When did Buick become a car for the elderly? It’s really hard to say. For most of the early post-war era, Buick more or less espoused the belief in more subtle, less ostentatious luxury, in comparison to GM cousin brand Cadillac. During that same period, there were extensions downward to price categories just above Chevrolet, and attempts at re-cementing their reputation as Banker’s Hot Rods as well.
Another belief was offering a whole lotta car for a minimum of a premium. As the Special nameplate drifted out of sight to re-appear as a luxury compact in the fall of 1960, the least dear Buick for your pocketbook became the LeSabre. Perhaps being a perennial customer favorite with people starting in 1959 lead to something of a reputation.
The Wonder Years is now on Netflix. So of course, when left to my own devices with a Netflix account (I don’t have one personally) of course I’m going to indulge in repetition of comforts. Front and Center, 3 episodes in, is the Arnold family’s 1963 Chevrolet Impala Sport Sedan, Green with a White top, as they swoop back silently, in middle class white grief, back from Winne Cooper’s brother’s funeral.
It reminded me of a quote I’m paraphrasing about 1960’s Middle Class station that Oprah made once. The determining entrance point for all middle class families that had “arrived” in some sense was purchasing a Chevrolet Impala. Once upon a time, the true marker of comfort meant the largest, most luxurious Chevrolet. Between 1960 and 1965 that number went from just under half a million to more than a Million. Year after year, a sextet of tail lamps meant equal if not more than a six figure salary does today.
Always walking to the beat of a different drum, the heritage of AMC stretched back into two independents that had long done it their way. It’s by no chance that the first, least expensive option on offer in their showrooms nationwide relied on the manifest-destiny ringing “American” nameplate.
Back in the days of AMC being rooted in Nash, the Rambler concept was by far the most continually successful compact car concept, making sure to offer those a lot of comfort in their decreased footprint. Closing in on 20 years after the beginning of that risk, what did the littlest AMC product give you in 1968?
“Young blood, you should get you a Old Skool. Now that’s a true investment that’ll always increase in value” this old Black man said to me as he tried to sell me his 1971 Cutlass Supreme he’d just dumped $18,000 worth of work into. I was on my way to firm up details for a DJ gig that required me to walk through the monthly fair weather gathering between 21st and West Grand once anchored by the Telegraph Giant Burger location and the dueling Gas Stations on either side of Telegraph Avenue.
When I returned to the East Bay in 2011, it was a haven of the Oakland that had been rather key in bringing my family in their journey to this pocket of the West Coast. In the early 20th Century, Oakland more or less was The Detroit of The West.
It’s weird to be David when your dad is Goliath. Compounding the dilemma is there’s always a series of giant killers out to strike down that object that towers over them. Here’s where we find the Chevrolet Corvair for its 6th Season, first comprehensive re-design standing in full embrace of its most appropriate mission statement.
Gone were the pretenses of being an economy machine. Gone with the wind was any pretense to really run with the pack of other jocks. The Corvair was General Motors first home grown international game player. Too bad dad was withholding of any true affection.
It was a revolution on wheels for the ordinary American Family Sedan. Even more so as a Station Wagon. Therein lies the miracle of the Original Ford Taurus. Long having played catch up to everyone else when it came to mainstream innovation, Ford fancied a future for mainstream buyers GM, Chrysler and a host of competitors couldn’t envision slipping into as tomorrow’s dream today.
The softening of the two and three traditional boxes that the average sedan and wagon came in softened a lot of buyer’s hearts. Far from the upright, puritan machines that had courted most American buyers since the Post-War. Stepping up to an international stage in design language, the Taurus showed that patrician pragmatic patriotic lines could only take the American car only so far into the future. Readying us for a slew of technology for the 21st Century, we have the re-imagined family truckster to look over 30 years after it flew into dealerships for its second season.
There’s been plenty said and 20/20 hindsighted about the fall of Oldsmobile and the historic brand’s demise in 2004. In reality it was a mixed storm, and an amazing bellwether of where consumer tastes had gone alongside the pursuits of ultimate profits by behemoth corporations.
In the crosshairs of being one of America’s legacy brands was the longest lasting legacy flagship, the Ninety Eight. Since 1941, the nameplate graced either the priciest or nearly most pricey proposition in the Oldsmobile showroom. By the time it was aging into being an AARP senior citizen in more ways than one, it found itself condensed down in Oldsmobile’s attempt to assert value priced luxury against the shifting tides towards international flair for fancy, while abdicating the throne to something new in Oldsmobile’s sky, the Aurora. How does one step down from such a profound legacy?