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Mustangs, Camaros, and Challengers-Rest in Peace

Mustangs, Camaros, and Challengers-Rest in Peace

Normally, I write about trucks as they relate to work applications. That doesn’t mean that I’m not a car guy as well. I’ve had my share of classics, some good and some bad. I am particularly fond of the era from 1930 to around 1960. The sixties had their share of beautiful designs for sure. But the 30 years from the depression on, are of particular appeal to me. Possibly because that’s when auto design advanced at a breathtaking clip. Think about how far apart in design a 1930 model A is from a 1958 Corvette Fuellie. That’s a 28 year span. Now go back 28 years from today. Would a 1978 sedan or pickup really stand out on a modern street or parking lot? Maybe to true car people, but to the average person it would most likely blend in to the background. That’s because true styling evolution has not only come to a screeching halt, it’s gone backward.

Look at the first half of this decade. The new Beetle, Mini, T-Bird, Mustang, Ford GT, Challenger, and Camaro. The best designers in the world are being paid handsomely to plagiarize someone else’s original design, all in the name of nostalgia. Maybe you think that’s a bit strong but I don’t think so. When you run out of truly new ideas, all that’s left is to revive (or steal) old ones. Is the new Challenger concept new? Hardly! It’s clear Chrysler wants to recapture the cars long lost pony car mystique by modernizing past design queues. The same goes for the other cars previously mentioned.

Some cars actually have a continuous evolution. An example is the Porsche 9 series cars. You can look at any year 9 series and know instantly it’s a Porsche. And every year 9 was an attempt to improve the design and performance of the previous model, not an attempt to relive days gone by. The same could even be said for the Corvette to a lesser degree. With the exception of 1982, the Corvette evolved from version to version leading to the new C6. Now, some would say not each one was better than the previous. That’s not the point. The point is that it survived. Evolution can be good or bad, but it’s still evolution. When a species can no longer compete, it dies. Whether it’s organic or automotive, the laws of natural selection still apply.

You see, cars have a personality, a presence, some would even say a soul. Once that cars design evolution has lived out it’s life, it should be allowed to rest in peace. It shouldn’t be exhumed as each human generation enters their mid-life crisis. Does anyone buy the new Dodge Charger because they think it’s kind of like their childhood neighbors 68 Hemi? Are we all going to try jumping the Hazard County Creek to elude Roscoe? Not likely. Look, the new GTO is a flop in sales terms by anyone’s definition. But it’s not the car that doesn’t work, it’s the association with arguably the first and most significant American muscle car. The new car is fine, excellent even, but it is not a GTO. That car named and marketed, as a new car with a new design, would have been more of a success. But as a GTO? Park it next to the T-Bird in the forgotten rehash wing of the automotive design museum. At least Nissan has the brains to keep increasing the numerical value of the Z cars each generation.

In the decades I described earlier, people bought new cars every couple of years because each model year brought the promise of new designs, new models, new everything. Not old names, old designs, and old ideas. Are we so uncreative in this industry that we can’t even come up with new names? Was every other potential name already used up when GM named the new generations of Malibu and Impala? Instead, they should have resurrected the Vega and Citation nameplates. At least nobody would be disappointed or offended.

Our automotive heritage should be cherished and remembered in the context of the era in which it existed. The constant revamping of cars gone by is insulting to the original designers, the owners of the coveted originals, and the cars themselves. So, Mr. Marketing Manager, when the urge to name the new crossover, “Nomad” strikes you, just say no.