Remember when owning an automobile was much simpler (and cooler)? Many don’t, and that’s the problem with today’s uncool vehicle manufacturers. If you’re an old-school Chevelle kind of guy or gal, you’ll totally understand our legitimate complaints.
In February, General Motors announced a recall of 2.6 million older small cars due to a faulty ignition switch. This is just one in a long line of recalls going back decades. Long gone are the days of faulty oil filter recalls and even simpler fixes. Has the push for technology caused us to leave behind something in the quality control department? Is it just because of the overwhelming need to push out more cars at a faster pace?
This year marks the 50th anniversary of an American tradition known as the Chevrolet Malibu. What would the original designers and owners think of what has became of their legendary trademark?
The year was 1964. The golden age of the muscle car was upon us. Chevrolet and its parent company, General Motors, were in the middle of one of the most iconic manufacturing times in American history. Though these companies were connected, it did not deter them from competing against each other for “top dog” title. The first being Pontiac with the introduction of the GTO. The GTO started out as a mere market exercise, as engineers hand picked parts from the shelves and created a label that exceeded the sum of those parts. Soon after, Oldsmobile entered the fray with its own muscle car, the 4-4-2. Then of course Chevrolet had to get its foot in the ring with its Chevelle line up which included the popular Super Sport label as well as the luxury edition Malibu. All these cars shared similarities in design as well as function. The big difference came from the spirit of competition as well as pride.
It was a intense competition across the entire auto manufacturing board, where the winner was of course judged by units sold. This is still a business after all. With several different models across all three major United States automotive manufacturers, the competition became epic. This battleground spilled over to the car owners, as street competitions born in the 50’s grew in popularity. Divides were formed during these years. Ones that still exist today. It was a time when everyone had their favorite manufacturer and loathed the others. Sparking epic arguments that heightened the competition. It was mostly in good fun and friendly.
What helped this competition immensely was the ease of customization and the simplistic design involved. Basically anyone could learn how to work on these classics. With ease in repairs as well as tweaking, each car became an extension of its owner. We do not have to go far this summer to still see the fruits of this not so easily forgotten age. The competition still remains very much alive at car shows and cruise nights across our nation. And as far as competition, you can just drive up to your nearest drag strip and be pitted against other of these classic beauties.
This tradition continued through the 60’s, 70’s and even to some extent the 80’s. Personally, I think it died somewhere with the end of production of the Buick Grand National. It was the last of the cars custom made for speed and handling. The last that set itself apart from the pack. Since then, manufacturing has become automated and computers have replaced fine tuning with a screwdriver and a wrench. Instead of pulling your engine and making your mark on your vehicle, people use mod chips to enhance performance. Fuel efficiency has replaced raw power. With more computers, has also came more problems.
Long gone are the days of pulling your car into your garage, popping the hood, and figuring out what is making that sound. Its a highly technical industry, awash with technical problems, but as long as we continue down this road, the raw power and beauty of the age of steel will continue to live on among those of us who relish on these past masterpieces. Those of us who shed a tear when we see a mistreated classic rolling down the road or drive past a junkyard, an open graveyard to the past. To us, these cars are more than just cars. They are a way of life.
…those were the days.