The Era of Bad Feeling

Tam captures exactly the mood during the automotive Malaise Era:

To someone growing up in 6th or 7th Century England, the world must have seemed overshadowed by a glorious past. Like Tolkein’s Gondor, the reminders of civilization were all around: in grand villas with no-longer-functional plumbing; huge, decrepit public buildings looted for stone to make pasture fences; and ruler-straight, board-flat paved roads, with weeds and trees growing between the frost-heaved pavers.

How similar the life of the auto enthusiast on these shores in the late Seventies and early Eighties. Performance was a thing of the past, strangled by emissions and fuel economy needs and gun-shy insurers.

Yea, verily. I had to sympathize with the plight of a lad who’d acquired a 1980 Dodge Aspen with the legendary Mopar slant six; he apparently was not aware that the ’80 model reverted to a single-barrel carb and struggled to produce 90 hp, six less than my ’75 Toyota Celica with one-third less displacement. (And after that, Aspen and sister Volaré flew out the window, replaced by an endless stream of decidedly unspecial Ks.)

Tam also cites the case of the ’76 Cadillac Eldorado ragtop, billed as “The Last American Convertible.” I dug out a guidebook to “collectible cars,” published in 1982, which had this to say:

Our guess is that it may not be until the year 2000 that the ’76 Eldo convertible becomes scarce enough to be noticed by serious collectors — about the only reason it would be desirable even then. And because most owners have already mothballed their cars as future investments, mint-condition ’76s may actually be a bit more commonplace in a few years than the lower-production, less “worthy” 1971-75 models, which aren’t all that different anyway.

Lower production? Yep. This generation of Eldo moved about 7000-9000 ragtops a year, until GM made all this noise about “Get it while it’s last” and built 14,000 of them, almost all of which went into storage.

Then convertible production resumed in the 1980s, and legalarity ensued:

In the lawsuit, filed in federal court here … two men contend GM embarked on a fraudulent advertising campaign, deliberately misrepresenting the ’76 convertible as the “last of the breed” and a “priceless collector’s item” and luring thousands of buyers with “cavalier campaign promises.”

GM attorneys countered that the lawsuit was vague and contained no evidence that GM intended, as part of a fraudulent scheme, to resume convertible production after the 1976 model year.

“Because ‘Murrica!” says Tam. Yep.





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