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Old Age

June 25, 2014
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

There is a sentiment prevalent in our society that old is less valuable than new. I wish to take issue with it. My credentials to do so are as follows" I have outlived so many pet dogs that I don't wish to have any more of them. Too hard to lose. I'm beginning to outlive friends now. It's almost the same, but I can replace them with younger friends who should out-live me. A dog may not pull it off. I ain't done yet.

The evidence pointing to the sentiment is the way our culture treats older cars, as well as older people. Cars are automatically depreciated with age in our popular "blue books," and people are automatically suspected of senility if they are of retirement age. I wish to point out a flaw in that thinking. Some cars, when they reach a certain age, are referred to as "classics." Sean Connery oozes class, even as his hair grows gray and falls out. It doesn't happen to all cars, or all men. The cars have to be stylishly "interesting" to be called "classics." Like a '57 Chevy compared to a 57 Volkswagen Beetle. People have to have style also, like Sean Connery and Sofia Loren, to be referred to as "classy." I enter them as evidence that old is not inferior to new. All that's needed is some class.

The 1950's produced the most variety of classic American cars, and (coincidentally) the best music. Body styles were completely changed every year or two. Big fins, bodies longer, lower, wider each year. American jazz, mixed with country and western and bluegrass became rock and roll. Songs had words you could understand, like ooby dooby doowaa. Great stuff, now known as "golden oldies." Start playing them today, and if you add some beer, even men start dancing.

Then along came the sixties, with muscle cars and screaming singers. Pontiac GTO's, Barracudas, and Mustangs and more. High horsepower, no seat belts, nearly as many people killed in cars each year as in the entire Vietnam War. Then we really started to produce the junk. Do you think the '77 Chevy Caprice will ever be a classic, even if one is shrink-wrapped for 50 years? Not a chance. It'll just be an old car. But there were cars which stood out, and are now selling for many times their original price.

The point is, that just because something is old doesn't mean it's bad. Poor design makes it bad, whether it's new or old. Good design is good when new and stays good as it ages, whether it's cars or people or music or anything else. Classy people become older classy people. Some of those classy people want classy rides, which are harder to find as time goes on, but not impossible.

Men my age have been known to salivate at the prospect of getting cars from Cuba, if it ever opens up to Americans, because they have a stockpile of 1950s vintage American cars there, still being used mostly as taxis. They haven't been able to import cars from us since the 50s, so they're caught in a time warp with 50s American cars and newer Japanese and Russian cars. If we are ever allowed to go to Cuba, like Canadians and Europeans and the rest of the world have been doing all along, we may be disappointed to find many of those old American cars have been converted to Russian or European engines, because they couldn't get genuine parts from us. I think a '57 Chevy with the heart of the Russian Bear under the hood would be heart breaking.

We'll just have to wait for our government to realize that if a policy hasn't worked for the last fifty years, it probably isn't going to work. It's an old policy, poorly designed, with no class, doomed for the scrap heap, like so many 1980s vintage American cars. With a few exceptions.



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