Time to turn to the more affordable concept of cars

Published 6:12 pm Thursday, January 17, 2008

By By Lowell McGill
Since the first automobile was introduced in this country and other counties abroad many years ago, the announcement this week of a new $2,500 car by the country of India may present a more affordable opportunity for car ownership and better gas mileage.
Nano, advertised as the world’s cheapest car was presented for viewing in New Delhi last week.
Through the years, Americans, and even local residents, have owned “tiny cars.” You may remember the Nash Metropolitan, which was manufactured from 1954 to 1962. It sold, reportedly, under $2000. The Yugo, introduced and built in Yugoslavia, came to America in 1986 with a price tag of $4000. It was reported to be the lowest priced car here at that time. However, in the early 1990s the car disappeared from the American market.
Then there was the Austin, a small car from England that was somewhat popular here in the 1940s and 1950s.
The Volkswagen “Beetle” is still popular in America today. I even owned one of these at one time and my brother in law Herbert Cooper drove one daily for a number of years to his job in Pensacola.
But, back to the Nano.
India’s news release on their new vehicle indicates it will be marketed in that country initially. However, the country hopes to eventually export the car. The car averages 50 miles per gallon, measures 60 inches in width and 122 inches in length. It is rear wheel propelled, two cylinder 623cc, multi point fuel injection, and will transport four or five people. By the way, it only has one windshield wiper. All this data was released in their announcement last Friday.
I remember the Metropolitan Nell Hill and her brother Russell Stillings owned. The former Canoe residents would be seen driving into Atmore back in the 1950s.
Little’s Auto Dealers in Bay Minette sold Nash and Austin vehicles back in those years. That was one of only a few dealerships specializing in small cars. Clyde Little, one of the owners of the dealership was married to my first cousin. When visiting families he and his family would always drive up in one of the “small” cars.
Don’t forget about the Henry J. It had its run here for a few years.
For some reason many foreign made cars were extremely small in size as compared to most American Cars.
I remember back in the early 1950s when television first came to Mobile, there was a popular Saturday late afternoon variety show. The program was sponsored by a well known Mobile used auto dealership. On one of these shows they offered a “two for one” car sale. In other words “buy one car from us and we’ll give you a second car free.” Well, I cannot remember how the host handled the entire sale. But, I do remember the announcer saying “folks, now here it is, our advertised special of buy one car and get second car free.” After his announcement, out came a big long vehicle with a very deep and wide trunk. Stuffed in the trunk was a tiny three-wheel car, which had two front wheels and one rear wheel. Now, I don’t remember the name or make of this “tiny” car, but I am sure it was foreign made.
To me, this was a very amusing, eye-catching commercial. That particular show stayed on TV for a few years if I remember correctly. They always featured automobiles of different sizes and makes. You were able to see many foreign made cars as well.
One wonders how long we can continue driving “big” cars in this country at the present rate of gasoline. At the time I wrote this column Saturday I saw a sign at a local station $3.03 for one gallon of regular gasoline.
I remember when I was a very small boy my dad had a service station in Perdido. We sold WOCO PEP and Pure products. Dee Gibbs was the distributor. The gas pump had a glass “bubble” on top. My dad would let me pump the bubble full using a hand lever attached to the side of the pump. I wish I could remember the price of a gallon back then, but I don’t. It was in the year 1940. Perhaps some of you can furnish me the price of gas back then.
Well, maybe America will do like India. Maybe we will some day see an affordable car that gets 50 miles to the gallon or more.
Or maybe we should turn to the four-wheel, two seat bike-mobile, like the novelty one my son Mark recently built. One thing for sure, he, Suzanne and Hayden don’t have to be concerned with buying gas. They just sit back and “pedal “ all the way.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at exam@frontiernet.net

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