Yes, the road.

Yes, the road.
Eagle Nest, New Mexico. “People like to drive because driving is actually and symbolically an almost perfect mechanism for escape…there is probably no human being who does not have troubles, real or imagined, from which he at times feels the need to flee.” George R. Stewart.

PHB

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Brooklin, Maine, United States
We own a 1975 GMC Sierra Grande 15 in Maine and a 1986 Chevrolet Custom Deluxe 10 in West Texas. Also a pair of 1997 Volvo 850 wagons. Average age in the fleet is 28 years--we're recycling. I've published 3 novels: THE LAW OF DREAMS (2006), THE O'BRIENS (2012), and CARRY ME (2016). Also 2 short story collections: NIGHT DRIVING(1987) and TRAVELLING LIGHT (2013). More of my literary life is at www.peterbehrens.org I was a Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study for 2012-13. I'm an adjunct professor at Colorado College and in the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte. In 2015-16 I was a Fellow at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The Autoliterate office is in Car Talk Plaza in Harvard Square, 2 floors above Dewey Cheatem & Howe. SUBSCRIBE TO THE AUTOLITERATE DAILY EMAIL by hitting the button to the right.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

1961 annus mirabilis automobilia

And I thought Mad Men was tiresome, a pastiche. Cynicism and cigarettes. Tedious. There was more to the era than that. Still, I will argue that there was never a better year for American cars than '61. 
I was seven, in the backseat on many long drives between Montreal and Maine, and car-obsessed, road-obsessed, and map-obsessed. Already Autoliterate. I could spot a '61 Ford from a '60 at half a mile, in a thunderstorm...which happened every summer afternoon, it seemed, in the White Mountains. So I was primed,. Maybe most car guys circle forever around the auto-fixations of the summer they were seven years old? 
But 1961...hey, they are sleek beauties, are they not? Even the weird last-phase-of-Virgil Exner Chryslers, which were starting to lose it. (His plainer Plymouths and espcially Dodge wagons were best by then; his upper-market Chryslers and Imperials most dysfunctional, style-wise).  The GM cars were, all of them, stars. Lean & clean. Especially the Pontiacs. Any GM bubbletop would do it for me, but I'd argue a special case for a back-to-basic-looking Pontiac Catalina with all the Super-Duty stuff bought from the dealer and wrenched on by the buyer, or his/her local speed shop. 
And maybe the most beeyootifull machine of the year was the Country Squire..



I also like the plainjane 3-door Ranch Wagon.

Bubbletops rule, even if they'r not 409s.

And it often seems that the most basic-seeming (there's a 409 in there somewhere) strippers of the era, like this (below) ledgeroof '61 Chevy Biscayne come through 57 years later with the cleanest and clearest statement of style.

Exner designed spaceships that were earthbound.
Ford goes fast.
Exner's '61 Plymouth Fury. Seems characterful, but maybe not a car you'd want to look at every day.
Chrysler Newport. You can see the roots of the Batmobile. Whereas with the Pontiac, it's all about--go.

Oldsmobile. This car says "doctor."
Mercury Colony Park. What came first, the suburbs or the wagons?

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