Saturday, June 11, 2011

Wooden silliness

Cars with wood panels on the exterior - is there anything more American?

When my family first acquired a VCR in the 80s, a movie which got played on high rotation in our home was National Lampoon's Vacation. The puerile crassness of it appealed immensely to my father, and was barely tolerated by my mother, but allowed because she had a big old crush on Chevy Chase. As for us kids, so many of the jokes went way over our heads, but subsequent viewings over the years have taught me one thing: I have (mostly) inherited my father's same sense of humour, and laugh at the most politically incorrect of scenes.

Anyhow, thanks to childhood memories of this film, I have always associated wood-panelled cars as being, how shall I say?  Uniquely American. A species unseen in Australia.

So much time has passed since these cars reached their height of popularity that I'd forgotten about them. Coming to America and being on the roads, I never thought to look out for them.

Until last week. Exiting our local Target store, parked outside was a prize specimen of a wood-panelled car. I was ushering two tired, hungry small children to our own car, so walked past in a blur and didn't look too closely. I have no idea what type of car it was, but it appeared to be a gen-u-ahn relic of the 70s, with a complimentary hue of dark green.

It was somewhat of a "Yes, you really are in America" moment. I have those from time to time.

Then last night, I went for a walk in an attempt to undo some overdone Ben & Jerry's goodness. As I made my way up the hills and passed increasingly lovely houses, a car pulled into the driveway of one such lovely home. The happy sunset-viewing soundtrack that was playing in my mind screeched to a halt, record-needle style.

This car appeared not so old - and it had faux wood panelling.

Seriously, people think this is a good look? Or is it part of the trend of 'vintage' from the 70s and 80s?

You know what I think? Some hipster, of a design team somewhere, is laughing into his egonomic, organically fair-trade-filled coffee mug and... all the way to the bank.

I present to you, a sample of l'ugliness I saw yesterday:

Actually, if it had been maybe another type of car, I may not even be writing about this... but I've never liked these Chryslers. They've always struck me as incredibly offensive-looking cars (sorry Chrysler).

Perhaps on a Mini Cooper, or VW Beetle, the faux wood-panel look could be seen as cutely retro, but not on the Chrysler.

To wrap up this randomness, and link to the beginning, I just thought I'd mention that not far from where I live, there's a long road called Chevy Chase Drive. At the far end of it is Chevy Chase Golf Club, and Chevy Chase Library. I keep forgetting to mention this to my parents...


  1. Oh, the family truckster! "Holiday Road" is cemented into my childhood memories. Oh, we watched that movie one thousand times! And yes, so much of it just flew by my innocent ears.

    And THANK YOU for highlighting something I have always known - those Chryslers are ugly. Bren thinks they're great.

    The wood paneling is beyond wrong. I agree, on another car, like a little Beetle, it could look uber retro cute.

  2. They are seriously butt ugly. I don't understand the appeal, I really don't.

    Ah well, as long as they're not transporting dead grannies tied to the roof, or dogs tied by their leash to the back and left to drag...

  3. Hmmm, that gives me an idea re: the cats, come moving day.....

    Oh god, I'm heinous.

  4. Hilarious ... and here's me thinking it was some kind of accidental design feature because obviously, they'd run out of metal.

    It would be like driving around in my parents old record player cabinet. Just whack on Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass and you're there.

  5. Oh, you ladies make me giggle!