Niagara Gazette

March 7, 2014

HAMILTON: The Niagara Edition SUV and 1st Friday Club

By Ken Hamilton
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Even though Niagara Falls already has a tremendously famous name, can we make it even more famous than Nik Wallenda’s Niagara tightrope walk here, was spray starch and shredded cereal enough for us? Do you think having a Niagara version of a major vehicle manufacturer’s automobile is too much to ask?

As a young sailor, my first automobile was a five-year old 1967 Buick that I bought off a grass lot in south San Diego. I liked the name of the big red machine, ‘Riviera’, as it conjured up feelings of the luxury of its namesake, that strip of sea and sunshine in southern France, and I felt good driving it. 

However, even on a good day, the huge 430 c.i./360hp engine got a mere eight miles per gallon. The gas needle continuously raced in the opposite direction of the sweeping second hand on the dashboard clock. The following year when, in 1973, the Arab oil embargo hit, there was never a good day, and I could hardly afford the gasoline needed to run it.

I was transferred to Philadelphia in the following year, and with still soaring gasoline prices, I couldn’t risk the long drive through the desert and across the country; so I left the Riviera with a fellow student who was supposed to take over payments. I often wondered whatever happened to that car.

Five years after driving my unaffordable Riv’, I found myself actually on the French Riviera in ‘Monaco’ and in ‘Monte Carlo’ section where the ‘Grand Prix’ race is run. Though I had an increase in pay through promotion and time in service, like the Buick Riviera, the French Riviera was still too rich for my wallet, and the illusive luxury again managed to escape me.

Ironically, some years later, I even owned a 1980 Chevrolet ‘Monte Carlo’. I really liked that car, and its better than Riviera’s gas mileage, and I kept it for quite some time.

There was something else that I kept for a long time, too. But this, I kept in my mind. Riviera, Monte Carlo, Monaco and Grand Prix are also famous places, as is Niagara Falls; but they are also the nameplates on automobiles. I have often wondered, when will our city become a nameplate, or a special edition of some GM, Ford or other manufacturer’s automobile?

What must we do to make that happen?

There are a lot of places in the United States that are far less famous than Niagara Falls, such as Malibu, Biscayne, Bel Air, Lucerne, Newport, Monterey, Aurora, Bonneville, Yukon, Sierra, Tahoe, Santa Fe and others; and yet, their names are stamped on fine automobiles.

Why not us?

Imagine what the Niagara Edition of some SUV would be: It would have a very powerful engine in it, the King of Power package. Belying that power would be interior and exterior packages that would befit the “Queen of Beauty.”

Its 24-inch wheels and strong, but smooth suspension package would allow you to float over potholed streets without worry; and its speaker package would roar as loudly and as clearly within as does the falling waters of the great cataracts. 

But before any car manufacturer could consider us as a nameplate, we have much work to do in sprucing up the city and attracting them to us. As I felt good driving my Riviera, we have to make others feel good in being in Niagara Falls. And don’t think for even a minute that auto and Madison Avenue marketing executives have never visited the Falls. They have, of course, been included in the millions of others who come here every year.

Perhaps the nameplate is a bit more up to us, than it is up to them, so let’s get busy.

Let’s see what we can do by 2017, when that old Riviera of mine, wherever she might be, turns 50 years old.

 1st Friday Club

St. Joseph’s 1st Friday Club will have me speaking on the book of Philemon at a lunch meeting at the Como today. A family style lunch (less than $10) served at 11:30 and a 20 to 30-minute speech at noon. Please join us, it’ll be fun.

Contact Ken Hamilton at

Contact Ken Hamilton at