Cadillac-Packard snafu illustrates need for a paid (septuagenarian) consultant

There, on the front page of The Morning Call last Saturday, was Uncle Wilson's 1952 Cadillac, or an exact replica thereof.

When he visited from Delaware, neighbors were impressed by the sight of a new Caddy in the gravel driveway next to our house, which my parents had purchased for $5,000, not exactly the sort of mansion one normally associated with new luxury cars.

I have vivid (and painful) memories of that Cadillac, parked next to my father's pathetic jalopy, so I could not take my eyes off that picture on Saturday. It had to do with ceremonies to reopen Allentown's 15th Street Bridge over Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

There was a reference to Page 10 for more photos and a story, which called the new $8.4 million bridge a Christmas present from Santa Claus and said it took more than three years of traffic restrictions to rebuild it. Mayor Ed Pawlowski, Santa and other dignitaries were the first to cross the new span, it was reported, with some of them riding in two classic cars after a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

One photo showed a 1948 Packard, which also dredged up childhood memories, mainly because the Packard's new "upside-down bathtub" styling made it look something like a Nash, and nobody wanted to be seen in a Nash. The main problem was that the front-page Cadillac was identified as a Packard and the Page 10 Packard was identified as a Cadillac. A proper correction was quickly published in Sunday's paper.

Obviously, The Morning Call needs someone who can tell one 1940s or 1950s car from another. I decided to graciously offer my septuagenarian services along those lines for a consulting fee, to be added to my salary, even though some find it disturbing that I'm paid a salary in the first place.

Nothing is more important than car culture. (Actually, some of us feel motorcycle culture is more important, but we represent a minority of Americans and I'll reluctantly address plebeian interests.)

In addition to being able to tell a 1948 Packard from a 1952 Cadillac, my keen insights on cars in general are precious, so I can see consulting fees rolling in soon.

These are not opinions. These are rock-solid facts. For example, the most beautiful car ever made was my 1956 two-door Oldsmobile 88. Who could dispute that? (How could America let the Olds division of General Motors go belly-up just 48 years later? It must have been some sort of communist, satanic or Illuminati plot.)

For most of my life, however, I have been addicted to Dodge cars. I'm not sure I can articulate a rational reason for that, except to point out that the Joey Chitwood Helldrivers show at the Erie County Fair in Hamburg, N.Y., featured Dodges.

Also, as I've reported before, the most famous car chase in movie history had Steve McQueen's Ford Mustang GT catching the bad guys' Dodge Charger. The main problem with that scene was that the Charger could run circles around the Mustang. The outcome of the chase was determined by marketing people, not car experts.

On Saturday, the day we saw the Cadillac-Packard snafu, the paper ran a big splash on the new Mustang, calling it "one of the most iconic cars in history." There still is a Dodge Charger, but it has none of the Mustang magic — all because of a bogus movie chase scene decades ago.

I have had a few Fords, but recently vowed never to buy another because I am so repulsed by that smarmy creep in a baseball cap in the Ford commercials.

I had two Volkswagens, including the Notchback model not retailed in America. It had a special heater in the front trunk connected to a gasoline fuel line. When switched on, it took three seconds to have the car's interior toasty warm. It worked great, but safety fanatics would have a cow if such a heater were offered here.

My favorite car of all time was a Nissan 240 (not the ripsnorting sports car but a sporty little coupe) I bought at the Rothrock place in South Whitehall Township. I'd still have that car if a zonked motorist in New Jersey had not totaled it. Naturally, that car was so splendid Nissan stopped making it.

My wife has had two favorites — her Honda Accord from Lehigh Valley Honda in Emmaus and her 2004 Nissan Murano from Rothrock. That Murano also was totaled, through no fault of her own, and she has a new one, but still pines for the 2004. She had that Accord for 13 years, without so much as a mechanical hiccup.

I admit I felt almost as much dismay over recent Honda commercials as I felt over Mike Rowe's Ford commercials. What kind of company would hire Michael Bolton for its commercials? Isn't there enough obnoxious music on television already?

Other cars have come and gone, including one brand we abandoned when we learned it would cost $95 to replace a cup holder with a broken part that could not have cost more than a dime to make.

I now drive a BMW, which I bought used because my son kept bragging about his. The people at Daniels BMW in South Whitehall are just great, but I have one little problem. Does anybody know how I can disconnect the electronic limiter, which prevents the car from going over 156 mph? I'd never dream of violating speed laws, of course, but that limiter seems like an artificial and oppressive restriction.

It's the principle of the thing.

paul.carpenter@mcall.com 610-820-6176

Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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