Tuesday, June 8, 2004


For some reason today my mind has turned to cars. I have to admit that beyond the very basics (I can change my own oil and spark plugs and stuff like that), I am not much of a mechanic. But I have always been a fan of automotive style. Unfortunately, it seems to me that style is one of those things that cars have lacked for most of my lifetime. In the late Sixties it seems to me that Detroit moved towards a "box" look. To me most cars from the Seventies, Eighties, and much of the Nineties looked more like matchboxes on wheels than anything else!

The earliest car I can remember in which I rode was a Ford Falcon. I can't remember what year it was, but I know it was an early Sixties model. I also remember it as being a very beautiful car. It was a steel blue and even had the tail fins so popular in that era. I remember it as being very sleek. It was the family car for the first five years of my life and I still regret that my father traded it in for a brand new, 1968 Ford Fairlane. And while my dad liked the Fairlane, I think he regretted it too. It was not long before the Falcons were considered "classic."

The Fairlane had a bit of the "box" look that would become popular in the following decades, although it was definitely sleeker than future car models. It was not a bad looking car. It was a light brown and I remember it as having a good deal of chrome. It also seemed to be damn near indestructible. The Fairlane outlived several other vehicles in the family!

Of course, by the Seventies the "box" look was the fashion for automobiles. I remember in car commercials from the era that they would always talk about "aerodynamics." I also remember as a child thinking to myself, "How can a box be aerodynamic?" The cars from the late Fifties and early Sixties, with their smooth lines and tail fins looked a lot more aerodynamic to me than the cars of the Seventies!

Indeed, my least favourite car in my life came from the Seventies. It was a Chevrolet Impala. It definitely looked like a matchbox on wheels. Beyond the fact that it was not a pretty car, there was the fact that it spent more time in the shop than on the road. Indeed, it had the distressing habit of jumping out of "Park" and into "Drive." One time it nearly went through our house. If I hadn't slammed on the brakes, we would have had a new door. Or window. A dang big hole in the house at any rate! I was so glad when we got rid of that car.

I did not get to drive the Falcon at all (five being well below driving age) and only got to drive the Fairlane a bit. The car I drove the most in my youth was a 1974 Plymouth Valiant. Now the Valiant did look a bit like a box, but it made up for it in that it also looked very menacing. It was not a small car and had a huge engine. I remember one time my brother outran a couple of kids in one of the latest sports cars! It was so funny seeing the looks on their faces as this old sedan passed them by. LOL. Like the Fairlane, the Valiant was damn near indestructible. I think the whole time we had it, it was only in the shop once or twice.

I also remember that in college a couple of my friends had Volkswagen Beetles. They were fun cars to drive. They were hardly very fast, but they were fairly manoeuvrable. Parallel parking was a breeze. I had one friend who had a Volkswagen Carmengia. It was sleek and blue. It didn't go that fast (not as fast as the Valiant anyway), but it was probably the most manoeuvrable car I have ever driven. It could turn on a dime. One great thing about the Volkwagens that various people in my life had owned is that they were almost never in the shop. They were very durable. The downside is that if they did break down, parts could be hard to get around here. Fortunately, that has changed in the last decade!

I remember when I was younger a couple of the local car collectors had two of my favourite car models. One was a Studebaker Hawk. This was a gorgeous car. A deep red with lots of chrome and long tail fins. It looked like a rocket ship ready to take off. I think it could well be the most beautiful car I'd ever seen in person. The other was a 1958 Plymouth Fury, the same make and model as the car from the Stephen King novel Christine and the movie based on it. It was a gorgeous car. I remember that the guy who owned it would take it out for a drive every time HBO showed the movie. One of the worst starts I had in my life was having watched Christine one late night and then going out for a walk. I remember he pulled up behind me and clicked those halogens on high beam. I actually jumped! LOL.

It seems to me that in the Nineties, the box look finally lost favour with Detroit. Cars today tend to have sleeker lines and more style than they once did. The problem I have with cars these days is that many times they look alike. When I was growing up, one could tell a Chevy from a Ford, even if one didn't see the logo on the car. Today, they are nearly indistinguishable. Sad, really. But at least they don't all look like boxes these days!

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