Gary North at lewrockwell.com has a piece titled Oldsmobile Nation in which he details the downfall of the venerable General Motors line to show that our nation’s future is not tied to General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.
As part of his piece Mr. North describes Oldsmobile‘s journey from being the best-selling American car in the 1970s to being discontinued in 2004, and asks “Do you miss the Oldsmobile? Have you given it much thought?”
Actually, Mr. North, some of us do and some of us have. The point of his article is that America will survive even if the Big Three don’t, but in fact, nothing is more emblematic of Detroit’s downfall than the collapse of Oldsmobile.
Olds traces its heritage back to 1897, when Ransom E. Olds began producing cars in Lansing, Mich. The Curved-Dash Olds (1901-07) was the world’s first mass-produced car, built on the first automobile production line.
Oldsmobile took off in 1949 when it introduced their Rocket engine, which used an overhead valve V-8 design rather than the flathead straight-8. Boasting such marquee names as the Super 88, 442 and Toronado, Oldsmobile became a favorite of hot rodders and car enthusiasts. Lee Petty, Richard Petty’s father, won the first Daytona 500 in a 1959 Olds Super 88.
Sales were strong into the 1990s, but then GM arrogantly began to strip Olds of its individuality and the company’s signature cars gave way to rebadged models of other GM vehicles. No need to listen to consumers, right, GM?
For Oldsmobile enthusiasts, the writing was on the wall when the company came out with the slogan “this isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile.” That was the whole problem. My father’s Oldsmobile was sleek, fast and stylish. What the company was turning out by the end was, often, none of the above.
Mr. North is partially right when he says Oldsmobile is “gone, forgotten and unlamented.” Yes, the company that GM shuttered in 2004 is gone and unlamented, but that’s because it was a shell of what it once had been.
What happened to Olds is relevant today because it’s indicative of what the future may hold if the Big Three get a bailout. It’s interesting how Toyota, BMW, Honda and other foreign companies that make cars in the U.S. aren’t screaming for government money.
Does anyone really think that a company propped up with federal funds is going to change its modus operandi? If GM can let a premier line like Oldsmobile, one of the most storied makes in auto lore, simply slip into oblivion, what’s to keep them from running every other line into the ground, as well?
If they want to do it on their own dime, fine; but don’t expect me to celebrate if our government decides to throw good money after bad.