2007-2012: They Were Very Good Years (or Chevy Vegas & Other Delights)
Okay, so this won't be yer traditional (if a few posts over a five year span can even be considered 'traditional') Very Good Year™ post since A) I won't really be reviewing the various automotive-themed events that occurred during that time (save this one, obviously), and B) I've been mostly too busy with Cars Gone By to pay all that much attention to what's been going on, and C) This is all about Us! Us! Us! anyway.
But heck, this is as good a time as any to look back on those ancient times and see where we've been and what I thought about them (after all, this post is just as much about Me! Me! Me! as Us! Us! Us!). Henceforth, this slight missive will mostly be just me bloviating on what I see as the best and brightest, perhaps not of our generation entirely, but at least of the lesser appreciated cars of our generation.
By the way, I looked it up and this is technically our Wooden anniversary blogiversary so make of that what you will.
And hey, go us.
As for me, in 2007 I had just landed back in the public health sector after a year-long stint as a statistician at a major savings and loan institution -- imagine that, a dude with a Ph.D. in archaeology and 15 years of public health research work running numbers at a bank. Sadly for them (and many shareholders), the institution in question went belly-up shortly thereafter, leaving me counting my blessings, having gotten while the getting was good. And I hereby declare that I had nothing whatsoever to do with said institution's untimely undoing ("Hey, I did a quickie analysis and found that if we made a snotload of these 'subprime loan' thingies, we'd make major coin!"). That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Anyway, looking back to those thrilling days of 2007, we find that in January Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone thereby condemning an entire generation of youths (and adults) to willingly affixing their eyeballs to a little device and as a consequence becoming oblivious to their surroundings. In August of that year (surely a simple coincidence, I assure you) the Storm Worm botnet sent out a record 57 million emails in a single day, sadly eclipsed the very next day by distributors of Cialis. Later that year, the Mitchell Report (also known colloquially as "The Report to the Commissioner of Baseball of an Independent Investigation into the Illegal Use of Steroids and Other Performance Enhancing Substances by Players in Major League Baseball") found that, to our utter surprise and dismay, baseball players were juicin' it up. Shocked, shocked!, I know. Next thing they'll tell us cyclists are using, too.
Somewhere in there I also discovered Top Gear which, together with Car Lust, really opened my eyes to the fact that writing about cars can actually be, you know, entertaining. And not just for high end stuff either; from the AMC Gremlin ("You know a car is terrible when the only people to profess to like it are really only claiming it to enhance their own ironic slumming hipness") to the Morris Marina ("I'll guaranteee that nothing exciting, vibrant, dynamic, new, creative, hopeful, or beneficial in any way to humanity has ever been done, thought of, or driven to in that drab, dreary, entirely beige, woefully awful pile of misery"), even the most banal of automobiles can be made at least interesting.
And on August 28 of 2007 our own Chris Hafner dropped da bomb with his ode to the Audi RS6 Plus Avant, which I completely missed, until it was brought to my attention for our 1000th post celebration. I honestly don't remember which post I first read, but was no doubt directed there (here) by good ol' Insty; I looked up my first comment and that was for the Triumph TR8 ("I remember when it first came out and we all ogled at it and thought it was the way coolest thing we'd ever seen"; Hoo boy, rivals Milton, I tell ya; no wonder they brought me on as a regular).
We've had quite a few monumental posts here, giving not only good historical information, but also walking that fine line between mockery and, well, Lust. CtDO's treatise on the much-maligned Chevy Vega was thorough and entertaining and saddening all at the same time in its portrayal of not only what went wrong with this particular model, but what the big problem was with the entire domestic industry at the time:
Unless you were almost obsessive-compulsive about watching the fluid levels, a high-mileage Vega engine could easily run out of coolant and oil at the same time, with little or no warning, and catastrophic results. . .And the fun didn't stop there. The engine's vibrations also caused the screws holding the Rochester carburetor together to work loose. When they got loose enough, the carb would start coming apart and raw gasoline would flow into the cylinders. Some of that gas ended up pooling in the muffler, where the heat would ignite it, causing backfires and worse. Sometimes the gas would leak in the other direction, dripping down over the outside of the hot engine block and causing a fire.
And after all of that, we still love it!
This whole enterprise of cheap-yet-lovable cars was summed up admirably by Hafner in his Thoughts on Terrible 1970s Cars post:
Take, say, the Pinto. Not a great car. In fact, many people think it was one of the worst cars of the 1970s. Somewhere, three decades ago, a designer proudly unveiled it to the bosses at Ford; workers spent their waking hours building it. Young families bought Pintos, showed Pintos off to their friends, washed Pintos in their driveways, drove their babies home from the hospital in Pintos. Some of you drove Pintos; some of your parents or grandparents drove Pintos. Pintos were on TV, in movies, in magazines and newspapers.
The Pinto is part of the fabric of our history. Drive one today, and you can share that. The sloppy suspension, the awkward styling, the tractor-like engine; these place you bodily back in the 1970s. You experience exactly what drivers experienced in the 1970s. The realities of the OPEC difficulties, the emissions crackdown, the priorities of Americans in the 1970s--these are all reflected in the Pinto, frozen in sheetmetal and glass.
A Pinto isn't just a crappy car from the 1970s--it is a veritable time machine. It's an anthropological statement that is still useful enough to do the vast majority things that people do with their cars every day. You can still get to work, pick up groceries, or drive long distances on the freeway.
Bingo. Hardly anyone will ever own, let alone drive, a Bugatti Veyron, but everyone and their brother knows someone who had a Pinto or a Grand Am. Apart from a short, snarky paragraph in someone's X Worst Cars list, where else will you find anyone celebrating something as seemingly lowly as the Dodge Rampage (oops, I mean RAMPAGE!!).
In between all of the humorous looks at some of these things, there have been a few posts that have quite literally brought a tear or two to many an eye. Who of us will ever forget Daneele Shipman's heartfelt ode to her beloved son Tyler's Pontiac Fiero? Or our own CtDO's missive to his mom repairing a Jaguar? Or, my personal favorite, Dad's 1974 AMC Matador Oleg Casini? Heck, I even got a little choked up writing about my old Hornet. Cars are such a huge part of our lives that they tend to insert themselves into the best and worst parts of our stories, but as we've seen also bring out the best (and, sadly, sometimes the worst) in us as well.
We occasionally get into some trouble when we appear to diss some car or other that some people quite rightly adore and then the partisans come out in the comments to right the perceived wrongs (not that we'd ever get our facts wrong!). But I think most people reading this blog really get that we're doing so in good humor and actually adore these cars almost as much as their owners do. That humor and general positiveness tends to keep this place pretty civil compared to most public web spaces. And it's not like we're gettin' paid for this. . . . .oh, err, did I say that out loud?
And so, I take it upon myself to represent all of us contributors and readers by saying, Thanks, Chris: they have indeed been five very good years.
Credits: The Vega ad comes from Curbside Classics and the teens with iPhones is from the intomobile site; the remainder were pulled from various Car Lust posts. Also, I chose the subtitle based largely on a recent appearance by the Whipped Cream girl herself, Dolores Erickson, and because I just snagged a nice copy of the album at an estate sale; it was purely coincidence that the Vega engine ad popped up while searching. Kharma, as they say.