Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hot wheels

The little engine that could: a souped-up '72 Dodge Colt on display at
the Western Reserve Historical Society. Surprisingly, this was my fave.

Contrary to popular belief, a lot of awesome things made their design debut in the 1970s -- "the decade that taste forgot." 

Take a moment and forget about linoleum, polyester jumpsuits and that horrid green-and-gold color combo (Why, I ask. Why?) and instead remember shag carpet (when done right like this), the modular dinette set, and Diane von Furstenberg's famous wrap dress (which celebrates its 40th birthday this year). 

Unfortunately when it comes to cars, the 70s was a lost decade. Ugly, overwrought and hideously out of proportion, even the memorable ones (like the Ford Pinto) are unforgivable

That is... until I met this adorable, bad-ass beauty. A miniature muscle car with undeniable street style.

How could you not love a face like this?

We recently spent an afternoon at the Western Reserve Historical Society -- a treasure trove of Northeast Ohio culture and history. Tucked in the corner of the museum's Crawford Auto Aviation Collection, this muscled-up 1972 Dodge Colt shares company with approximately 150 other vehicles and aircraft ranging from an 1899 Baker Runabout to the 1982 DeLorean DMC-12 Coupe.

What I found most fascinating is Northeast Ohio's rich and vital role in the auto industry. In fact, Cleveland was once known as a thriving motor city with more than 80 (yes, 80!) car and motorcycle makers between 1896 and 1931.

Classic cars: ads from some of Cleveland's biggest auto makers.

Sadly, the car industry here died when the stock market crashed in 1929. Though Cleveland enjoyed a glorious but brief moment in auto making history, the city never managed a comeback.

With a growing artisanal movement and emerging technologies like 3-D printing, I have hope that modern coachbuilders will transform manufacturing the way Peerless, Hoffman and the Cleveland Motor Car Company did.  

Things are just starting to get revved up...