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Acres of blinding chrome

Art fans, take note: The most gorgeous display of sculpted metal you’ll ever see will be here: the Back to the 50s car show at the Fairgrounds. I’m going. I love the old cars. I don’t know a thing about them, either. Can’t tell one from the other. Oh, I recognize a BelAir, and I know the old Mercs, because my father drove one. The antiques are another story – I don’t quite care for those gold Gatsby specials with a mile of hood, or the simple Fords that made you think of Bonnie and Clyde, driving the backroads of America, searching for a place where the radio picked up something other than *$(#% banjo music.

No, it’s the cars of the 50s and early 60s I love – the world of fins and chrome and push-button ease, Magic-Aire under the dash next to the Highway Hi-Fi (of course they had record players in cars; why wouldn’t they?). Those were cars. If Detroit brought back two-tones with fins and white sidewalls, I think they’d sell a few. I suspect they have the prototypes read to roll, and they’re just waiting for the moment when their businesses are half an hour away from Chapter 13X, or Super Bankruptcy; that’s the bankruptcy that actually makes you disappear from history, retroactively. That's when they drop the cars with fins and grilles studded with missile-tips and headlights that come packed in brassieres and all the colors everyone misses, from turquoise to coral to yellow to pink. Everyone buys one. Bankruptcy averted. Foreign car makers gnash their teeth: curse those blasted Yanks with their insouciant fins and jaunty, sexualized rear-view mirrors. We can never compete.

Well, that’ll never happen. So go look at the classics, and take the kids. Let them see what life was like before power steering, safety glass and seat belts. (There’s probably a booth that runs “Signal 30” all day If the subject holds any appeal for you, the Strib has a blog up your alley: read MotorMouth here, enjoy the pictures, and get in the mood for the show.


Posted in   James_Lileks's blog | add new comment

I wish...

I wish they'd make some new cars that look like the old ones. The closest thing we have today is the PT Cruiser, which looks like something Archie Goodwin would have driven if it hadn't shrunk in the wash.

They could easily make a new car with modern materials that looks like a 1956 Impala and gets decent gas mileage.

That may be too much to ask, but could they at least bring back the window vents? You know what I'm talking about-- those small triangular cutouts in the driver and passenger side windows that fold in to let air in without the road noise. Back before AC was standard, they had window vents. Why don't they have those anymore?


Wing windows

I miss those too. My Dad's 65 Dodge Dart had those.


I'd love a Barracuda, but...

They wouldn't need to go that far back. Have you ever noticed how cool an early 70s car looks? I would kill for a brand new 1973 Chevy Impala coupe. Or how about a Torino? Gremlins get double takes in Memorial Day parades?!? Americans are yearning for cars with real lines and shoulders. It's no coincidence that pick up trucks and SUVs have taken such a big share of auto sales, they're the only things on the road that don't look like half-used bars of soap or shoe horns.


going to the show

My aunt and uncle will be in town with one of their many prize-winning restored cars, competing at the show. I'm hoping for a guided tour of show highlights in exchange for a guided tour of MOA highlights. Since I know where all the good ice cream places are, I may just get my wish.

Jugglernaut

harmony * grace * compassion


Chevelles

Once you have owned a late 60's Chevelle you will never go back! Especially if it has a 540 CI big block Chevrolet engine and will run 8.72 seconds @ 150+ MPH in the quarter mile. That would be in street trim with licence plates and insurance. Warp speed indeed!


Bring 'em back!

I think they're doing (to a certian extent) what you want! Now you just gotta go buy them!

Dodge Charger
http://www.cardotcom.com/cars/images02/06charger-srt8.jpg

'08 Dodge Challenger
http://www.partstrain.com/images/The_Auto_Blog/Dodge-Challenger-Concept-12.jpg

Mustang
http://stadium.weblogsinc.com/autoblog/videos/HiRezPics/ROUSH_Stage3_Mustang.jpg

'09 Camaro
http://www.rpmdaily.com/images/camaro_convert.jpg

I hope I don't crash the whole site with illegal html!


RE: Bring 'em back!

That Challenger looked sweet. I may have to take a closer look at that.


Post your photos

I helped launch the MotorMouth blog and wanted to mention that we also launched the Classic Car Photo Gallery where you can upload your own classic car photo! Check it out here:

1950s gallery--
http://ww2.startribune.com/user_photo/photo_output.php?cat=6


Ah, populuxe! We are long,

Ah, populuxe! We are long, long overdue for automakers to bust loose, design-wise. Wouldn't it be loverly if car brands had distinctive aesthetic identities as they did when I was a kid? It was such an EVENT when the new Ford/Mercury/Oldsmobile/Buick/Cadillac/Rambler/Plymouth/Dodge/Lincoln/Pontiac/Edsel/etc. was unveiled each year. Now? Ho-hum...


50s, blah.

Here's the problem with the car show. 50s cars DON'T CHANGE. There will never be any more 50s cars. They have the same show every single year. It'd be a lot more interesting if they just did an "Interesting Car Show." Get exotic cars, 70s cars, whatever. Anything cool.

Furthermore, they close off the fairgrounds so I can't commute on my bike through there. Apparently they're worried I might steal a mini donut or something.


I was going to bring up the new Dodge Challenger but someone did

Yeah, I miss those cars. The Dodge Magnum, Charger, and Challenger are all the same car with different tops, by the way. I have an '05 Magnum and I do like it (the ignition is even on the dash, not the steering column, like my old 1968 Ford). But the 08 Challenger will be the 1970 Challenger reborn, won't it?


70's Cars?

Do I get any style points for driving a mid-70s Volvo 242DL sedan?


Cars

The '63 Corvette was a beauty, too. The "Atomic Doorstop" design doesn't do much for me. Ford did go retro with the T-Bird, but I think it was priced too high to move enough of them.

And vent windows - the last time I saw those was on the '84 F-150 I drove at Camp Dearborn. Those vents put a stream of air across the steering wheel - very nice in summer.


1959 Chevy Impala

I remember as a small child thinking that the rear of a '59 Impala had two frowning almond-shaped red eyes that were watching me, like a monster come out from under the bed.

Fortunately my mother's hand was always within grabbing distance whenever this idea struck.

When I finally got behind the wheel myself, I tended to prefer late 60s to early 70s Detroit iron for vintage automobile driving; but I still do a double-take whenever I spot the rare 50s land yacht on the road.


heh, I think everyone tends

heh, I think everyone tends to look back in nostalgia, because now that most of them are gone, older cars are unique. but when I was a kid, you would trip over mid 60's chevys everywhere... they weren't that neat then. I think a probelm going forward, is going to be how they junk cars these days. It doesn't end up in a junk yard waiting for some punk kid to come scrounge parts off of it anymore. They get crushed and melted... My old 88 acura legend died because the parts were too scarce [before you say it doesn't count, it was 19 years old. My first chevelle was 19 years old when I started on it]

coupled with the fact that I don't see very many cars of today taking classic status... and it may be very different for our kids...

I saw a '59 coupe de ville the other night, and they will always symbolize classic 50's lines to me, even thought they were at the end...

ps. 150mph Chevelle? bolt on Nos systems DON'T count... unless you have a blower or dual turbo, I want to see the E.T. slip...


Hectares of Chorme, Kilometres of Tail Fins, Megalitres of Ethyl

Cars, cars, cars! From Desotos to Larks, automobiphiles rejoice!

This is a large gallery, so only 30 images will display at a time. To get to the next set, scroll to the right and click on the "Continue Query" panel.


More Chrome!

Oh I do love those chrome cars! I paint (fine art), and classic cars are my favorite. I troll the car meets for good shots of all that great metal.


Chapter 13X

Filing Chapter 13X?

I think there's a Doritos flavor for that occasion.


Old Cars

...a minor correction:

Those old barges did indeed have power steering available. You really needed it, what with the weight of a 'Thunderbird V-8' or Chrysler Hemi over the front wheels. My dad's '58 Ford had manual steering and I remember having to crank the wheel around about six times just to turn a corner. Coming out of the turn, you'd let go of the wheel, and it would spin like a dervish in returning to the straight ahead position.


70's cars, bleah

Have you ever noticed how cool an early 70s car looks?

Redneckprof, I don't want anything of what you are smoking -- not if it makes 70's cars look good.

I grew up in the 70's, and for that precise reason, I had absolutely no interest in cars at all until the late 80's. I still look at them with utter disdain -- no esthetically redeeming qualities whatsoever, and no automotive ones either -- floaty, heavy, underpowered slabs of wasted steel (except for the musclecars, whose death warrant was being written by the oil embargo when I was only 5 years old, alas). Not until the go-karty little Japanese pocket rockets showed up and took over in the 80's did cars start to become interesting to me.

Of course, now cars once again start at just under 3000 frickin' pounds, so I still get misty-eyed at a mint-condition, un-riced 1990 or thereabouts Honda CRX whenever I'm lucky enough to spot one. 2100 pounds of zippy, cool-looking, fuel-efficient practicality.

The 60's and earlier are where you find beautiful car art, and the 80's and later held lots of cars that were interesting to drive, thanks in no small part to the Japanese -- but the 70's? It's an automotive black hole that wasted years of car-geeking.


Oh, I wish I still had my '65 Fleetwood....

.... It was my first car, and almost as old as I was when I bought it in '82. I would have gotten something smaller and easier on gas, but my father didn't want his only son driving a "rolling coffin", as Dad put it.

The Queen Mary 2 was nineteen feet nose to tail, the trunk was large enough to swallow five or six Army footlockers, and had nearly power-everything, including powered wing-vent windows front and rear. And she was suprisingly easy on gas-- 19 mpg at 60 mph (if she was in tune), not bad for a 5000-pound car with a 429 cubic-inch V-8. I'd still have her if I had had the money to keep her and keep her maintained, but I was a poor college student...... Ah, well, I hope she enjoyed a second life as a low-rider in El Paso after I sold her in '88.

Oh, yeah. "Signal 30". Gruesome movie made by (I think) the Ohio State Police in 1960. I had to watch it along with my fellow Army lieutenants in an auto-safety class in the mid-'80s. I remember only two things from that class-- the movie, and the instructor (who had a thick Southern accent) punctuating his sentences with "Wham! Daid."


When America wasn't afraid to be itself

Nuts to the European influence, I want chrome, fins, big V8s, dimmer switches on the floor, and vent windows. It's my right as an American.

Yeah, vent windows; cheap, simple and easy to fix when they failed. Made it possible to get through a hot summer without air conditioning. Nothing better, after spending a summer day throwing around hundreds of bales of hay, than to head home at 70mph with both vent windows cranked full in...best thing since Miller Time. Still got 'em on my '95 F150. Gonna be a sad day when that old girl dies.

But, gotta remember, most of those '50s-'60s cars were a PITA after 4 years, rust buckets after 7 years and worn out at 60,000 miles. Some things have gotten better.
Old Bob


NOS counts

"ps. 150mph Chevelle? bolt on Nos systems DON'T count... unless you have a blower or dual turbo, I want to see the E.T. slip..."

You can make more power with a single turbo or blower than with the big shot plate I'm running and that is only a 275 HP shot for the 8's @ 3500 lbs. If you like come to Brainerd next weekend for the Show and Go and you can watch it in person!


Cars

pat3ot,
I liked everything you wrote about. One problem, however. The Impala wasn't introduced until 1958. And was one of the sexiest cars around, still is. Prior to '58, Chevy's top line was the Bel Air.


The thing is, though, that

The thing is, though, that they weren't very good cars. Pretty small inside for their outside size, fifteen mpg, cornered like greased pillows and went to the junkyard at a hundred thousand miles (Chevys at a hundred and ten).


God I love classic cars!

If I could afford it, I would have a 1966 Pontiac GTO convertible in dark blue or red. And I would love to have a early 70's Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser or Custom Crusier station wagon. This is why I am eagerly awaiting the Ford Flex - granted, as a single person I have no need for such a landboat - but I don't care. I am getting one anyway - even if I have to get a big dog to justify it.


Narrow Minds, feh!

"Here's the problem with the car show. 50s cars DON'T CHANGE."

Here's the problem with Oldies radio stations: They never play any NEW MUSIC!!! Who cares about the Beatles or Buddy Holly or Roy Orbison or any of those old groups, they should play some Nickleback or Christina Aguleria!

*rolls eyes*
I'm afraid, Mr. Disco, that there's a chance that you just might not 'get it.' You can go play with your exotics and tuners... that leaves more chrome for the rest of us.


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