The Isuzu Gemini, for all its flaws, was the taxicab of a generation. This was the early 1990s, where air conditioners were supposed to release a visible cloud of vaporized antifreeze that smelled like car exhaust. The dashboard of the Gemini, which featured a whole lot of non-useful (there’s a difference between “useless” and “non-useful”) buttons, was way ahead of its time that you actually felt you were driving or riding the Enterprise. Before the days of Chi-Chi digital taxi meters, all taxi meters worked like water meters, only with the addition of a lever with a Chinese character on the big round circle.
You simply don’t get that in a Kia Pride or a Toyota Vios these days; back then, the only taxi worth riding was a Gemini that was painted yellow, and peferably a part of the “R & E” franchise. Yet what made the venerable Isuzu Gemini such an icon for a generation of commuters was the smell. If you were going to roll down the hand-crank for air, you have to breathe deep of the aroma that only a 1980s car on a 1990s taxi license can give.
On some taxis, the driver had one of these perforated cans of Going Steady on the dashboard, which pretty much made the car smell like a weird combination of alcantara leather, a tin can, Gilette shaving cream, and Dial bath soap. Yet for those who prefer to have their cars smell less nauseating, there were always those scented cardboard trees. While “Lemon” is still popular, it is the pine-scented Little Trees air freshener that has become the scent of a ride… at least for a generation.