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Nostalgia July 2012

Yearning for the Past While Driving into the Future

By John C. Liburdi

My senility notwithstanding, one would have to agree that most of today's cars look to be cold techno toys, not unlike scary UFOs.

Even though many decades have passed since the Beatles song “Drive My Car” was a hit, Paul McCartney's words still ring in our collective ears – "Baby you can drive my car." Given that Paul was to be chauffeuring a lady star of the screen, the car had to be a grand automobile. Such a car was easy enough to find back then, but a magnificent automobile might be rather difficult to find in this era of advanced technology and futuristic vehicles. My senility notwithstanding, one would have to agree that most of today's cars look to be cold techno toys, not unlike scary UFOs.

Back in the day, cars had real personality and powerful presence. I yearn for the elegance of the sculptured fenders that graced my postwar Pontiac Torpedo, beautifully flared out with sweeping curves. Like many other cars of the '40s, `50s and '60s era, its wheels were adorned with big silver hubcaps, looking like four huge jewels. I also miss the art deco hood ornaments that used to be on those cars, gleaming figures of jet aircraft, exotic animals and semi-nude women, all truly inspiring.

Then there were those massive, curvy chrome bumpers of yesteryear, each one heavier than a trendy Smart car. And much like that grouchy old lady at the counter in the burger joint once asked, "Where's the beef?”, I'm asking today's automakers, where's the fins?

The dramatic evolution of the automobile is clearly evident in today's advertising hype. Forget about the car's mechanical attributes; instead, everyone is excited about how many channels the satellite radio receives, how the navigation system leads the driver by the nose to a given destination, and how upscale cars autonomously maneuver into a parking spot while the stupid humans inside just watch.

And now everyone is suddenly fascinated with those highly innovative push-button starters, like our cars had way back when. Of course, people who market high-tech autos hide the fact that a driver can't yell at his kids in the back seat anymore -- to do so would get the car's computer all confused about the voice commands he previously screamed into the dashboard.

It's true that my lingering love for old cars is largely a matter of infatuation, but it's not that I'm stubbornly stuck in the past. The new cars are just becoming stranger and stranger to me as technology evolves. I guess some of us are simply destined to suffer from future-shock. Indeed, the day is coming when cars will travel without a driver at the wheel. Research engineers are eagerly working to bring that concept into being. When it happens, we'll all be relegated to mere passenger status and, sad to say, Paul McCartney won't be able to drive that big car for his Hollywood diva anymore. On the bright side however, the two of them will be able to enjoy more time together in the rear seat, just like we did back in the good old days!


Liburdi resides in the Charlotte, N.C. metro area. His recently published book, "Italian American Fusion, Italy's Influence on the Evolution of America is available at internet bookstores and on the Kindle e-reader.

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