Chrome bumpers. Wood paneling. Flashy fenders.
Far from just a memory, the collector cars of the 1950s through the 1980s are still increasing in value across the country.
I still look for the older cars in small towns and on farms. For me, it’s great to be able to look at the grill work and know right away the manufacturer of the car.
Owning a car in those years was truly something special. Pride was shown through keeping one’s car looking good — washing and detailing by hand in the driveway. With many classic cars measuring nearly 20 feet long and 6 feet wide, it took most of Saturday morning to wash the outside and clean the inside. Taking a vacation in your own car was a great experience that we all looked forward to in my family.
Since the early 1990s, when chrome bumpers began to be covered with vinyl or rubber trim and the body trim was substantially reduced, fewer and fewer cars are becoming collectibles.
Today’s cars, for the most part, have no real grill, no chrome bumpers, little to no body trim, no white sidewalls, no velour interior and seem mostly interchangeable, though some pickup truck designs are distinctive. As a child, I remember sitting in the backseat of my father’s 1942 Ford sedan with my sister and shouting out the manufacturer of passing cars. Now, I have to view the manufacturer’s emblem to determine what company made it.
My first vehicle was a 1940 Ford panel truck which I purchased for $200 in 1951. It was an old flower delivery truck with many miles, and it was well-used.
It had jump seats in the front and two small windows in the rear doors. The seat upholstery was shot, but my mother, an accomplished seamstress, made seat covers for me. I covered the door panels with Masonite and brush painted the exterior gloss black and the inside light gray. I used that truck my junior and senior year in high school to get to school and to work.
After graduation, I decided I needed a real car if I was going to start dating girls and found a green 1948 Studebaker Commander 2-door coupe for sale in a used car lot in Toledo. It had a great wrap-around rear window and wide white sidewall tires. How I would love to drive that car once again. Through the years, I also owned a 1951 Studebaker Commander, a 1953 Studebaker Champion, a 1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk and several 1963 Studebaker Avantis. All the cars were preowned.
As our children and grandchildren reached 16 years old, we found cars and pickups that needed work to provide first-time vehicles for them. So far, they haven’t shown any interest in classic cars or trucks.
I have noticed an overall lack of interest in classic cars with the millennials — probably because some 34.2 percent of people in that age range are leasing their cars, according to Edmunds, a car-sale publication.
Then again, nearly that many of people age 75 and older — more than 32 percent — are also leasing their cars, according to edmunds.com. It would appear that the past love for cars is being exchanged for other interests with these age groups.
For my wife and me, our daily driver is a 1989 Lincoln Town Car with 366,000 miles on it. I purchased the car some 14 years ago in Virginia with only 20,000 miles on the speedometer.
Very recently, I was driving the Town Car when I pulled up behind an Italian-built Ferrari and was again taken back with their distinctive design features and sound of that engine. That Ferrari is not the normal collector car, but a true classic in automobile design and performance that will never fade.
The picture is of a 1963 Studebaker Avanti, which truly had advanced design features for its time. However, the car was the final straw for Studebaker as they ceased production in South Bend in 1963. Their production ran from the mid-1860s with horse-drawn vehicles to the design skills of Raymond Loewy and his Avanti creation.
Oh — for the Good Old Days!
Dean McFarland is a member of the Hancock County Council on Aging. Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfield reporter.com.