Old Cars

Why do so many modern sedans look alike?

A version of this post appeared at Curbside Classic a couple weeks ago. I contribute there from time to time. Its primary mission is to document the old cars still rolling on the road, but we consider all things automotive. Check it out here.

Are the world’s automakers all smoking from the same pipe?

Recently Chrysler unveiled its redesigned midsized sedan, the 200, which goes on sale in the fall as a 2015 model. It’s about time; the current 200 is frumpy and dumpy. The new 200 is a sleek, beautiful design.

2015 Chrysler 200

But wait… where have I seen that form before? Oh, yes, of course – on the midsized Ford Fusion, which went on sale in 2013.

2014 Ford Fusion

And on the new-for-2014 full-sized Chevrolet Impala.

2014 Chevrolet Impala

These cars have a lot of common design elements: high beltline, tall nose, aggressive grile, dramatic side creases, roof that flows smoothly into the trunk lid, and large, round wheel openings. But the signature design element they share is the rounded six-window greenhouse with a kick-up at the tail.

Did Chrysler steal this look from Ford and GM?

Or maybe they stole it from Toyota. Here’s the full-sized Toyota Avalon, which debuted in 2013.

2014 Toyota Avalon

Even small cars are wearing this basic design. Here’s the current Nissan Sentra, which was new in 2013.

2014 Nissan Sentra

The compact Dodge Dart, new in 2013, could be the Chrysler 200’s little brother. But given that they’re made by the same company, I’m sure that’s no coincidence.

2014 Dodge Dart

But it must be coincidence that Buick’s smallest car, the Verano, has worn the same basic look since 2012.

2013 Buick Verano

Ford’s small cars wear similar six-window greenhouses, although the rear-window kick-up is far less dramatic. Here’s the current Focus, which debuted in 2012.

2012 Ford Focus

And here’s Ford’s Fiesta, also new in 2012.

2014 Ford Fiesta

Finally, even Honda’s compact crossover, the CR-V, got into the act in 2012.

2014 Honda CR-V

I’m used to cars by the same maker wearing similar or even identical styling. GM was king of this for decades. They made one basic car, put different front and rear clips on for each of their brands, and sold them by the boatload. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many similarly-styled cars across so many different makers. I find this six-window styling to be plenty attractive – but I guarantee that ten or fifteen years from now when these are all cheap wheels on the used market, we’ll all look at them and say, “That styling is so mid-2010s!”

Wanna see some classic car style? Then click here and here and here.

Film Photography, Old Cars

Captured: 64 Chevy tail

64 Chevy tail

Even though I thought my dad’s ’66 Ford was cool when I was a youngster, even then I had to admit that Chevrolet styling was superior across the board. The triple tail lights on Impalas were always inspired designs. I especially liked the kidney-shaped lights set into the bumper on the ’68s, but my next favorites were the perfectly round lenses on the ’63s and ’64s. Plenty of these Chevys roamed my childhood neighborhood.

I took my Olympus XA along to the Mecum auction last month. I was impressed that it handled some challenging lighting situations pretty well. I regret my choice of film, though. Arista Premium 400 is grainy like good old Kodak Tri-X; some say the Arista is Tri-X. I think my automotive subjects were better suited to a film like Kodak T-Max and its barely detectable grain.

Stories Told

Cars of a Lifetime: 1989 Chevrolet Beretta

I called it The Dentmobile because no matter how hard I tried to keep it in nice condition, it seemed to attract accidents.

My next post in the Cars of a Lifetime series is up over on Curbside Classic. It was my one and only new car, and the one I kept the longest – eight years and 150,000 miles. This car was one constant in a period when I did a lot of growing up.

I adapted my story from a 2007 post that I reposted last yearClick here to read it on Curbside Classic.

Stories Told

Cars of a Lifetime: 1978 Chevrolet Van


The second of my Cars of a Lifetime posts went up over on Curbside Classic this morning, about a 1978 Chevy van my dad bought when he went into the cabinetmaking business. It was the first vehicle I ever drove.

Read my story here.

Longtime readers of this blog might recognize it as a slightly updated version of this post here on Down the Road from early 2010. I decided to recycle some perfectly useful words! How green of me.

Vintage Television

Vintage TV: Dinah Shore for the 1959 Chevrolet

So I have a YouTube channel. There’s not much there – a few DashboardCam™ videos from my road trips and several vintage TV clips I, um, appropriated from around the Internet. By far the most popular video on my channel, with more than 80,000 views, is this commercial for the 1959 Chevrolet starring singer Dinah Shore.

Readers north of a certain age will remember that Dinah was synonymous with Chevy in the 1950s. Chevy sponsored all of her various variety shows on NBC during those years, and the song “See the USA in Your Chevrolet” became Dinah’s signature piece. (See her sing it in grand style here.)

What a grand portrait of American living this video paints! And the key to achieving this joyful lifestyle is, of course, the gullwinged 1959 Chevrolet.

This video has attracted a ton of comments over the years. They’ve taken on a life of their own! It’s been amusing to see them fall into three general categories:

  • “Cars of the 1950s were great! I wish I had a ’59 Chevy!” I didn’t have the heart to point them to this crash-test video of a 1959 Chevy crashing into a 2009 Chevy. The dummy in the ’59 would have died instantly. The dummy in the ’09 would have suffered only a broken foot. (One commenter finally pointed it out for me.)
  • Ongoing arguments over whether or not the 1950s were America’s golden age. Those affirming the resolution seemed mostly to be lost in nostalgia. Those negating the resolution tended to bring up one or two examples of Not Good things from the era and extrapolated wildly to claim the whole era was bad. I tried to suggest that there were as many problems then as today, and promptly got clobbered for it.
  • Disturbing rants, often racist or homophobic, which I promptly deleted. Sheesh.

I keep thinking I should tell them all to just listen to Dinah. She could sing.

Vintage Television

Vintage TV: Bewitched

It’s easy to like Bewitched. The show’s great appeal was driven by its star, Elizabeth Montgomery, and bolstered by its excellent cast of quirky supporting characters.

But you knew that already. The show has endured in reruns for 46 years; unless you’ve lived under a rock, you’ve seen it. (If you’ve just come out from under that rock, go watch some episodes here.) Tons has been written about this show. What new insight could I possibly give?

And besides, when I write about TV, I like to dig up the obscure, the unusual, and the forgotten. When I do write about a well-known, well-loved program, I like to show you something about it that you can’t see in reruns. I am so motivated today.

Like so many shows from television’s first two decades, the sponsors of Bewitched were featured prominently as the show opened and closed. The reruns we’ve all seen a thousand times use special opens and closes that remove the sponsor info! Check out how this first-season episode actually began when it aired on ABC on January 14, 1965:

The sponsor even got into the act as the show ended and the closing credits rolled:

Sometimes, the cast even created commercials for the sponsor. Kodak sponsored the program in seasons four and five; here, Samantha and Endora sell the Kodak Instamatic camera. ($19 for that Instamatic may seem inexpensive, but $19 then is like $117 today!)

More than just the sponsor mentions were cut from the syndicated episodes. Most seasons included some sort of “stay tuned, we’re coming up next” bit. In the last few seasons, they featured Elizabeth Montgomery:

Also, short bumpers featuring the cartoon Samantha preceded commercials. This one aired before the final commercial break during the black-and-white years:

Don’t you feel a little bit robbed when you watch the syndicated reruns now?