Automobiles have played a major role in American economics, history, transportation, and culture. The industry is in transition as it moves full force to create electric autonomous advertisement pods. Yes, you read that right – ELECTRIC AUTONOMOUS ADVERTISEMENT PODS.
Automobiles in their early days were a statement of wealth but were quickly available to the common man with the advent of Henry Ford’s assembly lines. John Paul Getty’s Standard Oil ensured the combustion engine would monopolize the industry over Thomas Edison’s electric vehicles. President Dwight Eisenhower created a massive network of highways that would ensure the dominance of the automobile over all other forms of transportation and underpin suburban sprawl.
The heyday of the automobile was the 1950's and 1960's when creativity and art dominated. The major manufacturers would introduce new model years with great fanfare. Television reached the masses and it could be used to promote sales in many ways that created an emotional attachment to brands. Creativity also rested with individuals that could take older cars from the 1930's and 1940's and convert them into unique artistic statements as hot rods and later muscle cars.
At a recent 4th of July parade, as the antique cars passed by, my brother-in-law and I would say as they approached, “1968 Chevy Camaro, 1934 Ford Pickup, 1957 Thunderbird, etc.” A nephew of about 35 years of age watching the parade with his own young children said, “how do you guys know all of these old cars so well?” I said, “in our time cars were a work of art. When the new model year was rolled out there were themes like the introduction of two-tone paint, or push button transmissions, or rocket lights reflecting the space age. They were things of beauty and innovation that we all wanted. Cars today for your generation, like so much else today, are consumable items. They all look the same. You lease them and turn them in. Do you foresee anyone coming to a parade like this when you are our age saying, “Oh, wow, there goes a 2015 Nissan Rogue or a 2007 Toyota Corolla?”
Cars were a common shared experience for the Baby Boom generation. Teens were bursting to obtain their license. It was a means and a symbol of independence. They almost immediately purchased a car for as little as $50 (my first was that price - a 1961 Dodge Dart). They paid for the car, the insurance, and the gas. They did everything in their cars. On weekend nights they rode up and down Main Street, stopping for an ice cream and to talk with friends. Boys did much of the maintenance themselves. Girlfriends and boyfriends went “parking” at the reservoir or some other place for romantic encounters at the end of a date. Cars were an integral part of their culture.