I've always felt a little guilty about the fact the '49 Plymouth is a gas hog. About 15 mpg roaring up and down the canyons here in Malibu, maybe 18 or 20 out on the freeway. (Don't laugh, it's got the original flathead six and that thing rules the 10.) So when the Chevy pickup started to show its age (278,000 miles) and it became clear I needed a new car, I thought about a hybrid.
I never wanted a Prius. First of all, it's just too close to the word pious, which isn't too far off from how some of those drivers behave. It's not too cute, either, kind of beetle-like, with a wide read end and bit of a hunchback. But when Saturn, whose redesign turned the Vue from a yawner of an SUV into a sporty, sexy drive, postponed the rollout of the hybrid version for the third time, I just couldn't wait any more. And since I start my new gig at the LA Times today, which means I'll be driving downtown a lot, I couldn't face crummy gas mileage. So I wound up with a Prius.
It's like driving an iPod. Everything is computerized. Nothing is where you expect it to be. It doesn't even have a key. You can't exactly tell whether it's on or off half the time. The digital readout is so fascinating, I bet most driver-caused Prius wrecks happen within the first few days, when you can't quite believe what you're seeing.
So here's my (drenched) driveway now, the '49 Plymouth innocently nosing up to the gate, everything mechanical, everything beautifully engineered and obvious. And behind it is a computer on wheels that, right now, is getting 45 miles per gallon.