The Cars Of Yesteryear

Published 3:40 pm Thursday, March 8, 2012

Recently I read of whispers that Chrysler had plans to reintroduce the Barracuda.

Ooh, Barracuda. What a good-looking car the Plymouth Barracuda was. My brother had one-a '67 model, if I remember correctly.

A beautiful blue one.

Email newsletter signup

I'm sure he wishes he still had it, but it's gone like the days of our youth.

In case you haven't noticed-even in these days of projected $5 and $6 a gallon gasoline-the retro look is back on the road nearest you. There's the Dodge Challenger, which truly does pay respect to Mopar's illustrious past in both look and power, the souped-up Ford Mustang with 70s styling and the new Camaro.

I'm not really a Chevrolet body style fan, but man, that Camaro's a cool looking car.

Thank you, American automakers, for not forgetting the last great golden age of automobiles and revving the memories. Thank you, very much.

Of course, I'm old school, (I'm dating myself here) and I can remember when Satellites were cars, compacts were carried in purses and American automakers owned the road.

Back in the days when Pontiacs, Buicks, Fords, Chevys and Dodges were beautiful, powerful and plentiful. Most every carmaker, even AMC (with the Javelin), had an eye-catcher not so way back when.

Big and boxy, they were spacious and fun to drive.

I was at the tail end of the golden age and remember them well, but also witnessed such forgettable things as the Arrow, Vega, Pinto, and Gremlin, too.

No one goes, “Man, I used to own a Pinto. Wish I still had that.”

But, those and a few others aside, there was some sense of automotive style back in the '60s and early '70s. And, looking back, we had some classics sitting in the family driveway when I was growing up.

There was an aqua-teal '67 convertible Dodge RT with a 440-magnum engine with chrome valve covers.

A '70 model red Chevy Malibu with a black stripe down the hood.

A mid-'70-some model black Plymouth Fury sedan with a 440 engine.

A greenish '65 F 85 Oldsmobile powered by a V-8.

A blue and white '73 Plymouth Duster equipped with an automatic transmission and a 340 engine.

A '65 two-door blue Pontiac Lemans powered by a 326.

And these were the family cars-just basic transportation. (I learned to drive in that Lemans.)

My sister had a spritely first generation white Ford Falcon, too, with a three-speed shifter on the column and, later, a bright red '67 GTO with a 327 Chevy engine and an automatic transmission. My brother, a black '71 Dodge Demon with a four speed and a 340 engine.

Peppy and beautiful. I can't stop using the latter word, because that's what they were-beautiful automobiles.

Those V-8 engines purred, particularly so with dual exhaust. It would be nice if we had any one of them today to cruise around in or just to park in the yard like a work of art to enjoy.

But times change, cars are sold and rust happens. Now, even some of the car manufacturers are gone.

There's no more Pontiacs.

Or Oldsmobiles.

Or Plymouths. (Yes, I know, the Barracuda was a Plymouth, but Chrysler must be working their way around that, somehow).

I miss them, but there is something to be said for the new designs. While there's more plastic and you can't see the engine because there's so much obstructional junk under the hood the new cars tend to last well over the 100,000-mile benchmark that once was the kiss of death.

And they can probably handle the $6-per-gallon gasoline better than their predecessors.

Even if they don't look nearly as cool.