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Welcome to our new weekly blogging feature, "Classic Lemon of the Week" in which we shall be looking back at some of the most memorable lemons of yesteryear on a weekly basis. We're talking design disasters, marketing misfits, engineering errors and aesthetic abominations. In short, a car owner's nightmare but a technician's dream come true.
This week, the most-ill conceived Cadillac of all time: the Cimarron.
A vehicle can qualify as a lemon for myriad reasons, from dismal design to wretched reliability. Then there's "brandalism."
Brandalism occurs when the custodians of a brand take a product with vaunted brand equity and vandalize it by ruining everything that was good about it.
Exhibit A when it comes to brutal brandalism of the automotive kind: the Cadillac Cimarron.
Undeniably, Cadillac was in a lull dating back to the mid-'70s. But the Cimarron was proof positive that the folks running GM's luxury division no longer gave a rodent's rectum about engineering excellence or divine design. That's because the Cimarron was essentially a rebadged J-car.
The Baby Cadillac was given the green light when GM noticed small luxury cars made by the likes of Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Volvo were gobbling up increased market share. GM could've attempted to make a good, small luxury car to compete with these makes. Instead, the General chose to tart up a Chevrolet Cavalier with leather seats and then mark up the base price by thousands. Talk about a double-whammy: the Cimarron was neither a good Cadillac nor was it good value.
Also, given the Cimarron was the first four-cylinder Cadillac since 1914, performance was abysmal. The car was completely out of its league going up against similar-sized BMW and Mercedes cars of that time period. Did we mention the Cimarron was a rebadged Cavalier?
As the years progressed, GM tried to spice up the Cimarron with more powerful engines and a better suspension. It was too little, too late and GM wasn't fooling anyone. Traditional Cadillac models were selling in the range of 300,000 units per year; however, less than 20,000 Cimarrons were sold annually.
After seven painful attempts at trying to get it right, GM finally did the right thing and pulled the plug on this abomination of a luxury car. But given the extent of the brandalism, it remains nothing short of miraculous that the Cadillac nameplate didn't perish along with the Cimarron in 1988.
There's a humorous Subaru TV commercial airing these days. An Impreza owner is so enamoured with Subarus that he automatically admires anyone else driving this particular make of vehicle. To prove his affection, he pops a coin into the expired parking meter of a stranger's Impreza. Once the meter maid realizes this Impreza doesn't belong to him, she flashes the Good Samaritan a disapproving look.
Obviously, this ad wasn't filmed in Toronto.
In Hogtown, you see, it's apparently illegal to feed the meter of a stranger's car. And if you do so, the meter maid won't merely flash you a peeved look - she might just call the cops.
I know firsthand. It happened to me in October 2007.
The details: I was working on a story in which I was following the edicts in a poster entitled, "Life's Little Instructions." The instructions include such nuggets as "Plant a tree on your birthday," "Over-tip breakfast waitresses" and "Feed a stranger's expired parking meter."
Parked on Elm Street one Thursday morning, I noticed a parking enforcement officer making a beeline toward a Mazda3. Yours Truly swung into action. I saved the Mazda3 from a $30 parking ticket by purchasing a Pay & Display tag and slipping it under the Mazda's wiper blade.
If looks could kill, I'd have been vaporized. I didn't dare ask the meter maid's name, but she spoke with an Eastern European accent and kind of resembled a uniform-clad Elvira Mistress of the Dark, albeit with a shorter haircut and no cleavage. Also unlike Elvira, she was no comedienne.
"It's not your car!" she yelled. "It's none of your concern!"
She then sped off.
Covering off Elm, I strolled down to Edward Street, a fistful of quarters at the ready. Wouldn't you know it? "Elvira" was plying her craft on Edward, too. I saved vehicles here as well - a Ford Fusion, a Chevy HHR. Next thing I know, all heck breaks loose.
"There he is! Him! Him!" the meter maid screamed, pointing in my direction but addressing Constable Alex Leano.
"What'd I do?" I queried.
"Don't talk to her!" barked Const. Leano.
I was detained for 40 minutes as the policeman wrote up an "incident report." I asked Const. Leano if I had done anything wrong. His original guess was "obstruction." He then suggested I should "consult a lawyer." Just call me Menzoid, the Maniacal Meter Feeder. What a badass, eh?
The following day, I spoke with Kimberly Rossi, manager of parking enforcement for the Toronto Police Service. She noted that, according to Chapter 910 (Parking Machines) Section 4, Sub-Section A, it is indeed the "parker's responsibility" to feed the meter. (Insert theme from Dragnet here.)
Bottom line: should you have a hankering to ape the Subaru ad in Toronto, your good deed might just get you arrested.
Ah, the First of July. It means a day off work. It's the unofficial start of summer. And millions celebrate with barbeques sizzling, hammocks swaying and fireworks blasting. For 27 years, July 1st has been known as Canada Day. But undoubtedly, some "old-timers" (that is to say, those Canadians who have memories stretching back to the early '80s) likely recall the original moniker for July 1: Dominion Day, a holiday officially established by statute in 1879 but now consigned to the scrapheap of political correctness.
The sneaky process that resulted in Dominion Day's assassination is certainly a story worth retelling. The deed took place in Parliament on July 9, 1982, back when the Trudeau regime was calling the shots. Purging Dominion Day from the Canadian lexicon occurred on an otherwise laidback Friday afternoon, the last day of Parliament before the summer recess. A mere 13 members were present, seven short of an official quorum.
Alas, so much for formalities: a private member's bill seeking to officially expunge "Dominion Day" and replace it with "Canada Day" was quickly rubberstamped. Faster than you could say, "fuddle duddle" more than a century of history disappeared.
The move was consistent with what Liberal governments have been doing since Lester Pearson took power, which is trying to "rebrand" Canada.
Even so, according to the Monarchist League of Canada, "dominion" is a very proud and powerful term. After all, the preamble to the Canadian constitution - that document so beloved by Liberals then and now - states there shall be "one Dominion." And Monarchists note that the D-word is misunderstood: Dominion is synonymous with independence, freedom and free association - not subservience or colonization.
Alas, a contributing factor to Dominion Day's exclusion from the Canadian holiday vocabulary is that dominion doesn't translate very well into French. Given that pandering to Quebec sensibilities is practically Canada's national pastime, Dominion Day was perhaps doomed for this reason alone.
How sad. After all, the genesis of Dominion Day had much to do with that very positive Canadian attribute of compromise. As noted in The Canadian Encyclopedia, Dominion "refers to Dominion of Canada (British North America Act preamble), to the federal government or Parliament, and to Canada's status in relation to the Imperial government. The fathers of confederation wanted to call the new nation the Kingdom of Canada, but the British Government, fearing the sensitivity of Americans to references to the Crown and anxious not to antagonize them after the American Civil War, insisted the Fathers find another title. Leonard Tilley suggested 'dominion' (Psalm 72). 'He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.' The Fathers said it was intended to give dignity to the federation, and as a tribute to the monarchical principle. Under the Constitution Act, 1982, 'Dominion' remains Canada's official title."
On sober second thought, no wonder Dominion Day was given the axe. After all, it's all so "B&B" (biblical and British) - neither of which jives that well with Liberals. (Next holiday to be eradicated: Victoria Day. You heard it here first.)
Ideological agendas aside, perhaps rebranding wouldn't have been so offensive if only the replacement for the regal-sounding Dominion Day wasn't the appallingly bland Canada Day - a "McHoliday" if ever there was one. Can anyone imagine Independence Day being replaced by USA Day? The most important American holiday would end up sounding like the name of a national newspaper - just as our most important national holiday is one letter removed from a brand of ginger ale.
Even so, wouldn't it be a fitting birthday gift if the Harper Conservatives were to undo this particular example of Liberal vandalism, restoring Dominion Day to its rightful place? While changing the name (again) of our most important holiday is not high on the priority list, it would certainly be something worth celebrating. At least for those Canadians who still care about such things.