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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Real Americana in Abu Dhabi

Today I stepped outside for a work break and immediately this beauty caught my eye. It is a 1955 Oldsmobile 98 four door sedan. It was in excellent shape. It had been recently painted as I caught a whiff of dying enamel as a did a brief walk-around. I noticed at the center of the vintage wide-whitewall tires were chrome hubcaps that were labelled "Chrysler" but they fit well and you couldn't tell 3 feet away anyway. I guess the real one were hard to get.

Surrounded by Kias, Toyotas, Hondas and Land Rovers, it looks as out of place in this Middle Eastern country as I do. It seemed as if as I was in the presence of a fellow countryman because these cars are so uniquely American.

These dinosaurs represent a time when Detroit Iron set the automotive world standard. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler were then industrial giants that dominated the American economy and were respected and feared. GM is now partly owned by Uncle Sam, Chrysler is owned by Fiat, but Ford is surprisingly doing relatively well on its own. Hell, they don't even make Oldsmobiles anymore, the brand was retired a few years ago. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

American cars of that era were huge, powerful, fast, reliable, chrome encrusted tanks. They were the ultimate status symbol around the world. Kings and Sheiks drove them. Everyone wanted one!

No one back then in the U.S. would think about buying something foreign. Most imported cars were considered to be uncomfortable, ugly, underpowered machines that only ran properly during the full moon. Repairs and parts were impossible to obtain for them. That was a fact!

Besides VW Beetles, the only other imports that were readily available in America at that time seemed to be English sports cars that were usually owned by the weird old guy down the street. He never socialized with the neighbors because he was always working on the car to keep it running.

American cars seemed to run forever. They were crude and could be repaired with bailing wire and chewing gum. If needed, repairs and parts could be had at the corner gas station. They embodied the independent American culture and soul back then.

The reality now is that the foreign manufacturers have more than caught up in the auto biz. Compared to the modern stuff, these old American cars were unsafe, didn't handle well at all and didn't last more than 50,000 miles. Usually folks bought a new car annually because the body styles changed radically every year to "keep-up with the Joneses". The rollout of the new models in October every year was a big event in most communities. Planned obsolescence is also a Detroit invention.

I know that this post is not much about Abu Dhabi, but the reason I wrote it was that the 1955 Oldsmobile 98 pictured in the photo above was same year, make and model as the first car I remember my father owning. He had that Olds for many years and that car may have be responsible for my being a lifelong enthusiast of all things automotive. My eyes got misty when I saw that big old hunk of steel in the parking lot today!


Chuck said...

My Dad's last car, which I now own and drive, is a 1996 Chyrsler Concorde...not a classic one, but it's still running well (of course it helps that it only has 70K so of miles on it.) I may look at Mustangs when the 2014 models come around, that will be their 50th anniversary year...

A Blessing in Tragedy said...

One of my neighbors has 4 cars, ranging from a 51 to a 66 model. They are way before my time. Not muscle cars, but the ones with long "fins" in each side... looks like something out of a sci fi movie.

Anyways, he brings them over beaten up, sometimes rusting for dirt cheap, and fixes them up at his own pace.

Only 2 are done now. Ill try to snap a pic of the chevy truck thats done.

Dave said...

Takes me back to a bygone era. Good post!

Neil Roberts said...

Ace, check these out... there is one exactly the same here, plus loads more old American cars... go and take a look!

Ace said...

Chuck: The Mustang is a good idea, that is if V-8 engines are still legal in the US in 2014. I own a 2000 Mustang GT V-8 convertible back home and it is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Chick magnet too!!!

ABIT: That's a cool hobby but a lot of work. I did a few old motorcycles and a '66 MGB. I may revisit it in my "Golden Years".

Dave: Glad you enjoyed it! That Olds brought me back there too and I had to write the post before I snapped out of it.

Neil: I had no idea that there were so many vintage American cars out here! I will have to visit that place. I think might have been the same Olds car in your photo that I saw. What are the odds?

On another note, I read Shellsbells post on her passing up F1 VIP passes in the Ferrari team pit during the race because she had to work. I cringed!!! One can always get another job, but that was the opportunity of a lifetime!

Neil Roberts said...

Yeah I did look at the closely to see if they were the same, but I think the paint job (if you look at the side panels) are different. BUt how weird that there should be 2 of these around, let alone 1! I think the cars on display are all held in private collections (one of thr Sheikhs lent them most of the cars). There is also the Emirates National Auto Museum . Ive driven past it, but not been in yet. Here's my picture of the hughe scale model Land Rover outside

A Blessing in Tragedy said...


Ace said...

ABIT, cool pics! I left a comment on the site.

I have had a strange talent since I was about4 years old where I could tell a car's make, model and year by sight.

Unfortunately, that particular skill is not in much demand and has yet to make me wealthy!