What’s the most Berkeley car ever? We have a winner

Berkeleysider Ed snapped this "car" on Milvia, north of Cedar: a contender for the most Berkeley car ever?

Last week, provoked by the discussion prompted by our story on the new Fiat dealership on Shattuck, we asked Berkeleysiders a simple question: what’s the most Berkeley car ever?

This wasn’t designed as a statistical exercise about current market share in Berkeley. It was more a playful dip into pop sociology.

A grand total of 379 readers voted, and, from the earliest moments, one car was in front: the Volvo station wagon. Not the modern Volvo, which is the product of Chinese auto company Geely. Not even the Volvo of the early 2000s, when the company was in the embrace of Ford. As the comments to the story made clear, Berkeleyans were plumping for a good, purely Swedish Volvo, preferably from the 1970s or ’80s, when Sweden stood for social democracy and Volvo stood for wholesome safety (can those who remember Olof Palme quite believe that Sweden is ruled by the center-right today?).

Many of the commenters were wistful at the memory of their Volvo station wagon, usually orange. Typical was ricemomma:

“We had that exact 1976 orange Volvo station wagon — and it safely carried all my 4 children from infancy through learning to drive and beyond.  It was nicknamed the Orange Volvo Posse for all the children and teens it carried around.  Later passed onto my daughter, who when driving my grandson about, was broadsided by someone running a red light.  All the people were unharmed but sadly our 26 year old OVP came to its end.  Although we still drive Volvo station wagons, 1985 and 1995 wagons, we’ll never forget the original orange beauty.”

The Volvo wagon was the clear winner, capturing 129 votes, 34% of our total.

Although the Volvo led from the start, unsurprisingly, today’s champion, the Toyota Prius, finished a strong second, with 104 votes, 27% of the total. If you drive a Prius in Berkeley, you’re well aware of its prevalence: you have to check the license plate to make sure its your grey Prius you’re trying to open, rather than the other three on the block.

Three other choices in our poll did respectably. The Subaru station wagon took 43 votes, 11% of the total. Those two station wagons sandwiching the Prius in second place spurs the thought that a Prius station wagon would be a runaway success in Berkeley. Is Toyota planning that? In equal fourth place, with 36 votes each — 9% of the total — came the VW van and the “no car” option.

The converted biodiesel Mercedes was an also-ran with 15 votes, 4%, but commenter Tim Ereneta provided an olfactorily vivid note:

“Sure, there are a lot of Priuses and Subarus in town, but whenever I’m out around town, and the French fry-like aroma of vegetable oil hits my nose, I look around and spot a Mercedes running on biodiesel, and I think: ‘I’m in Berkeley.'”

Any suggestions for our next reader poll?

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  • NAParish

    Well, not everybody agrees that it’s a real station wagon, but Toyota is expected to start selling the Prius V in the States by the end of October: http://www.greencarcongress.com/2011/09/priusv-20110919.html and http://www.greencarcongress.com/2011/05/priusv-20110524.html .

  • markusbarkus

    Well, the Volvo wagon would have won if it had the requisite 15-20 bumper stickers on the back!

  • How about a poll for best hang-out coffee shop, maybe focussed on studying? Another one focussed on coffee? For me, a key detail in coffee shops is quality of light snacks, chairs, lighting, wifi, crowdedness, the shop’s openness to you hanging longer than the time it takes to drink one coffee. And for me, I avoid the spots crammed with students who, in some joints, take over every table and keep them for hours on end.  And what about the trend of the self employed working in coffeeshops? There must be some way to poll that. And polling for study spots, self-employed spots, might attract younger readers, which I imagine matters to berkeleyside.

    Although I used to spend time  nearly every day in pleasant coffeeshops — I like cosy chairs, not just straight back chairs and free wifi — but since moving to Berkeley I have almost completely stopped doing it. I go to cofffeeshops to meet friends for chats but I no longer go to hang out alone and watch the world go by and I used to totally love that. But a spot that caters to nineteen year olds who take over one table with four seating spots for many hours is not the kind of spot that appeals. Not sure how to design the poll . .. but I am sure berkeleyside could come up with something interesting.

  • Another poll possibility . . . . just brainstorming . . . fresh produce. Where do folks prefer to buy fresh produce? at the farmers markets?  is there a difference between the Tues, Thurs and Sat markets besides days of the week? Which stores offer good produce, good enough to keep folks going to the store instead of the farmers markets?

    And where did people buy their last new pair of jeans? In Berkeley?  Where? I am actually very curious about this one. Where do people buy basic clothing these days?

  • John Holland

    volvo power!

  • EBGuy

    Thanks for the Mercedes/biodiesel honorable mention.   A shout out for the biodevas at Biofuel Oasis.  Where else but in Berkeley do you have a worker-owned & operated co-op biodiesel fueling station that doubles a a feed store for urban farming supplies?.

  • Bruce Love

    Not only does Biofuel Oasis do biofuel.   Not only do they do farming supplies.  But I noticed this morning that they are dabbling in selling high end morning coffee, too.

  • deirdre

    On the car theme, I’d enjoy a survey for the most Berkeley bumper sticker.  Off the car theme, what about a survey for the “most Berkeley” corner or block in town?

  • Keith Skinner

    Since October is usually a great month for stunning sunsets, how about favorite place to enjoy a sunset?

    Possible candidates:

    Indian Rock

    Outside deck of the Claremont Hotel

    Inspiration Point

    Cesar Chavez Park by the sun dial

    Any pier at the Berkeley Marina

    Lawrence Hall of Science

  • Lisaev

    gotta love it, right?

    thanks Berkeleyside for the fun frivolous stuff and well as the real Berkeley news.

    Now i’ll go get into my beat-to-snot 1989 Volvo weird beigy color with orange pinstriping 240 DL held together with bumpersitckers, and drive downtown to look for the best Chinese food in Berkeley-oooh, how’s that for your next poll?!?

  • EBGuy

    Subvert the dominant paradigm

  • Heather W.

    So where is the best Chinese food in downtown Berkeley anyway? There’s about 103 places to choose from. 

  • Eric

    The VW Van should have won hands down, it’s carbon footprint is by for the smallest and it provides transportation and shelter/home two of the most important things a person needs to live. Plus the Volvo and subaru both have lots of plastic parts. The VW aircooled engine is also superior by far if not only for it lack of need for coolant when maintained it runs clean and very efficient. Also just try to get a marshall stack, a couple of mesa boogie cabinets with a 15 piece drum set axes gear and the band into one of those other options and tour the country. I guess this was more the result of a poll and not some scientific thesis but my beg to differ…

  • Tom

    Biodiesel — given that corn is produced using nitrogen from anhydrous ammonia (derived from natural gas), I understand it takes more that one calorie of fossil fuel input to produce a calorie of biodiesel output.  Any takers?

    Let’s not talk about recycled french-fry grease, that’s not part of a scalable solution.

  • Sure, sure, but it makes people feel green, and how you feel is what’s important, right?