I was looking at a big car collection recently and I noticed that it included a fair number of large 1970s sedans.
The nickname for these big brutes became “broken-nose” cars because every guy there that day was a big fan of The Rockford Files.
Those who are not well-versed in The Rockford Files will probably need a short bio on the show to get the broken-nose part so here’s a brief description. Jim Rockford was an ex-convict (pardoned) private eye who lived in a rickety old trailer in Malibu.
Rockford was played by the legendary James Garner because the role called for a big guy who could not only handle himself but also had convincing con artist skills to get himself in and out of sticky situations. Garner was the perfect fit.
A large part of Jimmy’s work involved organized crime. He seemed to brush up against the mob every time he took a case and Rockford had various names for the hired muscle that knocked him unconscious. They were “apes”, “gorillas” or even “gorillas in suits” but they all had one thing in common–they were large, they had no sense of humor and they loved pounding Rockford into la-la land.
Rockford had one more name for these humorless punching machines. He called them “broken- noses” and the broken-noses had one more trait in common-they drove giant 1970s era sedans. Rockford drove a more nimble Pontiac Firebird but the mobbed-up thugs drove giant Chryslers, Cadillacs, Fords and Lincolns.
This should never have been a fair fight because Rockford’s Firebird went around corners like it was on rails whenever the weekly car chase took place on LA streets. The broken-nose guys wallowed through the streets in their giant cars like they were driving in Jello but they always kept up with Rockford’s Pontiac.
Nobody ever adequately explained why Jimmy couldn’t outrun these land barges but it made for great TV when a giant Chrysler full of bad guys kept up with Rockford’s Firebird. It was implausible but it added to the drama when the bullets started flying.
There was a direct connection between car and role in The Rockford Files. Chicks drove sporty little cars like Porsche convertibles, cops drove mid-sized sedans like Plymouth Satellites and broken-noses drove gargantuan 70s American full-sized cars.
Unfortunately, gargantuan 1970s American cars have become a punchline in 2013. There’s no real valid reason for this except that big 70s land yachts make a convenient target for the hard of thinking.
That’s why most masters of the half-witticism will point out these are big cars so they’re automatically funny. It’s a lot like the comic genius who calls the fat guy “Tiny” or the bald guy “Hairy” but in reality, it barely registers as humor.
Nowhere in that mish mosh of non-thought (disguised as wit) from the outer fringes of intelligence is the reality that these big, bad 70s rides are disappearing faster than cream pies at a Three Stooges convention.
The “broken-nose” car nickname is actually a sign of respect because it acknowledges the culture of the 70s in the Rockford Files and the big iron that was such a significant part of the automotive landscape back in the Gerald Ford era. The would-be comedians don’t get it.
Maybe it’s time that a few broken-noses showed up on their doorstep.
BY: Jim Sutherland
Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section.
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