It is very frustrating for me to look back through old advertisements and realize how far removed we have become from a time when cars were works of art. At the present time, most of our cars look like Toyota Camrys. They are mostly little shoe boxes with their edges rounded off. The grills are unforgettable. The colors standard. The look is pedestrian. No wonder Pontiac went out of business. How can a car company stay in business when all of the cars look the same? I might set out to buy a Honda, but I could just as easily buy a Toyota or a Chevy and feel like I've bought the car I was looking for. Who can tell them apart? And who wants to? They all look like the cheap knock-off die-cast cars that were not designed from any real automotive lines. You know the ones I mean, the ones you could buy from the little toy section in the grocery store or the ones at the Five and Dime. (That's a Dollar store for you kids today. My favorite Five and Dime was the Ben Franklin, which was a wonder to wander through as a seven-year-old.)
This is the 1958 Pontiac Bonneville. Billed as Motoring's Action-packed Aristocrat! That distinctive rear panel slot makes me think it is designed to be grabbed by a futuristic robotic arm for advanced parking. This baby was the Pace car for the 1958 Indianapolis 500. Sweet.
Virgil Exner hit a home run with the 1956 DeSoto. His new look, billed as the Forward Look, which included this super-awesome triple tail-light catapulted DeSoto's sales to record highs. The DeSoto Fireflite convertible was the Pace car for Indy in 1956. Incredibly, Chrysler discontinued the DeSoto brand just four years later. Well, Chrysler was never known for their great decision making. (Google the K car if you don't believe me.)
Not to be outdone by Chrysler's Forward Look, Buick decided that if the public wanted chrome, they would get chrome. In spades! Actually, in squares: 160 chrome squares, to be exact. The 1958 Buick Fashion-Aire Dynastar grille was meant to reflect light like nothing before. This beautiful girl rolled down the road shining like a trophy wife's diamond necklace. Too much? Nah, I don't think so.
Of course, if you know me, I'm going to get the '57 Chevy Bel Air into this discussion. Is there any better classic look? I was surprised to learn that the '57 Ford actually outsold Chevy that year, though it is suggested that Chevy's switch to the tubeless tire scared away sales. Ford's Fairlane certainly had attractive features, and I'll let the motor-heads argue over who had the better engine, but I just don't think the Ford matches up against the Chevy look. But either way, the Chevy or the Ford are clearly far better designs from the artistic standpoint that a new Ford Focus or a Chevy Volt.
Seriously, folks, what happened? I wasn't there, during that transition time from 1960 to the 1980's, but I've heard there was a great deal of drugs being spread throughout the collective culture. Perhaps that's the reason these gorgeous vehicles aren't made any more. You can blame it all on the oil crisis in the '70s, but that is no excuse for the loss of aesthetics.
I have trouble understanding how any car maker cannot see the potential for reviving these kinds of designs. Even the underpowered Chrysler PT Cruiser and Chevy's HHR grabbed a bit of the spotlight due to their slightly retro looks. I've been saying this for years to my family members, who must now be tired of hearing it, that if Chevy put out a retro Bel Air that brought back the look with modern conveniences, it would sell like hotcakes. Anyone out there listening?
As an end note to this post, I have now run Room With No View for a full year. Thanks to everyone who peeks in from time to time to find out what's been on my mind or in the cross hairs of my camera. I hope you always enjoy my posts, and keep checking back for another year. If you haven't already, click the follow button, as this makes me feel like someone out there likes me, and would follow me like everyone followed Gene Hackman in The Poseidon Adventure. I know, half of those people died, but I think I could do better than that. And always share the posts you like with your friends. The more readers, the more the world will eventually be converted to my way of thinking. And that's not bad!