Hammacher Schlemmer's toy 'Vette for the 2009 holiday s... Hammacher Schlemmer's toy 'Vette for the 2009 holiday season. (Hammacher Schlemmer)

When I opened my Hammacher Schlemmer holiday catalog, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a 2/3 scale Corvette for kids. Boy, I thought, finding the perfect gift for a niece or nephew—or both—in your mailbox beats hell out of slogging through aisles clogged with other middle-class strugglers at Kmart or Target.
Then I saw the price: a mere $32,000, which did not include undercoating and floor mats. Make no mistake, my interest was piqued. Not because my shopping list could possibly sustain such a pricey purchase but because I found the very appearance of such an extravagance in these tense times fascinating. It was an item that even the country club set might find appalling -- an in-your-fascia kiddy car that would render a populist speechless.

But we can dream can’t we? And we can ask what exactly does this $32,000 bauble, a keepsake intended for the progeny of hedge fund managers, offer the careful toy investor?
Start with the paint job. It is intended to recall the Corvettes that raced at Sebring during the glory days of the famous Florida 12-hour race. They of course had a single thick blue stripe but we’re talking acquisition here, not accuracy. There is a driver's side rearview mirror, driving lights, a small racing windscreen and a lighted meatball. (For you gourmands and epicures, a meatball is the big white circle containing the car's number. The illumination was for night racing.)
The power necessary to reach golf-cart speeds—a top-out of 35 mph—comes from a four-stroke internal combustion engine that displaces 109 cubic centimeters and generates both 6.9 horsepower and mindless fury among environmentalists. The car can seat one fat child weighing up to 330 pounds or two middle school cross-country runners. EPA mileage figures were not available at press time although the descriptive material said that the engine "...uses a gallon of unleaded gasoline." To do what or go how far was unspecified.
The body, as befits a Corvette, is of fiberglass-reinforced polyester, and the frame is a "square steel chassis." The automatic transmission has three positions: forward, neutral and backward. Diminutive driving enthusiasts will prefer the forward setting.
There is of course the chance that, like mine, your budget can no more absorb this $32,000 Corvette than it could that Mediterranean villa we've all been wanting. Happily, several alternatives present themselves, beginning with a Shelby GT350 pedal car (www.pedalcars.com) for only $299. Just Google "pedal cars" and all manner of the little muscle-powered dears will appear on your screen.
If you are among the fortunate few who can write a check for the $32,000 bagatelle we've been chatting about here, we have a couple of tips. First, keep little Cyril on the estate's roads and driveways lest he encounter a poor person -- you know how irritable they can be when faced with hyper-conspicuous consumption. Second, when the mob of disgruntled laid-off auto workers shows up at your home, tell them that you won the thing in a charity lottery.
Meanwhile, for more information and personal assistance, you can call Hammacher Schlemmer at their special Corvette hot line, 800-227-3528, and reference the car on page 21 of their current catalogue. Information is also available at www.hammacher.com.

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