If Mark Twain, the most well-known and popular American satirist, were alive today, which car would he choose to drive?
This is a fair question. One that auto nerds and literature buffs like myself might ask. Towards the end of his life, Mark Twain said many things about automobiles. In his 70s, at the turn of the century, Twain was seeing the beginnings of the automotive industry. He obviously saw the implications and seemed to enjoy the shakeup the auto was creating for the American way of life. If the writings Mark made during this time were any indication, anyway.
Mark Twain is quoted in Motor, a magazine of the period, as saying:
“I do not own a motor-car but I recommend them to all my friends and advise them to buy a car–so that they will come around and take me out in it. Somehow or other, riding over a rough road in a motor-wagon jolts certain parts of my torso that need to be jolted, but seldom ever do get jolted, same as when I run up stairs. It’s splendid exercise and limbers up and promotes springiness–of the stair boards.”
That quote was part of a larger article appearing in the magazine discussing Mark’s love of motor cars. It has been reproduced on Twain Quotes. That article included photographs from Oldsmobile of Mark Twain in the back of a Double Action Olds driven by race car driver Ernest Keeler, just a few months before Keeler died in a racing accident.
So now that we’ve established that Twain was a fan of cars, which one would he choose to drive today? The question isn’t as easy to answer as one might expect. Mark was, after all, an odd duck if ever there was one. Further, the man is of huge renown today and even has his own forest named after him in Missouri, the Mark Twain National Forest. So far as we know, however, there are not (yet) any cars named after this legendary American figure.
For our exercise here, we will assume that Mark Twain is about 70 years of age, as depicted in the above photograph, and at the height of his popularity. We will also assume that he is largely interested in “everyman” cars rather than high-end luxury vehicles, avoiding the question of whether he’d let his car choice be made as much by his celebrity status as by his personality. Sorry, but no Bieber chromed Fiskers for the Twain.
Given the fact that cars of Twain’s era were nearly all open-top vehicles, we can justifiably assume that a convertible would be within his top picks for a vehicle to own. Further, since the only car club I could find that bears Mark Twain’s name is a Corvette club, we can surmise that at the very least, fans of Mark believe that the ‘Vette would be his convertible of choice.
Possibly challenging the beautiful Corvette for Mark Twain’s affections, however, would be the Ferrari F-Type. Although Twain had mixed feelings about Italians in general, according to his written works, we can assume he’d see only the best in this beautiful new Ferrari.
Of course, the F-Type might be a little far out for our man here, who may have instead preferred the fun but more sedate cruising available in the Mazda MX-5 Miata. This is the best-selling roadster in the world, so seeing Twain in one would not be much of a shocker.
Even with all of this, though, Mark Twain is going to need an everyday car. The one that he drives around or is driven around in by friends on a daily basis. This is a tougher choice as all we have to go on is Twain’s exuberant personality and snarky wit to help us find the right car.
The new Ford Fusion is a beautiful car and a good everyday choice for the average person, so it would not be difficult to see Mark Twain with one. Probably in red. Maybe as an Energi model with all the new wizzbang plug-in gadgetry. That would fit his personality for sure.
On the other hand, Mark was a bit of a showboat and had some old man gangster about him, so perhaps he’d prefer a full-sized American sedan of proportion and style. For that, we turn to the Chrysler 300, a near-perfect choice if those are the criteria.
But wait. Mark Twain was a bit of an adventurer, though truth be told, most of his adventuring was from the windows of a train when he got to the stately age group. Still, we cannot discount his love of bouncing around, as the quote above suggests, so let’s look at some offroading.
Here, we have two choices, pickup trucks and SUVs. Probably the easiest to make is the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, which would definitely be Mark Twain’s style. If you cannot picture Twain on a Moab Jeep safari, you haven’t read Roughing It.
For a pickup truck choice, though, I doubt Mark would be interested in a full-sized truck with its inherent offroad limitations. So we look to the midsize category, where we really only have one that’s worth choosing: the Nissan Frontier. This little machine with the Pro-4X package is as good as it gets in small truck offroading.
As we said earlier, though, if any phrase describes Mark Twain it’s the phrase “odd duck.” An American oddity like him would require us to consider some of the more unusual vehicles being offered by manufacturers today. Two come immediately to mind.
First, we have the Fiat 500L. This is a fun little car with an unusual look and fun appeal. These are probably things that would appeal to a world traveler like Mark Twain.
Next, the Nissan Juke is another choice. This is an exciting little crossover that, strangely enough, when you’ve driven it, seems to endear itself to people in a way that doesn’t often happen in automotive. Twain would definitely pick up on that.
Waiting for the Roast
Now that our list of Mark Twain’s choices for vehicles is complete, we await the inevitable roasting and commentary about how we “missed” this or that or skipped the “obvious” in some way. Have at it!
Photos in this article courtesy of the Mark Twain House.