Cars R ours 

Traveling around the country isn’t especially interesting anymore. Wherever you go, you find the same restaurants, stores and fashions. One way to fight this distressing pattern is to embrace local rituals — such as our January car fiesta, the North American International Auto Show. Around these parts, the show is like an overblown small-town parade. Every year, all the pretty ladies dream of being selected for the enviable positions of auto show fashion models (that they have no purpose is irrelevant), the menfolk get gussied-up in bright clothing embossed with auto logos and factory names, and the kiddies scurry around Cobo Hall in search of free promotional material as if it were candy.

If you missed the fun, the following automotive-themed products might just help you grasp the experience.

Demographic décor

After seeing all the new-and-improved cars and trucks, many people dream of trading in their current rides for shiny, fresh-off-the-line Cadillacs, Fords etc. But don’t get suckered into buying something you don’t need. Instead, revitalize what you already have. At www.autowraps.com, you can redecorate the car and make money at the same time. Just fill out the electronic form and arrangements will be made to have the body of your car covered in vinyl adhesive stickers promoting a product (you can’t choose the product, but can refuse alcohol, tobacco or sex-related ads for moral reasons). It should come as no surprise that, in a country where people pay big money to wear designer-label clothing, people would advertise products with their vehicles. However, it does seem odd that people are finally smart enough to get paid for doing it themselves, instead of paying for the “privilege.”

There are strings attached. The car is equipped with a global positioning unit (to make sure you drive at least 1,000 miles a month and don’t drive recklessly). It must also be inspected every month to ensure the vinyl hasn’t been removed, and you must sign a five-year contract.

Dash flash

If you’re not willing to sell your car’s exterior (and your own soul) for advertising money, focus on the interior. Just think of the Martha Stewart-caliber work Cheech did on the interior of his low-rider in Up in Smoke; then consider all the possible improvements you could make to that heap parked outside. Start with the basics — like wood. Yes sir, you can order real wood parts for nearly any model of van, truck or car at www.exoticwooddash.com. Air vents, steering wheels, dashboards, consoles, armrests — make them classier with wood replacement kits.

And if that isn’t enough, order the gold fender trim; only $135 for an ’86-’98 Ford Aerostar. Every soccer mom deserves her own pimpmobile.

Model that style

Maybe you’re new in town and didn’t know what to wear to the auto show. Because there is both much walking and intense people-watching involved, it’s important to look cool and be comfortable. Visit www.luckymule.com for classic car T-shirts ($15). In particular, check out the “Buy American” shirt, with a picture of a purple piece of Detroit muscle on it. Rockabilly hats and posters are also available.

Fun on the run

The Steel Horse Video Traveler Mobile Video Entertainment Center ($549.99 at www.avdeals.com) is kind of sad when you think about. It is a portable box containing a 5.6-inch television and a VCR that fits between bucket seats of any vehicle and plugs into the cigarette lighter. Allegedly, it will “keep the children occupied for long trips.”

Are kids no longer creative enough to keep themselves entertained without a TV? With the popularity of the retro Volkswagen Beetle, shouldn’t the old car game of Slug Bug (where you punch fellow passengers in the arm while yelling “Slug Bug!” every time a Beetle is spotted) be encouraged? After all, nothing is more entertaining than violence.

Travel lite

Aside from all the entertainment it provides, the auto show is also a fine reminder of our local lack of transportation options, and the fact that if you don’t have a car in metro Detroit, you’re screwed. A lack of public transportation, coupled with few and/or broken sidewalks, bad weather and other nasties all make the automobile a necessity, not the luxury it should be. I guess the Th!nk Mobility bicycle is Ford’s way of doing something about the problem. For $995 (from www.thinkmobility.com), this environmentally friendly, battery-powered bike is all yours. Its electric power assist system provides an extra boost, up to 20 mph, for windy days and hilly roads. Finally, get all the fun of bike riding without the sweaty work.

What grabs your attention? E-mail us at letters@metrotimes.com

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