|1965 Pontiac GTO: when is an old car no longer an icon, but just an old car?|
Looking for some blog content, I checked my town's website to see if we'd repeat last summer's experiment with cruise nights. No. This year it's "Music And Movies In The Park." The music is local bar bands and the movies are kid-friendly. The town is looking to promote community-building. The cruise nights were not well-attended.
It's not surprising that local cruise nights are history. You can attend cruise nights in many Chicagoland towns and see car counts of 150-200. If you go to Anytown on Wednesday night, and Othertown on Thursday night, you see mostly the same cars. Almost all of them are American; almost all of them were made between 1955 and 1970. These are the cars of my youth, the cars of American Graffiti. Go find a modern tuner car at a cruise night. Or a young tuner car enthusiast.
Four things are in play here:
1) Demography: the number of young families interested in a free kids' movie is larger, and growing faster, than the number of empty-nesters towing their grandchildren around to look at old cars.
2) Decline of the Car Culture: The number of today's young singles who want to be on smart phones and tablets (vastly) outnumbers those who see cars as symbols of freedom and personal autonomy. Watchtower first pointed this out to me. A Pontiac GTO isn't iconic even to a 40-something: it's just an old car. I saw a car buff show that asked some teenagers what it would take to get them interested in cars. Their answer: "Ain't gonna happen."
3) "You Are Now What You Were When": This is the title of a management training film I saw 40 years ago. The point of the film was that time freezes, or at least begins to settle into the mud, for each generation, before it reaches the age of 30. My generation will be rockin' out to the Rolling Stones in our assisted living facilities, not big band swing music of the 1940's or rap music from the 1980's. Songs by the Beach Boys about muscle cars, once part of a burgeoning youth culture, are quaint trivia now. Two and a half generations have passed.
4) Cars of the 1970's and 1980's were mostly forgettable, or worse: There was an actual generation gap. Cars were interesting in the 1960's and got interesting again in the 1990's. Not much put on the road between those decades is likely to make someone now 50 to 60 years old weep with nostalgia.