In the early 1980s, as the economy continued to slump and gas prices soared, American car makers were desperate for a way forward. The good old days were gone forever. Under pressure from the Japanese, whose small cars had gone from rolling jokes to serious, high quality competition in little more than a decade, the big three knew they needed to make a radical departure from their traditional approach before it was too late. Although some of the more stodgy cars would soldier on and continue to sell to members of the Greatest Generation well past their expiration dates, for the rest of us the future was a smaller, lighter and more efficient. The winds of change were blowing and even the Ford Mustang felt the chill.
Tag: TTAC Future Writers
Yesterday, the astute Derek Kreindler added to his already excellent body of work on TTAC another installment of his “Generation Why” series in which he explored Land Rover’s resistance to the current trend of marketing lower cost vehicles to young people. In the body of the article a couple of sentences in particular jumped out at me –
As mother’s day approaches I think now about my own mother on the other side of the continent and about the journey her life has been. Born in the mid 1930s and raised in poverty, she was dumped into an orphanage by her father after her mother’s sudden death from breast cancer in the late ’40s. It has never been discussed in detail, but I know that she and her younger sister were rescued by their older sister, my aunt Evelyn, herself just a recently married teenager, and raised as one of her own. At barely 18 years of age, my mother married my father, had the first of her five children and worked hard to build a home for herself and her family. The amazing part of this is that she was able to do it all without ever driving.
In some ways my initial move across the Pacific was a lot easier than my return. I was at the end of my personal rope when I went to Japan in 1999 and, even though I was stepping into a dead end job, there was nowhere to go but up. Coming home was quite the reverse. Of course I had a job offer, but I had learned the hard way about birds in the hand versus the two in the bush and, truth is, I was scared. I had carved out a nice little life for myself in Japan. I had friends, a decent place to live and, for a change, money in my pocket. I had even purchased a car and a motorcycle, but now it was time to sell out and move on.
If you have a half million dollars in your pocket, you can be the opening bidder on a lot of 550 classic cars located at a family owned towing and storage lot in Apache Junction, AZ and listed for sale on Ebay right now. According to the ad, the business has been in operation since the 1960s and the lot is filled with cars from the 1940s through the 1980s, approximately 97% of which are complete with motors, transmissions and body parts. You can even negotiate to leave the cars where they are – that way your wife will never know…
Time was, the only time you could see cool cars on TV, outside of reruns of the Rockford Files and Starsky and Hutch, was on Saturday Mornings on The Nashville Network. Those programs, aimed at shade tree mechanics and the average do-it-yourselfer, were about as interesting as a high school auto shop class’ instructional videos. Things have definitely changed and today, thanks to hundreds of cable channels and the advent of Reality TV, car related programming is easy to find. The problem is that Reality TV is character driven and you have to endure colorful personalities in order to see the cars.
At around 2:00 PM on the afternoon of October 6, 1973, more than 200 Soviet built Egyptian aircraft began to assault Israeli air bases and missile emplacements north of the Suez canal and the established line of defense, known as the Bar Lev Line. During the night that followed, Egyptian combat engineers crossed the canal in small boats and used gasoline powered pumps to throw streams of high pressure water against the massive sand wall the Israeli forces had erected at the water’s edge following their 1967 conquest of the Sinai. The water eroded the wall with amazing efficiency and by the next day more than 50,000 Egyptian troops and 400 tanks had made their way across the Suez, through the remains of the Bar Lev line and out onto the Sinai desert where they forced the Israeli military back in disarray. The offensive, known as Operation Badr was the opening of the 1973 Yom Kippur War and it makes interesting reading. The conflict had lasting effects in region and some say that it helped to set the stage for the Camp David Accords and eventually led to the peace treaty that President Carter helped negotiate between Egypt and Israel. The war also had effects closer to home and, thanks in part to the Arab Oil Embargo that was a direct result of America’s support of Israel during the conflict, it led to a new, fuel efficient car appearing in my family’s driveway.
Sweet, sweet publicity. Although I am loathe to admit it, I am a sucker for a slick ad campaign. Those catchy jingles, perfectly posed photos, and quick camera cuts work their way into my psyche and demand that I throw down my hard earned cash for something I may not need, but God how I want it! Done right, an ad campaign can have a lasting effect on me – I’m not sure if Bertel is to blame, but does anyone else remember when Volkswagen used Elvis Presley’s “Devil In Disguise” to promote their GTI? I sure do- too bad I can’t find it on you tube! So let’s talk car ads – here are some of the greatest car ads of all time:
I saw it this morning. Slipping along the in the dim, pre-dawn light and shrouded in the thin early morning fog that wicked up in wispy tendrils from the damp pavement, it was an apparition, a beast from another age. Like poor Yorick, alas I knew it well and although, in time, it has become the subject of infinite jest, it was in its day the most excellent fancy of many young men and it bore my youthful dreams upon its back a thousand times. It had, I thought, no right to be among the living when so many other, better, vehicles of its era were consigned to their graves, rotting away in fields, pulled apart for their components or crushed, shredded and melted wholesale back into their base elements. Why then, knowing through the clarifying lens of history the terrible truth about the trouble that lurked beneath its slick sheet metal, did its unexpected appearance stir a long-forgotten longing in my heart?
As the technology that will one day network cars together and reorganize the roads in the name of safety and efficiency continues to rush towards us, word comes that the computerized systems used to control commercial aircraft in flight are now vulnerable to hackers via android devices. Net-Security.org is reporting on an April 10th presentation at the “Hack in the Box Conference” by German security consultant Hugo Teso during which he demonstrates how a wireless device can be used to transmit malicious code into an aircraft’s computer through at least two different systems currently used to exchange information between aircraft and ground stations. Those of you who are already afraid to fly will want to read all of the excruciating details here: http://www.net-security.org (Read More…)
Honmoku street is a wide, tree lined avenue that bends through the southern “Naka” district of the city of Yokohama. Close by sits the massive port, the gateway through which so much of Japan’s industrial output is sent to the world, its tall cranes working ceaselessly and with no regard for human concerns like the time of day. Above it all the Yokohama Bay Bridge soars like a vision, lifting cars and trucks across the entrance to the harbor as effortlessly as it straddles the line between art and infrastructure. Although the massive bridge and its double decked feeder highways encircle the entire district, the sense one has on the ground is of open space and nature, rarities in the second largest city in Japan. In the midst of it all sits the classic American Hot-Rod shop, Mooneyes.
They say that you don’t regret the things you do as much as you regret the things don’t do. I hope the auto manufacturers are listening, because when I look at so many of the fantastic looking four door sedans on the market today, I feel a sense of regret for what they aren’t doing, namely making two door coupes. I know there are financial considerations, probably tens of millions of dollars worth, at work behind the scenes. I understand, too, that there are likely to be engineering challenges and any number of other issues that a simple layman like myself can never really understand, but the fact that there are no really cool coupe versions of today’s hot sedans gnaws at me.
Thank God for artists like Casey Shain, a man of considerable talent who, like many of us, believes that today’s cars can be better. (Read More…)