Watching the Detectives…Drive, the Sequel

October 6, 2010

Well, there have been several responses to “Watching the Detectives…Drive” my several-days-back blog post on the cars driven by fictional investigators, so without further ado, here’s installment two:

J.A. Jance’s protagonist Beau Beaumont, and John Sandford’s main man Lucas Davenport are both Porschephiles; Beaumont pilots a red 928,

and Davenport a 911 (the color may be mentioned in one or another of the Davenport books, but a cursory look failed to turn it up).

As both are cops, whose company cars are most likely well-used Ford Crown Victorias, it is no surprise that they choose to use their own wheels at every possible opportunity. That said, the government mileage allowance wouldn’t begin to cover the operating expenses of such exotic machinery, so it is a good thing that both men are independently wealthy.

One of my readers (thanks, Dana) asked about Stephanie Plum, Janet Evanovich’s wisecracking bounty hunter. Well, as it turns out, Plum is much more notorious for the cars she destroys than for the ones she has owned, although it must be said that the second group represents a significant subset of the first group. In fact, in the Wikipedia entry on Stephanie Plum, there is a separate section in each book review devoted to the cars she has destroyed in that episode! She has lost cars to thieves, the crusher, the repo man, crashes, and in one memorable case, one got blown to bits by a rocket launcher. To date, she has gone through a Jeep Wrangler, several Honda CR-Vs, a “Rollswagen” (don’t ask), and an assortment of ill-kept clunkers. Oh, and more than one expensive black car of dubious provenance donated to the cause by her on-again off-again boy toy, Ranger. About the only car she has not managed to totally destroy thus far is her Uncle Sandor’s powder blue 1953 Buick Roadmaster, a reasonable facsimile of which is pictured below:

Mary Alice Baker aka Nina Zero, Robert Eversz’ platinum-tressed post-punk heroine (Shooting Elvis, Digging James Dean), tools around the streets of LA in a 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible,

the last of a breed of supersized land yachts from Detroit. Government rollover regs for 1977 and beyond spelled the end of the ragtop, or at least that’s what the carmakers thought, so General Motors, then the largest auto manufacturer in the world, went out in a blaze of convertible glory with the biggest, fastest, thirstiest, and priciest soft-top in the land. The picture here depicts one in its prime; Nina Zero’s had covered some 120,000 miles when she got it, and it hasn’t improved (cue the understatement alert) over the time of her ownership.

Perhaps the baddest car in detective fiction belongs to Andrew Vachss’ outlaw protagonist, Burke. Burke drives a 1969 Plymouth Roadrunner that has been “breathed upon” by a legendary car tuner who specializes in street racers. No trailer queen, Burke’s Roadrunner is all business, all the time: “The beast’s undercarriage was a combination of an independent rear suspension unit pirated from a Viper, and subframe connectors with heavy gussets to stiffen the unibody…” (By now, the eyes of the non-car-savvy members of the reading public have totally glazed over, and the folks with Pennzoil 10W-30 running in their veins are just beginning to get interested.) Vachss continues: “Huge disks with four-piston calipers all around, steel braided lines…a 440 wedge, hogged out to 528 cubes. To a rodder, it would look like a restoration project—the beginning of the project…To anyone else, it looked like a typical white-trash junker, just fast enough to outrun the tow truck.” I looked online for the meanest looking ’69 Roadrunner I could find, preferably in Burke’s favorite color of primer grey, and this was the closest I was able to turn up:

Add in rusty rocker panels, a generous allotment of NYC parking rash, and a bordering-on-illegal window tint, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what shall henceforth be known as the Burkemobile.