Car4mh’s US road trip en route to LA show

Published: 02 December 2009

CAR Online reader Car4mh (aka Mark Hamilton) is en route to Los Angeles for the LA auto show 2009. Here's a blog on his automotive goings-on en route – wherever he goes in the world, Car4mh tries to find something petrol-powered for an interesting diversion

Had an interesting Thanksgiving break here with friends in Tennessee.  Started my holiday with a ride in an immaculate 1967 Dodge Coronet two-door hardtop, which housed a massive 440 cubic-inch (7.2-litre) Magnum 440 V8 engine. It was not a car I'd choose to punt around an Alpine pass in a hurry, but as a comfortable highway cruiser with the ability to provide fierce acceleration when required, it was appealing. To my eyes the '60s were a sweet-spot for US automotive styling between the excesses of the '50s and '70s, and the angular lines of the Coronet hardtop made for an appealing alternative to the default musclecars of the era.

As a New Zealander partial to travelling, I was heartened to hear from the Coronet's proud owner that a kiwi owner of a Dodge Charger Daytona (the bewinged NASCAR variant of the Duke boys' ride of choice) had brought their car back to the US and driven it cross-country for a Mopar show on the east coast earlier in the year.  At 10 miles per gallon, it must have been quite an investment...

As a contrast to the Coronet, I took a weekend roadtrip to North Carolina in a new Nissan Cube.  Tennessee is home to Nissan's US headquarters, and its original US 'transplant' factory, both in the greater Nashville region. This makes Nissan trucks and saloons such as the Altima and Maxima quite a common sight on local roads. However, the Cube is a new arrival in the Bible Belt, and if the double-takes we got from SUV & pickup truck passengers on the highway were any indication, it might as well have flown in from a distant galaxy. 

The latest Cube proved a surprisingly-capable long distance touring car, able to keep up with highway traffic and carry four adults and light luggage in comfort. I find the latest version a tad too rounded in the styling department for a vehicle carrying such a square name, but enjoyed being a pioneer for lightweight, space- and fuel-efficient motoring.

Now it's off to the west coast, where the Cube would probably find a more receptive audience. Yet Nissan is not appearing at the LA Auto Show, in spite of the emphasis on green motoring and its bullish position on electric vehicles. Nissan appears to be the only major Japanese auto maker not exhibiting. So while they may be saving money, it does seem odd not to be raising Nissan's eco credentials in the California market.

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