APRIL 7, 2012: CAR RELATED STUFF FROM THE PAST THAT PRODUCE A BIG BAD CASE OF NOSTALGIA

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There are many things from the past that tweak our collective sense of nostalgia.

 

Some are more obvious than others, even in car guy world.

 

Here are a few things that are a fond part of yesteryear in car world.

 

The most obvious choice these days are the hold- up zones known as gas stations in 2012. These days we get to pay some serious coin to become our own gas jockeys as prices head up to dizzying new heights.

 

The neighborhood service station is dead and buried in 2012.Nobody pumps your gas, checks your oil, or wipes your windshield these days-except for the guy with a dirty rag who wipes your windshield at a red light in large urban centers.

 

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Even gas itself has changed from high octane leaded premium that worked well in cars for about 40 cents/gallon (10 cents/liter) when I first got behind the wheel in the early 70s. Gas hikes were front page news, not hourly occurrences, and they topped out at penny/gallon increases per year instead of dollar/ gallon per month increases.

 

Nobody condemned parents when they threw a herd of kids into big sedans or wagons and headed off for family trips. The wedge principal applied; cram enough kids into a back seat and they won’t move. We now live in an age when parents are given lectures about inferior child seats and chastised because they don’t comply with the safety Nazis on the latest kid confinement safety device.

 

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Where did families go in olden times? The drive-in theater was an affordable escape from reality for families on a budget for special events. Parents could save a few bucks on a babysitter and know exactly where their kids were when the message “It’s eleven o’clock, do you know where your kids are?” was a popular buzz phrase.

 

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They were asleep in the back seat of the family car at a drive-in and giving their parents a little peace and quiet for a change.

 

Cars themselves were big, bold and beautiful in the good old days. They were chrome-laden dream machines that changed their appearance every fall at every Big Three dealership. They had names like Oldsmobile, De Soto, Mercury, Pontiac and Plymouth because these models were alive and well in new car showrooms.

 

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We worshipped them on the track and we wanted them in the worst way when we were too young to drive them. They had fire-breathing engines that cared little about miles per gallon economy because the cars were built for freeways and miles per hour were a much bigger concern.

 

We got cooler in cars through a vent window and we got our entertainment through an AM radio. It was a simple and functional system that everyone was able to master in their cars.

 

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We could fix our cars on the side of a road without a degree in computer science and it may even be a simple fix like patience when a car vapor-locked on a hot day. We knew how to hold chokes open on a flooded engine and we knew why a spare fan belt was a good idea and well within our fix-it abilities on the side of a road.

 

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We knew that three-on-the-tree second gear was a logical position for most push starts and our buddies could provide the push start horsepower.

 

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All of the above are pretty much gone in 2012 with one exception: the car guys who have preserved history in the form of vehicles from their youth.

 

Now they are plenty old enough to own and drive them, but they still can’t afford the gas in them.

 

Jim Sutherland

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