Different Eras of Autos
Over the years, Da-Les Auto Body has seen it all when it comes to trends in automotive technology and body styles. These trends have been shaped by consumer demand as well as the advent and decline of different methods and means of constructing cars. A lot of people say “They don’t build cars like that anymore!” and they’re absolutely right. However, we don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing either. Sometimes the old ways aren’t the best, and new materials and fabrication techniques have made cars more economical and safer than ever. Here’s a look at some of our favorite, and least favorite, vehicle trends from 1970 onward!
The 1970s were the golden years of the muscle car, ushered in by the Mustangs and Chargers that debuted in the 1960s. Built with heavy steel and with power and speed in mind, these legendary machines were anything but economical. Still, they have retained their iconic status through three generations of auto enthusiasts and with good reason. The sleek, powerful styling still stands as the epitome of cool today, making the Roadrunner, the Pontiac GTO, the Dodge Charger and the Mustang Shelby GT500 some of the most hotly championed and desired cars among classic auto collectors.
As the Oil Crises of the 1970’s occurred, the AMC Gremlin, the Chevrolet Chevette, the Ford Pinto, were designed for economy at the expense of looks and performance. While these vehicles still have their fans today, largely due to the relative ease of repair, they certainly never enjoyed the swagger or the status of the muscle cars of the day. The 1970’s also ushered in the era of the compact foreign car. Household names like Honda, Toyota, and Datsun, all got their start during the oil crisis.
With two energy crises in the metaphorical rearview mirror and “conspicuous consumption” coming back around as a status symbol, the sports car and the economy car became the unlikely most popular pairing for the decade. While cars like the Chevy Sprint and offerings from Peugeot, Renault and Yugo as well as other imports engaged in a marketplace shootout for top honors in the economy class, sports and luxury cars like the Jaguar XJS, the Lamborghini Countach and the Ferrari Testarossa became status symbols.
As gas prices soared to then-unheard-of heights that today we dream of wistfully, owning one of these sporty gas-guzzlers, never mind driving them, demonstrated one’s ability to successfully navigate the cutthroat world of 1980s business. However, the luxury dream cars and the humble family transports shared one crucial commonality: their bodies were largely fiberglass, owing to a sharp increase in metal-refining costs and a simultaneous realization that molding fiberglass was both much cheaper and lighter, enhancing fuel efficiency. Also computers, which had been more or less a novelty or experiment in the ’70s, abruptly came into use in nearly every make and model of vehicle on the road. While increased instrumentation improved performance and fuel efficiency, the weekend mechanic suddenly found relatively simple repairs to be beyond the capabilities of a home garage.
“Bigger is better” was the mantra of the ’90s. The Hummer, the civilian version of the military Humvee, led the way in popularity among so-called “soccer moms” partly because of Arnold Schwarzenegger owning one and partly because of the sudden increase in family sizes and carpooling. The economy car still fared well in the ’90s, but sporty coupes and sedans like the Chevy Malibu and the Saturn S-Series took to the streets in ever-increasing numbers. These vehicles were computerized to an unheard-of degree, with computer modules governing everything from climate control to brake pedal pressure. Fiberglass began to be supplanted by injection-molded plastic body panels which offered superior protection in a crash but required specialist capabilities to repair after an accident. Metal was largely relegated to the frame and passenger compartment to compensate for plastic’s tendency to deform under the stress of a collision.
The trends toward larger vehicles began to deflate with the dot-com crash of 2000. Once again economy cars gained the upper hand both among private buyers and government fleets, many of whom picked up first-generation electric or hybrid vehicles. While these vehicles were not without their drawbacks in terms of range and expense of recharging, their safety features were generally top of the line. However, SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade and the Land Rover still made significant inroads. Automakers such as Ford, are now considered the biggest purchaser of computer chips, proving that technology continues to evolve.
Retro styling blended with modern technology has become the latest theme in the auto market. What was old is new again, as a new generation of car lovers discovers the oldies-but-goodies their parents and even grandparents enjoyed. We can’t wait to see what the next 40 years holds in automotive technology, and we’ll be ready to keep pace with the best customer service and finest repair facilities around!