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The age of fins and chrome

Published 9:01pm Thursday, May 16, 2013

Last Saturday’s Shake, Rattle & Roll Spring Car Show provided some perspective into how much motoring — and life — has changed over the years.

The 160 pre-1975 autos lining a stretch of Main Street shared a certain kind of intangible appeal missing from most cars today.

I put it down to the lack of sophistication. There were no airbags, dashboard GPS systems or hybrid engines, but the cars were all the more desirable for the lack.

So what else has changed since many of these machines rolled off the assembly line 40 yeas ago?

Man has walked on the moon, the Berlin Wall has fallen, the World Wide Web has ensnared us, handlebar moustaches have largely fallen out of favor, and smartphones, Facebook and Twitter have revolutionized how we communicate.

With the growing realization that our supply of oil may one day run dry, and that how we behave on Earth has environmental consequences, demand has shifted from raw gas-guzzling power to economy.

I’m not sure exactly when this happened, but it was sometime between when these classic cars and my first ride were built.

The car I bought at 16, a very un-cool 1982 Ford sedan, sported an “econometer” next to the speedometer. It would veer sharply into the red zone under pretty much any kind of driving.

Of course, there have been some benefits to the changing landscape of motoring. To better mileage, add fewer breakdowns and greater comfort.

But if the car show was still going in 2050, I wonder if a “classic” car enthusiast would roll into Main Street behind the wheel of a car like my current Ford — a 2004 model these days — back up to the curb, apply some last-minute polish, set a description of it inside the windshield, and watch as hundreds of show-goers marveled at the vehicle’s beauty?

Maybe I’m missing the point. If my Ford were a limited edition Mustang, maybe this could happen — none of the cars last weekend were exactly the garden varieties of their day.

Still, a golden age of motoring has passed, and an attitude to life and way of living along with it.

A brief resurrection occurs during events like Shake, Rattle & Roll, and then we leave the Oldsmobile Cutlasses, Plymouth Superbirds and hula-hoops behind, climb into our Priuses, check our Facebook pages on our iPhones, and return to the modern age.

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