ANDY THOMAS: Wrap Is Extra: Ridiculously Extravagant Catalog Gifts
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A few columns ago, I was talking about cars and the fact that Toby Wells made me a good deal on a new Buick Lucerne.
This, like the afterglow of most car purchases by me, was a buyer's delight, not buyer's remorse. This car is for my wife and she picked it out and has some real thought, energy and emotion in this baby -- although the other day I heard her reply to a friend who asked her how she liked her new car, "OK, but it seems I have to make an appointment with my husband to take it anywhere."
Yes, I do enjoy driving it. But it has so many computer options for lights, temperature and the like that I'm still fiddling with them. Programming the garage door opener was the toughest chore.
I thought my automobile appetite had truly been satiated. Then comes the "Holiday Preview" catalog from Hammacher Schlemmer, which claims to be "America's longest-running catalog offering the best, the only, and the unexpected for 158 years."
Incidentally, I am now convinced that before I depart this earth, Christmas will be marketed year-round.
I had dinner the other night in a Raleigh Cracker Barrel restaurant, and they were not only displaying a bunch of Christmas stuff but actually playing carols! On Sept. 15!
But Hammacher Schlemmer's Christmas catalog advertised a new car on its cover, "The 120 mph Electric Car." This innovation caught my eye and interest big time.
This is the electric car that can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in four seconds to a top speed of 120 mph in one gear with no shifting -- thanks to its two electric motors, which are smaller versions of the same kind found in diesel-electric locomotives that combine to produce over 1,000 fpf (foot-pound force) of torque.
No wider than most motorcycles at 39 inches, it can fit into a 6-foot half-lane with more clearance than a semi in a full 12-foot freeway lane, enabling you to negotiate traffic congestion where lane splitting is permitted.
Its small size eliminates the need for parallel parking, as it can park perpendicular to a curb without the need for a full space.
The driver and passenger sit in tandem front and back seats that have four-point pilot seat belts with inertia reels, similar to harnesses found in race cars, yet are easy to use. The car's chassis is made of stainless steel, and the chrome-molybdenum roll cage meets Sports Car Club of America racing standards for safety.
The body panels are made of carbon fiber, Kevlar and fiberglass, and its side-impact bars offer four times the protection found in typical SUVs.
The car's unique stability is derived from its low center of gravity, created by 1,100 pounds of batteries under the floor, giving it a rollover threshold equivalent to a 5-star National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rating found in the lowest-slung sports cars.
It has front and rear disc brakes and coil-over shock absorbers, The car generates no emissions and operates from a set of lead-acid batteries that can recharge using any service up to 50 amps, providing enough power for a range of 40-80 miles, up to four times the average commute in the U.S.
The 120 mph Electric Car measures 8.5 feet long, 39 inches wide and 5 feet high. It weighs 3,000 pounds. Special conditions and guarantee limitations apply to this product, according to the catalog. The price is a mere 108 grand.
After I surmounted the vision of me sailing down the Interstate at 70 miles per hour in an overgrown pea pod, with about the same protection, I decided to go for it.
When I telephoned my order in, I asked if any had been sold. "None," the agent told me. The product specialist was on a lunch break, so I couldn't find out about shipping, manufacturer, availability and service and trade-in options (ho-ho).
Maybe Hammacher Schlemmer is trying to compete with Neiman Marcus and its Christmas Book, first published in 1926, which is a holiday catalog filled with extravagant and unique gifts -- most of which are extremely excessive and/or expensive.
Samples of Nieman-Marcus Christmas fare include a box of fortune cookies ($50), a custom-made suit of armor ($20,000), an Underwater Deep Flight Aviator ($1.7 million), and a Modern Zeppelin NT airship ($10 million).
Oh, yes, and the $8,000 Swarovski crystal-encrusted Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head dolls.
Nieman-Marcus already tried selling a car. It advertised a 2005 Maserati Quattroporte for $125,000. Not sure what the sales volume for it was.
Slipping back into reality, I noticed Hammacher has a more reasonable vehicle, the First Carbon Chassis Velocipede (fancy bicycle).
Designed by world-renowned designer Michael Goretzky, the customized vehicle combines the low-impact exercise benefits of a recumbent bicycle with the stability of a three-wheeled cruiser and the aerodynamics of a concept automobile. I could get this for a cool $13,999.95.
Guess I'll stay with the Lucerne.
Andy Thomas lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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