Number of auto makes, models outrageous

Published 6:37 am Wednesday, February 3, 2010

By By Lowell McGill
There are too many makes and models of automobiles on the road today.
Have you ever seen so many different makes and models in all your life? I cannot tell one car from another and really don’t want to even try.
Why am I saying this? There really are several reasons.
Mechanics need a college degree in engineering or electronics to work on them, especially with all the computerized gadgets on them. Then you need a catalog listing just to recognize and identify all these models.
Just a few days ago I passed a car parked along the interstate. I had no idea what make it was. Actually, it was very long and it reminded me of a hearse. I pulled up behind it and offered help, but the driver said a tow truck was on its way. I asked him what was the problem and he said “probably the computer.”
You know, I wish all cars were like those back in the 1950s. Fords, Chevrolets, Chryslers, Buicks, Pontiacs, Mercurys, a few Studebakers and Hudsons were the main makes in those days. Most came equipped with “straight shifts,” a few with automatic transmissions, roll down windows, and a “wind up” jack to place under the axle in the event of a flat tire. Cars were plain, solid, dependable and easy to work on.
Cost for repairs then was nothing compared to today’s cost.
For me, take away all the unnecessary gadgets because when they fail to function you pay big to get them prepared.
Yet, so many people want “loaded automobiles.” They want 2-3 color paint jobs and paint designs, a “computer map” that shows them how to reach certain destinations, seats that fold into a half dozen positions, radios that turn on with the clap of a hand and, believe it or not, a TV that backseat riders can watch while riding down the highway. I wouldn’t be surprised to see personal computers added to the gadgetry list in the near future.
Again, when these items break down you can expect to “pay through the nose” to get them repaired.
Have you ever tried to put a jack under one of these present model cars? I did a couple of years ago only to discover I was jacking up my floorboard. I missed the hole the jack went into. Actually, I did not know where the hole was. And, my car was about seven years old when this happened. I had to get a 16-year-old boy to show me where to insert that jack. Had I continued pumping the jack my passenger floorboard would have ascended to the soft top lining of my interior. I am sure the floorboard would have burst wide open.
Many mechanics, who knew how to work on “old time” cars, can now no longer work on these new ones unless they undergo specialized schooling and training.
It is no wonder the automobile industry is having so many problems these days. Some cars cost as much as homes and mobile homes. There are many, I am sure, who cannot afford such luxuries, yet, they still buy them. Some engage in payments, I am told, spread out over as long as 10 years.
Yes, give me those old 1950 type dependable automobiles that would go miles and miles without repairs.
And, give me those “shade tree” mechanics who could get you back up and running without paying the cost of an arm or a leg.
I never had one breakdown back in 1954-55 as I drove from Tuscaloosa to Atmore every weekend to my job. That dependable car was a “Fleetline” 1950 Chevrolet. Air condition, however, would have been a welcomed luxury. The only maintenance, other than keeping it properly oiled and greased, was making sure my recap tires were in good condition.
Going back to the 1940s, I remember a man who bought wrecked 1939-40 model Ford hoods. He would take these hoods and weld two of them together and make canoes or boats. When properly joined, the two hoods did, indeed, resemble and perform like a boat. He apparently had a good market for these boats because he traveled throughout several surrounding counties buying up wrecked hoods.
Do you suppose anyone could make a boat from hoods on today’s cars?
Oh, by the way, I still don’t know the make of that long car that broke down that day. Someone told me, based on my description, that it was probably a Chrysler product. This, of course may have been incorrect information. The one thing I do know is that it was a real long automobile. Perhaps, some of you could tell me.
Well, let’s take a look now at some current news.
There is one particular item capturing the interest of most everyone in the state right now.
That item is casino gambling.
As you know there were two raids on gambling establishments last week. One raid occurred near Dothan at Country Crossings and the other was at VictoryLand dog track east of Montgomery.
At the time this column was written, both these firms were waiting the outcome of a legal ruling by the State Supreme Court. And, this ruling could have an effect on the local Creek Casino. Not that it would put it out of business, but it could allow other casinos to flourish and reduce the success of the local casino.
Because some slot machines were deemed illegal, Gov. Riley called for the raids and appointed John Tyson, Mobile’s District Attorney, to head up a task force against illegal gambling.
These raids have initiated conflicting comments from Troy King, Alabama’s Attorney General. In fact, it has blossomed into a full- fledged letter writing war between King and the Governor. I have no idea about the legality of all this, but it would appear to me the way to settle it would to let the folks all over the state vote on it. That way all doubt would be removed.
The owners of these two raided firms are apparently adamant in their efforts to fight this.
I did not know that VictoryLand had so many slots. Associated Press reports indicated there were literally “thousands” of these machines either on the floor or in warehouses located in rear of the main building.
Perhaps the Alabama Supreme Court will have made a ruling by the time this paper is printed.
I do know, watching live internet video streams of the Country Crossings raid, Lorrie Morgan’s restaurant was seen in the background as demonstrations occurred in the parking lot of her building.
I am sure she probably did not like the image that was displayed. I was told those Internet video streams came from an area TV station.
This reminds me when slot machines were common in small businesses in Baldwin County in the late 1930s and early 1940s. I do not know what the laws were back then. I later learned that someone from the Atmore area maintained those slot machines. The machines had one lever with 3-5 tumbling, rolling wheels displaying assorted fruits. I suppose that is where the term “one-arm bandit” originated.
For me I would personally like to see all private casinos gambling kept out of Alabama, excluding the Creeks, of course.
Next week I’ll have a look at people, places and events from 1970. I will also look at what could be a reversal of President Obama’s statement about another $250 stimulus check for Social Security recipients.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at

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