Ah, the Malaise era. That bit of time when there was very few, if any, good vehicles from American manufacturers. OPEC oil embargos and stringent fuel economy and emissions regulations meant that the average American car from 1975 to 1983 or thereabouts was not particularly good when it came to speed and handling, which were not priorities anymore. Isolation? Now that they could do.
Maybe it was the fact that America had realized its collective lifestyle was full of privilege and could easily be shattered if hit in the right place. Maybe it was the new wave of social responsibility that would only increase as years went by. Or maybe it was just the tastes of the era. But, exceptions like the Vega, the Mustang II and other economy and sporty cars aside, an American car was a place to isolate yourself from anyone or anything, a cocoon to keep you safe from the horrible world and its troubles. Never mind the repercussions of Vietnam, and the fact you can only buy a couple of gallons of gas at a time. You’re safe here in your world of comfy button-backed leather seats, column shifts and plastiwood. Hairpins? A spirited drive through the canyons? Nah, that’s far too racy and besides, you could get hurt. It really is the best to keep those roads straight and that cruise control on.
For all their shortcomings however, they were really good at that: Coupe DeVilles and Continental Marks that epitomize the personal luxury car, in designer editions for those that wanted their clothing and their cars to have matching labels. You could have a car in any color that would take your fancy and if that wasn’t enough, there was no shortage of people wanting to fit waterfall grilles and huge headlights to whichever car you bought.
I’m sure a lot of us appreciate the comfort and plushness of the cars of the Malaise era. In fact, one of my favorite cars is from the Malaise era. However, if I had the chance to own one I’d have to give it a lot of thought. Would I be able to put up with all its drawbacks and limitations? It’s not like they were all completely terrible–just mostly. But what about you? If that malaise sled of your dreams shows up with a nice price tag and some flash on its opera lights, would you take the plunge? Or would you conclude that those dreams were actually nightmares?