By on October 29, 2015

regalcoupe

This is Part Two; Part One is found here —JB

The Best & Brightest didn’t contest my point too strongly earlier this week when I suggested that the American family vehicle of choice has long possessed familiar dimensions despite sporting a diverse variety of exterior styles, from “tri-five” to high-hip CUV. Some of you thought it was a point too trite to make — what’s next, some assertion on my point that family cars always have four wheels? — but I think most Americans believe there’s a genuine difference between a Ford Fairmont wagon and a Ford Edge CUV.

If, on the other hand, there is not a genuine difference, it raises the question: What external force constrains it thus? What’s so special about those “A-body” dimensions? What makes us return again and again to the scene of crime, across generations, both human and mechanical?

Or at least that is the question I thought I should be asking, prior to truly thinking about it.


I’ve long held what I think of as the “Descolada” theory of automotive evolution. The Descolada is an intelligent virus that lives on a distant planet. When new life forms appear on that planet, the Descolada contrives a way to mate with that life. (This is also the idea behind another Card book, Wyrms.) The resulting lifeforms look like they did when they arrived on the planet, but they carry the DNA and the genetic legacy of the Descolada.

Today’s Accord and Camry are Descolada cars. They arrived from foreign shores, mated with the local population. The resulting modern cars are effectively ’78 Malibus with the engines turned sideways, made in American factories to fit American drivers and American traffic conditions. The Pilot and Highlander are simply the Vista Cruiser variants.

Just as obviously, it wasn’t the existing cars on the market that changed the Accord and Camry; it was the mindset of the buyers that mated with the new arrivals to the market. That same mindset is what made Ford’s product planners change the Bronco II into the four-door Explorer XLT and it’s how the funky and offbeat RAV4 of the Nineties lost character even as the wheelbase stretched and the family-to-powersports-products ratios in the brochures swung from zero:infinity to omnipresent:insubstantial.

No matter what the marketers and the factories put in front of the American buyer, it eventually becomes that car. The longer a new nameplate is on the market, even if it shouldn’t have anything to do with the core American vehicle, the closer it converges to that core. Look at the idiotic Nissan “Gripz” concept for an example of this. In today’s market, there is an absolute overload of SUVs and CUVs and sports cars are as rare as fresh water in Southern California. So why does one of the last options out there for an enthusiast have to become a CUV?

It’s simple: it will sell better. That’s always been the case. The less “Thunderbird-like” the original Thunderbird became, the better it sold. The more average a specialty car gets, the more of an audience it has. If you don’t believe me, look at how well the Mustang II did in its day.

So the product conforms to the desire, and the desire has always been there. So far so good. But why has the desire always been the same? Hasn’t life in America changed again and again since 1948 or thereabouts? It certainly has. So why hasn’t the desire for that core vehicle changed?

Maybe the key is in that B-body to A-body sales shift that happened in the early ’80s. Could it be that the American consumer really wants a B-body (think Expedition/Tahoe) but has to settle for the A-body? Is it that the A represents a sort of minimum to which the customer will adhere, but the B represents the preferred proportions?

Today’s families are half the size that they were in 1955. Why are the cars the same size? It’s at this point that I’d like to tell you the actual reason, the one that I found in a secret letter at the bottom of a desk drawer in the old Packard plant, but the truth is that I don’t really know why today’s Santa Fe is about the same size as a 1955 Chevrolet.

The best idea I can offer is this: The expectations of the average American grew throughout the past half-century even as the family sizes shrank and the divorces increased. The young American mother doesn’t feel any less entitled to a first-rate family vehicle just because she’s having half as many children; the young American father still wants to have the nicest car in the neighborhood even if he isn’t terribly interested in anything besides video games and his career any more.

Couple that with a relatively static motoring environment over the post-war period in terms of road width and toolbooth height and whatnot, and perhaps that’s enough to explain it. Parking spots are a certain size and garages aren’t going to get bigger in pre-existing houses. And that, coupled with a decrease in childbearing and an increase in television watching, is enough to keep the American car puffed up to a certain minimum size.

Or I could be completely wrong. It could all be a coincidence, could be due to something else entirely. I don’t know. What I want to think is that it’s more important, and more sinister, than that. That there is a machine under a mountain somewhere, broadcasting a single frequency. A frequency to which we must all tune. To do the same things, buy the same things, say the same things, believe the same things. To wake up at the same time and be cordial and be effective and be productive and be consumptive.

That the worth of our individual souls is in due proportion to how broken our antennas are; the less of the signal we get, the better we are. And though the mountain may be telling all of us to buy the same cars, design the same cars, build the same cars; some of us can’t quite hear it. Those people with the broken antennas are truly diverse in the sense that they don’t hold the same mental model as everyone else.

They buy weird little economy jobs and ridiculous sports cars and unnecessary off-roaders and they just don’t seem to feel the need to have the Universal American Car. God bless them; they are the reason the Corvette and every other four-wheeler you’ve ever loved exists. Everybody else is listening to the same frequency, the idea that morphs everything into some undifferentiated whole, a void without form, in endless pursuit of what they already have.

Or, it could just be that the Pontiac Bonneville Model G was that good.

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64 Comments on “No Fixed Abode: Steady Going Nowhere...”


  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Look at all the wasted space (non-passenger/cargo) per inch of overall length in the old 3-box format. Life is better now.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Today’s Accord and Camry are Descolada cars. They arrived from foreign shores, mated with the local population. The resulting modern cars are effectively ’78 Malibus with the engines turned sideways, made in American factories to fit American drivers and American traffic conditions. The Pilot and Highlander are simply the Vista Cruiser variants.

    +1000, J.B. – when I hopped behind the wheel of my Highlander for the first test drive there are two things I’ll always remember.

    1. The idiot salesman who knew about as much about cars as I know about the ridiculously priced high quality shoes Jack Baruth wears. The first thing out his mouth when I told him what I was looking for in a vehicle was: “You like ’em big huh?”

    2. This Highlander rides and handles like my Dad’s old mid 80s Pontiac Parisienne wagon. Nearly 300 hp and AWD is just a bonus. :-)

  • avatar
    Syke

    If you’re correct, then those of us who value motorcycles over automobiles either don’t have the antennae at all – or somewhere deep inside a circuit board is fried.

    Thank ghod.

  • avatar
    jimble

    In 1972 the most popular car in America was the Chevy Impala, all 222 inches of it. Ten years later the most popular car in America was the Ford Escort, all of 169 inches long. How does that wild swing fit with your theory?

  • avatar
    kmars2009

    Being a Gen-Xer, that Regal was a “must have” in the 80’s. Especially one with cornering lamps(Something actually functional in rural areas…you can actually see where to turn…they need a comeback!) and oprea lamps(more of a stylistic fashion item…but looks good on this particular car). In addition, the square roof/backlight are functional, affording much needed rear headroom.
    Anyway, my point being…Americans have always wanted roominess in their cars, regardless of styling. In the past it meant spnding more for the car and for gas. Today it seems you can get that roomy car without breaking the bank. In addition, as far as style goes, people vote with their money. The car companies have a habit of copying each other stylistically. If they’re not copying, they are sometimes stretching the boundaries of ugliness. They also push the CUV thing way too far. Fortunately, Volvo will be bringing back the correct answer with the new V90/S90. Hopefully people will see through this CUV fog they are in, and buy CARS again.

    PS. I do love some crossovers for their wagon-like space. XC90, Mercedes GLE, GLC, GL, Lincoln MKC, Range Rover Evoq, and the new Honda Pilot. Just to name a few. Also, Mercedes E-Class wagon is quite desirable.

    • 0 avatar
      redliner

      “Cornering lamps” never left. They just changed the name to “fog lights” and now they burn continuously. Also, HID headlights with motorised optics that redirect the beam and put out way better lighting than anything from 19xx-anything, make cornering lamps superfluous.

      • 0 avatar
        kmars2009

        Ever owned a car that had them? They light up the FRONT SIDE of the car. No headlight, fog, light, or HID has ever bent light to illuminate the side. The Nissan Maxima had them built into the headlight cluster from 06-08…they were on the bottom side from 04-05. Very smart. Also, those Maximas had HID and fog lights. All Maximas had them for many years…as did the Infiniti I30.
        If you have ever owned a car that had them, you’d understand. So functional. I think the last car to have them was the Lincoln Towncar. All Lincolns had them until the LS came along.
        Anyway, I have a Volvo and Mercedes. Both with HID and fog lights. Neither one can light up the side of the road very well..if only they had cornering lamps.
        They are a simple and useful feature that should be on all cars…along with turn signal repeaters, like on my Volvo and on the mirror of the Mercedes.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          My Golf SportWagen (which has the optional Lighting Package) has both fog lamps and cornering lamps, the latter of which consist of little bulbs in the headlamp assemblies that are aimed diagonally toward the sides of the car. If I start to turn the wheel or put on the signal and am below a certain speed, the respective cornering lamp fades on, and then it fades off when the signal goes off or when I’ve straightened the wheel again. They really are helpful. It will, naturally, disable the cornering lamps if the fog lamps are switched on.

          Speaking of lamps that are literally mounted to the sides of the car I recall the Cadillac Deville and DTS also having them. But those swiveling headlamps are a lot more costly, unnecessarily so.

          • 0 avatar
            dolorean

            Cornering lamps seem to the de riguer of die Auto am Deutschland jetzt. Every new car has a lamp that comes on with the turn signal and turns off once off. Funny how we had this first in the States and now wax nostalgic about it.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          Troopers have/had the turning light. I love mine.

          • 0 avatar
            kmars2009

            So did old Saabs(pre GM)…also came on in reverse…so cool!

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Forgot about the benefits of cornering lamps until I was driving my new ride last night. The HiD lamp, while 100% superior in every other dynamic – falls down on the cornering part. Even if you have cornering HiD lights, they don’t show you the corner until you’re MAKING the turn. Cornering lamps show you before you shuffle the wheel.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    How’s this for whacky conspiracy theories:
    Bark broke your leg after reading that smack about nail polish, and now he’s incarcerated and can’t contribute.
    Bark wrote a less than glowing report on the GT350 experience and Ford had Vertical Scope shred his TTAC badge.

    BRING BACK BARK!
    BRING BACK BARK!

  • avatar
    ltcmgm78

    I posit that: Average Americans buy cars that “fit” and are sprinkled with enough “conveniences” but still are affordable and do not appear to be risky.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Jack, you touched on but glided over the obvious answers:
    1) Roads are not going to get any wider
    2) Garages and driveways on existing homes are not going to get any bigger
    3) Any vehicle that hopes to sell in North America must be able to fit 2 ‘average’ sized North Americans into the front seats. Hence width (shoulder/hip) and headroom has to be fairly standardized
    4) The majority of North American buyers still use price to size equations. ‘The largest vehicle for the money’. Thus the inflated sales figures for something like the Dodge Journey which has abysmal quality/reliability scores but which sells for less than an upgraded hatchback.
    5) Referring to 3 & 4, most consumers still need to fit in groceries and at least 2 additional family members on occasion and buy accordingly.
    6) Child car seats!!!!!!!!!

    As for quirky vehicles, how did that work for Saab? Or the Scion Xb?

    Personally I just wish for more glass and higher rooflines. The current predilection for lozenge shaped vehicles is maddening and does not maximize their interior capacity.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      “Personally I just wish for more glass and higher rooflines.”

      :-D

    • 0 avatar
      cwallace

      Saabs weren’t quirky in format, only in execution. They were still hatchbacks, wagons and sedans; just with plenty of Swedish “form follows function” design decisions that made them both uniquely styled and uniquely weird in engineering execution.

      (And that’s probably what did them in– those who wanted something just a little different weren’t prepared for the tradeoff in reliability. At least, that’s what my final decision was on the blasted things. Took me two tries to learn the lesson, though!)

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        What killed Saab is the fact that GM was going bankrupt and had to appear to be doing something in order to get handouts. Nothing else. I’m sure GM would love to have Saab back; premium European midsize cars/crossovers with 2 liter turbocharged engines are the hottest (non-pickup) segment.

        Little-known fact: Saab’s best-selling years were 2006 and 2007. They were on a roll until the financial meltdown, and they would have come out of it just fine.

        • 0 avatar
          derekson

          No, what killed Saab was their insistence at engineering every tiny detail regardless of the cost. Even when GM made them use common components to cut costs, they’d re-engineer details of them (at high cost) to meet their higher standards. It made for nice vehicles but it wasn’t a sustainable business. Even stuff like their infotainment system was completely different from the GM common stuff despite using similar hardware because they spent a ton of money re-engineering the software.

          Ultimately the only way it could have worked successfully would have been if another division/brand of GM (or two) were allowed to use Saab’s custom designs (maybe Buick or Oldsmobile and/or Opel).

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        Can any Saab cognoscenti tell me why the wrap-around windshield found on Saabs of the ’70s and ’80s is no longer used by anyone?

        Was curving the horizontal line of those relatively upright windshields simply aerodynamically inefficient compared to just putting more and more recline in a flatter windshield? Or did pedestrian safety issues intervene?

        I’d sure rather have a taller, curvy windshield than these 30⁰ wonders of today where even pickups are putting the RVM right in my line of sight.

  • avatar
    theoldguard

    Another variable to factor in would be average weight of driver in each decade. We are a bit more “stocky” these days.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    It clearly is hard to slide down from a fêted youth and realize you’re just another data point for health care investors.

    But I’ve seen less creative odes to rugged individualism.

  • avatar
    xflowgolf

    We like ’em big.

    Look at our houses.

    I’ve read elsewhere the average home size in 1959 was something like 1000sf. The average home size today is something like 2000sf.

    That, while our families are smaller.

    I’d say by comparison our car choices are almost reasonable. We don’t have double the space, but we have more space via less children, while more of everything else crammed into the same vessel (power/safety/luxury/entertainment) and with technology the efficiency likely increased too.

    Comparatively, in the past few years I moved from a 1940’s built home of approximately 1000sf. to a fairly modern (90’s built) home of more than double the square footage. My A/C electric bill and heat bill went DOWN after moving.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      This is what I was thinking. Sure, most families only have a kid or two; but they travel now with more stuff than ever. And while in the back they may have strapped that stuff on the roof rack, or tossed it in the boat they were towing; neither happens much anymore.

      I recently dragged out the model railroad layout I had when I was a kid in the 70s. The Plasticville houses, gas station, and other buildings looked about right then; but look so tiny compared to the McMansions, big box stores, and big chain gas stations we have nowdays. I could barely fit a Super Wal-Mart and it’s parking lot inside the inside oval of my layout. Really changed my perspective on how much things have changed; along with prolifiration of electronics.

  • avatar

    The average American is a lot heavier than s/he was in the ’50s and ’60s, and since we have buckets instead of benches up front, more space is needed for the derriere

    All those kids that you used to be able to crowd into the back seat and the way-back now have to each have their own seat belt. So if you are going to be carting around your kids and their friends, you NEED three seats.

    That said, Jack is correct that Americans feel entitled to all the space they can get. The average size of houses is probably more than twice what it was 50 years ago, despite the fact that people have fewer kids, and often no kids. (1200 sq ft was common back then.) I live in the same neighborhood where I did eight years of my growing up; the average number of kids back then (’60s) was probably 3-plus; now, maybe 0.5.

  • avatar
    skitter

    Minivans and SUVs are better suited to three rows of seating. Once families with more than two kids or carpools could no longer take the rear bench and jam five across with two on the parcel shelf, the sedan had no answer and lost that part of the market. Then, to add injury to insult, front bench seats largely disappeared from cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      The only people that would fit in a bench seat in a Camry are children. Children under 12 aren’t supposed to be in front seats anyway due to the airbags. The airbag killed the bench seat in anything narrower than a full size truck.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Not that I drink the anti-crossover Kool-Aid that seems to be so plentiful here on TTAC, but I’m inclined to agree. A lot of three-row SUVs seem ill-suited to their actual use as such. Even the Tahoe’s third row is cramped. Minivans tend to do it much better.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        The Tahoe/Suburban and their relatives suffer in the third row mostly because of GM’s continued insistence on a solid axle, so you essentially sit on the floor.

        http://image.automobilemag.com/f/65033477+w660+h440+q80+re0+cr1+ar0+st0/2015-chevrolet-suburban-third-row-seats.jpg

        By having IRS, the Expedition, Sequoia, Armada, and all three-row CUVs at least do better vertically, though I couldn’t say how much lateral room you get.

        http://www.cars.com/crp/vp/images/13ford_expedition/2013_Ford_Expedition_EL_3rdrow.jpg

        Of course, none of them are nearly as good as having no axle at all.

  • avatar
    david42

    Good observations: we have a fairly stable set of needs, so it’s no surprise that the manufacturers conform to them.

    What’s interesting is how individuals want to perceive themselves as different–everyone likes to THINK that they’re the special snowflake with the broken antenna. I think this is one reason why nameplates get shuffled. A model develops some cachet by being a bit on the fringes due to its design, then it gets homogenized into an A-body so that the manufacturer can cash in on the brand equity. Of course, then you have to develop a new model for the cool kids…. Wash, rinse, repeat:
    RAV-4
    3-series, A4 (not the C-class, though)
    Camry, Altima, Accord
    Civic
    Grand Cherokee (Wagoneer)
    Infiniti EX (or whatever the heck it is now that it got stretched)
    You can probably think of more…

    Not saying that it explains everything, or that all cars are subject to this effect… but it explains a lot.

  • avatar
    cretinx

    The mountain/antenna theory has to be the explanation for why I bought a Lotus instead of a Corvette.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    Descolada, why don’t you come to your senses?

    Vanilla-mobiles have always been the bread and butter of automotive sales, and there have always been quirky offerings for the rest of us. The big questions we need to ask are why it is no longer profitable for large manufacturers to make niche vehicles with unique platforms, and why it is hard for small manufacturers like Mazda to remain profitable without merging with, say, Toyota and Ford.

    On the plus side, Descolada, you ain’t gettin’ no younger, but you are getting better.. ’82 Fairmont vs. ’16 Fusion? ’82 Cressida vs. ’16 Camry? ’82 Accord vs. ’16 Accord? Which is quieter, roomier, goes further on a tank of gas, and can get around Mid-Ohio faster?

  • avatar
    its me Dave

    I’ve always thought the return-center-phenomenon Baruth’s taking about was driven by the “I wouldn’t be caught dead driving what my square old man drove, but yeah, build me a family car that does basically the same thing with maybe a bit better performance please” demand that comes from every single new generation.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Jack,

    I don’t think you’ll get much controversy with this article or the previous one. Almost all post-WW2 best-selling cars in the US have been between 180 and 200 inches. The only exceptions are the mid-60s Impala and (briefly) the Escort during the Reagan recession.

    I guess that’s just the sweet spot for 2.3 kids and a week’s worth of groceries. Anything bigger confines you to the faraway spots at the mall, and anything smaller won’t fit the whole family.

    That’s why I don’t think that we’ll all end-up in small crossovers. Anything smaller than a CR-V is a niche product.

  • avatar
    Joss

    The American coupe past, screams baby IKE pram to me.

  • avatar
    pbr

    Keep going, Jack, work in the rise of pickups as passenger vehicles.

  • avatar
    Toad

    Cars are appliances, with a little bit of social/economic signalling thrown in. Most people buy the appliance that best suits their needs, and the needs of most people fit within fairly well defined parameters.

    Most washing machines are square, white, and about 3 feet tall; that’s not a conspiracy, it just happens to be the packaging the fits the function and needs of most people. Like cars vs. CUV’s/trucks, about half of washing machines are top loaders vs. about half are front loaders on pedestals.

    Most cars fit withing a couple of templates because that is what works for the vast majority of people. Mass production creates affordable, reliable products at the expense of customization and variety in most consumer goods; cars are no exception.

  • avatar

    This was a hugely enjoyable essay wth many fine responses! Thank you to all.

  • avatar
    anomaly149

    I think the reason that the American standard family hauler is this particular size is because of marketing positioning. This sized vehicle is market / cost* positioned to appeal to the major family buyer (500$/month, 30k$, and the equivalent throughout the ages). And a lot of the reason I think that companies market segment the way they do because of endless piles of legacy metrics. (CD segment means should be targeted at families of Y demographic, XX cubic feet, Z horsepower, etc., revised up and down as the most popular in class moves about)

    *An automobile’s cost is only tenuously related to its size. The cost difference between a comparably equipped C and D segment vehicle is a LOT less than the MSRP difference.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    A “family car” is a function of both passenger carrying capacity and price point.

    Other options are available, we just give them different names. You could get a limousine to transport your family and their groceries in greater comfort, but why would you bother?

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    I’m going to quote my comment from Mr. Cole’s “Crapwagon Outtake” from a few months ago on the Regal T-Type Turbo:

    “I’ve mentioned a couple other times on here that it would be neat to have drawings done of what a modern-day interpretation of a Cutlass or Regal might look like, both exterior and the inside, particularly the dash. Yes, all modern safety requirements would have to be met.

    For some reason, the interior (specifically the IP) really intrigues me! Could the rectilinear look of the Cutlass dash be preserved? The sweep speedo would have to go, but perhaps the “Rallye Pack” could be rendered in a TFT display.

    Same with the Regal and it’s more rectangular dash which extended below the steering column: the three-binnacle affair of the ’78-’83 Regal (and ’78-’81 Century) wouldn’t translate too well, and neither would the IP from ’84-’87, but a conservative-looking take on the Borg-Warner IP of the GNX, again in a TFT display, would look nice.

    The HVAC controls always sat atop the radio in these cars in the little “pod” off to the side, within easy reach of the driver. (Actually, the ergonomics in these weren’t all bad!) Move that whole pod up a little higher in the dash and put the two HVAC vents next to it, and put a GM infotainment unit and HVAC controls in there, and you’d have it! (A full-length console with a shifter would terminate where the infotainment/HVAC “pod” sat, and you could put a small storage bin, 12-volt port, infotainment connections, etc., there!”

    In another recent thread, I mentioned that a Cutlass could even have the steering wheel (from ’82 on) preserved somewhat since the center hub (though without horn controls) could house an airbag; make the two spokes a little bigger, and you could put all the usual infotaincruiseBluetooth stuff in there without much trouble. Don’t know about the Buick — you might have to settle for the generic GM “cow tongue” wheel. Despite curtain airbags, make the A-pillars thin.

    As far as the outside, use the ’87 Cutlass Classic Coupe front-end as a basis, then lower the hood and sweep back the grille a bit for aero and Darwin-prevention regs, but for Lord’s sake, don’t pull the headlights back to the cowl like cars do nowadays! Keep the sedan profile upright (but let the windows in the back roll down :-) ), with a character line or two to break things up. Yes, put gen-you-wine WIRE wheels on the thing, or Rallyes on the Olds! As for the coupes, do the same things as the sedans, with framed doors! The upright profile would look fine! Of course, all lighting should be L! E! D! Tweak the outside mirrors to evoke the look of the classic GM “sport” mirror, with a modern take for aero, signals, etc.

    B&B, who’s up to it? :-)

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    We may have less kids but we now have to place them in baby seats, then car seats, and then booster seats. As others have pointed out , we also have gotten heavier/larger.
    I suspect that it all boils down to the fact that virtually everything has a “sweet spot”. Unisex one size fits all also applies to cars.

  • avatar
    alexndr333

    Underlying all the other issues around the size of cars we buy is the basic concept of “human factors” design: Most of us are in a certain range of physical size and reach, and that the interior of a car need only meet the sweet spot of that range for 90% of the driving experience – holding the wheel, reaching the pedals, manipulating the secondary controls.

    As such, the A-bodied cars met the ideal physical interior environment for most of us. When GM “down-sized” the A-body, they wrapped around this ideal interior an efficient cage and gave us the 1978 Malibus, Cutlasses, etc.

    We don’t live on human factors alone, however. We want other kinds of cars for other reasons: Status goals, emotional reactions, where we live, expected commutes, and the other parts of our personality / life. So, we buy vehicles that vary from the A-body model and buy bigger / smaller / two-wheel / sport / truck, etc.

    I’ll wager that interiors of American cars of the 1950’s were not much different in dimension that the A-bodies of the ’80s’. But, those big Buick LeSabres and Pontiac Chieftians were surrounded by huge, over-wrought cages to satisfy a temporary, post-World War II national ego-trip. When the oil embargo came along in 1973, we woke up and found those cars were ‘inefficient’ in their size and use of materials.

    Ultimately, the late 1970’s A-bodies were the first to optimize the interior with the exterior. We now recognize them as pure design from an efficiency stand-point, and the all subsequent “mid-size” sedans (Accords, Camrys, etc.) are successors to those A-bodies.

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