It has been a long while since I had an attack of vehicle lust. To me, cars and pickups and SUVs are utilitarian things to transport one from here to there, as reliably as possible. To wit: I currently drive a Chevrolet Impala 4-door. Ordinariness personified. Ho hum.

Cars are devilishly expensive. I figure I have spent more on them over the years than I have for houses. Houses usually retained or increased their value; the vehicles began careening down the road to worthlessness the moment they left the dealer's lot.

Oh, I admit the fleeting twinge of envy when I see someone tooling along in a sleek Jaguar convertible, but would I plunk down $85,000 to buy one? Hardly.

My last automotive seduction, a red ’88 Mazda RX-7 convertible (now with a paltry 33,000 miles on the odometer), languishes in the garage most of the time, silently reproaching me as to (1) the folly of love-at-first-sight, and (2) the utter impracticality of a convertible in a climate that offers maybe two weeks of top-down weather in the spring and another two weeks in the fall. (My darling 6-year old granddaughter recently advised, "When I'm old enough to drive, I want this car," so perhaps there will be some minuscule measure of redemption for my long-ago foolhardiness.)

Which brings me to this confession, à la Jimmy Carter, of "lust in my heart" for a vehicle:

I was in California recently and, one evening, fellow editor Harry Cline took me to a local drive-in where owners were displaying their "street rods" — ’36 Fords, ’55 Studebaker Hawks, and other old cars that had been restored, souped up, chromed, and lacquered to a gleaming finish.

Rounding a corner on the lot, there before me, gleaming under the lights, its dazzling yellow paint as if it had been spit-shined: a hulking H2 Hummer.

It was as if the heavens had parted and a procession of angels descended, trumpets blaring. I was dumbstruck — Ulysses lured by the sirens, Adam tempted by the luscious apple in Eve's outstretched hand. It had every accessory known to man, including leather seats and a premium Bose sound system with a 6-disc CD changer and nine speakers.

Nine!!

I was Walter Mitty reincarnated: I envisioned myself behind the wheel of that monster, cruising my town while traffic parted in awe of my gleaming yellow behemoth, drivers' jaws agape as they were consumed by their own vehicle envy and lust.

For that brief moment, had I had my checkbook with me, and had I had a spare $55,000 in my account, I would've bought that sucker.

So what if it only gets 8 miles per gallon? Who cares if a license plate in my high-tax town/county would set me back $2,000 or more? That insurance would cost a small fortune? That it would require three spaces just to park?

I

needed

that vehicle!

Ah, but then reality came crashing in. The angels, trumpets mute, ascended back into heaven. The spit-shined yellow paint lost its luster. I walked away, triumphant over demon vehicle lust.

Still, there are moments, driving my sedate, staid Chevrolet Impala, when…

e-mail: hbrandon@primediabusiness.com