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Four Car Designs That Reflect America

You can tell a lot about the past if you look at the styling of the objects made. The styling of American automobiles is a good example. Automobile designs reflect the mode and culture of the different eras they were designed in. For example, the rounded bodies of 1940s cars were a deliberate rejection of the antiquated angular designs of the 1930s cars; the elevated tail fins of the 1950s cars reflected America’s fascination with aircraft and space travel; and the beefy muscle cars of the 1960s illustrated the passion that car buyers were developing for raw performance. With help from Hoffman Automotive of Hagerstown, a local Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer in Hagerstown, MD, we survey a few interesting examples of cars that really represent the feelings of the times.

1948 Tucker – In the 1930s, cars were becoming faster and more powerful, and this led to more people were being hurt and killed in car accidents. Detroit’s car makers did little to make their vehicles safer because, frankly, there weren’t federal regulations and car buyers weren’t demanding it. Then in the early ’40s, a forward-thinking automotive designer named Preston Tucker decided that he could build “a safer car” and had a hunch that it was what car buyers wanted.

In 1945, Tucker founded Tucker Motors to make his safety cars. The first step was to secure funding, and he used some rather creative techniques to do so. For example, he sold dealerships to those who wanted to carry the Tucker line, and it came with promises of tremendous profits. After monitoring this interesting sales technique for a while, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) jumped in and shut Tucker down in 1948. The result was that Tucker built just 51 cars before the company went silent.

1953 Cadillac Eldorado – General Motor’s Cadillac Division launched the Eldorado in 1953. Tired of seeing premium buyers going to Rolls-Royce and other brands, they were convinced that they could build a car that was just as world class. The result was the Eldorado. This car was not a standard Cadillac; it had a special body unique to the brand. Standard equipment was real cutting-edge stuff like GMs’s Hydra-Matic drive, electric windows, a wraparound windshield, chrome wire wheels, leather upholstery, fog lamps, white sidewall tires and a “high-tech” signal-seeking radio. The Eldorado cost more than a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud and was considered one of the most elegant cars in the world.

1965 Ford Mustang – The legendary Lee Iacocca was the man behind the Ford Mustang. Introduced at the 1964 World’s Fair, the two-door Mustang perfectly tapped into the youth market. At the time, there was quite a bit of skepticism that the demand for a smallish “pony car” existed, but Iacocca knew that there was. A rapid success, Ford sold 1.7 million Mustangs in its first 36 months. The Ford Mustang has been credited for kicking off a great pony car battle. The other pony cars quickly introduced were models like the Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird and the Plymouth Barracuda.

1969 Dodge Daytona – The Dodge Daytona is a wild looking car. It is a Charger outfitted with a pointed beak and large, almost comical, rear wing. This car was designed for a specific purpose: to win NASCAR races. Back in those days, winning at NASCAR meant big increases in car sales, so Chrysler put a lot behind the Dodge Daytona and its cousin the Plymouth Superbird. You could buy the Daytonas with a number of engines installed, but the top-shelf edition had the famous 426 Hemi engine. Today, the Daytonas look like an enormous toy race car, but at the time, they were as cool as it gets.