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The Real Car Crisis: The Disappearance of Passion in Design

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There was a time, not too long ago, when you could clearly identify a car by the shape of its headlights. Many warm evenings were spent on our front porch playing the “Car Call-out game”, to see who could first call-out the make, model, and year of passing cars. “There goes a ’67 Corsair…a ’69 Skylark…a ’74 Monte Carlo”. In those days you could almost instantly shout out a car’s make and model. As in the past, our cars were designed with much more flair and pride in workmanship, giving each car a distinct character. The flashy fins, the hotrod engines, the sleek bodylines, and the uniqueness of each model defined who we were, and not just how we got there.

AMC cars were easy to spot, with their sporty Ramblers, Matadors, Ambassadors, and bubble-shaped Pacers. Ford Thunderbirds, Meteors, Falcons and the legendary Mustangs were instantly recognized by their unique designs, as were the Dodge Magnums, Challengers, and Chargers that gave up their identities just by the purr of their engines from a distance.

General Motors divisions, Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick and Oldsmobile, also created some of our most well-known muscle cars, like the Camaro, the GTO, the Cutlass 442, and the sexily curved Corvette. GM models were the easiest to spot, due to their popularity. Oddly shaped imports such as the French Citroen, the Russian Lada, the Swedish Volvo, and the German VW Beetle were also easily picked out.

Pre-1980’s cars had the coolest names and features which gave them their own distinct style and personality. Designers in those times were encouraged to practice their art “on four wheels”, without today’s economic constraints. Cars were designed and marketed to allow people to define who they were by what they drove. It was the attention to detail in their styling, which allowed us to instantly fall in love with not just the car, but with the image that it transferred to us.

With current announcements from major car manufacturers to discontinue the production our favorite models, we cannot completely associate their decision to today’s economic times. As we had already witnessed the decline and disappearance of unique car styling starting in early 1980’s. From that period on, it seemed car designers had simply lost their passion for creating cars that we once loved to drive, and that had given us an identity, not always our own. We had gone from cars that were “made to last” to cars to that were “made to service”.

As the years go by, it is becoming harder and harder to see these classic cars on our streets today, almost as if they had gone the way of the milkman.

So during your travels, should you spot one of these “old beauties”, give the driver a salute for preserving a time gone by, and smile as you watch his taillights dim into the dark distance of our historic past.

Knowing that at least…you were along for the ride…as they went straight through our Southwest Corner.