Detroit Iron

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If entrepreneurial mankind ever created a better sound than the rumble of a souped-up muscle car engine, with a heap of horsepower emanating through its gleaming, chrome tailpipes, I have yet to hear it.

When one thinks of all things American, baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet come to mind, thanks to the great old Chevy commercial. With the exception of Coca-Cola, the Ford brand name and trademark are the best known in the world today. That is due to America’s uninterrupted love affair with the car.

The automobile, for many of us, denotes individual freedom, speed, status, personal glory, and personality. The classics, in particular, sustain a special place, throughout time, for those of us who experienced that era, or wish we did. I know I wish I did.

From a two-tone, chopped 51 Merc to a give-me-a-ticket-orange, late-60s Hemi Roadrunner, the character of classic American cars never gives up its ghost. Detroit’s classic cars, with their shapes, emblems, tailfins, hood ornaments, and fantastic lines represented a golden age of the automobile — from post-WWII to the late 60s — that will never be equaled. From the 40s and 50s classics, to the glorious muscle cars of the 60s and 70s, Detroit rolled out one dream car after another, until politically correct downsizing, rabid environmentalism, and a sham oil crisis steered Americans from Hemis, GTOs, and 442s, to collectivist mass transit and unsophisticated, painfully inept 4-cylinders that were more akin to mechanized roller skates.

However, these American beauties are still very much alive, and nowhere more so than in their place of their birth — Detroit. Almost every night, and every weekend, all summer long, there’s a Detroit-area parking lot that’s being used as a temporary trophy room for American boys and their classic toys: at the bowling alley, the church, the neighborhood Big Boy restaurant, and Eddie’s, the only local drive-in diner that still uses waitresses on roller skates.

The men congregate, open their hoods, shine their chrome, flip the lid on the cooler of Budweiser, and sit and wait for the next admirer. They bring their ladies, in skirts and shorts and Mopar shirts, to add to the aesthetics of the day. This is middle-class, Midwestern Americana and its love affair with the classic American car. Having grown up in a Mopar, drag-racing family, it is this that I celebrate.

With technology and a market that yearns for real cars again, the automobile — both American and foreign — has become illustrious once again, but more so for reasons of expediency, utility, or humble, personal expression. The days of Detroit’s impracticality, imperious design, and near lack of efficacy for the purpose of brand glory are spent. Thank goodness we still have our American classics, and also, our Harley-Davidsons.

These pictures were taken at the June 2004 Gratiot Cruise, the east-side version of the world-famous Woodward Dream Cruise, an annual event that draws 1.5 million people, from all over the world, to the famous Woodward cruising strip north of Eight Mile Road. Enjoy the eye candy.

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Karen De Coster, CPA, [send her mail] is a libertarian freelance writer, graduate student in Austrian Economics, and a business professional from Michigan. Her first book is still in the works. See her Mises Institute archive for more online articles, and check out her website, along with her blog.

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