Friday, May 01, 2009

Let's take a ride.

It's 1966 and your father, a man who has never been anything close to rich, finally pulls down a enough coin to do something he's dreamt about for years.

He buys a new Chrysler.

It's not the top line New Yorker, but it's not the budget Newport, either. It's solid and right down the middle, as your father is. It's the 300 and it is a beautiful car.

Like America in 1966, it's got real power, and in the spirit of the pill-inspired sexual revolution, it's opened its top a bit to waggle the goods and let the air flow free.

This was my father's car. He was a store manager for Montgomery Ward, working long hours six and seven days a week, never once taking a sick day in his 35-year career, and this was his reward. That car, with a 383 cubic inch V8, could jump up and fly.

Mileage? Who gave a shit. Gas was 32 cents a gallon.

Dad had the Tijuana Brass on the in-dash 8-track and cruised through town, living the life. He was still a young man, just 42, respected and well-liked in our little town. And now he owned a fucking Chrysler.

That was the year, after decades of hard times and hard work, my father must have felt like he had life by the balls.

But, it wouldn't last long. In less than 3 years he would have one son in Vietnam and another one in basic training. He would see long-haired kids smoking pot in public, watch riots on TV, and hear some Afro freak fuck up his beloved National Anthem with shrieks yanked from the guts of an electric Fender.

A mall would spring up by the new Interstate. His store would close up and move out with the rest of the merchants, leaving downtown a shuttered and empty husk.

And he would wonder just what had happened to those golden days of 1966 when he and my mother would ride to dinner at the club, cruising like hometown royalty in their brand new Chrysler 300.

Forty years later, as the car company circles the drain after decades of crappy management making crappy cars, I think of Chrysler and prefer to remember when they built the dream car of a small town store manager, instead of the company now going tits up, looking to the Italians and the US taxpayers to keep the emblem afloat.

Good night Chrysler. For a while there you had something an American could be proud to drive.

But you fucked it up.


charlie stella said...

We went through something like this with a Buick LeSabre (fire engine red) in 1966, I think.

Fucking shame.

JD Rhoades said...

Be of good cheer, friends. We still have Ford and the Mustang.

Jennifer said...

Dang! Posts like this are why I love reading your blog. It's personal to you, yet relevant to all of us. Thank you.

Beneath the Carolina Moon said...

Life does have its ups and downs...If Chrysler goes the way of Packard, Tucker, Pierce Arrow, Hudson, etc., we can always remember the cars being better than they were. After all, that's what nostalgia is all about. Nice history lesson. From 66 to 71 the world turned upside down. This was the pause between storms.

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