QOTD: Bucking the Big Three?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd bucking the big three

It may have escaped your notice, but things aren’t quite the same lately. I look at my hands more, wondering if the side of my right index finger escaped a good scrubbing 6 minutes earlier. The sight of a box of cookies bought two weeks ago prompts mental calculations about viral half-lives on semi-porous surface areas. For someone who’s already a germaphobe, the past three months has offered all the merriment and relaxation of a POW on bridge-building duty.

And to think I visited the dentist for a filling in January. Where had those hands been?

One calming pastime unrelated to work or worry (and maybe serving as an an antidote to both), involves the silver screen. I watch films. Old films. Bad ones, good ones… terrible ones. All in an environment free of mucus and saliva droplets ejected at terrifying speed from the filthy mouths of strangers.

In plundering the internet’s endless vaults of public domain and illegally ripped-off films, I keep returning to one era: an era where men don a suit and tie to hop in the shower and women are both tough and feminine. Where smoking is encouraged in both chemical labs and birthing rooms. And where every hoodlum’s pocket and moll’s purse holds a snubnose .38 loaded with 158-grain round nose.

A world where drivers scoot across divan-like bench seats to exit their cars at the curbside, and headroom is always sufficient enough to accommodate the wearing of a felt, wide brim fedora.

We’re talking the film noir era, and its land of stark divisions in morality and endless shadows. In the White House is either Truman or Eisenhower, and in every American’s driveway is a Plymouth or Mercury or Pontiac or DeSoto. But not every driveway. And not every cop car boasts a Big Three badge, either.

Sometimes that wailing black-and-white is an inverted bathtub Nash Ambassador or its later short-front-track follow-up. Sometimes the hired goons stage a hit from — or soften a guy up in — a beat-up Packard Eight, be it a Custom, Deluxe, Super, or Super Deluxe. Who could tell which one? Later on, the fading marque offered up Patricians and 300 Ultramatics and Clippers and Caribbeans for those who remembered its heyday of the Roaring Twenties and Dirty Thirties.

Across a vast, monochrome Los Angeles, glittering and perfect by day, Studebaker Champions and Presidents and Commanders lurk under motionless palms outlined starkly by the brilliant, smog-filled sky. Maybe a Hudson rolls past, maybe a new Rambler. Amid a flurry of mergers, independent domestic brands will soon fade from these streets, replaced by the utter dominance of the Big Three and later invaded by low-priced, industry-rocking imports.

At the moment, however, only a few lurking Volkswagens and a smattering of imported sports cars speak to that still-distant threat lurking overseas. All is right on the streets of America. The diners are full, travelling salesmen are making their rounds, Kelvinator appliances are humming merrily in the cookie-cutter homes of nuclear family suburbia, and finned, be-chromed works of art ply pristine interstates under skies made safe by NORAD and SAC.

Yes, I lose myself in film before returning, bitterly, to the world of 2020. But we’re here to ask a question today, and here it is:

Transport yourself back to the 1950s. Any year of the decade. You have money with which to purchase a new car, but there’s two criteria it must meet: First, it must be domestic, and second, it must not be a member of the Big Three. You know your history. What make, model, and bodystyle will this new ride be?

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2 of 37 comments
  • FreedMike I was lucky enough to grow up in a household with the two best German luxury sedans of the time - a manual '81 733i, and a '75 Mercedes 450SE. The BMW was a joy on back roads, and the Benz was a superb highway car. Good times. And both were dramatically better than the junkheap American luxury cars Dad had before.
  • Wjtinfwb A Celebrity Diesel... that is a unicorn. Those early A-bodies were much maligned and I'm sure the diesel didn't help that, but they developed into very decent and reliable transportation. Hopefully this oil-burner Chevy can do the same, it's worth keeping.
  • Wjtinfwb After S-classes crested the 40k mark in the early '80s, my dad moved from M-B to a BMW 733i Automatic. Anthracite gray over red leather, it was a spectacular driving car and insanely comfortable and reassuring on long interstate hauls. My mom, not really a car person, used the BMW to shuttle her elderly Mom back home to Pennsylvania from Miami. Mom and grandma both gushed with praise for the big BMW, stating she could have driven straight through the car was so comfortable and confidence inspiring. A truly great car that improved through the E38 generation, at which point the drugs apparently took hold of BMW styling and engineering and they went completely off the rails. The newest 7 series is a 100k abomination.
  • Vatchy If you want to talk about global warming, you might start here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darvaza_gas_crater
  • 28-Cars-Later $55,218 for a new GR Corolla: https://www.reddit.com/r/COROLLA/comments/zcw10i/toyota_needs_to_know_the_demand_is_there_but_this/"But if OTD prices get beyond 50k there are better options"That's what people were arguing in that thread.