Very roughly translated, “mono no aware” is a Japanese term that describes a morose, keen awareness of the transience of things. This feeling drifted acutely over me this week as I wandered through 50 years of old cars in a local junkyard that will soon be “crushing out.” It’s all too fresh to write a complete CC about, but I came home with a couple of parts that accentuate my feeling that industrial America no longer cares about aesthetics.
Exhibit A: This Holley 1904 has a glass float bowl. The carburetor sat atop a ’57 Ford six-cylinder, and is a reminder of the time when automakers painted their engines because the owner may actually look under the hood. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say the glass bowl was a gimmick so owners and mechanics could observe float behavior without turning a screw, but a side benefit is that the carburetor became a work of art.
The passage of time has, if anything, made this old Holley even more spectacular. Years of direct sunlight has bleached the carburetor a stark, ghostly gray, and the steel parts are coated with a coppery rust to add contrast. This carburetor is frozen tight, but I didn’t buy it as a “rebuilder.” I bought it as a reminder that Holley did this once…they gave it a shot, and I’m happy that it’s sitting in my garage.
Exhibit B: I also came home with the brake pedal from a ’65 Thunderbird. I don’t own a ’65 T-Bird, but I have always been in love with the unique brake pedal on these first disc-braked T-Birds. Discs were uncommon on American cars in 1965, and Ford proudly took the time to shape the brake pedal insignia like a disc brake rotor.
Like the Holley, I picked this up to keep as a memento not only because I think it’s beautiful, but also because it would soon cease to exist if I hadn’t. Junkyards across America are closing down and taking years of America’s history with them. Nobody’s to blame; it’s just happening. While most of the parts I found, even for cars I own, were worn out by time, I found it important to save a few things for beauty’s sake alone.
I managed to come home with a few things, and eventually I’ll write up my trip, but I can’t quite do it yet. Being one of the final observers of things I love took some wind out of my sails, because one person can’t save everything. It’s a bit of a helpless feeling. Time passes, however, and none of us get used to it. So If you can, go out and save something: an emblem, a piece of trim, a whole car if you can manage it. By doing something, maybe we can stall time for just a little bit.