A celebration of hot hatches
Elana scherrCar and driver
Late spring in Los Angeles is superimposed weather. The mornings are foggy and cool, misty as if the whole town is wearing a cozy gray sweatshirt. Later in the day, the fog burns, revealing those famous warm, blue California skies. It was in cozy gray that I started out for the Auto Conduct hatchback show, sliding down the freeway in a borrowed Volkswagen Golf GTI 84 wearing the same silver as the navy coat.
For those of you who don’t practice Golf, Volkswagen first introduced the sedan to the United States in the mid-1970s under another name: Rabbit. The GTI was introduced in 1983 as a performance version. He’s often considered the first “hot hatch”, or at least the first to go mainstream (I don’t want the folks at Simca Ti to get on my nerves). My silver GTI wasn’t really mine. It was borrowed from VW’s Historical Collection for a day of exploring what makes people love hatches so much.
There was a time when the Golf would have been just one of the many small, square hatchbacks hitting the streets of Los Angeles, but these days it’s a rarity. I was alone in a sea of rounded SUVs, until I turned a corner and entered sedan heaven. By the time the fog cleared, the parking lot was full of three and five doors, sportbacks and touring and every other descriptor that has ever been applied to a small car with a top hinged rear door.
Defining the body style of a car is a pending argument. The four-door coupe comes to mind, as does the scowl of any old-school hot rod when something with windows and a convertible top is called a roadster. Locking the sedan is just as difficult. How big does a sedan become a small SUV? Is a $ 213,000 McLaren GT a sedan? Is a Corvette? I say yes, after 1982. None of those big arguments of our time were about people admiring an unhatched Alfa parked next to a heavily hatched Lancia Integrale. They were both gorgeous, and that’s all that mattered to the crowd. “Drive All Things”, is the name of the printed Auto Conduct zine, and it also applies to the show field.
That’s the goal of Auto Conduct, a media / marketing company run by designer and general automotive geek, Ezekial Wheeler. Auto Conduct holds these rallies every month at its headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. The next one, scheduled for June 19, will feature convertibles and is called “Alternate Ceilings”.
“We want to provide a voice for car enthusiasts who have been marginalized by the mainstream,” Wheeler told me as we drank coffee and watched two kids race Hot Wheels on a six-lane track. Hatches, ‘natch. A Datsun won.
By highlighting cars that don’t often have a parking space in the usual Cars and Coffee – the two shows before the hatches were wagons and vans respectively – Wheeler hopes to cheer on a group of enthusiasts who normally aren’t seen or celebrated. And while the themes are a fun place to start, he says they’ll never deny someone having a car that breaks the rules. “Whatever comes up, comes up,” he said.
So there was a 911 next to a lowered and widened fox body Mustang next to a Mach-E Mustang (to spark another name controversy) and they were just as welcome as a modified Civic or an original Corolla. A crowd favorite turned out to be Sara Nelson’s 1972 BMW 2002tii Touring, which she drove from San Diego just for the show. “I was delighted to bring it as they are quite rare, and not many people know what they are when they see them,” Nelson said. She inherited the car from her mother about four years ago and was thrilled to see a chance to show it off at a show especially for sedans.
The GTI has also attracted a lot of attention. It had a steady stream of visitors, cooing with delight over its lava red velor interior and famous dimpled golf ball shifter – designed by Gunhild Liljequist, the same person who invented VW’s checkered seats. She must have been on a roll that week, or rather, this whole decade. Treat yourself to a Google search for interior offerings from Volkswagen in the ’70s and early’ 80s.
“We all had friends who had Golfs when we were in high school,” said one member of a trio of guys who stopped to ask me if I was the one who brought the bunny, and then if. I liked it. “I remember it was so fast and so fun,” said another. I told him I was okay with the fun part but had to question his definition of “fast”. There was a moment’s pause, then he laughed and said, “Well, coming from a Schwinn 10 speed, it was fast.” With that I can’t argue, and to be fair to the GTI, Car and driverExamination of the Rabbit in 1983 called the time from zero to 60 of 9.7 seconds “fast.” (Not to mention “the best no-frills performance econobox we’ve driven on our shores.”) I’m just spoiled for modernity and muscle cars.
What that conversation got me thinking about, and in fact, what the younger demographics of the series have argued for, is that there is accessibility to hatchbacks. Not just literally, albeit a useful cargo setup, but as early cars and early collector cars.
They tended, and still do, to be small and affordable. They aren’t powerful enough to scare parents or insurance companies off, and even now they’re often available with manual transmissions and light, easy-to-launch bodies, perfect for teaching a young driver the fun of a ride. sinuous road. Several of the people I spoke with were planning to head for the hills after the show and return home. I went straight home and started hunting rabbits.
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