The Davis Junction auto show is a chance for proud, engine-revving owners to show off their muscle cars, except in the case of Stillman Valley resident John Harris. He chose brains over brawn when he bought his fuel-efficient Smart Car.
"They teased me a lot when I first bought it, but as soon as the prices went up, they pretty much stopped," says Harris.
Harris got the last laugh. The Mercedes Smart Car's 0.7 liter engine gets 50 miles to the gallon in the city and up to seventy on highways.
And don't be fooled by its modest appearance. The eight-foot long car can hold its own in a fight.
"I watched a lot of crash test videos before I bought it. They run it remote control 70 miles an hour into a cement wall and the guy walked up, opened both doors and shut them and it didn't even break the front window out. So after that one I thought I'd get it," says Harris.
Harris owns one of only a handful of these cars for miles around. But he spreads the word to admiring crowds at auto shows whenever he can.
He sold auto-show visitor Tom Fritz on the Smart Car today. Says Fritz, "I'm definitely going to look into it. I'll get rid of both my cars to get one of those!"
And while Harris is encouraged by the U.S. Senate-approved bill that would require all vehicles to get 35 miles to the gallon by 2020, he challenges automakers to do more.
He says, "That would be great, but if Mercedes can get 50 miles to the gallon in '98, why do they have to stop at 30?"
The energy bill now goes to the U.S. House, where it could sit for weeks or months.
The Smart Car is only available from a few independent dealers in this country. It starts at $25,000. Harris found his online at http://www.ecoautoinc.com/. It was then shipped by Fed-Ex to his doorstep from a lot in Montana. Yes, the Smart Car is small enough to fit inside a Fed-Ex truck.
Chrysler has also flirted on and off with putting out it's own model and possibly an electric version as well. But those plans are still up in the air. The cars are available for somewhat less all over Europe, but then you have to pay to ship them home.