Monday Musings: These are the good old days

By Author: Harvey Briggs, Date: May 01, 2017

As automotive enthusiasts, we tend to romanticize the past. Events like the California Mille, Woodward Dream Cruise, Pebble Beach Concours, and the thousands of Cars & Coffees that are held across the country every weekend are all built around the notion that cars of a certain era represent the pinnacle of automotive expression. Certainly when it comes to styling, it’s hard to argue with the voluptuousness of the 1939 Delahaye Type 165 or many other cars of time gone by.

And while many cars today seem to be the product of a cookie cutter computer design algorithm, creating a sea of sameness in silhouettes across just about every category, one thing is inarguable: the mechanics beneath those mildly differentiated skins are markedly better than those of cars even just a few decades ago.

We now take reliability for granted. The least expensive new car in America, a Nissan Versa S, costs just $12,885 and with the exception of 15 oil changes, a few sets of tires, and brake pads it’ll run for 100,000 miles with very little fuss. It won’t be any fun and it won’t turn any heads, but it wasn’t that long ago that people shied away from used cars with 50,000 to 60,000 miles on them because they were used up.

As for performance, today’s Hellcats, Corvettes, and Mustangs will blow the doors of anything produced at the height of the muscle car era of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Best of all, they can actually be driven on a daily basis without having to worry about bucking, balking, or overheating their predecessors were prone to.

You want efficiency? How would you like it? Burning gas with no electric help, you can get 35 mpg in a Ford Fiesta. Get yourself a Hyundai Ioniq hybrid and you can get 58 mpg. And any number of electric cars now get well over 100 mpg-e with range that makes charge time almost irrelevant.

Want to go exotic? This list is long, from the fabled nameplates – Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Porsche, and Aston Martin – to the upstarts – McLaren, Pagani, Koenigsegg, Hennessey, Zenvo – if you want to go fast you have plenty of options.

It’s hard to imagine a more luxurious car than a completely customized Rolls-Royce Phantom or Bentley Mulsanne.

It’s hard to imagine a truck more capable than a GMC Sierra Denali HD.

And is there anyplace a Range Rover Autobiography can’t go and do so with a level of comfort that makes most people’s living rooms seem inadequate.

Maybe your tastes are a little more mainstream. If that’s the case you’re in luck. The Camry, Malibu, Fusion, Accord, Sonata, Mazda 6, and Optima may not be the cars that automotive fantasies are made of, but they will do everything you ask with nary a complaint.

We can all wax poetic about the cars in our past; My 1974 International Scout II, 1969 VW Karmann Ghia, and 1967 Volvo 1800S come to mind. Each only left me stranded on the side of the road just a few times. One can’t argue that these machines didn’t have souls, but it would be hard to argue by any objective measure they’re better than anything that’s being built today.

Oh, and if you want to drive your vintage car, that’s perfectly okay. It’s easier than ever to find parts to keep them on the road thanks to this thing called the internet. Now, if we just had designers like Figoni & Falaschi to pen some better exteriors, the automotive world would be just about perfect.

Harvey Briggs

Harvey Briggs is the Founder, Editor, and Publisher of Rides & Drives. He has also written for Car and Driver, Winding Road, and the luxury lifestyle blog, His passions run from fast cars, small planes, boats and motorcycles to music, travel, and sports. When he's not on the road testing the latest cars, he been known to turn up on stage playing rock and blues guitar at clubs around his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. Follow Harvey's adventures on Instagram and Twitter @harvey_drives and find him on Facebook. Though keeping up could be a problem. As Harvey says, "If I don't slow down, time can't catch me."

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