It is so easy to excel when you are the only player on the field. Such was the case for the U.S. automobile industry for decades.

It is so easy to excel when you are the only player on the field. Such was the case for the U.S. automobile industry for decades.

World War II and the Korean War devastated European and Asian automobile capacity. The bombing and aggression left their manufacturing facilities in total disarray.

They were knocked back into the “stone ages.” The Big Three of the United States had virtually little competition during the 1950s through the mid-70s. We foolishly thought it was our ingenuity and prowess, but the actual playing field wasn’t level at all.

The conversion for our manufacturing from World War II equipment to automobiles was pretty seamless, and the ready workforce was there and more willing and able than ever. The manufacturing counterparts of Europe and Asia such as BMW, Mercedes, Toyota and Mitsubishi were crumbled ruins and had to start step by step. It would take them decades to recover.

While our foreign competitors were slowly recovering, we were totally cavalier. Whatever Detroit would produce we would gobble up.

The advantages of those times were the cost and easiness of maintaining your vehicle personally. Consumers could upkeep their own car. Oh how simple it was to change your oil, tune up your car and, with a 9/16th wrench and screwdriver, do just about anything your ride needed. If something was remiss, you could be admonished by a friend who would, after listening to the engine, say: “It’s missing, can I help you?” You always kept your “ride” in perfect condition.

The car cost little and you accepted whatever Detroit would make it look like. It would run on gasoline that cost 25-40 cents per gallon. The gas mileage didn’t even matter. I remember driving from my military post in Utah to my hometown in Southern California without a care in the world.

I personally had it in mint condition and would cross into Nevada that had no speed limit laws. I would go about 110 miles per hour and wave at the state troopers who would wave back.

There was no concept of a true luxury car. We accepted a Cadillac or Continental regardless of its look or mileage. Even when GM issued that ultra ugly Cadillac Seville, we accepted it and took that box called a Continental as is. There was no alternative.

By the late 1970s, things changed severely. Gasoline prices had become out of our control as foreign nations took charge of their own natural resources.


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