The other day when my wife Marlene and I were at Whiteman Air Force Base, I saw a man driving a Mercedes Bentz.
As the car went by it was obvious the man was proud of his car. I thought about that as we drove back to Sedalia, and I told my wife the man did not have as much to be that proud of now a days, because the Mercedes looked like so many other cars on the road.
I think it is a shame what has happened to the style of cars today, and I will bet a lot of people of my generation will agree. I have long believed the cars of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s were the most stylish ever made. The No. 1 in my mind is the ‘49 Cadillac Convertible; the color is not important, but the one I remember belonged to a shipmate of mine when I was stationed on a destroyer out of Newport Rhode Island in the ’50s. It was a gold color with white-and-gold leather seats, and white vinyl top. It was the most beautiful car I have ever seen before or since.
If I ever make a bucket list, owning one like that will be on the list. I have owned some beautiful cars in my lifetime, and one of them runs a close second to that Caddy. It was a powder blue 1959 Ford Galaxy Convertible with light blue-and-white seats with a white vinyl top. I traded a 1954 four-door Cadillac that I had bought to hold all of my family’s belongings when we moved to Florida to catch a new ship.
It was Hugh, but still a stylish ride that handled the road like riding on a cloud. The hood seemed a mile long, and the front bumper had more chrome on it than you will find on a fleet of cars now.
I also owned a ‘49 Oldsmobile 88 with a torpedo back that I bought while I was courting my wife. The Olds was black with whitewall tires, and seemed to stretch out like a sleek cat when I took it on the road.
The Olds and the Ford Convertible were my last cars that had that feeling as my family grew into station wagon size, but even then they were distinctive cars that had their own recognizable look that set them apart from another brand. A Ford was never confused for a Chevy or Dodge, or vice versa in the days before every thing had to be small and aerodynamic.
The Mercedes I saw could have been mistaken for several other brands if the hood ornament got lost. You could not say that about a ‘49 Caddy or Olds for sure. Every once in a while I will see a car that reminds me of one I owned years ago, and I always think how good it would be to slip behind their steering wheels again. I think I just started that Bucket List.
Jack Miller is a longtime Sedalia resident whose column runs in the Weekend edition of the Democrat.