Berkeleysider Ed snapped this "car" on Milvia, north of Cedar: a contender for the most Berkeley car ever?

Last week, provoked by the discussion prompted by our story on the new Fiat dealership on Shattuck, we asked Berkeleysiders a simple question: what’s the most Berkeley car ever?

This wasn’t designed as a statistical exercise about current market share in Berkeley. It was more a playful dip into pop sociology.

A grand total of 379 readers voted, and, from the earliest moments, one car was in front: the Volvo station wagon. Not the modern Volvo, which is the product of Chinese auto company Geely. Not even the Volvo of the early 2000s, when the company was in the embrace of Ford. As the comments to the story made clear, Berkeleyans were plumping for a good, purely Swedish Volvo, preferably from the 1970s or ’80s, when Sweden stood for social democracy and Volvo stood for wholesome safety (can those who remember Olof Palme quite believe that Sweden is ruled by the center-right today?).

Many of the commenters were wistful at the memory of their Volvo station wagon, usually orange. Typical was ricemomma:

“We had that exact 1976 orange Volvo station wagon — and it safely carried all my 4 children from infancy through learning to drive and beyond.  It was nicknamed the Orange Volvo Posse for all the children and teens it carried around.  Later passed onto my daughter, who when driving my grandson about, was broadsided by someone running a red light.  All the people were unharmed but sadly our 26 year old OVP came to its end.  Although we still drive Volvo station wagons, 1985 and 1995 wagons, we’ll never forget the original orange beauty.”

The Volvo wagon was the clear winner, capturing 129 votes, 34% of our total.

Although the Volvo led from the start, unsurprisingly, today’s champion, the Toyota Prius, finished a strong second, with 104 votes, 27% of the total. If you drive a Prius in Berkeley, you’re well aware of its prevalence: you have to check the license plate to make sure its your grey Prius you’re trying to open, rather than the other three on the block.

Three other choices in our poll did respectably. The Subaru station wagon took 43 votes, 11% of the total. Those two station wagons sandwiching the Prius in second place spurs the thought that a Prius station wagon would be a runaway success in Berkeley. Is Toyota planning that? In equal fourth place, with 36 votes each — 9% of the total — came the VW van and the “no car” option.

The converted biodiesel Mercedes was an also-ran with 15 votes, 4%, but commenter Tim Ereneta provided an olfactorily vivid note:

“Sure, there are a lot of Priuses and Subarus in town, but whenever I’m out around town, and the French fry-like aroma of vegetable oil hits my nose, I look around and spot a Mercedes running on biodiesel, and I think: ‘I’m in Berkeley.’”

Any suggestions for our next reader poll?

Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...