A Street Appeal Measurement System
Lane Darnton

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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.)
  • 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.
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:
  • 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.
  • 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.
How did we find all this out? By keeping score! This may sound silly, self-centered, supercilious, self-indulgentwhatever. 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 understand why 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:
Eng-sm2.JPG  41-sm.JPG

Then quite by accident, because we happened to be visiting a car show where there was a wizard pinstriper:
WCK02-64-sm.JPG  WCK02-70-sm.JPG  WCK02-73-sm.JPG  WCK02-69-sm.JPG

New chrome rims with pink centers to match the pinstripes. We weren't real sure this was gonna work, but it did:
20-sm.JPG  31-sm.JPG

Next, a new interior to match the outside:
13-sm1.JPG  11-sm.JPG

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:
IMG_0901-sm.JPG  IMG_0914b-sm.JPG

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.