I hung on every word from General Motors spokesman Taylor Wildwood, who revealed to the world in the virtual pages of Road & Trackthat Chevrolet would show a ragtop Volt at the upcoming New York International Auto Show, and bring it to market this summer at a remarkable $43,000 (just $2,000 more than the sedan).
This is a Volt, so of course there are green touches, including a manual top to save electricity and an ultra-thin transparent photovoltaic skin covering two-thirds of the roof and powering interior cooling fans. I was all set to put in my order when the extravagantly named Mr. Wildwood was shown to be fictional, and the whole thing an April Fools' joke. But the prank was played straight enough that I'm sure some people called their Chevy dealers.
This whole thing led me to think about cars I could invent for seasonal levity, with the calendar as an excuse. Here are a few:
The collector Cordoba: The actor Ricardo Montalbán had many accomplishments, including the famous television series "Fantasy Island." But it was his 1975 commercials for the Chrysler Cordoba and its “rich Corinthian leather” that were closest to his heart. At his death, Montalbán left funds to create a special, limited-edition Cordoba, recreating the personal coupe he loved so much. Every detail is preserved, including its tasteful accent lighting, vinyl roof and 400-cubic-inch V-8 with an optional four-barrel carburetor. A tape cassette of Spanish guitar music is included.
VW Beetle Hybrid. VW has caught the green bug in a big way, and its latest manifestation is an ultra-fuel efficient 45-mpg combined hybrid. The car has been long rumored, and now it’s here, with a 177-horsepower drivetrain borrowed from the New Compact Coupe concept car. VW promises to plant a tree in the Black Forest for every hybrid sold. In a separate development, the Autostadt theme park next to the company’s Wolfsburg factory is now 100 percent wind and solar powered. Company-trained craftsmen draw on that renewable power to make hand-sewn lederhosen that are sold in the Autostadt gift shop.
An affordable Ferrari: It had to happen. The recession has so shrunken the pool of millionaire playboys that a number of Italian automakers, including Lamborghini (with the Honda Civic-engined EconoSportiva) and Bugatti (that’s Jetta power in the BudgetFire), have been forced to respond. Ferrari was the last holdout, but its partnership with Tata has at last born fruit in the form of the Californano. All the classic Ferrari styling cues are preserved, but the Californano also achieves 50 mpg through its two-cylinder 624-cc rear-mounted engine. Because this is a Ferrari, Italian tuners “breathed” on the power plant to achieve 54 horsepower, allowing 15-second zero-to-60 times and a top speed approaching 60 mph. Ferraris are known as “ticket magnets,” but the Californano is guaranteed never to have a day in court.
The Mazda2 EV: The lightweight $14,000 subcompact Mazda, with 35 mpg on the highway, is a hit in the U.S., so it’s not that surprising that the automaker would turn it into a battery EV (the cells are from Panasonic) with 110-mile range. Expect the Mazda2 EV to hit these shores as a competitor for the Honda Fit battery car in late summer of 2012. The price is unknown, but it could slot in at $30,000 to undercut the Nissan Leaf. Asked why Mazda was so long a holdout in building an EV, spokesman Grant Miatan said that company engineers lost valuable time in an internal debate on which side to locate the charger port. In a compromise, it has them on both sides.