Sometimes you discover lost treasures when you least expect it. A few hours ago I was going through various posts from fellow bloggers over at the Trifecta Challenge when I was stopped dead in my tracks. Imogen Shepard, author of Diary of a “Sensitive Soul’ , wrote about her Chrysler Sunbeam and the tragedy of losing that faithful companion.
Her words and the picture of that little Sunbeam made me think of all the small cars that have entered or influenced our lives in one way or another. I remember my mother’s first and only work car, a Chevrolet Chevette. About the size of the modern day VW Golf, this car was rear wheel drive and had a very nice two tone paint job that made it look more expensive than it really was. GM soon replaced it with the “J-car” platform known as the Cavlaier, Sunbird, Firenza, Cimmaron, and Skylark. Chrysler modified the Sunbeam for America and named it the Omni and the Horizon. Available in four doors only, they reminded me of the VW Rabbit more that the sleeker Sunbeam. Ford had the mega hit of the 80s with its Escort and Lynx. Honda had the Civic. Mazda had the 323. Toyota had the Corrola. Nissan had the Sentra. These were not the first small cars in our country but they marked a time when the small car made a large statement to the world. It was also a way for manufacturers to reach their federally mandated CAFÉ standards.
There is an inherent magic in these little cars that is hard to find in larger automobiles. Their set weights and dimensions give them a playfulness that reminds you of a puppy more than an inanimate object. Aimed at a younger market, the designers are free to play around and add personality to these vehicles without harming any set reputation. Commercials were created showcasing the fun and free lifestyle of owning them. Given everything, is it any wonder why so many people formed such personal bonds with these light, little cars?
Some of these cars had amazing lives as well. Dodge used some of their Neons in a celebrity challenge in the Grand Prix circuit. Used three cylinder GEO Metros and Suzuki Swifts became Group-A style rally cars in the Colorado mountains. Other small cars skipped the cones fantastic in multiple autocrosses on weekends all over the country. These little cars did more road dancing than most muscle cars did. They got fewer tickets doing it, too.
Today the torch has been passed on to cars with names of Fiesta, Dart, Sonic, Accent, 3 series, and Fit. They are still nimble. They are still small. They are still fun. That’s the best part of all.
So take a moment and revel in the fact that the hobbit of the car world are still around to enchant and enjoy.