fog, the black horses, and the idiot going 85 mph?

        Who needs muscle-for-rent?

        • When I said, “Others around here”, I meant you. So, thanks. And I have been in more than one automotive pissing contest where I simply out-stupided my adversary, so it’s probably a good thing that I did not have muscle at my disposal.

          • Side note about out-stupiding: Game theory is often applied to diplomacy. When Trump was thumping his chest at the North Koreans, and nuclear weapons were on the table, one element of brinksmanship is to instill in your opponent the belief that you are so stupid and vain you are willing to destroy humanity if you don’t get what you want. Donnie seems ideal for this posture.

            But while theoretically this should be an advantage for Donnie, Li’l Kim read him, saw that all he really wants is for people to like him, and the outcome was a given.

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