A Street Appeal Measurement System
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Many Checker owners including myself are aware of and generally prize
the street appeal our vehicles engender. We all know there's just something
about a Checker that tends to evoke a sort of playful unseriousness, almost
mirth. In my case, my wife and I have looked at every potential change we
have considered making to our '65 wagon in terms of whether it will increase
or decrease the car's street appeal, particularly whether it will make us
and the car more approachable and more likely to bring smiles to people's
faces. Some of the things we've done, like pink & purple pinstriping
on deep forest green paint with a subtle gold metalflake, followed by pink-centered
chrome wheels, followed by two shades of purple pinstriping on the wheels,
were "controversial" when we first thought of them,
to say the least. Also, the performance increases and general hot rod style
I had in mind for the car, even if admired from a distance, could have the
effect of deterring people from coming up for a closer look and to talk.
All this being so, we wondered how we could measure or gauge the general
public reaction to modifications we made.
My younger daughter, in 9th grade at the time, came up with the idea of
a Checker Scoreboard and promptly walked upstairs to the computer, opened
an Excel spreadsheet, and wrote one out for us with space for daily entries.
We decided there should be four possible scores for any given encounter:
- Full head swivel as our car passes by — 1 point.
(Note: Because I like my high performance exhaust system, and because I think
car alarms are in general set far too sensitive, I also count 1 point for
alarm chirps as I idle by).
- Head swivel plus nudging a companion and pointing to the car
— 2 points.
- Thumbs up, "cool ride, dude", or other overt acknowledgement
involving actual communication — 5 points. (As
above, I count 5 points when my exhaust at idle triggers a full alarm.
This happens fairly often when I pull into parking spaces.)
This created a whole new game for us, watching the world around us
for reactions. In so doing, we not only learned what the reactions were
to the changes we were making, we learned a few techniques for increasing
the number of reactions we got. Here are a few:
- Abject awe, profuse admiration, getting flagged down and stopped
on the street by gawkers, guys jumping out of their cars at stop signs making
full prostrate genuflections on the pavement (seriously), construction workers
in pickups careening into gas stations where I'm fueling, screeching to a
stop and jumping out to admire, etc. etc. — 10 points.
- Don't drive in the fast lane. People notice your car a lot
more when they are passing you, and make contact far more often if they
are passing the driver's side of your car, so drive a bit slower than the
surrounding traffic. This is especially important because women are more
likely to make contact than men, and often a man is driving and a woman is
in the right front seat.
- Don't drive with the windows up, especially if they are tinted.
Leave the front windows down, with arms resting on the sill. People are much
more inclined to express their reaction if it is easy to get my attention.
How did we find all this out? By keeping score! This may
sound silly, self-centered, supercilious, self-indulgent
- Drive with one or more passengers, especially if your right
front seat can be occupied by an attractive woman.This takes care
of male drivers who happen to be passing on the right, as they are more
likely to make contact with a woman than a man. Even better, have
adolescent children in the rear seat. Better yet, have them be girls. This
takes care of young male drivers who might not let the old codgers in front
(me and my wife) know they like the car, but will have no problem letting
the girls know.
I say you and I did not buy our Checkers in order to NOT stand out. We did
not buy them because we are shy, retiring, avoid-the-limelight types. One
way or another, each of us in his own way, we bought Checkers because of
their uniqueness, their clunky, oddball appeal, and their friendly, approachable
demeanor. I mean, they're so ugly they're cute. They're so square it's nearly
a caricature. A Checker is like a cartoon driving by, a car a four-year-old
preschooler might have drawn in crayon before nap time. How can
people not love it, even if they don't quite understand why? Not even I
— but I do love 'em.
Here are the changes my own car has gone through.
As purchased, one owner, 61,790 original miles:
First we put front disk brakes on, lowering the front in the process:
Tinted windows, trim rings, and new tires (which we decided were a mistake
& fixed later):
Now for the end-to-end drive train replacement and exhaust system,
detailed elsewhere on this site:
Then quite by accident, because we happened to be visiting a car show
where there was a wizard pinstriper:
New chrome rims with pink centers to match the pinstripes. We weren't
real sure this was gonna work, but it did:
Next, a new interior to match the outside:
And finally, the white sidewall tires that we should never
have changed, and some pinstripes on the pink wheel centers to
break up that expanse of pink:
OK, now for the score. How are we doing on points?
We played the Checker Scoreboard game from 4/18/03 to 9/4/03, keeping score
every day the car was on the road an hour or more. Over a total of 66 such
days, the average daily total was 13.2 points, the maximum for one day was
52 points, and the daily minimum was 1 point. This is a car, in other words,
that is never on the road without turning at least one person's head.
And that is exactly what we were shooting for.
For the died-in-the-wool numbers freaks, here is the spreadsheet in .csv format,
importable into Excel.