Early Bird Special: Fourth of July freedom of the open road edition

Amid one of the slowest news weeks of the year, here’s our tribute to some of the automotive news around Colorado that caught our attention:

Colorado drivers sure love their Ford pickup trucks. That’s according to an exhaustive analysis performed by Channel 7’s news team, who examined all 5,086,672 car registrations in the state (as of April) to determine which makes and models predominate in every Zip Code in the state. Contrary to common perception, SUVs “aren’t as popular as you might imagine.” Ford pickups — especially late ’90s F-150s, according to the data and a dealer — blow away the competition, topping registration counts in nearly every corner of the state.

“For example,” 7News reporter Tyler Lopez discovers, “if you live in the 80501 zip code of Longmont, there are 276 1999 Ford pickups in that area. And the No. 2 vehicle? A 2001 Ford pickup with 221 owned in that area.”

The exception? Boulder and Steamboat Springs, where Subaru wagons prevail. Check out Channel 7’s exhaustive list of car popularity in Colorado at this PDF.

• Stay with us a minute. We’re still with the Channel 7 automotive ownership story. Lopez contacted a trio of academics — a marketing expert and two sociologists — to make sense of all the data.

“If you’re in a more affluent ZIP code, you’re going to find more expensive cars,” Dr. Sharon Araji, a University of Colorado at Denver sociologist, piercingly opines, putting to rest rumors sociology isn’t a “real” science. “In younger areas you’ll likely find faster cars,” she adds.

University of Denver sociologist Dr. Michael S. Rosenbaum has a lot to say about “the symbolic power of automobiles” and the relative decline of SUVs. It’s actually a fascinating look into the mind of status-consciousness on wheels but is too lengthy a dissertation to reproduce here. Rosenbaum also notes that pickup trucks are “good at hauling stuff.”

Metro State marketing prof Darrin Duber-Smith has a somewhat different take. What’s with the Subarus in Boulder? “Minivans aren’t cool. We know that.” And as for all those Ford pickup trucks? “I can’t explain why Ford is so strong. I don’t get it.”

• Proud Colorado drivers — probably behind the wheel of a Ford pickup truck — want to announce themselves to the world, but an exhaustive review of a decade’s worth of vanity plates by the intrepid folks at Law Week Colorado and State Bill Colorado “reveals an approval system that is at best haphazard and arbitrary, and at worse drowning out political speech,” Don Knox reports.

How arbitrary? PIG is verboten but PIGGY passes muster. GAY gets rejected but the state says GAYLEZ is fine.

The inquiry was triggered by a story a few months back when a Centennial woman’s ode to soy curd got the heave-ho from the DMV. Seems the proposed vanity plate ILVTOFU suggested more than love of tofu — either firm or silky — to the board of motor vehicle censors.

This bothered the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, whose legal director, Mark Silvestein, points to court decisions that argue the government has no business censoring terms from public views, especially ones that might contain unpopular political speech. Silverstein said the ACLU would represent someone whose plate was rejected “if the right one came up,” but primarily wants to use the list to point out how silly the DMV can be.

“CRAP cannot be on, but NOCRAP is all right,” Silverstein told State Bill. “Here’s another one: DOIT is censored, and DIDIT is not censored,” he said. “Present tense is not OK. Past tense is.”

The State Bill News site lists all 66,213 approved and 2,744 rejected vanity plates. Knox obtained the roster through a Colorado Open Records request from the Colorado Department of Revenue, which runs the DMV.

• And finally, the Republican Study Committee of Colorado, a group of state lawmakers — motto: “committed to the core” — outraged at pricey new vehicle registration fees that went into effect Wednesday, tried to get some protests going at motor vehicle offices across the state. Tweeted RSCC Vice Chairman Kent Lambert: “Ritter’s new car tax takes effect TODAY! We heard there will be a protest at the El Paso Clerk and Recorders Office today at 11:30!”

The group did more than rabble-rouse via Twitter, though. The RSCC helpfully points out: “Just like the TEA Party, these protests will be enhanced by the presence of signs,” and proceeds to suggest a few for the sign-impaired. “Why does Bill Ritter hate my tractor/boat/car/trailer?” (pick one) and “I love my car, don’t tax it away!” led the list.

Got a tip? Send us an e-mail. Follow The Colorado Independent on Twitter.