- BC Games
The excitement of new car models
Late Sunday afternoon, with a clap of thunder and a bolt of lightning, summer came to an end. The temperature dropped, the rain blew in and the sunsets were gone.
We should have been ready. All the signs were there — dew on the windshield, fog in the morning, Value Village has their Halloween stuff out and Potters and Wal-Mart are setting up Christmas displays. It seems everyone wants to rush through the colour of fall and get right to the dark, dreary days of winter.
Another sign of fall is the ads for the 2014 automobiles that have begun to appear. Unfortunately there is not near the excitement that those announcements used to bring, because every make looks the same as the next. An $80,000 Lexus looks the same as a $16,000 Toyota. Now, they all promote hybrid features instead of style and horsepower.
New car season used to be an exciting time even though we only had three dealerships — Wm. Clark Ford, Keith Beadle Chrysler and Preston Chev-Olds. You could go into the dealership before the new cars arrived and pick up glossy brochures with colour photos of the new cars that were on the way. Those brochures themselves are collector items today.
If you worked at one of the dealers, new car week was a busy time. The shop had to be cleaned and the floor stripped and painted. The parts department and show room were polished and cleaned and organized.
When the new cars arrived, they had to be cleaned. Most of them came with yellow and brown spots from the diesel smoke of the train engines and they had to be washed with solvent, a nasty product called Acrysol. Then the vehicles had to be washed and waxed, vacuumed and then trotted out on display like fashion models on the runway.
On the night of the open house, a huge rented searchlight would guide prospective customers to the lot where banners and streamers, free coffee and doughnuts would welcome the new car buyers and the tire kickers.
The salesmen were almost unrecognizable. They had sharp haircuts, suits and ties or fancy sport jackets and their shoes were shined, white and black. They watched for their people, the customers they had sent special invitations to. Some of them had regulars that came in every fall to buy their new vehicle.
We shook our heads at the sticker prices of the new cars, up around $4,000 or $5,000.Yet we had no idea that 50 years later they would be worth more than 10 times that much.
New car shows were big events in small towns and the car lots were gathering places for all members of the community. A farmer would be looking at a new pick-up or flat bed. The family man would go from dealership to dealership test driving the four-door sedans.
It was something for bored young guys to do on a weekend night as we followed the searchlights, checking out new designs and comparing the features and drooling over a new model or radical design.
Today it’s environmental features, fuel economy and functional crossover designs that attract the prospective buyer, nothing as sexy as a 426 cubic inch Hemi engine or wraparound tail lights. The new cars are practical but I don’t see many of them being collector items in 50 years. At least that’s what McGregor says.