Doane Yawger: A love of American classic cars

May 22, 2010 

Doane Yawger, Sun-Star reporter

MERCED SUN-STAR

I love old cars. Always have. Always will.

Stamps, coins, fish or golf clubs just don't do a thing for me. But when it comes to American cars and trucks, made between roughly 1925 and 1975, that's a different story.

Why the fascination with vintage vehicles? There's no simple answer to that question, but oldies-and-goodies have always resonated strongly since the very early 1950s when I was alert enough to tell the difference between a 1951 Ford and a 1949 Chevrolet.

Showroom-stock, hot rods, customs, muscle cars, street rods, even antiques tug at my heart regularly. I'm a generalist with no particular brand loyalty; I'm thankful for this "automotive ambivalence" since that makes more of them to enjoy.

Model cars, magazines, books, auto shows, videos, the Internet and even an occasional television show fuel this zeal for the symbols of transportation from earlier eras.

I've got nothing against today's cars and trucks but they just don't have the style, personality and character of their forebears. Automotive styling changed distinctly every year until at least the 1970s, when the difference between successive years began to blur.

In past years, cars were things of beauty.

Now I'm not so sure.

Today's cars are bold, sophisticated, futuristic, other-worldly, even menacing-looking in many cases. I wonder if people 40 years from now are going to look as fondly on a 2010 Chevy Malibu as I do on a 1960 Biscayne. I don't think they will but my sense of history is nothing to hang your hat on.

When I think about a 1958 Ford or a 1961 Cadillac, a kinder, simpler, more innocent and hopeful time comes to mind.

Growing up five decades ago with old cars and pickups undoubtedly cemented my bond with the early varieties. Old cars are a rolling history lesson, very visible icons of the times when they were new.

I must confess my adoration of old cars comes from afar. I briefly owned two vintage vehicles years ago, but neither was reliable or in good shape and they would have required sizable investments to become something worthwhile. So they both went to new homes and I hope their owners ultimately can return them to their past glories.

I'd love to ride in some of these oldies given the chance. That certainly would be icing on the cake.

There's no way I could pinpoint a clearcut favorite out of the thousands of cars and trucks from bygone eras but several vehicles from my past stand out.

I came to California in 1951 in the backseat of a 1941 Chevrolet two-door sedan. This gave way to a "turret top" 1950 Studebaker Champion, followed by a 1956 Buick Super four-door sedan, then later Buicks.

I drove to Merced 41 years ago in a 1952 Dodge Coronet two-door sedan, which I dearly wish was still around today. Back then I had no idea how esteemed and valuable these old cars would be now.

It's very nice to know lots of other folks share this interest with old cars and that helps keep the fervor alive.

Long live old cars!

Doane Yawger is a retired reporter and editor with the Merced Sun-Star who can be reached at dsyawger@sbcglobal.net.

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