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Posts By: Jim Sutherland
Those of us who were kids in the 60s hated fall for traditional reasons like the end of summer and the inevitable return to ten months of incarceration in the education system. We were forced to abandon our “no more pencils, no more books” mantra and accept our grim fate. One of the few redeeming features of autumn was the debut of the new models at the Big Three dealerships because the 60s were also a time of change every year for most North American cars in the 60s.
Horns have always been a very important part of a car. They were invented to warn drivers of other drivers on the road. Horns were also invented to assist the middle finger in descriptive impromptu editorials that register drivers’ displeasure with other drivers on the road, and to engage in general non-verbal communication with other traffic participants.. History does not appear to have recorded the chicken/egg side of the equation which would sort out which came first in the automobile horn/middle finger debate.
Car horns have saved lives and cost teeth, depending upon the traffic circumstances and emotional control of drivers. An errant car horn can be an instant turbo-boost to uncontrollable road rage under the right conditions, but we still love them. Let’s see how much we do.
One of the most famous cars in the world is one of the most despised cars on my very short list of despised cars.
Hell – who am I kidding? I love all old cars more than most people.
But I don’t love the General Lee. (Read More…)
Passenger pigeons were the most common bird found in North America. So common that flocks numbering 2 billion were up to a mile wide and 300 miles long. In other words, the average North American in the 18th and 19th Century saw a lot of these pigeons. You could easily argue that a passenger pigeon sighting in 1812 was something on the same scale today as seeing mind-numbing crap on TV. Not a particularly noteworthy or unique experience. So what took the passenger pigeon down? It was a combination of things but the biggest factor was that these pigeons tasted pretty good (a lot like chicken) and they were plentiful-hence a cheap source of food.bThey were wiped out at the pace of millions per year, so the last documented passenger pigeon named Martha died on September 1st 1914. In other words, something the average American had seen every day was extinct in a matter of a few decades. Quick extinction of a very common species is not a phenomenon exclusive to Mother Nature because cars can disappear overnight too. Here are a few that will soon be joining that “whatever happened to…” list.
I have always had a soft spot for the post-war late 40s Detroit automobile look which looked eerily like the pre-war early 40s Detroit look. You can’t send Cadillacs into combat zones and DeSotos made poor amphibious assault vehicles, so Detroit became lead manufacturer for the war effort in 1941. Forget cars, the free world needed Sherman tanks until 1945. People just wanted cars in 1947 and supply fell well behind demand for the North American auto manufacturers. The 1947 market conditions must seem like a long lost beautiful dream for the former Big Three in 2009. But enough with the history lesson, I had a chance to test drive a very well preserved 1947 Dodge Regent with 38,000 original miles on it and I leapt at the opportunity. The car was a time capsule; complete with rear suicide doors, front and back vent windows instead of air conditioning, and human arms instead of signal lights.
There is always going to be a generation gap. The term “generation gap” was coined in the 60s when it became evident that Baby Boomers had developed a whole new set of rules for themselves that put a significant chasm between them and their parents in terms of interests and values. Generation gaps will always define new generations and every generation will march to the beat of their own drum. For me, the gap got Grand Canyon wide when I read the LA Times piece by Martin Zimmerman that cited a J D Power study which indicated that Generation Y has less interest in cars. As a lifelong car guy who built an entire social world around cars I would have to ask; “Generation why?”
The 1969 Camaro is an automotive icon. Because of this juggernaut tag there are tens of thousands of these late 60s pony cars restored or under restoration. The late Reverend Jimmy “drink the Kool-Aid” Jones would have been humbled by this kind of blind loyalty-the sole reason the 09 Camaro exists was GM’s critical need for a home run.
But which car is going to be more valuable in 2019? Even after 10 years of service as a daily driver?
Sometimes” obvious” is a vague concept for people and nowhere is that more obvious than behind the wheel of a car. The basic rules of engagement on the road are subject to interpretation by many drivers whose personal universe exists within a tight gravitational pull of their physical location.
James Dean was a moderately talented actor. You could say he made his best career move behind the wheel of a Porsche. After his fatal accident, Dean’s “live fast-die young” legend grew to Giant-size, propelling Byron’s life (and death) to legendary status. As for the car [not shown], many came to believe that the “Lil’ Bastard” was evil, citing both the actor’s death and the death and injury experienced by those who came into contact with the car or bits thereof. Steven King and Snopes will fill in the blanks on that one. But the truth is that celebrities aren’t that different from you and me. The basic causation for their car crashes is the same as it ever was: human error and a light dusting of equipment limitations or failure.
The August 6, 2009 issue of the Edmonton Journal ran a story about the hormonal boost for young males provided by high end performance vehicles. A Concordia University study determined that “endowing [yes, endowing] the men with a vehicle few people could afford tripped an endocrinological response-measured using saliva samples—mimicking the one elicited during competition for female mates.” As a guy who used to be young, I could have saved the academics a few bucks. Of course hot cars raise testosterone levels. That’s a fundamental part of a guy’s reason for life. It’s the selfish gene on wheels: hot cars > better babes > better babies. But all is not exactly as it seems . . .
Over the years, I’ve attended thousands of “old” car shows. At the most prestigious of these events, eligibility rules are clear, consistent and cast in concrete. Meanwhile, at the bottom end, the cars on display have grown to include brand new Chevy trucks and late model imports. As long as it has four wheels, it’s in. What kind of twisted logic allows a post-millennium car or a brand new truck to qualify for a car show when some poor schmoe who put thousands of unpaid hours into his ’57 Ford has to park away from the show in a dusty parking lot? I know: times are tough. If you want to shoot ducks, go where the ducks are; the money’s in the mods. But once again, we’re looking at an auto-related industry where the relentless pursuit of short term gain threatens long term survival.
There are many great reasons to be happy to be a Baby Boomer. We may be getting old but we misspent our youth in some great decades. We had the iconic cars and lots of drive-ins for a custom fit with an increasingly relaxed moral code. We only had AM radio, but it played some of the best music ever heard in a car. But mostly we (or at least I) had Tom McCahill.
In general, today’s cars don’t put us in mortal peril (by themselves) or strand us miles from home. They don’t require any special driving or mechanical skills. As always, progress has come at a cost: it’s eliminated the character-building experiences that helped guys of my g-g-g-generation become “car guys.” Yup, I come from a time without cell phones, G.P.S. navigation, OnStar, and vehicles that can breeze through 100,000 miles with little to no fear of meltdown. A time when cars offered a shorter shelf but more human – machine interaction. When car guys could look under the hood, see a problem and correct it. On the spot. I’m not bragging, so don’t put me down. Not yet, anyway.