Getting Weak at the Bearings

The Lonestar Rod and Kustom Roundup vintage car event harks back to simpler, better-designed times

Let's deal with a little myth straight off. America is not in love with its cars. Between the DVD players, the endless cup holders, and the yammering GPS systems, saying you love your car today is like saying you love your closet. (One purist associate of mine believes that the tarmac was being laid on the road to hell the day some bright spark installed the first in-dash cigarette lighter, but also he believes the only suitable color for a vehicle is racing green.)

You can't love an SUV the way you can love a 1951 bullet-nose Studebaker Starlight Coupe, which is why the Lonestar Roundup kustom car extravaganza is such a harkening back to prettier, more gas-guzzling times. Classic and vintage cars gathered in customized variations on production models that were infinitely more iconic than the overwhelming majority of modern generic transport boxes. For those of you that can't get out to the Travis County Expo Center Saturday, you can see them doing what they do best in the (free) rolling parade up and down South Congress that night (or just click on the image above for some shots from Friday's cruise).

Now, as a committed fan of public transport, I find it a little hard to justify the giddy feeling that the smell of burning rubber and gas fumes induce. But apart from the lines, the sweeping curves, the flame paint-jobs, the chrome, the perfect accents of rust in just the right places, and a commitment to "the look" so extensive that the color of the fuel pipes is a matter for contemplation, these vehicles are a design victory. Why? Because they do what they were designed to do: take a person from one place to another, not be a mobile den. Perversely, the modern car engine is the most fuel-efficient design ever, but the average modern car, with its AC and 30" sub-woofers soaking up the power, can barely get off the parking lot before it needs a fill-up. These vintage machines are the cars that Le Corbusier would have designed: They are machines for traveling.

I overheard one guy on SoCo say, "I like cars that go fast." And my only thought was, "No, you like cars that go kinda fast, and look this good doing it."

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