Rarely am I bothered by things that the mainstream dictates as “offensive”. However, there are some occasions when it hits me – hard. For instance, I found myself truly offended a few years ago at the rodeo when two women wearing hijabs stopped by a booth to put on cowboy hats and take selfies. Considering there would be cultural ramifications for me (a non-Muslim) even trying on a hijab, I found it particularly insulting that these women would put such a culturally iconic symbol over their veiled heads for giggling pictures. If you are going to whine about Americans showing you cultural respect, then do the same in return.
But alas, this post is about a different matter. One near and dear to my heart, even more so than western attire, though just as symbolic in its own right. American muscle cars. Yes you read that right – muscle cars. Those iconic heavy metal masterpieces of horsepower, wrapped in steel and accented in chrome. Every American car company had their players in the game – Chevy had Camaro, Chevelle, Nova and of course the Corvette. Ford had the Shelby Cobra, Mustangs and the Mercury Cougar. Pontiac had the GTO and Firebird, Oldsmobile had the 442 and Dodge had the greats like the Challenger and Charger. Even their colors has amazing names like Ermine White, Plum Crazy Purple, Daytona Yellow, Fathom Green and Lemans Blue. Then, to go the extra mile, they were special editions that just set the bar higher. In 1969 a four door Chevelle with a small block 327 was a nice family car. A two door Chevelle with a small block 350 was just plain fun! A two door Chevelle SS big block 396 meant you were owning the road. But a Chevelle Yenko/SC 427 (deep sigh)…if you could get your hands on one of the 99 rare beasts made by Don Yenko and Chevrolet, well that one made life just about perfect. Powered by a 427-inch big block with 450 hp, your choice of a 4-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission, power brakes, power steering, heavy duty springs and your choice of either Rally or Mag wheels. In 1969, this amazing ride would have set you back a whopping $5,200. Recently one of these rare beauties sold at auction for $275,000. (Hold on- I have to pause and wipe the drool off my chin).
Ok, back to being offended.
There is so much to love about these icons. But part of what makes them legendary is that they have become rare gems. Given their age and the fact that most of these cars were raced and wrecked in their prime, very few have survived as road-worthy (or at least restorable). But like any fabled creature surrounded by tall-tales and amazing stories, there are also those who just have to ruin a good thing.
It was one thing when our car culture decided to go “retro”. There was the reintroduced VW Beetle, some not so successful creations like the HHR and the PT Cruiser, and revamped classics like the Camaro and Mustang*. Then Dodge decided it would be “cool” to bring back the Challenger, Charger, Avenger, and Dart. (deep breath) Why Dodge? Why pin classic names to new cars that have NOTHING in common with their iconic predecessors?
And since we are on the subject of destroying icons, Chevy keeps circulating rumors of a new Chevelle (that looks like the bastard child of a Camaro and an Impala), and some NJ based company called SVE has licensed the rights to use the term “Yenko/SC” and is building 800 hp Camaros under this pseudonym.
NOW I’M OFFENDED!
“Gee I wish I had a Chevelle with safety features and too many electronics, that has no performance and that I can’t work on, and ultimately costs more than my first house!” SAID NO ONE EVER.
Stop screwing with these LEGENDS! Get your heads out of your corporate asses and get some damn originality in your design department. If you can’t think of something innovative then quit making cars! As for the guys licensing the Yenko moniker – you take the cake in lack of originality. You just couldn’t let that badge rest on its laurels. Not quite as bad as Ford misusing the Cobra badge on newer Mustang’s, but at least Dodge came up with a new designation when it created the Hellcat. Oh – I get that you do custom work and make super cars, but then so does Hennessey Performance, and they don’t trash vintage terms to do it.
So yes, I’m offended. Partially by the trampling of amazing memories and classic creations, but MOSTLY by the lack of originality in a billion dollar industry. Show some respect to the culture and history that you helped define and that set you apart in the first place! Instead of butchering the past, you should be shaping the future – finding cool new designs that embrace change and make driving fun again. You should be inspiring a whole new generation in the love affair with performance and design concepts, and showing them what it really means when you say “this is not your father’s Oldsmobile”.
*While Camaros and Mustangs have changed immensely over the years, they get a pass in this rant because they have remained current and progressed with the times.