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Zaleski: '63 nostalgia revved up the car love

Don't ever doubt Americans' love for the automobile. My April 22 column about my mother's 1963 Chevrolet Impala brought a profusion of rejoinders: stories about vintage cars, restorations, nostalgia for that first car, and opinions on the quality of contemporary autos vs. classics. Here's a sample:

An acquaintance from my Devils Lake, N.D., days wrote:

"Great article, Jack. The fifties and sixties were my favorite years. I rebuilt several cars in the fifties era ... and enjoyed all of them.

"I remember being saddened when you left Devils Lake for Fargo, however, I enjoy following your (columns) ..."

From a Fargo reader with roots in Indianapolis:

"First car was a '67 Impala SS, madeira maroon, black vinyl top, all black bucket seat SS interior. Fixed it up after two female (mom and daughter) owners; never smoked in; just beautiful. Miss that car so much.

"... As I recall, a '63 (Impala) is pointy on the ends, and has a beautiful, turned mental applique in the rear cove (taillight area). Dad had a '62 SS, similar, with the same detail and chrome. Impala used to mean something. SS even more so. What happened to the idea of auto design? How many fake scoops, inlets, exits ...why?

"...I now have a a 2004 Pontiac GTO ... some Pontiac design cues ... but unlike the '05-'06 versions, has no fake hood scoops or other fake 'designs' on its body."

A caller commented on car quality:

"Great article. By the way, I have a 2006 Ford F150 and a 2014 Subaru Outback. Couldn't agree more (about the better quality of today's cars)."

A rural collector has a barn filled with cars:

"Been collecting for years. Don't know if I agree newer cars are better than the old ones. Some of those big, old motors can still get up and go. Not all of 'em burn oil, either. Sure, mileage is poor, but gas was cheap when those cars were new. You're right that no one really worried about the price of gas.

"I agree safety is better now. Can't remember using seat belts in the 1950s and '60s. I also agree that they put more effort into real nice design of the old cars. They all look the same today ... especially sedans. Doesn't matter if they're American or foreign. All look alike ...

"Can't argue argue about rust. They did rust out—the old cars, I mean. But some of these beauties in the barn here, well, they still look real nice, a little rust and, I guess, a lot of faded paint and pitting on the bumpers. Got a few flat tires in there, too. Cars still look good ..."

And this from a friend back east:

"Column took me back, old pal. Remember those first cars? That Chevy Corvair, the Monza Spyder my dad bought when they came out? Yeah, I know it wasn't safe, but we didn't know it then. Cool car. Burgundy, four-speed manual, turbocharged rear engine. Man, wish I still had it."

Feel the love? It's a car thing.

Zaleski retired in 2017 after nearly 30 years as The Forum’s editorial page editor. He continues to write a Sunday column. Contact him at jzaleski@forumcomm.com or (701) 241-5521.

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