Sunday, January 24, 2010

We've Come a Long Way, Baby.....or Have We?

For this I have to go back 62 years plus - to the November 1947 edition of Popular Mechanics Magazine. The above illustration is an advertisement for a remarkable post-WW2 product - the Crosley car which the ad claims produced a 2,800 mile trip for 16 dollars.

I broke out my trusty (sometimes) calculator and figured out what it cost me for a 2,800 mile segment of last summer's trip to the west coast. Hmmm. Hmmmm. Hmmmmm. Something isn't working out right here. Twenty-eight hundred miles divided by 30 (miles to the gallon on our trusty Dodge Caliber) comes out to around 93 gallons of gas which (at $2.75 a gallon) computes out to about $267 dollars for 2800 miles. And we talk about progress?

Well, if I came up with a miracle on the Caliber and got 50 miles to the gallon (like the Crosley) I'd have used 56 gallons of gas and paid $154 dollars for the trip.

But wait a minute - we didn't pay $2.75 a gallon for gas in November of 1947 - we were much more apt to get five gallons for a dollar. So there you have it -- fifty miles to the gallon and 20 cents a gallon probably computes to a figure pretty close to the Crosley advertisement claim. And I know that five gallons for a dollar is a valid figure - I used to pay that when I was much younger.

Then I took a look at the price for a Crosley - note the ad: $888 at the factory (plus tax). Hey, I forgot that there was a time when you could go to the factory and get your new car as it rolled off the assembly line. Then I thought about the prices on cars today and I wonder how we came about the difference. What a difference a few years make!

The Crosley could hold four people (granted, they may have to have been pretty small, but the Crosley I rode it wasn't tight). Keep in mind the fact that I was not a big feller but the car was not that small. There may not have been bucket seats and a fancy console between the seats - but hey, there was togetherness and we've lost sight of old fashioned togetherness in a car. In the early 70's Joyce and I double-dated once with our eldest daughter and her boy friend and we went in a Volkswagen 'Bug'. It was cozy and we had a blast. Now that I think of it, how often do parents double date with a daughter and her boy friend today. I suspect daughters today would say something like, "But mom (or dad) -- what would my friends think if they saw us out together on a date like that?" They survived it (though they ended up with different mates) and it went down as a treasured memory.

I remember in my Air Force days that one of my friends in Italy rented a Fiat Topolina. Translated that would read 'little mouse'. It was little but it provided good transportation and didn't cost a bundle. And we fuss today because car size is shrinking.

So, I guess there's something to the saying that we've come a long way - but it sure costs a heap more today than what it did in 1947. And it may not be as much fun.

1 comment:

  1. Ironically, that $888 dollar car can be bought used on Ebay for nearly $6000. The historical data online confirms that the cars did and do get in excess of 50 miles per gallon. Nowadays, we're overjoyed if our cars exceed 30 mpg. Where did we go wrong?