THE ORPHAN MAKER
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sun, Mar 6, 2011
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
STOKED By Doug Stokes You’ve been around … You’ve heard the term: “Widow maker” right? That ominous arachnidan sobriquet has been hung on a multitude of menacing machines over the years, from jump jets to especially gnarly motorcycles like the infamous Vincent Black Shadow, as well as on a wide variety of guns and knives and certain (unshielded) shop tools. Here today we’re introducing a new term to the automotive cognoscenti: “Orphan maker”. Whoa … typed out it looks almost as dead-nuts lethal as widow maker, and we’re talking about my dear wife of almost 20 years, Dede Stokes. Oh my!
Dede, you see, has had the signal honor of successively buying, owning, faithfully making the payments, and operating two automobiles nameplates that both no longer exist. On or about 1994 she bought an Oldsmobile Bravada, an upgraded, decked-out, all-wheel-drive-all-the-time SUV. As bells and whistles go, that machine had all of the available stuff for its day, including a heavy-duty factory trailer hitch, a very willing Vortex V-6 engine, cool-looking alloy wheels, a Tron-like digital dash, and a swing-away spare that rode proudly out back like some sort of a country continental kit. She put a bunch of miles on that guy, we towed race cars with it, and the machine is still in service to this day as we sold it to my brother Scot in late 2003 when Dede bought her next orphan-to-be. Of course, you know that Oldsmobile’s rocket flamed out as a manufacturer in 2004. Orphan one.
Wanting to sit a little lower and more comfortably, Mrs. Stokes decided on a very nice loaded top’o’the’line Mercury Sable. She got a super deal from a friendly local dealer and quickly settled back into the sedan lifestyle. Nice car, a luxury Taurus, if you will. She still has that one and, to make this story work, Ford purposefully phased the Merc nameplate out early this year. Orphan two. And now, she really wants a Honda Element. I had review-driven one a few years back, but she’s thinking about taking our dogs on vacation and going down to her paddling practice sessions down in Long Beach in something more utilitarian. So I called up the nice folks at Honda and asked if they had a media unit that she could drive for a week and heard: “… You know, Doug, we’ve announced 2010 as the last build year for the Element” … “Yeah, I know” (I lied)… “But we’ve got an Element EX 4-wheel drive NAVI that you can have for week” … “Great!” Off to the orphan races again, this time even further behind the grim reaper, who I just realized had already struck down this model. On the other hand, only driving it from and back two the distributor’s garage facilities (maybe 65 miles total) I ended up standing firmly behind her desire to own this boxy Honda that was just so eager to please.
Here’s my one-paragraph review: “Stable, with an aggressive engine, nice handling, clean steering, and a general overall friendliness and responsiveness that just makes the Honda Element fun to drive. (All that and plenty of usable interior room for fun, games, and work).” This one was the full boat unit with everything (including a pull-out picnic basket cooler between the front seats) and the ticket read about $24,000. You may well be able to latch on to one at a better price, but, truth be told, you won’t be able to buy a more friendly family-style automobile for jus about any money. I was set to bring the machine back to the barn on Thursday, and after Jeopardy Wednesday evening, wife Dede, was nowhere to be found. Then the front door opened and she came in. “Where were you?” … “Outside” … “ In the garage? It’s starting to rain” … “No” … “What?” … “Ok, Ok, I was outside, saying goodbye to our Honda.” It was really that kind of ride.
CODA: Has there really ever been a “bad” Honda (car, bike, lawnmower, auxiliary power unit)? Don’t think so. A week with the Element makes the pedestrian word utilitarian into a sparking accolade. Nothing more to note here … Hail and Farewell Element! You might be an “orphan” but you’ll always be a Honda. –DS For more information about Honda products, go to automobiles.honda.com/ SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2011 Honda Element EX Price: $20,825 (base) $26,365 (as tested EX model with all-wheel drive, NAVI navigation system, automatic transmission, MP3 Player, satellite radio, side/curtain airbags, stability control and traction control) EPA fuel economy rating: 20 city/25 highway miles per gallon (FWD) 19 city/24 highway miles per gallon (AWD) Engine: 2.4-liter dual overhead cam, 16-valve, in-line four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing Horsepower: 166 at 5800 rpm Torque: 161 pound-feet at 4000 rpm Transmission: Five-speed automatic Drive configuration: All-wheel drive Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion Suspension: Four-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson strut front suspension and double wishbone rear suspension, and front and rear stabilizer bars Dimensions Length: 169.9 inches Width: 71.6 inches Height: 70.4 inches Ground clearance: 6.9 inches Maximum towing capacity: 1500 pounds Curb weight: 3,540 pounds