Muscle Car

Automotive Inventions: Are They The Best Way Forward?

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By Mark Weisseg

Did you ever sit and ponder why so many automotive things are the same? One company does a hands free door and suddenly all the companies do it. And yet we are told it takes years to design and build a car. That’s horse hockey. If you recall Honda had a poor design on a car a few years and somehow mid year they fixed the design and reintroduced the car. Not years, months. So, if you go into the way back machine I always talk about let’s put the dime in and see what happened. Ding.

Back in the late sixties and very early seventies can you tell me what was so different about our muscle cars? Gulp. Really not much. What it came down to was loyality. None of the big three did anything really wacky. All had cars with big engines that could blow you out of your shoes.

All had drum brakes and slowly switched to front disc brakes. All had bucket seats or bench seats. All had floor shifters or column shifters. All had headlights, tail lights, exhaust, radios, Windows, and kooky colors. So, my 69 Z28 is hot. But so is my 69 Ford Mach I or my 69 Plymouth Road Runner. All were very fast cars. All are still desirable. But none of the three had something radical or bizarre that made them very different.

We all see concepts cars and few ever get built the way we see them at a show. Some are just for fun while others are sending up small test balloons. But, has any car really done anything really outside the box? You go to an average run of the mill car show today and you see loads of the same type of cars. What separates them?

Not much unless the owner took major liberties. Think of it like this. Apple owns the cell phone market right now. Why? Well, they build a good product with very innovative features. All these rest of the cell phone makers try to even the playing field. Watch any sports event on TV and you are bombarded with cell phone ads and automobile commercials. How different is a I phone 6 against an I phone 7? Not much but Apple makes people feel they need the latest and greatest. Now, return back to our fast muscle cars.

I have some muscle cars from years ago. All are fast, all have drum brakes and a single cell master cylinder, all have a stick shift on the floor, all have dual exhaust, all have roll up window and a AM radio and on and on. It’s just a different body style. None of them have any wild styling cues.

All of our cars went from am radio to am fm. Then to cassette players to CD players to XM radio. All of them. And, any time the big three did try to go out of bounds they got nothing back. That is in sales. Ford had a retractable top car. Flop. GM tried in vain to make a go of a Corvair sports car. DOA. Chrysler tried square steering wheels and push button transmissions. Stick a fork in it.

So, it seems when they tried to outside the lines the public turned there noses up. So, fast forward to cars of recent years. Mercedes has a convertible that you push a button and the top goes in the trunk. Sales winner. Lincoln has a SUV today with a push button transmission. Sales good and nobody cares. GM has am angry Camaro again with monster horsepower that the public loves. So, why did they bomb back in the late 50’s and into the 60’s? Your guess is as good as mine.

But, wouldn’t you like something that really stood out today. Back with our classics you can tell a Camaro from a Mustang and a Challenger against an AMC AMX. Today, the cars are all vanilla again. They look the same, sound the same and all of them have loads of features and benefits. At one time you had a page of options to pick from. Getting power windows was a big darn deal. Today it is standard in about 98 percent of our cars.

They all have dashboards loaded with gizmos and chimes. Back in our classics the dash boards were simple and best of all sometimes a lever or knob was not marked. It was assumed you would read the fifteen page owners manual. Today they use fifteen pages to advise you how to put your seat belt on. Thank the lawyers for this.

We went from very simple dash boards and features to an array of buttons nobody ever mastered. But the underlying issue is the cars of today are almost all identical. Does this sound like World Motors? You bet it does. When I read Ford and GM are teaming up to build a better transmission or mousetrap I start to worry. The cars are so standardized that in due course you may see parts interchangeability sooner rather than later. We in the classic car world fight that. We live to be different and rare.

The new cars today are very boring and we accept that. Remember when spark plugs had to be changed at 10k? Or you bought recap tires for the rear of the car? Or you were able to pull a dip stick and check your transmission fluid? Wiper blades were three bucks not thirty? Why does a car need a eight speed automatic transmission? Isn’t four enough?

My point is we all want the best bang for our buck. The car industry is good right now but one company is in trouble and looking for a dance partner. And nobody has edged off the seat to join hands. Can you tell the difference between a Kia and a Hyundai from thirty feet? Nope. How about we line up a 70 Chevelle and a 70 Charger. Do you think you could see a difference from thirty feet? You bet.

So, what happened? Why don’t you tell me your opinion. I will watch for your thoughts. It ought to be good.

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