".....looks Like Those Dames Is Here To Pick Us Up"

The other night, I couldn’t sleep and was watching an old film noir movie. Although the plot was interesting and the stars were Hollywood legends, I soon found myself in automotive overload. As I scanned the parked cars along the street in each scene or studied the vehicles our heroes drove, I remembered what a magnificent variety of automobiles existed back then.

I’ll admit, I’m a bit older than most and I still see many of those movie cars roaming the streets of my memories. I’ll also admit a certain sense of nostalgia sometimes sweeps over me. However, I also realize that those cars of yesteryear were unique in many ways. They were designed not with computers, but from an artist’s sketch. They were first hand formed in clay by a team of talented car designers, and eventually put into production by the many legends of Detroit, USA. Each maker was recognizable and each targeted a particular cultural segment of American. They varied just enough from year to year to make them uniquely desirable then and individually recognizable today.

As a child, my father worked for the local Ford dealership. Each year around September, a date was announced when the new models would be unveiled. Their newest look was generally kept a deep secret. We had only a few fuzzy photos of next years’ model, taken with a crude telephoto lens at some “secure” Detroit test track, then published in Popular Science Magazine just to wet our appetites. The public was basically kept in the dark until the day of “national unveiling.” The cars were wrapped from sight as they traveled on the back of the car carriers to their destinations. Showroom windows were often covered with brown paper to prevent a curious public from gaining a single premature glimpse. The maddening sense of anticipation about what lay beyond the curtain was an annual highlight of my childhood. When the day of unveiling finally arrived, the showrooms were packed by a crowd hungry to feast upon the newest versions from their favorite maker. On that day, cars were marvels of horsepower and beauty, finally revealing themselves as shiny twenty-foot long packages of pure American iron.

Granted, back then we had only three television networks to choose from and a “hot car radio” was AM with a reverb. Gas was abundant and cheap, and going to the drive-in was pleasure. Burgers, greasy fries, and milkshakes were still listed on the “food pyramid,” and 9 out of 10 doctors smoked Lucky Strikes. Back then, Detroit’s cars meant everything, and those “little foreign cars” had just begun to come ashore. We weren’t burdened with worry... all you need know was “Duck and Cover” and you’d be fine!

Obviously today, things are very different. Car models seldom change design from year to year and all look squeezed from the same wind tunnel. Sure new cars are safer. Sure new cars are more fuel efficient. But what’s really sure to me, new cars seem boring. ”...So listen up doll.” I’ll keep watching those old movies and dwell in my past when I can… a past when cars and life both seemed a lot more fun.
Fordoligist Fordoligist
61-65, M
Jan 9, 2013