I may date myself a little here but I’ve been thinking about the 1990s. A decade that brought us pizza everything and Crystal Pepsi. Clearly the winner of all decades… ever.
But what car best represents the 1990s? That got me thinking about every decade since the invention of the automated horseless carriage mobile. Is there a car so iconic of a single decade that it justly represents said decade. Note: that car will also be geographically specific, meaning that the representative car in the United States would differ to that of the United Kingdom or Germany. Being that I am an Ammmmmmmercan, that is where I’ll focus.
In the back of my head everyone in the UK drives Minis.
Yes, this is in fact what occupies my mind. Time spent on really important issues like the state of our nation, my children, pterodactyls and whether or not it is ethical to feed a McNugget to a chicken is wasted. And no. No, you should not feed McNuggets to a chicken… but it’s not for the reason you think.
My amateur historian status of the autocar has its limitations. There is a large blank spot from 1910 to 1950 I know nothing about. I freely admit that and I’m working on it. I really am. What’s your excuse Judgey McJudgerson?
It would be hard to argue that the Ford Model T isn’t the most representative ambassador for the early 1900s. Really it might be the only car that could own two or three decades, 1900-1930. Introduced in 1908 with production that ran through 1927. Easy enough, right?
By the end of the 1930s there were plenty of various makes and models that were hitting the automotive scene and this is where I leave my comfort zone. The 1920s thru 1940s are up for discussion from the peanut gallery. What say you?
The 1950s are pretty easy. The 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air, while not my favorite car from the 1950s, is pretty much a centerfold for its respective decade. End of discussion.
The 1960s are not as easy. Keep in mind this is a decade that gave rise to both the muscle car and the economy car. Talk about a conflicting. The American in me wants to argue that the Pontiac GTO truly brought about an evolution in what we, as a country, expected from the car. Power! But the VW enthusiast in me would say, “Shut the hell up. Just shut your gorram mouth” It’s The Beetle, a vehicle so fundamentally different, so iconic of change and youth in revolt. That has to be it.
Moving into 1970s. I wasn’t alive in the 1970s and my only experience with a vehicle from that decade as a child was one prodigious 1976 Pontiac Grand Prix. Later in life I owned a 1974 Beetle but I at this point Beetles were on their downward spiral. The 1970s was a conflicting time for Americans, they wanted land yachts but gas prices forced them into Japanese econ-o-boxes. But this article isn’t about production and sales numbers. It’s about design. The evocation of a language or trend drawn from the social climate. The 50s had fins. The 60s had Beatles and Beetles. But the 1970s, that was one confusing time.
The eclectic in me wants something unique. The enthusiast wants a Trans-Am or Corvette. Close your eyes, clear your mind and picture a vehicle that IS the 70s. I’ve talked about timeless design before and the Corvette really had that going until the introduction of the C4 in 1984. The Trans-Am, made infamous by Smokey and the Bandit, lasted in its 70s-ish guise until 1982. For me it’s a tossup. In the end, when I close my eyes and think about the 1970s, I see funky. Nothing is more Funky than an AMC Pacer. Is that the correct answer? Perhaps.
The 1980’s… the DeLorean DMC-12. Well maybe a K-car or Caravan. No, no. It’s a DeLorean.
Now, the 1990s, the era that got me thinking about this to begin with. An era of shifting automotive trends. “Style” began to trickle back into the landscape and the hard edges and boxy language of the 1980s gave way to curves once again. Too many curves to be specific. This article, the whole damn thing, started when I passed a 1996 Ford Taurus and thought man that IS the 1990s. The Ford “aero-jellybean” trend at its peak. The point when good curvy went to bad curvy. Nothing is more recognizable as a WTF moment in the 1990s than when someone passed you on the turnpike in what appeared to be a malformed turd painted, nine times out of ten, flat white. More importantly what in the hell was going on with the rear suspension. If you put a 2 liter of soda and a pizza in the trunk it was basically tailpipe to asphalt.
My buddy Pete had one of these and if it rained… at all… his electrics would be out for at least a day or two. Side note: the windshield washer nozzle is the exact size to fit a crawfish on the hood. Mardi Gras!
Soon, and sadly, the 1990s will be thirty years back. I’d argue it’s easier to ID a car indicative of a decade the further you’re removed from it. The 2000s gave rise to many things, although not all great. We got the fall of Creed, the rise of Nickelback and superhero movies. We also got the crossover. A vehicle designed to be the worst at everything it does. All the drawbacks of a car and a truck rolled into one. But the rear seats are higher (thus easier to buckle kids in) and it doesn’t look like a minivan. #SoccerMomMobile. The problem is CUV design is innocuous. They all look alike and none of them look good. But that isn’t what the early double-oughts’ were even about, they were about the future. Ohhhhh. Ahhhh. Thus I give you the second generation Prius.
That brings us to today. What do you think will be the most representative vehicle of the 10s? Maybe the Tesla or Chevrolet Bolt? I personally don’t know. No one does. But I can tell you what it won’t be: The Faraday Future.
Now where the hell is my flying car?