Monday, August 27, 2012

You are what you drive and these days what you are driving tells everyone how you are doing financially. Most people do not have a wallet full of credit cards anymore and any lease or great payment deal is contingent upon good credit. So, those with great money have the black credit cards worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in credit and drive a elegant Bentley or a cool Ferrari or like most people have an average sedan on a cheap loan or those who drive anything they can get for a few thousand cash.
America is driven by a car culture. Our cars are much more than just transportation. Many families have been inspired in their cars. Most people are actually nostalgic about their cars. You like to look back on the smelly metal and fabric thing that took you everywhere at some point in your life. Your car had a history too. They could be large and clunky or small and cozy, our cars are like pets with wheels.
There was even the 1983 movie called Christine where a car came to life. Paul Ingrassia, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize wrote a book called Engines of Change which he calls a history of the American Dream In Fifteen Cars. It is a book about the most influential cars in American History most of which are displayed at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

What he has compiled he says is not necessarily the nation’s best cars but just the ones that impacted us the most, the ones that changed our lives. The Ford Model T from 1908 tops the list because it is credited for everything from the assembly line to the drive through window in mass production and assembly line work. It put America on wheels in the color black.

Most recently in big changes in cars was the Toyota Prius from the year 2000. It was the new impression on saving the environment. It made the world aware that change can be made to try to save the planet with its hybrid capabilities. Now, over the past 10 years every auto company has a car with hybrid capabilities.

The Pontiac GTO from 1964 was the cool macho car. Some people say it stands for Gas Tires and Oil because it used it up so quickly. It was without a doubt influential because it defined American muscle. It was big and sporty and you heard that gurgling engine creep up next to you before you even saw the thing arrive. It inspired many a race after a red light to see who can get out there the fastest. GTO usually always won that mini street race.

The LaSalle in 1927 by General Motors no one remembers except it was mentioned in the All In The Family song from the TV show but represents the opulence that cars brought to your ever growing ego. It was the first car broadly marketed to the general public that looked like a rich person’s car. It was classy and was all about style and status. At the time the boxy Model T was just too practical for those who wanted to impress during the roaring 20’s.
By the 1950’s the country’s mood was happy again. The war years are over and people are treating themselves to new TV’s and appliances and now the great sports car the 1953 Corvette 2 seater surrounded by metal everywhere. With peace and prosperity in society people want that sexy classy look to go out in. The Corvette stared in its own TV series called route 66 where it was driven everywhere along that highway. America’s upward mobility was not only measured in sleek sports cars but in size too.

Yes, size matters even though every woman will say no it matters what you do with it. Ok. Back to cars. The size of tail fins was enormous in the 1959 Cadillac that also came as a convertible. Imagine a huge car as a convertible. It just doesn’t exist anymore and the huge fin like tail lights left you stopping in your tracks watching this luxury spectacle practically swim by like a elegant porpoise sleek and smooth. This wasn’t transportation this was an event passing by on the streets.

Soon the culture of being seen and noticed gave way to blending in and the 1938 Volkswagen bug became immensely popular that hasn’t changed much in 20 years. Hippies loved the tiny import. It was Hitler’s practical vision for the future automobile in Germany. It was an icon for the simple life. Nothing opulent and nothing muscle just transportation trudging along.

Then there is the Ford Mustang in 1964 featured in the Steve McQueen movie Bullitt in 1968 also featured on the Mary Tyler Moore show where she drove it everywhere. It made sporty affordable. It was an era where the baby boomers were coming of age going to college and who wanted something different from their parents.

When the baby boomers start to have families of their own the Chrysler Minivan of 1984 is full of kids. It replaced the crowded station wagon and provided luxury features like swivel seats and cup holders. It was the car that Moms drove and kids played in the back of now equipped with tables and TV’s for every seat.

The most influential car of all time and a lawyer’s dream fee for product liability losses was the 1960 Corvair that was around till 1974. It was the worst car of all time and a safety hazard . More lawyers made lots of money suing everyone for the dangers the car gave to human life. Ralph Nader the most famous lawyer in this field wrote a book called Unsafe At Any Speed and was instrumental for making governmental safety regulations a must for every car made since then.
So, drive whatever you want. It might go in the automobile history books as something significant in your lifetime. It can be the flashy car, or the economical car or the practical car or the expensive car, nevertheless it is your car the one you drive the one you chose and is basically all about you.

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