Volume II, Issue 6, Page 35
By Ro McGonegal
Photos by Jeff Burk
6/15/07

Yeah, we even did a road trip in this one, Grand Mufti (and publisher) Burk and I. Arrowed it straight across Flori-duh on SR 50 out from the Gulf of Mexico because Burk likes to see how the other half lives and assumes the grittiness wherever he goes. Big highways got lots of neon but zero soul so we toiled through two-lane back country for a spell and hooked up with I-4 in the middle of Orlando. In less than an hour, we were rolling down Speedway Blvd. in Daytona Beach, headed for the causeway bridge that would squirt us out in the lap of the Atlantic.

Our four-hour trip, including lunch with ex-Strange Engineering icon John Mazzarella, had left us refreshed, but we still slobbered for a cocktail served by a nubile drink-bringer just inches from the sand while a sprightly, salt-tinged breeze soothed our cheeks. The HHR Panel’s seats are a lot more upright, like captain’s chairs rather than buckets and were equipped with very supportive cushions and the ever-critical arm rest. You only get two front seats with this bullet. Suffice that the chairs at the Ocean Deck weren’t half as accommodating.

Burk felt mildly claustrophobic riding shotgun. The cabin tends to shrink-wrap itself around you. While this is annoying at first, encouraging you to flail wildly with big hammers to peen out an extra inch here and there, an hour or two down the road the ambience seems as normal as any other. Burk liked the easy-out egress when a used book store beckoned or when we veered to a “music” crib hawking vintage vinyl. No getting up and out; only swinging out right to the curb, such a pleasurable sensation for an old guy, huh Burky?

Now, the conundrum: the PT Cruiser, which was ostensibly aimed at the “youth market,” didn’t even raise a blip with that segment. Older guys and gals have dug it the most. What of the HHR Panel, then? From where we sit in central Florida, the HHR has become the new darling of the burgeoning AARP legions much to Chevrolet’s delight we’re sure. You can’t see squat out of the Panel when you’re backing up from a parking space, but on the road, this shadowy skit of Russian roulette isn’t nearly as much of a concern. Maybe they could de-content the package a little and stitch in that dedicated rear-facing camera instead?  Nah!