Tennessee Legislature Divided Over Ford-Chevy Issue

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Tennessee Legislature Divided Over Ford-Chevy Issue

NASHVILLE, TN—The Tennessee state legislature will hold a historic, first-ever Sunday session this week to break a three-week Ford-Chevy deadlock, The Tennesseean reported Friday.

In a statement that enraged many of his fellow Tennessee lawmakers, State Rep. Cordell Pritchett (R-Chattanooga) said he would rather push a Ford than drive a Chevy.

"This is a vital issue, not only for legislators but for the good people of Tennessee," said Governor Don Sundquist in an address to the legislature Thursday. "Our constituents care deeply about what brand of truck they drive to work in, rack their guns in, and order their wives back into. But we can no longer carry on as a state divided."

The congressional dispute began Sept. 8, following a bipartisan review of the NASCAR Exide Battery 400 on a television screen in the State Assembly chambers. Upon driver Dale Jarrett's victory in a Ford Thunderbird, Rep. Cordell Pritchett (R-Chattanooga) announced to his fellow legislators that he would rather push a Ford than drive a Chevy.

The remark sparked outrage among many of Pritchett's colleagues. "As the elected representative of the good people of the 23rd district, I could not in good faith allow such a blasphemous statement to be made," Rep. Lawton "Easy" McCallum (D-Laverne) said. "The citizens of my district have instructed me to inform Mr. Pritchett that 'Ford' stands for 'Found On Road Dead.' While the good people of the 23rd may well be right, I myself have always maintained that it means 'Fix Or Repair Daily.'"

Among the major sticking points in the Ford-Chevy debate: whether being Ford-tough is preferable to being like a rock; who gets the Chevy and who gets the Ford in a Tennessee divorce; and whether or not "Chevrolet" is a real American name.

"I resent my esteemed colleagues' insinuations that on a quiet Tennessee night, one can hear Fords rusting," Rep. Bud Kendall (R-Memphis) said Friday near the end of a marathon four-day pro-Ford filibuster. "In response, I intend to begin wearing T-shirts which portray Calvin of the Calvin And Hobbes comic strip urinating upon the Chevy 'bow-tie' logo." Kendall would not comment upon rumors that he will apply a decal of the same design to the rear window of his 1989 Ford F-150.

According to Sundquist, the debate embodies "the deepest, most dearly held beliefs" of the state. "Tennesseeans are passionate about this issue," the governor said. "On the one side, you have those who claim a Ford is a slow, rusty muthinlaw car they wouldn't have as a dog house, and on the other you have those who say that, in effect, their wife yes, their dog maybe, but their Ford, never. I mean, a statement like that implies they're literally willing to give up their marriage over this issue. That shows a very serious level of commitment."

Sundquist, who has long remained neutral on the volatile issue, is reportedly retaining two separate pickups—one a Ford and the other a Chevy—alternating equally between them for use in hauling around his dogs and hunting equipment.

The current car-and-truck brand-loyalty schism is the state's most severe legislative bottleneck since the Remington-Winchester shotgun debates of the '50s. It is also widely believed to be its worst automotive divide since the infamous Camaro-Mustang feuds of the early '70s.

"Back in the old Camaro-Mustang days, things could get pretty nasty on the Senate floor," said Sen. Hank Rawlings (D-Smyrna), a member of the Tennessee legislature since 1973. "But there was one difference: In those days, the governor could instantly bring the legislature to consensus by calling for a vote on the 'shitbox' status of the then-new Japanese compacts. Those votes would always be unanimous."