My post yesterday was just a little introduction to the automotive fantasyland of the past weekend’s car show here in town. Though I wasn’t, and am not, car-crazy, I have always had my own bit of admiration for the beauties of slick automotive design when I see it. I do love design, period. Cars are a clear, clean, highly visible example of the good, bad, and ugly in design. They take practical and ergonomic problems and solve them with both structural/mechanical and visual design choices, and the results present a tremendously varied array of marvels for every taste. Or none, in some cases, if you ask me.
The little ol’ suburbs where I grew up were not flashy, nor was I. So it’s just as well I had no particular need for speed or passion for fashion, when it came to cars. From when I was old enough to take Driver’s Ed, I was more obsessive about wishing I could avoid the class and the test and what to me were the stresses, rather than pleasures, of driving than about any urge to own and drive snazzy cars. At the same time, from my early teens I can recall having a growing appreciation for what made particular cars special. My first skills at determining the probable vintage of cars came from being able to internally populate and visualize them in use by their original owners, who would in my mental movie be dressed in period styles and occupied with period activities, and so they became entwined with the whole of characteristic designs of each era with which they were so associated. I never saw any of the movies American Graffiti, The Transporter, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, or Fast Times at Ridgemont High until well after their release dates, but I could see the sorts of cars that were on the screen in any of them and guess a fairly close year of the stories in each case, real or imagined.
No matter, that. What really intrigues me about vehicles, as with so many objects that capture my interest, is the stories that they themselves seem to contain. It’s the cachet of the combined looks and capabilities of the automotive machinery, yes, but far more, it’s the history of every scratch, dent, smudge, crack, and well-worn tire (or perhaps back seat upholstery) that makes me look, and think, twice.