This, That and Other Stuff


Bob Neuman

How would it be without your car? As we age, the thought of giving it up because of our driving ability is something we dread.

Besides being inconvenient, it is another step toward the end.

No one in SunBird was alive when the automobile did not exist. With horses, our ancestors did their best. Some probably yelled, “Get a horse,” as the first car rumbled by.

“Henry wasn’t the inventor of the modern machine. That would be German engineer Karl Benz. But the Model T, which first rolled out of Ford’s Detroit factory in late summer of 1908, revolutionized transportation. The “Tin Lizzie” was the first affordable horseless carriage, the one that middle-class families had.

“The first Model T cost $850.00 (just over $21,000 in today’s currency), but by the time it went off the market in 1927, Ford’s efficient assembly line production had knocked the price down to $260.00. Over 15 million Model T Fords were sold, a record that stood until the Volkswagen Beetle finally passed it in the 1970s.

“Ford said, ‘Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, so long as it is black.’ Used were 30 different types of black paint for different parts of the car’s exterior. It dried faster, but history suggests it was just an efficiency. Black paint was cheap and durable, and turning out only one color of car cheaper still.” Wikipedia

Much time has passed since Henry’s Model T. Can you recall all the cars you have owned? Do the bad ones stand out?

I purchased my first car, a 1939 Plymouth, in 1953 for $350.00. It had bald tires, no working speedometer and the floor sported holes in the pavement flying by. The radio worked but only by sticking a screwdriver into a hole.

Being in college ROTC, I was to be in Louisiana for two summer months training. With three other cadets, we fired up old reliable and roared off. On the way, we were stopped by a state patrolman for speeding. Of course, we had no way of knowing that. Going to Shreveport, it consumed 10 quarts of oil and 10 returning. But it was mine and paid for.

My Plymouth in today’s array of automobiles would be like taking a musket to fight Isle. Not too many years back, we could purchase a new car we could actually afford. Now, most cost more than the first home I bought. Can you visualize the huge 1950s Cadillacs with their enormous fins for back fenders and a trunk one could sleep in?

Today’s cars are made better but cost a fortune to repair. They are more plush than many homes. But neither can one buy gasoline for 25 cents.

Your car may have a gadget that pilots your trip and includes a lady hiding somewhere under the dash who verbally tells you where to go… no, not your wife. Another voice warns you to put air in the front tire. Another tells you not to tailgate. Soon, we may relax in the backseat and be driven by no noticeable driver. Also, semitrucks will, too, be driverless. Many of us would be grateful if the designers could sneak a certain plumbing fixture in soon. I’d buy that.