1970: Chevy Corvair owned by my friend Stillman finally gives out with about 250,000 miles on it. With tremendous respect, we take it to the parking lot of Shea Stadium, take off the wheels and put it up on blocks, saying farewell to what was, in truth, the Galapagos tortoise of automobiles. It did very little, but what it did it did incomparably.
1978: Pontiac V8. Bench seats. Very comfortable. Solid body, sounded like a tank when you closed the doors. More room than a suite at the Holiday Inn. Went from 0 to 60 in about seven seconds in spite of the fact that it weighed a ton. Got about 12 miles per gallon, 16 on the highway. Never gave me a moment’s trouble. Sold it for exactly what I paid for it brand new: $2400. No car like it has ever been made anywhere but in Detroit.
1982: I find myself in Los Angeles for a few days and decide to rent a Cadillac Eldorado. Big mother of a car. Drives like an big old boat; you can feel the body floating along on the chassis like a fat man in a swimming pool. After a decade of Toyotas, it feels like I’ve come home from a pup tent to an enormous, comfortable house that anticipates my every need. When I am forced to give the car back, I almost weep.
2000: I am looking for a car that expresses my inner child. After a few test drives in assorted BMWs, Lexi and such, I am passed on the highway by a T-top Camaro doing about 110. I check it out. 345 horses. Goes from 0 to 60 in only about a half a second less than a Porsche. The interior is a bit cheesy, true, but hugely capacious compared to the itsy-bitsy Mustang, which makes me feel claustrophobic, and there’s Schwarzeneggerian muscle under the hood. Comes in at about $30,000, about fifty grand less than its closest competitor in terms of power and comfort. In the end, I find the T-top a little wearing and wish I’d gotten a convertible. But what a car! I miss it even now.
Everybody’s mad at General Motors (GM). And of course it’s obvious they’ve messed things up entirely. Stupid GM! So many mistakes. Perhaps a quick Chapter 11 is the only way to go here, I don’t know. I do know one thing, however. GM makes good cars. Have you seen the new 2010 Camaro?
I could lose 1000 banks as long as mine doesn’t fail. Every hedge fund in the world could go under as far as I’m concerned. But we’d better be pretty careful about our good old American car business. I mean, if they go, can the cheeseburger be far behind?