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Shag Carpeting

Shag Carpeting




In the recent past I was the proud owner of a 1970 Chevrolet truck that was not your typical farmer Brown manure hauler. It was an award winner that never transported anything other than the owner and his finance manager. The top was “chopped” four inches lower, the body dropped five inches closer to the terra firma and featured a custom hood, doors and tailgate. The original engine had been replaced with a high performance motor and the interior had been turned into a tasteful replication of an upscale brothel (I’ve seen them in the movies). That truck was definitely a vehicle made for car shows and not for hauling the pet pig to the county fair or sheetrock for the kitchen remodel.

There are some among you that may question the wisdom of making all of these modifications to such a utilitarian vehicle or making any modifications to any car. Perhaps a better question is why do some car lovers think that they are smarter than the entire design staffs of Ford, General Motors, Chrysler and dozens of other companies that decide what our next car will look like? One answer is that these corporate designers, despite all of their experience, fail on occasion. Have you ever taken a look at a Pontiac Aztec? The design department’s water cooler was definitely filled with pond scum the day they decided that this design was a good idea. Another answer is that some car lovers, like chefs, can’t leave well enough alone. Who decided that it was a good idea to put pineapple on a pizza?

The other side of the coin is that the car hobby is full of cars that perhaps should have been left in their original configuration. Custom car icons, such as “King of the Customizers” George Barris, have built many beautiful cars and some horrible cars. The late Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, a man justifiably sitting on a very high pedestal, built a few cars that, thankfully, self-destructed from the weight of their own body modifications. Some people, or at least two or three, thought that the AMC Pacer was a great looking car. Others think that it was an eyesore and the last nail in AMC’s coffin. In the 1970’s a lot of car hobbyists thought that installing purple shag carpeting and a disco ball in their van was the height of good design while others thought that putting 1953 Buick side trim on their chopped 1950 Mercury was a better idea. The van is now the home of a flock of chickens and the Mercury just sold for $85,000. Somebody got it right and somebody else has fresh eggs every day.

A good example of successful corporate design was the first Mustang. The early release date of the 1965 Mustang set the automotive world on fire. Here was a crisply designed mid sized automobile that, despite being a Falcon in a pretty dress, convinced every grocery clerk and accountant that they could feel like Sterling Moss for a very reasonable price. The design was simple but a bit daring and, as proved by Ford’s sales charts, immensely appealing to the market. Not many buyers decided to make changes to a car that was already well designed.

The Chrysler Corporation crew’s design choices with the 1965 Plymouth Barracuda proved to be not quite so successful. What should have had the same appeal as the Mustang, in fact, did not. Both mid sized cars had the long hood, short trunk sporty design. The Mustang looked sleek and simple while the Barracuda, like a couple of ladies I dated in my youth, resembled a fish bowl. The sales of the Barracuda, in comparison to Mustang, resulted in sales meetings where no bottles of champagne were in sight.

The average Joe, recognizing a good design, bought a new Mustang and left it alone. The other Joe down the street waited a short time until the Barracuda was a cheap used car and then purchased it, lowered it, changed the interior, made a few changes to the body and applied a custom paint job. Presto: a car that now appealed to the owner and many other car hobbyists.

  Perhaps this proves that the average car lover is capable of both recognizing a car that should be left as originally designed and of also knowing when a car needs some help. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to run to the store. They are having a sale on shag carpeting.