(first posted 12/23/2016) It’s hard to believe we’re closing in on the end of Twenty-Sixteen. On New Year’s Eve of last year, I had spotted a vintage, 1989 Lincoln Town Town car on a main thoroughfare in my neighborhood, which had also caused me to reflect on the passage of time. Today’s featured Cadillac was one I had seen in traffic only a few times prior to getting these shots, while walking from my morning Red Line train to the office. I had been unsuccessful in getting any decent photographs of it until the morning of Game Seven of this year’s World Series, when the Chicago Cubs won it all for the first time in over a century. That both events happened on the same day was a beautiful, timely moment of serendipity.
I won’t pretend to identify myself as a die-hard sports fan, though I do enjoy occasional “armchair” participation when a team from any city where I’ve lived is involved. Part of the fun of watching with friends is when one or more in your group is really invested in the game, and I’m not talking about financially. Sometimes being among your sports-loving friends is just about showing your support and solidarity with them, even if you couldn’t name or identify one of the players before that afternoon. Much like I’ll never share a level of sports-related enthusiasm with some of my friends, some of those same people seem to find my often equally enthusiastic reactions to spotting and photographing interesting cars (with my “lightning reflexes”) a bit comical.
I say this having observed multiple reactions of “Daaang, Joe!…” that I’ve often witnessed, realizing minutes after the fact that someone has said something like this, and once my adrenaline level has started inching back toward normal. Some folks like sports, some like cars, and some like both or neither of those things. We like what we like, and my theory is that my love of cars was influenced both by nature (I was reportedly playing “Count the Chevette”, loudly, by age four), and nurture, as I grew up in the General Motors factory town of Flint, Michigan.
My perception is that 2017 is going to be a year of major transition for a lot of folks, and in a lot of ways. Similarly, forty years ago, model year ’77 was a time of sea change over at GM, with the venerable Coupe DeVille in particular shedding over 800 pounds (roughly 17%) of its base weight, dropping from a full two-and-a-half tons to 4,200 pounds for the new models. This was at little to no sacrifice in all the metrics that counted at that energy-conscious time, with the new ’77 models offering more head room, leg room, trunk space and fuel economy than the dimensionally larger cars they replaced.
We’ve covered the first-wave of downsized DeVilles here at CC before and it’s not really my intent to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. I was only in diapers when the right-sized ’77 GM full-sizers made their debut, but from what I’ve read, those cars won over a lot of people who were skeptical about the direction in which they saw things going in the automotive industry.
As the impending New Year relates to our featured car, I suppose my point is that four decades on, this Coupe DeVille looked and sounded great even if not pristine, having “lived” through a lot in the intervening years. All the things that led the auto industry to panic – gas prices, rollover legislation, etc. – seemed to have worked themselves out, for the most part. Not all of the cars I see in traffic, whether in congested downtown areas or on the open highway, are little, tinny, buzzy, weak tin cans similar to what might have been predicted by some for the future in the wake of the first (or the second) oil crisis of the 1970’s.
That this CDV’s driver even gave me a thumbs-up as he drove past while I was getting my shots seemed to reinforce that despite the manic highs and depressing lows of 2016, things might just be okay in the upcoming year, which is what I want to believe. And please, refrain from saying something like “big pimpin'”, as someone might likely have done if I hadn’t mentioned it. An African American gentleman in a vintage Cadillac does not a “pimp” make, and this car is, in my opinion, accessorized very modestly.
My sense is that regardless of what the New Year brings, some things will improve, and for the things that change for the worse, I’ll simply have to do my part to take responsibility for actively trying to fix what I can. Thinking about the insurmountable task of solving all the world’s problems all at once can be both terrifying and paralyzing. Why not start with the individual things within your control? The trick is to actually do something and not just complain. Famous New Year’s resolutions, but seriously…
The Whispers’ early-80’s R&B classic, “And The Beat Goes On” popped up on my MP3 player on shuffle just the other day and the lyrics, penned by the songwriting team of Leon Sylvers III, William Shelby and Stephen Shockley, hit me particularly hard as this year comes to a close, especially the first verse:
Do you ever wonder
That to win, somebody’s got to lose
I might as well get over the blues
Just like fishing in the ocean
There’ll always be someone new…
Amen. See you all in Twenty-Seventeen.
Downtown, The Loop, Chicago, Illinois.
Wednesday, November 2, 2016.