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Very Good Years

1989: It Was a Very Good Year!

Nineteen eighty-nine was a dream in a dream
We straddled the thin line between what it means or it seems
To be sure enough we left the world behind

--Grey Eye Glances, "The Lost Coast"

Though nobody expected it to be that way at the start, 1989 was a momentous year, one in which much of what seemed a permanent part of the world was left behind by December 31.

It was certainly that way in Eastern Europe. The "Iron Curtain" looked like it would be there forever on January 1, but that would soon change. In February, the Polish Communist government and representatives of the Solidarity independent trade union entered into the "Round Table Agreement" for the liberalization of the political system; the country held free elections that summer and the new government abolished state socialism and withdrew from the Soviet-dominated "Warsaw Pact" by year's end. In East Germany, a series of mass demonstrations inspired by Solidarity's success led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November.

"You can bend me you can break me, but you'd better stand clear/When the walls come tumblin' down..." --John MellencampThere were other peaceful transitions to democracy in Chezchoslovakia ("the Velvet Revolution"), Bulgaria, and Hungary. The not-so-peaceful Romanian Revolution in December overthrew the brutal Caucescu regime, and the tyrant met his fate before a firing squad. Even in the Soviet Union, the seemingly-mighty empire which would go out of business completely in anticlimactic fashion just two years later, the government had begun yielding to the tide.

The tides of liberty weren't confined to Eastern Europe. Down in South Africa, P.W. Botha met face to face with Nelson Mandela, one of a series of negotiations which led to the end of the apartheid system of racial segregation. The thuggish Noriega dictatorship in Panama was put out of business Just under half of the class appears in this U.S. military intervention. Brazil and Chile held their first free elections in decades. In China, the Tiananmen Square protests captured the world's attention before the democracy movement was brutally suppressed.

On a much smaller scale of importance, 1989 was a year of great changes for me personally: I graduated from law school, moved, passed the bar, got married, and embarked on my present career. With my law school class holding its 25-year reunion in August (photo at right), and me being all nostalgic and such because of that, it seemed an appropriate occasion to look back on the automotive world of 1989.

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The Cars of The X-Files: 20th Anniversary



. . . .that it's been 20 years since The X-Files debuted on television. Actually, at the time of this writing it's been 20 years and a few days, but who's counting after this long? It was September 10, 1993 (a Friday) that the longest-running science fiction television show (9 seasons) brought its own brand of creepiness into our homes on a weekly basis. IIRC, except for Twin Peaks this was probably one of the darkest of programs (literally and figuratively), although imbued with a strong sense of (again, dark) humor as well. Between Twin Peaks, The X-Files, and its spinoff, Millennium, viewers in the 1990s not only got a weekly dose of paranormal criminality, they also got a firm sense of what sort of place the I_want_to_believe_01Pacific Northwest was: cloudy, dark, and rainy for 9 months out of the year (all were filmed, in part, around the Seattle/Vancouver, B.C. area).

And The Cars of The X-Files? Creepy? Cool? Quirky? Errr, no. Not even close most of the time. As a matter of fact, when contemplating this post I was rather hard pressed to find something interesting to say about them, some "hook" to highlight an unusual or interesting feature of the automobiles used in the show and what they implied about the collective Car Lust zeitgeist in the 1990s. In truth, and with few exceptions, there is a dearth of really neat cars presented to pique our Car Lust interest.

So why does this post even exist? Because despite a relative lack of noteworthy rides throughout its 9-year run, there is still a lesson or two to be learned from how automobiles were used and presented in this show and others of the period (and before and since for that matter). A lesson that I try to keep in mind even while I write soaring prose to famous and not so famous cars that capture my attention and that I develop strong feelings about, whether positive or negative. And a lesson we might all keep in mind when looking at, drooling over, and sometimes even dropping some major coin on a car of our dreams:

Sometimes a car is just a car.

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5th Birthday Week--Anthony Cagle's Greatest Hits

HillbrookI've never met Anthony Cagle, but I think we'd have a lot in common. He's into history by trade; I do it as a hobby, like having spent part of the last four years relocating a magnificent mansion named "The Hillbrook ." This not so humble abode used to stand in Westchester County, New York, and was once owned by the family of a dear late friend of mine.

But where we probably share the most commonality is our admiration (Dare I say love) of the Mustang II. I bought a new one in 1974; presently he is the keeper of a magnificent 1978 Fastback. And if he ever wants to sell it, I hope he lets me know.

So in keeping with this week's theme, I'd like to present a few of my favorite Car Lust posts by Anthony J. Cagle, and a few words about each:

1962: It was a very good year

on December 18, 2008

I take this opportunity to sing the praises of not one car, but many: those from a single year, 1962. Why this particular year? I can almost hear the thoughts of many out there wondering why this year and not some other one that has way more hot cars. What about '69 when we had Super Bees and Boss 302s? Or maybe 1964, which saw both the GTO and the Mustang debut? To these criticisms I can only respond: Hey, this is Car Lust, after all.

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1984: Was It A Very Good Year?

Orwell_1984George Orwell foresaw it. David Bowie sang about it. 1984 was almost like "Y2K," in that we had been told it was coming and we should prepare for it. But looking back, the year seems to have been one of national pride, salad bars, economic prosperity, and, well, just good times.

Nineteen Eighty Four did not go unnoticed by several Car Lust contributors:

Anthony Cagle penned the 1984 Mustang SVO.

Bernard Bolisig wrote about the Toyota MR2.

Chris Hafner brought us the Pontiac Fiero.

Cookie The Dog's Owner did the VW GTI.

David Colbourn authored the 1984 Chrysler Executive.

But did 1984 impress other enthusiasts? Were there any new cars that changed the landscape? And did we run out of fossil fuels as had been predicted in 1973?

FieroAs mentioned, 1984 brought us the Pontiac Fiero. In typical GM fashion at the time, it was rushed to market and was not ready for sale, as early- model engine fires and other recalls proved. We all know the car was originally meant to be a high gas mileage commuter car, and by the time the Fiero GT was finally tuned as a true sports car, its reputation was soiled and the car was cancelled.

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1929: It Was a Very Good Year

Ah, 1929. The stock market crash and flappers.

That, in a nutshell I suppose, is probably about all anyone really thinks of 1929 if they think about it at all. This is something of a new area for me, and for Car Lust generally; most of us are far more interested in cars from about the 1950s onwards, though we've certainly not ignored the pre-WWII era totally: We've looked at the Stout Scarab (often referred to as the first minivan), the AutoJoanCrawford29ModelAFordTownCarGraham "Sharknose", Ford's Model T and its role in the Great New York To Seattle Race of 1909 (and attendant cars therein), we mustn't forget The Deusy, and. . . .well, that's about it, apart from a few making cameo appearances in some car show posts.

Why? Well, we tend to gravitate towards cars we have some experience with, generally the sorts of everyday cars that have been in production when. . .well, when we've been alive. Also, many of the cars from the interwar years are only preserved in museums and by collectors, which tends to make them not terribly visible on an everyday basis, and such ancient automobiles tend to inhabit the rarefied air of Concours d'Elegance shows that we here at Car Lust rarely are allowed into visit. But there was really quite a lot going on in the automotive world in 1929, not all of it having to do with cars of the rich and famous; a few innovations had made themselves known in and around 1929 that eventually became standard among automobiles of today. So it's worth having a look at the last year of the Roaring 20s and see what was going on, car-wise, so grab your cloche or bowler hat, plus-fours, comb up your bob, and let's 23-Skiddoo out of the 21st century for a bit of history.

As always, this isn't really meant to be an exhaustive list of all-things automotive from 1929, but a collection of cars and car-related elements that I personally find fairly Lust-worthy. Feel free to add in your own in the comments.

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1898: It Was a Very Good Year!

"...So Wilberforce, get off that horse, and bring him in for lunch."It was the year Spain and the United States fought a "splendid little war" that marked America's emergence as a player among the Great Powers--and boosted the political career of one Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt of the First United States Volunteer Cavalry. It was also the year when Great Britain and France almost fought a war over an obscure town called Fashoda, on the banks of the White Nile in the Sudan. It was the year of the last battle between the U.S. Army and Native Americans, and one of the last significant "colonial war" battles in the British Empire. It was the year when Emile Zola published J'accuse, when Enzo Ferrari, M.C. Escher, George Gershwin, and Golda Meier were born and Otto von Bismarck died, radium and neon were discovered, the meat slicer was invented, and Pepsi-Cola came to market.

In Car Lust terms, 1898 was significant as the year of the first advertising campaign by an American carmaker, and the first sale of an automobile to a retail customer in the United States.

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Welcome to a Very Good Week

YearsOver the past three years, it seems like our occasional "Very Good Year" posts have become one of our more popular features. The first post to bear the title was Anthony's look back at the cars of 1962; though you could say that Nathan's post a few months earlier on "Year 2K" was really the first of the breed. Since then, we've covered 1957, 1969, 1974, 1978, 1985, 1991, and 1994.

We've cracked open the history books and put together three more Very Good Year posts for you this week, which should make this a Very Good Week by any standard.

As we always do on Monday, the comments on this post are open for any topic you care to discuss.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

1985: It Was a Very Good Year!

October 1984 C/DIt was "Morning in America," a time when men were real men, women were real women, and hair was real big. Ronald Reagan had just been sworn in for his second term after winning one of the most lopsided Presidential elections in American history. and the "national malaise" of just a few years before had been replaced by a mood of confident optimism. Technology was on the march: personal computers now had floppy drives and 12 MHz processors, fully-functional mobile phones were down to the size of a box of Girl Scout cookies, and used DeLoreans were being retrofitted with aftermarket flux capacitors. On the big screen, besides the one with the time machine, we had Out of Africa and Witness and The Breakfast Club and Rambo: First Blood Part II. On the small screen, you had The Cosby Show and Hill Street Blues and MacGyver.

On the radio was Springsteen, Madonna--this was way before Nirvana--there was U2, and Blondie, and music still on MTV. The cars then were old school, and you might think them uncool, but this post will be occupied with cars of Nineteen Eighty-Five.

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1978: It Was a Very Good Bad Odd Year

Ah yes, 1978. The year I obtained my driver's license and truly began my driving odyssey. I would imagine most people have a certain amount of nostalgia for their 16th year: the music, the TV shows, the fashions, and of course the cars. Okay, I admit that there are probably better years for fond automotive recollections. 1969, for example. Or 1962. Heck, even 1991 was pretty good, comparatively speaking. 1978-Ford-Mustang-King-CobraBut no, 1978 is not generally considered the apogee of American (or anyone else's, probably) car design and implementation.

OTOH, much like I argued in that 1991 post, 1978 was, to my mind at least, one of those interesting years where much in the culture at large was changing from that which defined one decade -- in this case, The '70s -- to the next. And, as usual, 1978 is kind of an arbitrary year to hang a post off of; 1977 or 1979 probably would have worked just as well. But as I say, 1978 has some personal connections and I've always been rather fond of that year. A lot of neat stuff was going on and the cars reflect that. One cultural transformation in particular, music, was also ending one era and starting another, and contemplating that one eventually led me to this post. So bear with me, gentle reader, as I indulge myself in a bit of nostalgia for a bygone era that was, well, a little bit weird. . . . .

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1991: It Was a Very Good Year

Another in our occasional looks back upon particular years and what sorts of cars were being sold and driven on the highways and byways of this great country of ours. We've already had a look at 1962 with its long, low and sleek sedans (finally minus the fins) and the last of the classic '50s-era Corvettes; 1957 and its eponymous Chevy, a couple of Toyotas, and lots of well, low, long and decidedly un-sleek (IMO) I000163 big ol' American sedans (avec fins, of course); 1969 and the plethora of bad-ass muscle cars, locking steering columns, and a funny 2-seater from AMC; and we shan't forget poor, misunderstood 1974 whence came the double-nickel speed limit, Vegas and a new, smaller Mustang II, and the era of paint-on performance.

So where does 1991 fit in and why bother highlighting it? I like to think of the early 1990s as something of a pivot point in American culture, including the cars, and 1991 seems like a good place to start. . .not coincidentally because we are now 20 years hence and quite a few 20-year anniversaries are taking place. For a number of reasons, 1991 seems to me to have been the year when "The '90s" really started, although admittedly there are a couple of earlier events that I also think of as uniquely characterizing that decade; more on those later.

The cars seemed to be emerging from a somewhat lackluster 1980s when US manufacturers were only just beginning to find their footing vis a vis the Japanese. For a time in the 1980s it seemed as if the Japanese were going to take over the world let alone the automobile market -- their own bubble collapse largely took care of that -- and the Big Three were struggling to catch up in quality, reliability and performance nearly across the board. By the '90s (and even the late '80s to be honest), some new models had appeared that seemed to signal a new era for domestics. . .and truth be told even the Japanese started to change direction somewhat with some of their models. So maybe 1991 isn't all that great but hopefully I shall convince you that it was still a Very Good Year.

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Pictured above: This is a forlorn Chevy Vega photographed by reader Gary Sinar. (Share yours)

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