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I recently helped my son buy his first car a...

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Dear Tom and Ray:



I recently helped my son buy his first car, a beautiful 1991 Toyota Camry.
Lately, it seems I can't go anywhere without seeing these cars, so I
thought that was a pretty good selling point. Anyway, when I told a guy I
work with what car my son bought, he nodded knowingly and said, "Great car,
but it's a girl car." I know men are much more hung up on those kinds of
things than women are, not just with their cars, but in everything they do,
say, wear, eat, you name it! It's these ill-defined, yet well-understood
principles that keep my husband from ever wearing pink clothes or pleated
Dockers, or from ever going to the mall alone with another guy. They can go
to a bar alone, but not a restaurant. And God forbid a guy should drive a
girl car! So I ask you, since my son has obviously flubbed that one, what
are the criteria by which one can distinguish a girl car? And while we're
on the subject, what other things should my son know about this stuff? By
the way, don't use my last name. I don't want my son to know that I've
exposed him. -- Amy

TOM: Amy, you have launched us on another Ph.D. dissertation! We were so
fascinated by your question that we asked our Web site visitors for help.
We asked them to tell us which cars they perceive as "chick cars" -- and
which cars they see as "guy cars."

RAY: And the results are in. And no, they haven't been recounted by hand.
At least according to this limited study, the vast majority of cars fall
into the middle, being neither chick cars nor guy cars. Since there's no
obvious anatomical/mechanical way to tell a chick car from a guy car,
people tend to make their own assumptions about these cars in the middle.

TOM: That appears to be the case with your Camry, Amy. Often, the "chick
car" designation is used by one guy to insult another. And it always works
since -- as you well know -- guys are incredibly insecure about their
masculinity. Conversely, such an insult never works on women. You tell a
woman she's driving a "guy car," and she couldn't care less.

RAY: Anyway, here are the top five chick cars, according to people who
visit the Car Talk section of www.cars.com, along with selected comments
from the nominators:

5. Dodge Neon -- "Neons are Barbie cars: little and cute and rounded in the
hips. Even in black, they are feminine and adorable, only just a bit
tougher, like Tattoo Barbie."
4. VW Jetta -- "Anything by Volkswagen is a chick car. VW realized this
years ago and joined forces with another company to sell guy cars -- they
called that company Porsche."
3. Mazda Miata -- "I discovered this phenomenon when I got a Miata. `Girlie
car.' That's all I heard."
2. VW Cabriolet -- "All teen-age girls classify them as cute. 'Nuff said."
1. VW New Beetle -- "A chick car, definitely. And made to be so. How? I
know of no other automobile with a FLOWER VASE as standard equipment."

TOM: And the top five guy cars according to the survey are:

5. Dodge Viper -- "It might be a guy car if there were a movie or TV show
built entirely around it. Other examples include Burt Reynolds' Trans Am
from "Smokey and the Bandit," Nash Bridges' hemi Barracuda, and Jim Rockford's
Firebird."
4. Ford F-150 Pickup -- "Any car with numbers or letters for a name, or
tacked on the end, can become a guy car. For example, F-150 or Civic-Si."
3. Chevy Camaro -- "...with twice the horsepower needed. Used to show other
guys how manly you really are."
2. Chevy Corvette -- "I believe the main aspect that determines the
male/female state of a car is based on the engine-compartment
(hood)-to-cab-length ratio. A car such as a pickup or Corvette has a large
hood-to-cab-length ratio."
1. Ford Mustang -- "A back seat guaranteed to be too small for your
mother-in-law."

TOM: I guess the guys who voted for the Ford Mustang didn't see the "Malibu
Barbie" interior they were using a few years ago.

RAY: Anyway, you're certainly welcome to disagree on any of these cars, and
I'm sure many of you will. But this led to another interesting question.
Which cars ATTRACT "chicks" and which cars ATTRACT "guys"?

TOM: That's a much better question! We know that for the most part, serious
"guy" cars scare women. So -- women reading this column -- what kind of car
would make you interested in the guy driving it? Would ANY car make you
interested?

RAY: And we'll ask the same question of guys, although we know that the car
makes absolutely no difference to guys. If the woman is a carbon-based life
form, that's enough to make him interested.

TOM: Send your thoughts to us in care of this newspaper or via our Web
site, the Car Talk section of www.cars.com.
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