Opinion Columns & Blogs

No detail shop for your best girl?

Dad was into cars. He hung out with guys who were into cars and when they got together, they talked about cars. Their car talk didn’t interest me all that much, but their enthusiasm was catching so I listened.

It was the 1950s and they talked about engines, “How fast will she go Orville?” “How much horse power she got under the hood?” Stuff like that. Lines were important also and meant that not only was she sleek, but she looked really fine floating down the road, effortlessly, in good shape you might say. You might hear the phrase, “Ain’t she purty?” when the guys were talking about their particular model. Gas mileage was not a topic because, at 25 cents to 30 cents a gallon, who cared?

The 1959 Cadillac had outstanding lines and was the runway model of her day due to extremely large fins, although opinions vary as to her performance. As for the body of a vehicle; well, many times it was described as one might describe a beautiful woman walking down the street. “You’re not going to believe how good she looks!” Yes, sexist in today’s environment, but back then, you couldn’t wait to see “her” coming down the road.

For some reason, cars were “she” or “her,” perhaps out of reverence and respect, even though men who were having difficulties with their wives or girlfriends would still refer to their car as “she” or “her.” I suppose some models may have been looked at as “the other woman” in some women’s eyes. Not for me to judge, although I can appreciate the torture some men must have gone through when deciding on keeping her or looking for a trade in.

In the ‘50s they were washed, waxed, stroked with a chamois, and paraded down the street by the man lucky enough to own one of them and the bigger the fins the more looks they would get from passersby.

The Chrysler Windsor had a pretty good fin in ‘59 but she couldn’t hold a candle to the Cadillac Eldorado, (she passed away in 2002). When that baby hit the street, you just had to look, but I digress.

Suffice to say, the respect men had for their cars in those days is not seen much anymore. Today, instead of personal attention given by the man to his “baby” we find them at the car wash being handled by total strangers in a sterile environment. No more waxing at home, just send her down to the “detail” shop for whatever she needs in the way of beauty products. And when’s the last time you saw one with her hood up in the front yard with some proud owner showing her off to his friends?

Her lines are gone too, sacrificed to the god of fuel efficiency, making it difficult to tell your’s from anyone else’s in the parking lot. Oh yeah, “the parking lot,” any parking lot for that matter. That social slab of sad castoffs where your precious one is exposed to the neglected mass of metal in stalls built for golf carts. A dent city of sorts waiting to wreak havoc on the only thing of beauty and worth in your life.

Dad’s first driving experience was with a Model T, and I can’t remember if she was a roadster, touring or whatever but he always spoke of her in respectful terms as he told of taking her apart and putting her back together again. He was familiar with every inch of this engineering feat that transformed the world. And although he had his share of various models throughout his life, the Model T was his baby. I know, I’ve written a lot about the beauty factor here with regard to various models, but the truth is, all you fellows thinking about making a trade would be wise to remember, it’s not the body that counts so much as what’s under the hood. If you take good care of that, she’ll always purr when you take her out on the road.

Sonny Harmon is a professor emeritus at Georgia Military College. Visit his blog at http://sharmon09.blogspot.com.