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Category — Automobiles

Car Homogenization: What Have Regulations Wrought?

“Some 30 years ago, futurists imagined that cars of the future would be stunning and beautiful and would bring total joy to driving. …  That future has been entirely wrecked, a dashed dream that had to die to make way for the weird, homogenized stuff we are permitted to buy today.”

The antique car, specially ordered for the occasion, was waiting for the bride and groom to take them to the reception. I was among the wedding guests who found myself more enraptured by the car than by the main event.

The stunning car was a Studebaker. At best I can tell, it was a 1940 Commander convertible. I had to look it up: This company was born in 1852 and died in 1967, and produced some of the most visually gorgeous cars in its day. It even made an electric car in 1902! Wartime controls shrunk its margins and led to an industry consolidation from which the company never recovered.

This Saturday afternoon, after all these years, this car was still fabulous. We stood in a parking lot packed with new models of the guests, but no one cared about them. We were all obsessing about this old Studebaker. It is rightly named: It commands attention. The shape makes it a work of art. The hood looks like nothing made today. The red leather interior luxurious.

Amid our admiration, we wondered about the gas mileage. It can’t be more than today’s gigantic “light trucks,” but we all agreed that paying more to drive something that cool would be worth it.

Yet it’s not a choice. No manufacturer can make a car like this anymore. Step back from the situation and think about it. In the 1930s, phones were awful, and you were lucky to have one at all. No one today would give up a smartphone for one of those old things. Same with shoes, computers, televisions, ovens, and so much more. No one wants to go back. [Read more →]

December 14, 2012   10 Comments