AMERICAN MOTOR GREMLINS
RANGE: Almost everyone has encountered these fiends at least twice. Their initial function is spell-casting. As one strolls past a dealer’s show window or used car lot, Gremlins blow fairy dust over some undistinguished and indistinguishable jalopy, causing it to appear irresistibly glamorous. Enchanted, their victim signs his life savings away to Honest Some-body-OrOther. The second visitation of the Gremlins is of a duration far longer than any warranty. They are to be heard wheezing, coughing, thumping, grinding, and pinging under the hood . . . peeling back the chrome, hissing out the tires, fouling the fuel lines, stripping the gears and rattling in the ashtrays—from front to rear fender, from rubber to roof, of the costly domestic automobile.
HABITS: The Gremlins of legend reputedly emptied love potions into many a cup, inspiring many a tragic love story. American Motor Gremlins apparently introduce a powerful elixir of passion (perhaps STP) into the baby bottles of all Americans. How else account for our all-consuming, fatedefying, heart-breaking relationship with that sleek-lined object of desire— the car? The Gremlins are responsible for uneven tire wear, ignition keys that break off in the lock, and exploding gas tanks. Gangs of them snap the antennae off any car parked in a poorly lighted area. They drink the fluid from the window-washer bottle, as well as antifreeze; evidence of their excess—green acid excrement—can be found clotted around battery terminals. Jamming speedometers must be another of their favorite pranks, for every state trooper has heard a driver say (at the end of a three-county chase), “It was reading fifty-five all the way.”
HISTORY: The Gremlins’ ability to bewitch and captivate was inherited from their English fairy godmother, Morgan le Fay. (A primitive auto, the Morgan, was named in her honor.) As her descendants, they are also the New World representatives of the proverbial high standards of British Engineering. But among their paternal ancestors (le Fay was rather promiscuous) appear to have been several of those quaint and picturesque imps of Central Europe, who delighted in crippling and blinding horses. But the Gremlins now consider themselves to be native aristocracy, the haughty and ill-bred nobility of Detroit, and look down on all recent “imports” (undersized, powerful, and obviously working-class arrivals from Germany and Japan). Many a proud Pinto has imploded with shame, rather than share a traffic jam with a lowly Volkswagen.
SPOTTER’S TIPS: Although they are ubiquitous, and evidence of their mischief is everywhere, Gremlins are notoriously difficult to isolate or exorcise. Just ask your neighborhood mechanic for an estimate. But if one looks closely, the gaily laughing little rascals can be seen dropping off the car as one bounces over the speed bump at the entrance to a service station.