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Driving Farce

Real Solutions

Like many teens, I learned to drive in a beater car. My mom’s 1970 Datsun 510 — called “Elizabeth” after Fred Sanford’s late wife — wasn’t fancy to begin with. The model was marketed as a budget sedan, and the only upgrade she boasted was an automatic transmission. (Seriously, she had a manual choke.) They are now considered collector vehicles because they were darn near indestructible.

I don’t know whether I believe that. Maybe there were just fewer things to break and more shortcut fixes for those that did. Elizabeth balked in rainy weather, so I often had to spray the inside of the distributor cap with WD-40 to get her to start. When the hood latch became unreliable, Mom drilled holes in the hood and secured it with bolts and cotter pins. When the front quarter panel rusted through, my folks worked together to repair it. Dad supplied the beer cans and Mom the Bondo and latex house paint. When my parents finally sold Elizabeth ahead of a cross-country move in the late 1980s, she still ran fine but looked terrible. (Dad had switched to bottled beer.) She might be rolling along somewhere even now.

The Beloved’s car has reached its teen years and, like any teen, is starting to behave erratically. We’ve toyed with the idea of getting a new car, but it’s a challenge. The models we liked the last time we shopped aren’t made any more, so we are back to square one in searching for essential features.

The Beloved’s ranked list of must-haves:


Heated seats

Heated steering wheel


The Beloved, you might have sussed, is not a car guy. Well, if he’s not going to be that picky, I am going to be imaginative.

Somewhere in Minnesota, there’s a station wagon tricked out to look like the Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters. There’s a van painted like the Mystery Machine from Scooby-Doo. Both are labors of love for their owners and not for sale, but similar corporate vehicles exist. Just Born Inc., the candy maker, has a couple of Peepmobiles, Volkswagen Beetles topped with giant yellow fiberglass Peep chicks. Unless they cut through the car roof into the marshmallow bird, though, the headroom is going to be a problem.

But wait, what about the granddaddy of trademarked transportation? I got to see one of the Oscar Mayer Weinermobiles last summer. I sent a message to the Hotdogger (driver) I met. I told “Ketchup Kaitlyn” that I had mustard up the courage to ask what happened to decommissioned dogs, and I would relish the opportunity to get one. (The Hotdoggers love a good sausage-related pun.) Alas, when the Weinermobiles are no longer road-worthy, they go to museums or Oscar Mayer plants, not private owners. But, Kaitlyn wrote, “Franks for asking!” (Told ya.)

I wonder if that applies to all their vehicles. Oscar Mayer has a Weinerfleet. A smaller hot dog shell built on a Mini Cooper is called the WeinerMini, not the Cocktail Weinermobile. (Why not? I should ask Kaitlyn.) Easy Rider types might like the WeinerCycle with bunwarming sidecar. Radio-control fans, there are the WeinerRover and WeinerDrone. The latter sends your frank down by parachute.

Even if none of these are for sale, I have been inspired. The mechanic says that if we keep up repairs, we could theoretically keep The Beloved’s car going forever. I might channel Mom and affix Matchbox trucks and cars all over the thing. Behold the CarMobile! What if I attach a crib decoration to the roof? A MobileMobile! He’d probably be too embarrassed to drive such a thing, making it an ImMobile.

He might even want to step up his car shopping. He’d be driven to it.

Reprinted from the Laurent’s Circus column in the March 2023 Mensagenda, the newsletter of Minnesotta Mensa.
Paul McKinley
Cheryl Laurent

CHERYL LAURENT drives a nondescript compact car without so much as a bumper sticker. She misses Elizabeth but not enough to give up heated seats.

In her professional life, Cheryl has decanted bodily fluids, watched paint dry, and created advertising layout for calf pullers. Not becoming a writer would have been a colossal waste of material. She has been a columnist for Mensagenda for more than a decade. Cheryl and The Beloved live in the suburbs of the Twin Cities with two dogs that have taken “nonworking breed” to heart.


Minnesota Mensa | Joined 1992