We seniors can remember back when cars had classy looks and you could tell one from another at a distance.
Nowadays, most of the sedans look alike, as do the SUVs. Some of the new cars look just like the ones we made out of boxes when we were kids, big box for the body of the car and a small box in front for the engine. Then there are the cars that look like a motorcycle, only they come with four tires and a small metal structure around them.
Mainly though, on the normal style cars, I've found that I can't tell one from another until I get close enough to see their logo on the trunk. Maybe I'm the only one who has trouble trying to figure out what kind of car it is, but I doubt it.
I sure as heck wouldn't want to be on the freeway in one of those Smart cars. Every time I see one of them out in fast traffic, I have to wonder just how safe they would be in an accident over 20 miles an hour. I've seen photos of them involved in accidents between two other vehicles and they looked like a closed accordion! Not my idea of fun for sure.
Give me a bigger car with more metal enforcement around me to give me some protection from the other guys. Sure, they use a lot less gasoline to get around, but I'd only want to drive one from my house, down the city street to the closest store.
Back when cars had different styles, paint jobs and the use of chrome, the different manufactures worked hard to make their models stand out from the others. The Lockheed P-38 is what inspired the use of fins on the 1948 Cadillac. At first they were small fins, but everyone loved the new style and other carmakers quickly added fins to their models as well.
In my research, I found that Virgil Exner was the man that even tested the fins for his cars in a wind-tunnel, checking them out carefully, to add high speed stability. His designs really changed the look of his 1957 Chryslers, Desotos, Dodges, Imperials and Plymouths.
Cadillac was noted to have gotten the world's height record for its fins in 1959. Personally, I thought they were just too large and distracted from the look of the car.
Ford's fins were notably smaller than GM's and Chrysler's. Everyone seemed to want to own the 1956 Ford Thunderbird with the Continental Kit on the back. I read that they removed the kit the next year as it decreased the gas mileage too much.
The 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air's use of chrome and different paint colors made it stand out for sure. I think the red color for most of the body and the white in back made it one of the coolest looking cars that year.
My 1955 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Convertible had bullet taillights that kept getting broken when the car was placed in the air at the garages.
Cars used a lot of chrome back then and they also had chrome bumpers in the front and back. Most of them had beautiful hood ornaments that were synonymous with the different manufacturers.
Another great thing was if a tail or headlight went out, you just bought a bulb to replace the bad one. Now you have to buy a whole new light unit and that costs a pretty penny.
I loved the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am with the firebird painted on the hood. Now that car had class and style for sure.
A native of Minnesota, Carol Olson grew up in South Dakota and Walnut Creek and now lives in Pittsburg. She can be reached at email@example.com.