Kaua’i Klassics: How About A Nice Hawaiian Poncho?

2003-06 Vibe 01

My wife and I just returned from a trip to Hawai’i, celebrating our 25th anniversary on Kaua’i. Discretion being the better part of valor, I limited my CC spotting to a bare minimum and only when convenient, such as when I shot this first-gen Pontiac Vibe near Shipwreck Beach (an appropriate location for this specimen). I had to hunt quite a bit to find a Poncho (to make the title work)—this was one of only four Pontiacs I saw the whole time we were on the islands; the other three were all last-gen Trans Ams.


Vintage Beetles and Busses were actually pretty common, such as this 1967 Type I with a 1500cc engine, uprated from 50hp the previous year to 53hp (or 1.325 forty-horse VW Beetles). I saw one 2012+ Beetle, and a handful of New Beetles as well.


I got a very hasty shot of this first-year 1966 Dodge Charger from the tour bus on the big island. We saw quite a few classics from the 60s and 70s, and also spotted a Model A out enjoying the sun.

GE 25 ton 01

Next up are a pair of diesel-electrics, the first being this GE 25 ton industrial locomotive. Originally used to haul sugar cane out of the fields on Kaua’i, it’s enjoying lighter duty giving tours around the Kilohana plantation these days.

SS287 Bowfin

Our other diesel-electric is the Bowfin (SS 287), a Baleo-class Fleet-type submarine that served during WWII. It is perhaps the nicest example I’ve ever been through. The boat was powered by four General Motors V16 diesel engines driving electrical generators/motors which in turn drive the screws. All told, they provide 5,400 shaft horsepower when running surfaced (equivalent to 134 forty-horse Beetles).

USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74)

The most powerful vehicle we saw on the trip was the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), which is leaving port in this photo. Note the sailors “manning the rails” in their dress whites as they salute the USS Arizona while passing by. This carrier is powered by two Westinghouse nuclear reactors which generate 260,000 shp (that’s about 6,500 forty-horse Beetles).

Start to Finish

Of course, one of the main requirements during a visit to Pearl Harbor is to experience the USS Arizona and Missouri memorials. This photo captures the “bookends” of the Pacific war, with the Arizona in the background and the plaque commemorating the signing of the instruments of surrender in the foreground.

 Swamp Ghost 01

Moving from sea to air, my jaw bounced off the pavement when we walked over to the the restoration hangar at the Pacific Aviation Museum and saw this B-17E Flying Fortress. This specific aircraft was supposed to have been in the flight of 17s that arrived over Pearl Harbor right in the middle of the December 7, 1941 attack, but had been grounded due to engine problems (each Wright/Cyclone R1820 made 1,200hp, so the whole plane had the power of 120 forty-horse Beetles) and missed out on all the trouble.

Swamp Ghost 04

It eventually crash landed in a swamp on New Guinea after being shot up in 1942. The aircraft was rediscovered in the 1970s, and recovered within the last few years—it had arrived at Pearl only two weeks before we did, and nearly 72 years after originally intended.


Back on Kaua’i, we took a helicopter tour in this Hughes 500E, which was a real blast (literally—no doors!). The 500 had its genesis in the OH-6 Cayuse which was introduced in 1963 as the result of a bid for a light helicopter for the US Army. The 500 was the civilian version, with the E series being introduced in 1982. This was my second heli ride ever; the first being a Life Flight after a motorcycle accident back when Beth and I were dating.


I hesitate to include our rental car for the week… However, because it was such a special occasion and in a special location, I requested the convertible “upgrade,” only to realize after a couple days that the rental agencies stock these by the gross on the islands. While the top-down motoring was nice, it really wasn’t anything unique, because these were literally everywhere. Next time, I’m going to request something less common, like a four-door Malibu…