Fame in one arena has a way of turning itself into cash in another. Doubters have only to look at the career of Joe Gibbs, the coach of the Washington Redskins football team.
He is a three-time Super Bowl winner and a two-time Winston Cup champion in NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing).
You'd think that would be enough for anyone. But the irrepressible Mr. Gibbs has now gotten himself into something else -- designing and developing super-powered sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks for the Chevrolet Division of General Motors Corp.
These are monster trucks, capable of pumping out 395 horsepower -- which is a "conservative estimate" from engineers at the Gibbs vehicle development company, Joe Gibbs Performance of Huntersville, N.C.
Base prices of the Gibbs trucks range from about $31,000 to nearly $60,000 depending on the model and equipment chosen. Compared with regular Chevrolet versions, the Gibbers can cost about $14,000 more.
I drove one of them -- the 2004 JGP Tahoe -- for 625 miles. It was an expensive road trip in which the gasoline alone consumed $125 of my cash. The thing drinks only premium unleaded and barely gets 15 miles per gallon.
Had I driven it in my native New Orleans, I would have at least caught a break on parking fees. My hometown brethren have a thing for large SUVs, and they are loath to make you pay extra for garaging them.
But my JGP Tahoe trip took me from Northern Virginia to New York City and thence to Nyack, N.Y., before rolling back to the Old Dominion. Have you ever tried parking something as large as a Tahoe in New York City? It isn't the least bit fun.
Several garages on the East Side of New York turned me down flat -- wouldn't even let me pull into their driveways. I finally found one on East 54th Street that was willing to take the thing. "But you will have to pay an oversize fee," the attendant said. The cost for parking that one night in New York totaled $35 -- not exactly something most of us would want to spend on a daily basis.
But if you worry about those sorts of things, you are missing the point. The Gibbers, like other wild high-performance rides, are not about practicality or common sense. They are about power, oomph and macho strutting. They are about the show of it all, a conspicuous display in which even the vehicle's badge and nameplate design have to send a message of exceptional prowess.
Take the JGP Tahoe. Perhaps its most important design features are its racing-theme instrument panel, its super-spiffed 20-inch-diameter wheels and the discreet "Joe Gibbs Performance Limited Production" badge on the lower-right portion of the dashboard. Ah, yes, there is also the matter of the bell-shaped, dual exhaust pipes, which emit a horrendous speedway howl -- howhoooovarrooom!
Some JGP marketers, aware that the current "exhaust note" of the JGP Tahoe is a bit overwhelming, said the company plans to offer quieter alternatives in the future. That is a good thing for the neighbors of anyone who buys one of these trucks.
In little Nyack, with its many quaint antique shops, the JGP Tahoe with its fancy wheels and badges and howling pipes made quite a scene. People greeted it with a mixture of curiosity and disdain.
It was only when we began loading a ridiculously large and heavy coffee table into the rear of the JGP Tahoe that folks in Nyack began showing any signs of compassion or understanding. "Oh, I guess you need something that large to handle a piece of furniture like that," said one passerby, as my wife, Mary Anne, and I struggled with the table in front of the Levesque Antiques shop.
That remark made us feel better. But the passerby wouldn't leave the matter alone.
"My God, you must pay a lot for gasoline," she said. "Wouldn't it have been better to just rent a U-Haul?"
We ignored her.
2004 JGP Tahoe particulars:
Engine: 5.3-liter, 295-horsepower V-8.
Torque: 425 foot-pounds.
Experienced mileage: 14.6 miles per gallon.
Correction: In a recent article on the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren super-sports car, I put a 3 where a 4 should have been. The cost is $452,000 -- $100,000 more than I reported. But what's $100,000 among friends?