The latest news doesn't look good for either Chrysler or General Motors. The former is already in bankruptcy, and the latter is teetering on the edge of it. GM, living on $15.4 billion in government loans, is burning through cash at an accelerating rate as consumers face the reality of its situation. Yesterday, it posted first quarter 2009 losses of $5.98 billion.
Bu this isn't a business story, it's an emotional one. My first car was a 1962 Chevy Nova II Convertible, and I currently own a 1963 Dodge Dart convertible. Here's my Dart in action. Don't you love the color?
Have you ever heard the truism that classic car people re-buy the vehicles they owned in their youth? It's certainly true of me. After the Nova I had, you guessed it, a 1963 Dodge Dart. No video of that one, unfortunately, but I paid only $50 for it. After replacing the smashed rear window and clearing out the wet hay in the trunk, it was transportation for years.
I went for the offbeat in those days. Instead of a Mustang, I bought another classic Ford: A Mercury Comet Caliente convertible. That one celebrated styling excess in grand style. In fact, it looked just like this There is some great video here that doesn't want to be embedded:
It was a glorious ride, despite the un-American six-cylinder engine under the hood. Even back then, I was an economy car nut. The history does not include muscle cars, though if I'd bought certain Hemi 'Cudas and Shelbys that were almost free back then, I'd be rich today. A friend from high school turned down a $2,000 289 Cobra.
If memory recalls, I owned some other American classics, including an ultra-weird '62 Valiant, a '67 Plymouth Belvedere, a '63 Nova wagon, and more.
At least until the 1967 riots, Detroit was a shining city on a hill, and its Big Three automakers could do no wrong. I worked at a Dodge dealer in my first job circa '69 and they couldn't move them out the door fast enough. Maybe I should have seen the shape of things to come when the dealership diversified and started selling Toyota Corollas, but no one was taking Japanese automakers seriously then. If we bought foreign, it was oddball English sports cars like the MGB and the Triumph TR4.
My Dodge Dart is built like a brick outhouse. Under the hood, a 170-cubic-inch Slant Six, known as the engine they couldn't kill. Another friend racked up 200,000 on a Dart without ever changing its oil.
In the 70s, it all went wrong, and nowhere was this more apparent than at Chrysler. By 1980, it was producing sub-standard cars that nobody wanted and, not coincidentally, the Slant Six went out of production. The Big Bailout was an inevitability.
So feast your eyes on this nostalgia-evoking video. It is 1984, and Lee Iaccoca has got his hand firmly on the tiller. But don't listen to his bravado about being the best in the industry and beating BMW; look at the clunkers that he's pushing! K-Cars! LeBarons! Only those early minivans are fondly recalled today. Will this '80s junk ever become classics? I doubt it. I'm not selling my Slant Six-powered Dart anytime soon.