Has anyone else noticed resurgence in use of the word ‘foreign’ to describe cars known for years as ‘imports’?
This trend coincides with a return of the ‘Buy American’ sentiment and Toyota’s hara kiri act on the ‘unintended acceleration’ issue. A recent AP poll found that 38 percent of Americans now rate U.S. vehicles as the world’s best (a significant increase), and U.S. marques are regaining long-lost market share from the Japanese brands.
My father-in-law, a WWII vet, put it this way; “It serves ‘em right.”
Even though my own father was well into his career at Ford, my family was the first on our block to own a ‘foreign’ car, with the exception of the vet who brought an MGA back with him from England.
In the early sixties Mom, along with nearly every woman and child in the neighborhood, was homebound between the hours of 7AM and 6PM while ‘the car’ sat in a parking lot in Dearborn.
When Dad got a job that involved traveling to out-of-state dealers in Mr. Ford’s car, we actually had to buy one of our own. I never heard my parents’ conversations leading to their decision to buy the Renault Dauphine, but obviously performance and safety were not discussed. And I’m guessing the expression ‘Gallic flair’ never came up either.
The Renault had a sticker of around $1100 and got 30+ MPG.
The dull gray Dauphine – I seem to remember my Dad saying he got a discount because salt had ruined the paint while the car sat on a pier, or possibly the deck of the ship – had red plaid seats of an indeterminate synthetic material, a white plastic steering wheel, and a hole in the rear bumper to insert the crank.
It says a lot about engineering confidence when a manufacturer includes a hand crank with their vehicle.
The Dauphine was dangerously slow. Road & Track clocked theirs 0-60 mph at 32 seconds. I don’t think ours ever went that fast.
Pulling out of our subdivision onto the highway was a daily adventure. Mom would wait nervously until a gap of at least 100 yards opened, and then stand on the tiny rubber roller that the manual claimed to be the Dauphine’s ‘accelerator’. Us kids would watch out the rear window anxiously, the tiny engine whining and gasping behind our seat, as Mom frantically stabbed the clutch and wiggled the long rubbery shifter through all three gears.
Having owned what Time Magazine described as “The most ineffective bit of French engineering since the Maginot Line,” and declared one of the 50 Worst Cars of All Time, my parents never strayed from the Ford fold again.
Having nearly lost our automobile industry, Americans may be reaching the conclusion that what’s good for GM maybe ain’t so bad for Americans.