By on December 11, 2018

Greg Gjerdingen/Flickr

My bedroom as a kid was pretty typical. While there wasn’t much in the way of sports paraphernalia (and certainly no trophies… God, no), there were cars on the wall. Glossy, glitzy side-on shots of all the cars a young boy in the late ’80s would want.

There was a Countach and a Testarossa (kids aren’t known for their subtle and refined taste), plus the appropriately revered and attainable Mustang GT. I don’t think Vanilla Ice had yet come out with his one hit, so I was ahead of the curve on that, at least among my classmates. Keep in mind that I grew up in a land populated primarily by Oldsmobile and Chevy sedans — no one owned a sports car of any pedigree, and it was the early 1990s before a German came to town.

Ah, but the classics. That’s truly where my heart lay. Joining those Miami Vice denizens on my bedroom walls was a quintessential American classic that couldn’t have churned greater excitement and awe in young Steph’s heart. I roll my eyes at this vehicle now.

It’s the 1957 Chevrolet, be it in Bel Air, 210, or 150 form. That thing’s a grotesquery.

Young Steph admired the machine for not being his grandfather’s 1986 Olds Cutlass sedan, or perhaps the first-gen Ford Tauruses he saw cruising past the schoolyard. It was not his mother’s Pontiac Phoenix, either. It has style popping out of its bra — er, bumper guards. That pair of rakish tailfins could slice deli meat all day. And wrap-around windshields? Ka-pow!

Again, kids aren’t always paragons of good taste. I’d have probably said that sherry cask single-malt was gross at the time, but adulthood taught me otherwise. It also taught me that there’s far greater ’57 American cars to look at and long for — practically all of them. Yes, Studebaker included.

Janet Leigh’s ’57 Ford Custom 300 in Psycho? A beauty, and apparently a decent used buy for embezzlers on the run. Any ’57 Plymouth? Same deal, though owners probably wished they’d picked up the Chevy after a few year’s time. You’re also more likely to beat the Chevy in a race (especially on a twisty course). Dodge and Imperial? Bingo. The Buicks and Olds models of ‘1957, especially in two-door form, were underrated styling successes, innocent to the bloat that would occur in a year’s time. The same can be said of Lincoln.

In comparison, the ’57 Chevy is a desperate attempt to tart up a ’55 model with the “Suddenly, it’s 1960!” styling cues that so tempted buyers that year. Its base six-cylinder belonged to an engine family that originated in 1937. General Motors swapped the ’56 model’s 15-inch wheels for 14-inchers on the ’57 in an crass attempt to lower the bulky brick and give it a slinkier, road-hugging appearance. Over at Chrysler Corp, the cars actually hugged the pavement. Meanwhile, the profile-lengthening tailfins didn’t jibe with the model’s blunt, conservative face.

There’s better ’57s to lust after, and they’re everywhere. Yes, several innovations appeared on the secretly old ’57 Chevy, among them fuel injection and tubeless tires, but we’re all about looks today.

What’s your story? What vehicle did you spend years lusting over as a kid, only to reverse course in the years since?

[Image: Greg Gjerdingen/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)]

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52 Comments on “QOTD: Are You All Out of Love?...”


  • avatar
    dont.fit.in.cars

    Didn’t lust for one because I grew up in a two door 66 Chevelle Malibu, buckets and 4 on the floor. Dad was a stop light to stop guy, after mastering the drift on Georgia clay, mom would wrap it out in first and dump it into fourth. Horror came when he sold it at the request of mom for a 70 Chevy wagon.

    Seeing one no matter the condition forms a smile but have no interest in pursuing one to live my youth.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with love for the Countach, so long as it’s an LP400 (one of the periscopo cars), before they went crazy with the wings, scoops, and fender flares.

  • avatar
    jatz

    As daily drivers I wouldn’t for a moment consider wading out into today’s traffic in any of my old loves.

    As masterpieces of industrial sculpture affordable to all in a uniquely, nay, breathtakingly if only temporarily fortunate nation, I love them more with each passing day.

    Darn near anything ’49 to ’63 spins my prop.

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    Just trying to imagine a MFR putting SMALLER wheels on a new model today – wow.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I don’t hate the ’57 Chevy – to me it’s just meh, like a Camry. If you really want to set me off, hang fuzzy dice from the rearview mirror.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    “Janet Leigh’s ’57 Ford Custom 300 in Psycho? A beauty, and apparently a decent used buy for embezzlers on the run.”

    I just watched that last week. What was her trade-in worth, anyway? She traded in a ’55 Ford Mainline, and gave the guy $700 in cash plus the ’55, for a three-year-old Custom 300.

    The funny thing about the ’57 Fords? They outsold the ’57 Chevy when new, but today the popularity has flipped. Yep.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    Dad bought on of these new in ’57. White over Dusk Pearl, Bel Air, two-door hardtop, 283 with the Power Pack option, and Powerglide. I remember the silver buttons on the upholstery. He traded his 1955 white over green two-door post 210 (Stovebolt 6, Powerglide) for it. Same size inside. I preferred the ’55 as it had a less cluttered look to me even as a 6-year old kid.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Six-year-old you had better taste than six-year-old I. As a young child, I thought the ’57 was the neatest of the Tri-Fives. I must have been about 10 or so when my father pointed out that the ’55s were nicer looking for exactly the reason you state. (Background: He is correct but also biased. When he got his driver’s license, his family got a new ’55 Bel Air convertible as a second car. It wasn’t his car per se, but he probably put more miles on it than either of his parents did.)

      – – –

      “Its base six-cylinder belonged to an engine family that originated in 1937.” That’s a dubious criticism. #1, engine families tend to stick around for a long time. There’s nothing inherently wrong with an engine that has 20-year-old DNA. #2, Chevy (and Buick) were ahead of the curve in offering OHV engines. Now if the base engine in the ’57 Chevy had been a side-valve I6, that would be worth noting.

  • avatar
    TR4

    “General Motors swapped the ’56 model’s 15-inch wheels for 14-inchers on the ’57 in an crass attempt to lower the bulky brick and give it a slinkier, road-hugging appearance. Over at Chrysler Corp, the cars actually hugged the pavement.”

    Smaller diameter wheels were a fashion trend in the late ’50s/’60s. Some examples:

    MG went from 15″ on the MGA to 14″ on the MGB in 1962
    Volkswagen buses went from 15″ to 14″ in 1968
    ’66 Dodge Polara had 14″ wheels
    Original Morris Mini-Minor had 10″ wheels

    • 0 avatar
      pwrwrench

      TR4, Actually the VW bus had 14″ wheels as an option starting with the 1963 models for the USA. They were part of a package that had a higher GVW. Along with the wheels and tires were wider drum brakes, stiffer torsion bars, and more engine power. Initially by being a 1.5L instead of a 1.2. Then with different cylinder heads. By the 1966 models the 1500 cc model was the only one sold in the USA.
      Also the 14″ tires had the same diameter as the 15s they replaced, but the 14s were wider and had a higher load rating.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I can accept not liking the ’57 Chevy, but preferring the even more tarted up ’57 Mopars as an alternative is a bad take.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      I have to disagree. GM’s 1957 cars looked tall, blunt, and boxy next to the lower and sleeker ’57 Mopars – particularly the Plymouth, Chrysler, and Desoto. The Mopars did get tarted up for the worse in subsequent years, though.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      @tonyola, I always that 57-58 was peak Virgil Exner “forward look.” After that things got excessive and weird. And of course GM was late to the party then overdid it with those hideous bat wing Chevy fins. I never liked tri-5’s finding them “fat” as a kid and just outdated, but thats GM. On the trailing edge, not the leading, but I understand the Chevy’s were reasonably reliable so that counts I guess.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I don’t have a specific vehicle to answer this question, but I’ll go with the Jaguar brand as a whole. I f*cking loved Jaguars growing up and now that I finally earn enough to buy a new one they’ve abandoned nearly everything I liked about them. I still gave it a go with an XE test drive when I was last shopping but it was the most disappointing car I tried.

  • avatar
    boozysmurf

    Probably the closest is the second generation Camaro. I had a bunch of buddies in high school who I “learned” cars from, and they were all chevy guys, so given that HS for me was 87-92, $500 Camaro’s were the real deal, and I never had one. Today, I cringe a little at my desire for those cars, especially the clunky, slow, ’77-80’s that we usually found cheap.

    The opposite is true of another car – I had a buddy who had an ’86 Merkur XR4ti, and I made fun of him relentlessly for his “tarted up escort”. Knowing what I know now about those cars, I am seriously considering an XR4Ti/Sierra Cosworth project car to replace my Genesis Coupe. Apologies to Omar – he was right about that car back then, and I didn’t figure it out until about 1999 or so.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    There’s so many that I lusted after, but as long as were on the 50s then it would be the ’59 Cadillac, because if you’re going to lust after something with fins then go big or go home

    My REAL lust lies with the year 1963, more specifically the Avanti, Riviera and Corvette

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Agreed. White on white 59 Eldorado Biarritz convertible. The only vehicle that I ever made money on. And the one that I still want.

      Failing that a Mark IV. Pucci edition please.

      One vehicle that we disparaged and that I have now grown to like would be the ‘big’ Mustangs. Another that was grossly underestimated would be the 1st generation Cougar. The ‘gentlemans muscle car’.

      Another which is slowly gaining recognition is the original AMX. A 1960’s American muscle car that actually had handling/touring abilities.

      And then there is the ‘Superbird’. Many of these just sat on dealer lots. Now they might be considered to be the Holy Grail for muscle car enthusiasts.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        More than a few times I have wished that my 1967 Mustang convertible was the same thing but a Cougar. With Cougars it is a case of the first still being the best.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          1st gen Cougars were gorgeous. When I was little my dad gave me a key chain with a small Viewmaster attached with a single slide of the original Cougar in it. It was my prized possession

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        Never disparaged the ‘big’ Mustangs, because a buddy of mine I did autocross and sprints with had one. ’72 fastback. Ran it at Nelson’s Ledges quite often. Was with him on I-79 when he got nailed on PA State Police radar doing well into the mid 100’s. He saw the cop and knew he was dead, immediately pulled over. The cop had to back up almost half a mile since he immediately hauled off after the expected runner.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    3rd Generation Camaro (1982-1992) and it’s Firebird sister. Lusted after them as kids and now realize that they were such poorly built rattletraps and the majority sold with such subpar engines that they were mostly worthy of derision.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I guess if I had to pick something specific, it’d be this, specifically the later Firebird/T/As and IROC-Zs.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        Same here. I remember thinking an IROC-Z Camaro was most awesome thing ever as an 80s high schooler, but now I know better.

        I also remember thumbing thru various catalogs and back pages of auto mags dreaming of various mods to make my car cool. However all that stuff was tacky junk.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    A lot of the cars I lusted after were 60s muscle cars. The macho looks, the rumbling exhaust, the sound of the secondaries opening up.. Growing up in the malaise era of performance, anything that made over 250hp was considered amazing.

    It’s the modern horsepower wars that has put the damper on my enthusiasm for those old cars, which are now very overpriced, and, except for a few exceptions, not as fast as your run-of-the-mill turbocharged 4-cyl Mustang / BMW / etc.

    Add in the lack of airbags, ABS, stability, and traction control and I wonder how I survived all the stupidity of my youth.

  • avatar
    volvo

    For me the MBZ 300SL has not stood the test of time (although auction prices would disagree).
    The 280SL which is a 1960s car has

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    When I was a kid, my dad raced, so anything slower than his 2600lb, 650hp GT1 car, I considered a stone, and not worthy. I’ve since grown to appreciate street cars, but I still don’t have a whole lot of time for big honkin’ supercars that are too fast for the street and too heavy for the track. I’ll happily take a big grand tourer, though – an Aston or an AMG GT.

    Also: “Young Steph admired the machine for not being his grandfather’s 1986 Olds Cutlass sedan” – this, ironically, is why the guys at Jalopnik thirst for 1986 Olds Cutlass sedans: They’re not their grandfathers’ E34 3-series.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      If I could find an un-donked, fully-loaded ‘86 Cutlass Sedan in good shape with minimal investment in NOS parts to make it somewhat show-worthy, I’d have that for a summer toy.

      Good luck on that, since any decent ones left DO get wheels off 747s, sound systems that could bring multistory buildings down, driver’s seats reclined permanently at a 60-degree angle, or are used to cushion the landing of a monster-truck!

  • avatar
    Syke

    My views on 50’s Chevies will always be jaundiced by seeing them first hand, brand new, sitting in the showroom of my father’s dealership. 1953 is the earliest memory I have.

    1953 – Corvette, wow!
    1954 – Thought it was a nicer car than the ’53 when new, but couldn’t figure out why (well, I was only 4 at the time). In later years, I realized that the change of a few trim pieces (turn signals, taillights, etc.) made all the difference. Dad had a butterscotch and white Bel Air two door hardtop, just like the dealer promotional model I’ve got sitting in my office cabinet.
    1955 – The classic Chevy, although I like the ’54 just as much. Don’t remember dad’s car at all, though.
    1956 – Well, they HAD to change something. Also, the first of dad’s cars I really remember, as the night he brought it home (Bel Air four door hardtop, white on red) was the night he rushed me to the hospital with a temperature of 104-105 and lobar pneumonia. When I was older I was told that I almost died that night.
    1957 – The single most overrated automobile in American car history. First off, the styling was dowdy, that was the first time Ford outsold Chevrolet in something like twenty years. Secondly, it was NOT a rock and roll icon in 1957. It was just the new Chevrolet. And Plymouth was making both Chevrolet and Ford look bad. All that other credit came 4-5 years later. I think dad had a black Bel Air 2-door hardtop with red interior.
    1958 – The most beautiful Chevrolet of the Fifties. Sill remember dad’s silver blue Impala two door hardtop very well. Really was unhappy when that one got traded in for the newer model.
    1959 – What the hell were they thinking? Don’t remember dad’s car, but that was the first year the family had two cars, as mom got a brown and tan Brookwood (or whatever the Bel Air level car was called) station wagon. No doubt dad had an Impala 2-door hardtop again, I just don’t remember it.

  • avatar

    The ’57 Chevy may have lost the battle, but it won the war.

    Ford, with an all-new lower/longer/wider body for ’57, beat Chevy and their 3rd-year facelift in model-year sales.

    BUT the Ford was a rustbucket.
    Plymouth was a rustbucket – AND a total POS, that along with the rest of the ’57 MoPars, did great damage to ChryCo.

    However, as a used car, you couldn’t beat a ’57 Chevy – or its ’55-’56 brethren. Except for Turboglide-equipped cars, or had one of the 2,200-some Fuel Injection models and didn’t understand it, the Tri-Fives were rock-solid, stylish, well-engineered and durable for their day.

    It would arguably be 1965 – or maybe even ’69 – before another full-size Chevrolet appeared with such competent road manners.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      And that’s why the Tri-Fives are such classics. They survived, while the competition didn’t. You couldn’t give away a ’57 Ford or Plymouth in ’62, while the Chevies were holding value better than the Buicks.

      Dad’s cars were always the top of the line 2-door hardtop (’56 four door and ’60 convertible were exceptions) with Powerglide and whatever small block was the main selling engine always with the two-barrel. One year he did Turboglide, never again. I think it was his ’58.

      Dad’s choice in cars was totally based on whatever would be the easiest to move the following fall when he got his new one. The ’60 Impala convertible was the one exception, he got it because his son really, really, really wanted a convertible. And mom made sure it never happened again, by making his life miserable on every Sunday right that he put the top down.

    • 0 avatar
      jatz

      “It would arguably be 1965 – or maybe even ’69 – before another full-size Chevrolet appeared with such competent road manners.”

      I back & forthed between Ia. City and Burlington in the late ’70s with my ’66 Impala 2-door on old highway 218.

      “Great White Woman” very competently handled repeatedly driving with 2 tires on the shoulder whenever something wide came at me.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    ’59 Chevy. Simply sexy, especially in 2-door forms.

  • avatar
    relton

    I lusted after the 2004 Bentley Continental GT when it came out. Now I’ve got one in the garage.

    One of the beauties of the 57 Chevy is the perfect proportions, length to width to height. I can see why these are lusted after more than the perhaps better styled Chrysler products.

  • avatar
    mikey

    “that thing’s a grotesquery ” …Steph….that cut deep Dude ! . Though .I’ll forgive the blasphemy .

    The 57 Chevy is the most beautiful vehicle to have ever rolled off the assembly line. I wanted a 57 when I was 10 years old. 55 years later I still want one.

    @ Syke…My life long friend thought like you..We debated the merits of the 57 vs the 58 for one H of a long time.!

    Adorning my bedroom walls circa 1969-1972 would be a 72 Charger S.E…A 1957 Chevy Bell-Air convertible Black, with a red interior. (Seems to me I cut the ad out an old magazine ? ) Next was a 69 Chevelle SS396 rag top. I lusted for all three, and in nearly 50 years of buying vehicles I never snagged one.

    Speaking of lust, Gracie Slick had a prominent place on the wall. The old timers here might remember the “Zappa el Crapa” poster. My mother thought it was disgusting. Of course what long haired wannabe trippy hippie didn’t have the Desiderata poster.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      I remember the poster as “Phi Zappa Crappa” and it was real popular in the dorm rooms at Gannon College back then. And Grace Slick? Absolutely to die for. She was my definition of the “smokey” woman during the Surrealistic Pillow era.

      And for the ’58 model year, Chevrolet and Cadillac were the only attractive designs. And the Chevy blew away the Caddy.

    • 0 avatar
      Jagboi

      “The 57 Chevy is the most beautiful vehicle to have ever rolled off the assembly line”

      Enzo Ferrari disagrees, calling the Jaguar E Type “The most beautiful car in the world”. I happen to agree with him.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    I can’t think of any car I loved as a kid but dont like now. The opposite is true in some cases, as in 1970s Hondas and Datsuns.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    I had a Lamborghini Miura on my bedroom wall.

  • avatar
    scott25

    When I was a kid my favourite car was the Pacer, which hasn’t dulled much. I also loved the original RX300 and Aztek though, thought they were both so cool looking. Of course now I wouldn’t take either of them for free.

  • avatar
    Boff

    My taste in cars hasn’t changed much since I turned 16 in 1985. I most lusted after the E30 3-series and the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16. Now, my wife drives an F80 M3 which is kind of a modern mashup of those two. I also had a soft spot for British and Italian roadsters, an itch that is scratched and then some by my ND MX-5. I also fell hard for the 944, and I owned a 944S2 for two glorious years. I never went for the exotics. Now, my taste in music, on the other hand, has definitely evolved since then!

  • avatar
    NOSLucasWiringSmoke

    When I was a teenager the exoticar ideal shifted from the Coketach…er, Countach and Testarossa to the Lamborghini Diablo, which made news by breaking the 200 mph top speed barrier. More attainable dreams were the later Fox-bodied Mustang GT and 5.0 LX (and to a lesser extent the F-bodies) which were all the rage with the guys who had Motor Trend or Road and Track inside their textbooks in school (guilty).

    I think the Tri-Five Chevys attained icon status over their competition because the ’55 represented such a revolution compared to the couple of decades of conservative, incremental Chevys that had preceded it. Park a ’55 Chevy next to a ’54 (not to dis the ’54 Chevy, which was solid and successful in its day) and it looks like Buck Rogers’ spaceship landed alongside a DC-3. The ’55-57 blew away a generation of brand-loyal Chevy enthusiasts, and their quality ensured that younger enthusiasts would enjoy them as second and third owners for many years to come. That’s what makes a legend.

  • avatar
    psychoboy

    Either I’ve always known what I would grow to like, or all my taste is in my mouth, because 13 yr old me and 43 yr old me still want all the same cars:

    1959 Bel Air
    any year Muira
    chrome bumper C3
    79-80 Prelude
    any year LM002
    88-91 Prelude
    DeLorean
    Boattail Riviera

    Clearly both of us have little use for reliability, efficiency, or practicality.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    I had a plastic model of a Porsche 904 that I had glued together. I thought that it was the best.

  • avatar
    WallMeerkat

    I guess that as I got older, the cars have gotten older and would be a nightmare to keep running now. Countach, F40, would be great as a collectors ornament, but driving them I would need a breakdown support crew for piece of mind.

    Still want a DeLorean mind. Built 10 miles from where I grew up, the Back to the Future films, they still look great (thanks in part to not having popup lights I reckon)

  • avatar

    Always like the 55 better than the 57 Chevy. Don’t really know why other than it “looked” faster, if that makes any sense. Since the question was what has flipped since “way back when” I’d have to say nothing has so far. I do think I appreciate some models more now as their lines have become a bit more appealing than when they first appeared. Most likely due to what I was comparing them to at the time.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    I thought of an answer, the “aero” Ford Crown Victoria (1992-1997, esp. the 95-7). Always thought they were good looking and that I’d love to have one…till I grew up and drove a few, then the lust turned into loathing.

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