By on February 23, 2012

 

The bygone era of Detroit included many very stylish rides. This fact is one of the big reasons that old iron has such incredible curb appeal in 2012. They don’t make ‘em like they used to – and that includes dangerous style choices.

Don’t kill the messenger on these points, but there were several engineering choices that would have Ralph Nader spinning in his grave-if he was dead.

The fastback roofline of the 60s would be high on the list. The massive metal found on a first generation Charger’s rear roof pillar looked great, but you would have to possess Superman’s X-ray vision to see a car beside you in traffic.

The blind spot on the early 70s fastback Mustangs was a giant road hazard for any driver that was cocky enough to switch lanes on an impulse. A 1963 Sting Ray is an investor’s dream, but its split rear window meant that drivers entered other traffic lanes at their own peril.

The standard rule of thumb for most fastback owners from the muscle car era was simple: buy the baddest meanest big block in the stable and stay so far ahead of other cars that lane changes were not an issue.

Suicide doors have a limited application in today’s automotive world, but they were a fundamental part of a pre and post war car in yesteryear. Cars were not exactly kid safety friendly in those days, so an errant tug on a rear door handle could easily launch a kid into a rhythmic bounce down a highway.

The hideaway headlight concept has been around for a long time, with a huge golden era in the 60s and 70s. It is easy to understand why the hidden headlight look was so popular-it just looked so damned good on a car.

The only downside was the mechanical function of the hidden lights, typically run by a vacuum system and subject to problems like complete failure to open, or open and shut blinking. Either way it complicated night driving when headlights stayed tucked comfortably into the grill.

One of the nicer features of older cars are their dashboard and their steering wheels. They had lots of chrome and sharp protuberances (sharp pointy things) extending from the dash and steering wheels.

An unlucky and unbelted driver and/or passengers could easily get impaled on these items as they flew forward. The only upside (and it was a weak upside) was their guest appearances in an old guidance film about automobile safety.

However, it is very unlikely that any of them wanted to be movie star stiffs simply because old style cars impaled them on car bling.

The final item for discussion is fender skirts. Fender skirts were a highly desirable automotive fashion accessory for many car owners – until they had a flat tire. That is the exact moment when function trumped style for these owners.

For more of J Sutherland’s work go to mystarcollectorcar.com

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79 Comments on “Car Collector’s Corner: When Good Looks Can Really Kill...”


  • avatar
    Lokki

    Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
    Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!
    LIONS and TIGERS and BEARS, OH MY!

    You know there weren’t any seatbelts on buggy’s either. You could get thrown right out.

  • avatar
    MarkP

    An AMC Marlin?! Outrageous! I can’t remember the last time I saw one of those.

    … oh, I’m sorry … were you saying something …

  • avatar
    Zackman

    So, Mr. Sutherland, what’s your point? Duh…of course today’s cars are safer. I almost fell out of my parent’s 1951 Plymouth when I pulled the handle, rather than PUSH the handle forward to lock the door! Mom caught me just in time!

    The problem is that cars today have lost their character and have, with too few exceptions, turned into gray/silver/some-sort-of-un-nameable-tan-like-color with equally gray or charcoal drab interiors that exude little pride of ownership and have all the personality of a desk drawer. But…they do start each and every time, so I suppose that’s progress.

    While I’m not suggestion or even wishing a return to the past, OEM’s can do more to their offerings than many of them currently do. The most stylish rides I see today are Buicks. Like a moth to a light, I gravitate to bright (“chrome”) trim!

    I LOVE bright window reveal!

    • 0 avatar
      W.

      This is one of those conceits that really irks me to no end. Every single classic car collector magazine trumpets that today’s cars have no character, are all look alike and bland.

      Anyone ever take a look at the profile of a GM A-body from ’42? Betcha can’t tell the difference without looking at the grill. How about a mid-50’s GM sedan? Again, without looking at the trim or other details, they’re more alike than different. Everyone was guilty (not to attack GM alone).

      It’s just a fact of manufacturing that companies have to re-use as many of the hard grubby bits as they can, and this leads to cars that have varying degrees of similarities.

      Style is a very subjective thing. I happen to think that every era has their classic designs that have merit, and many that are just plain garbage. I enjoy a well designed car from the ’30’s as much as from the ’70’s, ‘styling’ be damned.

      If we want the next generation to embrace the car culture, we need to stop falling into this trap.

      • 0 avatar
        TwoTone Loser

        I thought this too. All cars made within 5 year windows of each other did look the same. A ’57 chevy and a ’57 Chrysler 300, a ’57 fairlane and ’58 impala, a ’64 fury and ’64 comet. Cars are shapes. They go in a line in a lane.

        But I’d rather have any of them than today’s cars. I’m trying to like them, really!

  • avatar
    Rick T.

    A favorite childhood memory is my toddler brother in his diaper standing in the front seat of our 61 Chevy and my father standing on the brakes to avoid a car backing out of a parking space. My brother toppled head first into the expansive bare metal dash. No damage to either the dash or my brother, supposedly.

    We were also broadsided one time coming back from a lake picnic by a half blind farmer pulling out from a side road. The Rambler station wagon was totaled but only my grandmother sitting next to the front passenger door was injured – just a couple of cracked ribs. We did spend some time pulling glass off the same brother as above and worms/dirt/ice on all of us from the coolers in the back which were flung forward on impact. I guess we were lucky.

    • 0 avatar
      DDAK

      Yeah, My mom was in labor with my sister and I went with my father to the hospital. A car darted out of a sidestreet and my father had to jump on the brakes… Needless to say, I was unbelted in the front seat and left a perfect impression of my two front teeth in the powder-blue aluminum dashboard of his white 1962 Bel Air.

      Luckily they were baby teeth which ended up being knocked out (actually broken-off at the gum-line) a few weeks later while running up the basement steps. OUCH.

      I hope the guy who ended up buying it appreciated that bit ‘o customization. You could even see the striations in the teeth edges and surfaces…

      • 0 avatar
        nrd515

        There’s a friend of mine who rode from the age of two until about 6 standing up, with his mouth clamped to the dash. Every car they had was traded or sold with teeth imprints on the dash. Somehow, he managed to survive until he got over it without a single injury. They had a Plymouth Satellite wagon, the last car he chewed on, that was traded in with a dash that looked like a Pit Bull had chewed on it. We still give him crap over it.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    VW Vans – the only thing between you and the vehicle in front of you in a head on is the sheet metal, the steering column, and the windshield. They are only slightly safer than being dropped from Niagra in a Coke can.

    Wrap Around Windshields – Looked good on 1958-1960 Detroit space ships, but ask any cop driving one how many times they crippled themselves by destroying their left knee against them.

    Split Windshields – The last thing you face needed to hit before it went into the windshield was an inch-wide steel bar. Should have been called a Split Skull Windshield.

    BMW Isetta – Take a phone booth, bolt a Lazy-Boy recliner into it, then make the front end your escape hatch. Plus side – small enough to be buried in. Used in NASA training as John Glenn’s space capsule.

    Crosley – America’s first attempt at a lifesize Dinky Die-Cast toy.

    Pinto – Flambe’

    CJ5 – No doors, no problems leaping from vehicle as it plunges over canyon wall. Pat Brady’s “Nellybelle” killed more outlaws than Roy’s six shooter.

    MG Midget – Couch surfing has been proven to be safer.

    Chevy Volt – Imagine one colliding with a Fiero. Add charcoal. Enjoy impromptu road side picnic.

    Green Hornet “Black Beauty” – 21 pedestrians killed when Kato misfires machine guns.

  • avatar
    mmdpg

    I fell out of a 62 Impala. My Dad was driving us in a supermarket parking lot (low speed thank goodness), I had my hand on the door handle, slowly pulling up anticipating us parking and all of the sudden I was in a puddle and my father was scared I was dead. The door was locked but in that car as you lift up on the handle it also unlocked and opened the door. Luckily it was late winter and I was wearing the best safety equipment of the time- a snow suit.

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      Our family wagon was a 62 Belair 283/powerglide. On extremely cold winter days at say, 10-15 degrees or less the latch would freeze on the front passenger side door and it wouldn’t stay closed. My dad would run a hand held propane torch around the latch for half a minute or so to thaw it out.

    • 0 avatar
      MadHungarian

      Back in the pre-seatbelt days, coupes — and two-door station wagons — were pitched to families as safer cars, because the kiddies couldn’t accidentally open a door and fall out of the back seat. Once kids had to be restrained, especially the younger ones in child seats, coupes became the LEAST desirable cars for families.

  • avatar
    missinginvlissingen

    I’m so glad that car designers have solved those visibility problems caused by styling considerations.

    Wait, wasn’t this one of the main complaints on the thread a few weeks ago asking what we miss about older cars? Yeah, visibility is terrible. It used to be terrible, then it was good for a short while (80s?) and now it’s terrible again.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Depends on the car; the visibility issues here mentioned were limited to relatively few designs.

      There was also some good visibility in the late 60s, 70s, and early 90s.

      (Like my w115 Mercedes. So much glass…)

      • 0 avatar
        FuzzyPlushroom

        My three Volvos (244/745/855) have all been excellent as far as visibility was concerned, the 745 in particular. Most modern cars, with fat rear pillars and faux window area above an already high beltline, are terrifying in comparison – I’d feel safer parking a fastback Mustang.

  • avatar

    I guess that I should clarify that I am a huge fan of old iron. I love a pre-nanny state automotive era when style was king and I never even remotely considered safety features to be a part of my car dreams as a kid when I read the fall new car issues of Popular Science and Mechanix Illustrated in the 60s. I still consider a lack of factory seatbelts to be a selling feature in vintage vehicles. Who knows what motivated me to write about safety issues in old cars? I’m definitely not related to Ralph Nader. The Marlin is an absolutely amazing car that is owned by a guy in my area. We did a story on it.

    • 0 avatar
      Skink

      Corvette splittie doesn’t compromise lane change visibility. It did provide excellent rear quarter views – it was the anti-fastback. The centerline post did distract when one looks in the rear view mirror, but one came around to surmise what was in the middle by what one saw on either side, and to look in the other mirror.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Well, you ARE talking about collectibles, not daily drivers. Fastbacks and some coupes were terrible for visibility and many today are just as bad. Small features like remote door locks eliminate some of the kids-falling-out examples above, and buckets eliminate the untethered kid in the middle of the front seat. 3-point seatbelts alone make the old dashboards less dangerous, and it IS possible to retrofit them in older cars.

      The big complaint is styling. The older cars had more style and differentiated greatly from other cars. Today’s cars are totally unadventurous, with construction methods, some safety mandates (pedestrian friendly front ends) and a copycat trend of making everything look like a coupe with a high belt line and high, short trunk deck resulting in very little differentiation, not only between models, but between different makes.

      It’ll take one maker willing to put retro features into a new car, not copy an older model, and get a lot of them sold, before the lemming instinct produces a wide variety of new cars with style. A lower belt line, taller greenhouse, more vertical rear window, and a longer trunk overhang vs short high trunk deck would be a radical move backward toward better visibility, ample headroom in backseats allowing higher cushions that can seat 6-footers comfortably, and larger trunks with opening big enough to put large items in them.

      I’m not holding my breath. If makers can’t figure out that “mini” vans and pickups have gotten too big and that sedan back seats are not adult sized anymore, how are you going to stop ’em?

      • 0 avatar
        flameded

        +1 Lorenzo

        I think I just kinda paraphrased what you just stated.
        You beat me to It while I was typing though.

        Very Good points Indeed.

        T

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I disagree with older cars “differing greatly”, park a ’59 Elrorado near a ’57 Bel Air, close to a ’56 Fairlane, and a ’58 Belvedere. Every decade had its own styling ques and quirks.

        Back in the day, it was about appealiong to adults by looking functional yet classy or luxurious, now its about appealing to modern youth since they’re an easier target, how they’ll pay for their new cars I dunno.

        To appeal to todays youth, companies try to be “aggressive” and “sporty” (thus high belt lines, big unhelpful trunks, pointless slits, fins, and big grilles), yet forget about other age groups.

        Theres that and focus groups, get a bunch of youngsters together and they’re going to largely tell you the same things.

        Then theres “brand faces”, a silly idea that saves time om styling each car and gives them “more of an identity” but frankly its just lazy, and for identity we have badges.

        This is probably why Mercedes are starting to look more like Nissans, Dodges like Mitsubishi, VWs like Kias…

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        I think we remember what was unique from long ago and tend to forget all the sameness.

    • 0 avatar
      GS650G

      You missed the pointy wing windows, single master cylinders, non-collapsible steering columns, the lack of gear shift lockouts, no column lock connected to the key(both features allowed young children to roll cars down the road) and a bunch of other fire hazards, electrical problems and mechanical dangers.

      Luckily civilization survived.

      • 0 avatar
        mzr

        Some had primitive versions. My ’66 T-Bird had a swing away steering wheel. Those cars had a problem with the column shifter staying in park (it was over 40 years old, give it some slack). If you swung the steering wheel, it would lock the gear selector in park. Problem solved.

  • avatar
    mdensch

    Ok, so Frank Lloyd Wright was famous for designing houses with flat roofs. Some criticized flat-roof designs because they tended to leak. Wright’s response: “If you worry about such things perhaps you don’t deserve to have one.”

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      A lot of Frank Lloyd Wrights creations had structural problems, mechanical difficulties, etc. Not uncommon when you push “cutting edge” design and put style and appearance over function.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Incredibly cheap materials, too. His house in the Scottsdale area looked like it was built by boy scouts! Still a really cool place, though.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        Indeed, as far as Frank Lloyd Wright was concerned. He did use cutting edge technology and often techniques that were not fully vested before use and many of the homes, such as his well known Falling Water house had many issues that caused problems.

        But that does not diminish my love for his stylistic sense in any way.

        It just means we can create versions of his style, but in a more reliable manner. That said, some of his designs I think lead to the Mid Century Modern aesthetics that predominated architecture from the mid 50’s to the mid 60’s along with the coffee shop modern known as Googie architecture.

        But back to cars for a sec, my Dad bought us a brand new 1964 Dodge 330 wagon, a base trim with the 225 slant six, push button torqueflite automatic and had lap belts install in all other positions,including the 2 center ones at the time of purchase. By 1964, the driver and front outside passenger got the lap belts standard but the rest were optional still. That would not change until 1966 when ALL seating positions were required to have lap belts. And by 1968, shoulder belts were required for the outboard front passengers, but they were a separate item that one could attach to their lap belts as necessary,like on the freeway. It would take until 1974 before the one piece belts became mandatory.

        We all survived despite the lack of safety features now found on cars.

        My current car, a 2003 Mazda Protege5 has 2 front airbags and that’s it, no ESC/traction control, nor ABS either as ABS was an option, along with the side airbags but it DOES have 4 wheel disc brakes though.

        And that’s in some ways an improvement over my ’92 Ranger that had NO airbags, but 2 wheel ABS (rears only). Oh, the Mazda has a 3 brake light, the truck didn’t get that until 1993.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      As the owner of a flat roofed building, I can say with certainty that Wright wasn’t all there. It’s a constant headache, and even with a “guarantee” it won’t leak by more than one roofer over the years, it does. If the roof didn’t leak, I would have made about $150k more in rent income over the last decade. Every summer, I hope hope hope for the tornado that solves the problem. Two years ago, I almost got it. There was a big one, just a few miles away. Damn.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    We had a 71 Marquis with fender skirts and hidden headlights.

    In reality, neither were dangerous at all, although fender skirts were certainly inconvenient if covered with winter slush that hid the removal lever. The headlights defaulted open in the lack of vacuum.

    • 0 avatar
      mzr

      Exactly. I’m most familiar with ’70s Fords, and the fold down headlight covers all defaulted to open. Let one sit long enough without starting it and you’ll see them creep up.

      How long has it been a requirement that hideaway headlights have a manual override? My ’80 TR7 had it. My ’96 and ’93 Miatas have it.

  • avatar
    jellybean

    Ah, the Marlin. My fav of all time. In the sixties no one wanted to talk about safety, it was about glamour. Seat belts were not glamourous. It was about driving down a beach at sunset, like in the old marlin ads. Rear visibility? That’s what mirrors are for! And I do remember a few doors swinging open when being driven to school, usually the driver’s door. My aunt fell out a car door when she was a child, her pant leg caught on the exhaust pipe and she was dragged down a gravel road for a spell. She’s fine, after having to learn to walk and talk again. (forgive my Canadian spellings)

    • 0 avatar
      Dynasty

      What prevents car doors from opening now if you are moving down the road?

      I remember my friend’s spoiled kid on his birthday about ten years ago was mad I wouldn’t take him to the baseball card shop to buy him something. He was threatening me with jumping out of my moving car. The little bastard had the door open while I was driving down the road at 35 mph forcing me to stop each and every time. That little fker.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    When I was a kid, my dad put me in the back of the family Jetta because the front seat was considered dangerous, with its very lethal three point belt, so I got to sit in the back with the lap belts.

    The only purpose of those lap belts seemed to be to keep my carcass from bouncing off of the inside of the car. One day when our car skidded off of the road on black ice and struck a tree, the lap belt bent me in half like a hairpin, before the front seat bent my neck back 90 degrees like a Pez dispenser.

    In retrospect I’m surprised I managed to only to break two cervical vertebrae in that accident.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      My parents bought a used 1985 Honda Accord in 1987 and it had shoulder belts in the outboard rear seats by that point at the very least.

      True it was not a standard thing until the late 80’s at the earliest.

  • avatar
    flameded

    My Uncle used to have a Marlin.. I was about 12 I think.He got it from a friend for nothing. I remember something about the winshield wipers slowing down/speeding up depending on how much acceleration he gave it…?.. were they vacuum operated or something?

    Anyway.. if nothing else, the old cars looked good.Really good (to me anyway). I don’t care how tough the safety requirements are these days. If they wanted to, they could make cars that are safe/efficient AND look good. Not every car has to be grey and look like a mid 90’s Nissan Maxima.Sure, the new/old camaro and the new/old mustang and the new/old challenger look good, but I don’t count those, as they aren’t as much “creative design evolution” as they are Modern retro copies. JMO?

    So while they’ll probably never be another “golden age” of auto design, I DO think they’re starting to come around…here and there anyway. ;)

    T

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    I don’t know why we can’t have both these days. Safety, convenience, but still stylish and with real chrome, bumpers, and metal incorporated into the interiors.

  • avatar
    drylbrg

    Combining the fast back styling with having only one small mirror on the driver’s side provides a lot of thrills on otherwise boring drives. Like J says the only sure way to change lanes is to hit the gas so that you leave behind any traffic that is in your considerable blind spots.

    • 0 avatar
      MadHungarian

      I actually like the smaller outside mirrors in older cars. Adjusted properly, they did the job. If you still aren’t sure you have an opening, turn your head for a moment and look. The one thing the small mirrors did not do was create a blind spot looking FORWARD and to the left, especially when maneuvering in close quarters, which many newer huge mirrors do.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        I’ve never had that issue with today’s large mirrors, you usually look out the windshield for that and use the mirrors for seeing what’s behind you.

        I remember the days when a right hand mirror wasn’t usually available and it was not as nice as having that right hand mirror to help you see what’s to your right rear flank.

        Or rather, they weren’t standard until about 15 years ago for most cars and today, ALL cars have them on both sides and I’m glad.

  • avatar
    moedaman

    All those damn, unsafe cars of the past. They killed and maimed a whole generation of kids! Oh wait they didn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      missinginvlissingen

      Actually, they did.

      http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/barone/2007/07/30/good-news-on-auto-accident-trends

      In 1969, 55,043 people died in U.S. traffic accidents, a rate of 5.18 per million miles. Today’s rate is 1.14 fatalities per million miles. So a rough calculation says that today’s cars* could have saved 42,929 of those lives. (For comparison: that same year, 11,616 US troops died in Vietnam.)

      *Caveat: of course, today’s roads, drivers, and emergency medicine are different too. But you gotta admit, car safety design improvements are probably responsible for a big chunk of that 42,929.

  • avatar
    George B

    I understand many of the design changes required for safety and fuel efficiency, but why do we have to put up with so much plastic pretending to be metal? I’d like to see and feel at least a thin veneer of genuine brushed aluminum instead of grey plastic, for example. It’s cheap enough for soda cans, so why not use more of it in cars? Not sure why, but chrome plated plastic always looks cheap to me. Chrome looks better on steel.

    The other design change I hate is the ever thicker A pillars blocking the view. I’d pay a little extra for the high strength steel necessary to make this part of the car both strong and thin.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    It’s funny because not so old cars have better visibility. The boxy styling and tall greenhouses of the 70s and 80s give very good outward visibility compared to the gun slits of today. For good examples compare the beltline, window size and pillar thickness on a Ford Escort versus a new Focus, Dodge Aries against Chrysler 200 or E30 BMW against E90 BMW, 83 Civic versus 2011 Civic et al.
    I’ll grant the seat belt and dash protrusion thing although my family was into safety by the 60s after one of my father’s relatives went through a windshield. Unlike a lot of their generation, my grandparents were very seat belt conscious. Our 64 Valiant had seatbelts and add on head restraints and the 66 Mercedes that replaced it had had crumple zones and a padded dash, then we bought a Volvo.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Same here – my Grandfather witnessed a head-on where a couple of people went through the windshield. Thus he always wore seatbelts from a pretty early age, and so did I. But my Grandmother refused to do so until it was made a law, go figure.

    • 0 avatar
      FromaBuick6

      My grandparents started wearing seat belts because their ’74 Monte Carlo wouldn’t start if they didn’t.

      Oddly enough, my father didn’t start buckling up (without my mother’s nagging) until we got a Camry with motorized belts.

      Apparently passive restraints really do work.

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        There was a wire under the driver’s seat with an electrical connecter, all you had to do was reach under the seat and unplug it, disabling the seat belt interlock. My dad did that on his 75 ford wagon as soon as he got home and got out of it.

      • 0 avatar
        naterator

        My mom’s ’73 Monterrey did this. Unfortunately, a bag of groceries in the passenger seat was enough to set the car buzzing. I think there was a red light on the dash, too, that would light up.

    • 0 avatar
      Contrarian

      Rolled steel in cheaper than glass.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    “simply because old style cars impaled them on car bling.”

    It’s been suggested that if instead of airbags and soft featured dashboards we had spikes, hot pokers and a brick wall in front then drivers would operate cars a bit more carefully.

    I miss the steel dash and solid controls on my 1960s Fords. None of it ever cracked, broke, or failed to operate.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Yawn. Old cars were unsafe. Oh, boo-frickety-hoo. Know what? Everything made back in the fifties and sixties was unsafe compared to what we have today. Get the hell over it.

    OTOH, today we have coffee cups that warn us, Hey, the brown liquid contained in this cup JUST MIGHT BURN YOU.

    Are we better off?

    I for one don’t necessarily think so. Your opinion, just like your mileage, may very. But I don’t really give a flying fig, meself.

  • avatar

    When I was a kid, I remember sleeping on the back deck of the Chrysler Imperial of my Granddad.

    I also recall seeing cars in Junkyards with my dad. Very often I’d see a steering wheel denting the roof of a wreck.

    I’m not at all sad to drive my current cars with airbombs and crush zones. I buckle up. My kids were always in the five point harness style car seats.

    My mom and her friend were put into a divider at 65 mph by a DWI. They were shaken up and took Advil.

    Some things are best improved.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I think there is a happy medium between the deathtraps of the ’60s and the ‘can’t see out of them’ M1 Tank designs of today. I’d like something like a BMW E30 with modern front airbags and stability control. Safe enough, you can actually see out of it, but light and fuel efficient. I can’t help but think we are WAAAAY down the slope of diminishing returns on safety equipment.

    • 0 avatar
      GS650G

      I slept in the rear deck of my Mom’s 68 Cyclone. Great view of the night sky back there.

  • avatar
    skor

    Mustangs and Falcons had an interesting gas tank design. The top of the tank doubled as the floor of the trunk. Even better were the old pickups with the tank behind the seat. It produced ocean wave sounds every time you went around a corner. Just the thing to lull a little boy to sleep. Ah, memories.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    I remember as a kid being horrified by the quote attributed to Henry Ford, “You can have a Ford in any color as long as it’s black.” I was surrounded by green, yellow, peuce, magenta, pink etc family cars.
    A kid hearing that quote today might respond, “Surely he means grey.”

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    The rearward view from inside the 68-70 charger wasn’t bad, it had a concave window (except for the rare charger 500.) The view to the side at the quarter panel was somewhat compromised, but that was why you used the side mirror.

  • avatar
    SilverHawk

    Americans enthusiasm for automobile ownership was still in full bloom during the 50s & 60s. Stylists were still inclined to take chances in the interest of hitting the right nerve with consumers. Ford, Nash, and Studebaker offered belts & padding packages in the 50s, but the take was very low. Even with the influx of compact cars in the early 60s, many brands no longer bragged about their wins in the Mobilgas Economy Run. Buying a new car generated excitement throughout the family, and the neighborhood, simply because it was still a big deal. Now, in a more mature market, our priorities have matured as well. I don’t envy the stylists of today who have to combine safety, efficiency, and connectivity into a package that people actually want to drive. Maybe we don’t give them enough credit.

  • avatar

    One of my favorite cars of all time is the ’68 Charger and my talented nephew will complete one this spring. I can hardly wait to drive my first ’68 Charger this year-it will be the culmination of a long held adolescent dream that didn’t involve Raquel Welch and was actually achievable.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    I think the worst rear visibility of any vehicle actually having a rear window has got to be the 1971-73 Mustang fastback. The rear window is pretty much horizontal. Of course, today’s allegedly safety minded answer would just be to mount a camera, instead of designing a car that you can actually see out of.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    Must agree with the above comment about the 1971-73 Mustang fastback. I remember once driving a friend’s brother’s ’71 in heavy traffic-at the time I thought it was the worst rear visibility I had ever seen . Must have been great in the snow belt too . At the time the brother was trying to sell it because he found it impossible to drive with his bad back, as did my friend with his bad back . The first dead people I ever saw was when I was maybe 5 years old and we drove up by a recent wreck involving an Isetta that had been hit by a delivery truck . Still remember the blood-stained Isetta . absolutely crushed. Before I saw that it was the car I wanted as did most kids because it was my size. Like the Marlin, though .

    • 0 avatar
      naterator

      What a terrible thing to happen to someone that young. I’m sorry, man. I’ve got a daughter that’s going to be three and I have no idea how I would explain something like that to her.

    • 0 avatar
      geggamoya

      I was slightly older, must have been eight or nine when we arrived at a crash scene where four elderly women in a Polo died in a head-on crash with an Audi 100. One of the women were still screaming / crying, stuck on the backseat of the crumpled Polo beside her dead friend. Two were lying dead on the shoulder of the road. Audi driver suffered no major injuries.

  • avatar
    naterator

    When I was a kid back in the ’70s, standing up in the front seat of my grandma’s 1970-something Cadillac was the norm for our trips around the small town of Justin, Texas (before it became a suburb of Fort Worth). One of my earliest memories was turning off the ignition, then pulling the key out. While it was going down the highway. I don’t know why I remember this, but I instantly regretted that decision and believed the car would explode. Naturally, I started screaming. Losing power steering in a car that heavy couldn’t have been much fun. Especially with a screaming three- or four-year old.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      It’s not that difficult to steer without power assist, even a heavy vehicle, as long as it’s moving. Power steering is really to help you at low speeds, or when the car is stopped.

  • avatar
    kps

    Fender skirts could come back, now that spare tires have been cost-reduced out of existence.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    Growing up in the 60’s, every night hearing how many troops were killed in Nam, how many motorist killed on the highway during whatever big weekend event. Tough times, and I remember busting my head on the dash of my Dad’s 65 Oldsmobile when a guy ran a red light and my Dad nailed the brakes. Yeah, things today might suck but I wouldn’t want to go back.

  • avatar
    kolonelpanik

    The ascendancy of aggressively tasteless form over function of American cars in general, during the last half of the last century, was appalling, wasteful, and lethal. An embarrassment to decency. And please, J Sutherland, don’t say “if he was dead.” If something is not the case, and we want to speculate on the consequences of a counter-factual, then we should say “If it WERE the case…” So, yes, perhaps Mr. Nader would roll over in his grave IF HE WERE dead.” And, while I’m at it, please don’t explain words like “protuberances,” especially partially in terms of the very context in which they appear, i.e., “sharp protuberances (sharp pointy things).” Sharp is sharp, we know that, and if you think we might not know what protuberances are, then just don’t use the word in the first place. A disappointing article about a fascinating subject.

  • avatar
    kolonelpanik

    Whoops, sorry.

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