Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Cars You Don't See Every Day in Madison

by Tom Bozzo

En route from Sentry Hilldale back to the office, the only car parked in the lot in front of Hilldale Theatre was a Bentley Arnage T (2005 base MSRP $241,985).

Dr. Clotaire Rapaille, the marketing guru recently profiled in Sunday
(now in the $ archive) and the recent Frontline documentary "The Persuaders," locates the consumer decision center in the "reptilian brain." In cars, suggests Rapaille, the reptilian brain wants the exterior of a tank and the interior of a comfy living room. His influence can be seen in the civilian-grade Hummers, Chrysler 300 and PT Cruiser, etc.

The Bentley comes by these characteristics naturally, as it is a huge (212.2" long, nearly 60" tall) sedan evolved, but not by much, from '50s and '60s vintage Rolls-Royces. The shape, particularly in the observed car's jet black, conveys a very clear message to other drivers: "get the f*** out of my way."

Diamond-pattened tufting in the seating area, which identifies the car as the sporting 'T' model, lends a bit of mod flair to a cabin otherwise hewing to the British lots-of-wood-and-leather standard. Whereas successful mid-luxury models must make do by mixing relatively pleasing synthetics with natural materials applied to high-valued surfaces, climate controls obviously lifted from the previous generation BMW 7-series (which indicate that the car is not brand new -- VW now owns Bentley) appear to be the only plastic bits one's fingers would condescend to touch if this were one's own car.

Perhaps more surprisingly, in the Whole Foods lot last week, I saw a presumably operable Chevrolet Chevette. No one should be shocked by the collection of left-leaning bumper stickers adorning its tail. The Chevette had insufficient rust through to be an original Wisconsin car.

Hypertrophied receipt watch: For two items at Sentry, credit card payment, two receipts of 17.5 and 17.8 cm (13.9 inches total). This doesn't hold a candle to Jeremy Freese's Best Buy receipt (500 ml Coke, cash) for sheer length, but Sentry should take the Redundant Information Award, as a single six-digit number is the only information on the longer receipt not also present on the shorter receipt. Both remind me that 162,324 brats and 27,840 hot dogs were sold at Labor Day Bratfest.
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