Wheels of Deception: Hamptons Automotive Oddities

This mint 1978 Toyota Corolla defines automotive oddity!
This mint 1978 Toyota Corolla defines automotive oddity! Photo: Dan Koontz

For many years now, I’ve been working on a theory about cars in the Hamptons. The theory, which I’ve elaborated on at great length to many fascinated listeners, is meant to explain the presence of what I call “automotive oddities” on Hamptons streets.

You ask, “What is an automotive oddity?” I will try to explain.

An automotive oddity is a very particular type of car, perhaps best defined by what it is not. We see lots of unusual cars in the Hamptons, so we have to be strict about our definition. An automotive oddity is not a classic car, like a Ford Mustang or a Karmann Ghia. It is not a rare car of limited production, like a Kaiser Darrin or a Nash Metropolitan. Certainly, automotive oddities are not to be confused with the super-expensive cars that routinely show up during the summer months around here—the run-of-the-mill Maseratis and Aston-Martins that seem to sprout like weeds from the cracks in sunbaked Hamptons beach parking lots. No, the automotive oddity is a different animal altogether.

The automotive oddity is the 1963 Dodge Dart that looks like it just rolled off the assembly line. It’s the 1962 Buick Invicta that appears to be in original condition, its meager allotment of chrome untouched by rust. It’s the 1965 Chevy Impala in perfect shape.

It’s a vintage car of undistinguished design, your standard-issue, working-class vehicle that nobody thinks of as a classic, remarkable only for the fact that it is so well preserved and still in working order. The car might look interesting now, inasmuch as it displays an old-fashioned aesthetic, yet you know that when it was new it was nobody’s dream car. It was just a serviceable vehicle. That’s the automotive oddity.

Perhaps if I describe a recent sighting of an automotive oddity, the precise nature of the beast will become clear.

This vintage Ford Bronco is an automotive oddity in the Hamptons
This vintage Ford Bronco is an automotive oddity in the Hamptons, Photo: Dan Koontz

I was taking a well known Sag Harbor shortcut when I spotted it. In fact, I nearly stubbed my eye on it. A perfectly preserved, bright yellow ’78 Toyota Corolla (illustrated at top of page). This car epitomizes the automotive oddity. Back in ’78, this car started at $3,188—a bargain at a time when the average car went for $6,300. When new, it was an ordinary, everyday car. It wasn’t a sports car. It clearly wasn’t a luxury car. Its bright yellow hue, while unusual today, was fairly common in the ’70s (remember all of those candy-colored VW’s, after all). In the intervening years, this car hasn’t become a coveted model or a classic. Using conventional logic, you would have expected such a car to have rusted away years ago, and yet there it was, in showroom condition. That’s the automotive oddity.

Now on to my theory, which I call the “wheels of deception.” This theory holds that automotive oddities represent an attempt to deceive—in the midst of Hamptons automotive excess, an attempt to convince others that you aren’t one of THOSE people—you know, the kind of people who own expensive cars. “Look,” the automotive oddities say to the world, “I drive a proletarian vehicle. Just a simple car. For all you know I may have owned this ’63 Dart since it was new.” Hah!

Another automotive oddity in the Hamptons
This Buick Invicta is another automotive oddity in the Hamptons, Photo: Dan Koontz

That’s the “wheels of deception.” Because, let’s face it, just keeping a ’63 Dodge Dart in carburetors is going to run you some money. Not to mention the fact that you didn’t buy that ’63 Dart in 1963—rather, you paid top dollar for a perfectly preserved ’63 Dart from a dealer who sourced it from a grandmother in Texas who only ever used it to drive to church on Sunday. Let’s not even talk about the gas it goes through.

So now that you know how to spot them, don’t be deceived by the wheels of deception!

Share your automotive oddity pictures with us using hashtag #HamptonsAutoOddity and we’ll put them together in a future post!

Mint 1969 Ford Ranger pickup—another automotive oddity
Mint 1969 Ford Ranger pickup—another automotive oddity, Photo: Dan Koontz

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