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GM s car guy is betting Americans want to feel proud of their vehicles
Union Leader ^ | Apr 18 2002 | George Will

Posted on 04/18/2002 3:40:20 AM PDT by 2Trievers

ONE CAR COMPANY is running ads in which its suave 44-year old CEO underscores his love for the outdoors by saying, “I won’t even stay in a hotel if I can’t open the windows.”

Another car company, its tone set by its 70-year-old vice chairman — an ex-Marine aviator — is putting up three billboards. One shows a 1957 Chevy’s grille—think of Teddy Roosevelt’s grin in chrome — and says: “Proof your parents were actually cool once.” Another shows the rear deck of a little red 1963 Corvette Sting Ray and says: “They don’t write songs about Volvos.” The third shows the gritted-teeth grille of a 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS and says: “Not everyone wants a car with a bud vase on the dash.”

Guess which company is doing best.

Bill Ford’s problems at the company his great-grandfather founded are bigger than odd advertising. And there are many reasons why GM is soaring like the jet fighter Robert Lutz flies for fun. But institutions are the lengthening shadows of strong individuals, and Lutz is, in the elemental argot of Detroit, a “car guy.”

When GM lured Lutz back into the car business last summer, The Detroit News headline (“Lutz Rides In To Rev Up GM”) was of a size usually reserved for Pearl Harbors or two-game Tiger winning streaks. But are Americans still “car people” the way they were when Lutz was young, in the 1950s?

Then they were automobile voluptuaries, Detroit was in its rococo period and its great stylist was GM’s Harley Earl, “the Cellini of chrome,” of whom it was said that if he could have put chrome on his clothes, he would have. Cars had front bumpers that were protuberant, not to say nubile, and tail fins. Cars looked, a wit said, “like chorus girls coming and fighter planes going.” Indeed, Buick’s LeSabre emulated the F-86 Sabre jet.

Lutz, tall and trim, knows that today’s Americans generally have a less erotic relationship with cars. They look upon many cars, he says, “as more or less an appliance.” As mere transportation. Utilitarian. Boring. Furthermore, 20 years ago a “premium” car meant one substantially more capable. Today premium technologies (e.g., high-tech engines, overhead cams) are everywhere.

But, Lutz says happily, your car is still “an extension of your psycho-motor system.” More than the other stuff we surround ourselves with — do you know the brand of your refrigerator? will you replace it before it breaks down? —your car “continually makes an instant statement about you, even to complete strangers.”

So, Lutz insists, design is still central to success in the automobile business. Art is supposed to “evoke emotional responses” and cars are art — “a mobile sculpture.” He also believes that when everybody else is doing it, don’t. Most cars today have rounded aerodynamic lines. But the new Cadillac CTS, with angular lines, is described in ads as “edgy.”

And when Lutz was at Chrysler a few years ago, he pushed through the development of the popular PT Cruiser, an echo of a 1937 Ford. Why? Surely not nostalgia. Probably most of the (mostly young) people buying these cars do not know who was President in 1937. Go figure.

Lutz believes that “aspirational aspects overwhelm the functional differences” when car customers make their choices. When that happens, the “left-analytical brain has been defeated again,” the “right brain” has prevailed and Lutz rejoices. But this does not mean people plunk down large sums merely for high-status brands. Chevrolet sells more vehicles costing more than $30,000 than do Mercedes, BMW, Lexus and Audi combined, but this is partly due to the popularity of light trucks, a category that includes sport utility vehicles. Today an “extremely high-end demographic” — e.g., investment bankers and stockbrokers — are buying GMC SUVs.

Some Americans (let us avoid the term “liberals”) hate fun, such as cheeseburgers, talk radio, guns, Las Vegas, and cars that are larger than roller skates and that look more interesting than shoe boxes. They hated 1950s cars that looked — as a sniffy critic said — like juke boxes on wheels. Such people love guilt, and want people to feel guilty about cars because cars have made possible suburbs, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s and emancipation from public transportation.

GM’s “car guy” knows that Americans generally keep their cars longer than they used to — creeping utilitarianism — and do not define automotive fun as they did in the gaudy 1950s. But he is betting that lots of them still are guilty of letting their right brains rip when purchasing a car.

George F. Will is a columnist with Newsweek and an ABC commentator.



TOPICS: Business/Economy; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events
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1 posted on 04/18/2002 3:40:20 AM PDT by 2Trievers
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To: 2Trievers
Well...let's help them out, what do YOU want in a vehicle?

I'll start. I want something that's cheap, easy, and simple to maintain. I want something that's going to last more than 7 years by a factor of 10. I want something that doesn't need to be taken to a dealership for parts or repairs every 50,000 miles. I want something that's inexpensive to insure, inexpensive to purchase, and I want something that's safe. Which means it won't crumple up and crush like a beer can (aka Geo's first thingamabob). I want something large enough to carry my wife, my two kids, and at least 3 of their friends.

It wouldn't hurt if it looked patriotic enough to represent a middle finger to all the Liberals out there (the majority of which are anti-American).
2 posted on 04/18/2002 4:00:33 AM PDT by Maelstrom
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To: 2Trievers
Then they were automobile voluptuaries, Detroit was in its rococo period and its great stylist was GM’s Harley Earl...

I'll cast my vote for Virgil Exner.

3 posted on 04/18/2002 4:11:14 AM PDT by uglybiker
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To: 2Trievers
It'll be a long time before I buy another 'American made' car. They're pieces of CRAP! GM products are the worst. For what I can afford, Honda and Toyota make the best cars IMHO.
4 posted on 04/18/2002 4:13:29 AM PDT by Trust but Verify
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To: Maelstrom
I was a GM fan, even a stockholder. They lost me. I liked my '92 Saturn and loved my 75 Camaro, but that was a while ago and they seemed to be the exception to otherwise poor quality GM cars. It will take a lot for GM to win me back. I love my 4WD S/C Toyota Tacoma. Built for Americans by Americans in California. Trouble free, fun to drive...definitely not a GM product!
5 posted on 04/18/2002 4:16:39 AM PDT by GBA
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To: Maelstrom

Since you asked ... this is what I drive ... this is what I'd LIKE to drive ... &;-) To heck with Detroit Mr. Will!


6 posted on 04/18/2002 4:22:49 AM PDT by 2Trievers
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To: GBA
No matter what they do, i'll keep my 1965 Chevrolet Pickup.

Ever since 1967 they have built them for the non user croud, ie. camper clowns and not for work. Besides that I haven't worn it out yet, it's only got 890,000 miles on it.

7 posted on 04/18/2002 4:31:42 AM PDT by dalereed
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To: GBA
I owned 4 Fords and then bought an Astro Van. I'll go back to Ford or Toyota. This thing is truly junk on wheels.
8 posted on 04/18/2002 4:34:04 AM PDT by aardvark1
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To: Maelstrom
Except for the large part, you've just described every GM we ever owned (the one we have right now is 9 yrs old and has 180,000 miles on it only 1 major repair, and that was just last month). But the last new car we bought was a Toyota Corolla. We bought that when GM wanted almost three grand more for a similarly equipped Prism. Sorry GM. Love your product, not your price. Get it down and we'll be buying GM again.
9 posted on 04/18/2002 4:42:47 AM PDT by mewzilla
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To: 2Trievers
I bought a Pinto in 72. Then had a series of overseas cars Mazdas, Toyotas, Saabs, including my love, my red MGB. Bought a 94 Caravan for the family, realized it wouldnt last to its last payment. Traded it for a Mazda 8 seat SUV which Mazda has since stupidly redesigned so now looks like a Caravan. Go figure. The Mazda works with the children, bikes, beach and our off road life. But there is still the heart of a red sports car beating in my body!!
10 posted on 04/18/2002 4:43:17 AM PDT by mlmr
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To: 2Trievers
Make my fave a Ford Model A. Last good car Ford's made.
11 posted on 04/18/2002 4:43:44 AM PDT by mewzilla
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To: uglybiker
Is that a Chrysler 300?
12 posted on 04/18/2002 4:58:49 AM PDT by IWONDR
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To: 2Trievers
McLaren, nice. That'd be very bad for my driving record, I'm sure. Or maybe not, since they'd have to call out the Air Force to pull me over and write me a ticket ;)

Of course, if you're shopping for the F1, you could always just upgrade your current ride, now that they have a street version of the 911 GT1.....

Drool ;-)

13 posted on 04/18/2002 4:59:29 AM PDT by general_re
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To: 2Trievers
GM products are junk!
14 posted on 04/18/2002 5:01:43 AM PDT by taxtruth
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To: general_re
My neighbor has a silver one ... at one time, only ONE of two in the USA! It's a SWWWWWWWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEETTTTTTTTT ride. Surprisingly small cockpit though. &;-)
15 posted on 04/18/2002 5:04:06 AM PDT by 2Trievers
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To: mewzilla
Interesting...I've never found a GM product that even came close to fitting the bill.

Then again, we gave up on GM after their fabulous success known as the "Hornet" /sarcasm. I still don't trust a tiger to change their stripes after 20 years.
16 posted on 04/18/2002 5:10:51 AM PDT by Maelstrom
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To: IWONDR
300D, to be exact. 392 Hemi w/ dual CArter 4bbls, pushbutton Torqueflite. Top speed 135 which put it 4 mph faster than its closet competition in '57 (Corvette).

Add another 10mph for the hardtop.

17 posted on 04/18/2002 5:11:54 AM PDT by uglybiker
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To: mewzilla
We bought that when GM wanted almost three grand more for a similarly equipped Prism.

Yep, price is what killed the Camaro and Firebird. That and the T/A's over-the-top styling. That car screams, "PULL ME OVER! I am a sixteen year old experiencing major testosterone poisoning!" One automotive magazine called it a "stylistic felon." What it demonstrated was GM's disdainful caricature of its customers.

18 posted on 04/18/2002 5:12:40 AM PDT by hopespringseternal
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To: 2Trievers
Your neighbor, eh? So, Trievs, ummm...where do you live these days? This neighbor, is he/she relatively nearby? What? No, no reason, just curious. ;)

Anyway, last I heard, they were only making 30 of the GT1's, but they had left open the possibility of more. I confess - I've never been a fan of the Porsches. Even the 959 just wasn't my thing. So it figures that the very first Porsche that makes me sit up, do a double-take, and say "whoa, there" is the one that I have no chance in hell of ever actually getting my hands on ;)

19 posted on 04/18/2002 5:14:09 AM PDT by general_re
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To: general_re
Well, he also has a chopper sitting on his lawn to "commute " to the office and a yacht as long as a city block. Takes two days to fuel her up! LOL ... he seems to be very happily married ... from what I can tell. *wink*
20 posted on 04/18/2002 5:20:55 AM PDT by 2Trievers
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To: Maelstrom
I could be wrong but I thought the "Hornet" was an AMC product not GM.
21 posted on 04/18/2002 5:45:11 AM PDT by xp38
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To: 2Trievers

This is the only car I'd ever need, 1949 Mercury.

22 posted on 04/18/2002 5:57:50 AM PDT by BigBadWolf
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To: BigBadWolf
I LOVE IT!
23 posted on 04/18/2002 6:00:54 AM PDT by 2Trievers
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To: hopespringseternal, 2Trievers
What it demonstrated was GM's disdainful caricature of its customers.

True, those things were atrocious. They should've come standard with a mullet haircut, Led Zep IV cassettes, and on the radio, Bud bottle caps instead of knobs.

Last week I read that Pontiac/GM was bringing back the GTO. If they can do as good a job with that as Ford did with the Thunderbird, I'd think of buying one. Until then, I'm completely satisfied with my F-150, and completely heartbroken at the loss of my first true love, a 1972 Porsche 911 T. Targa, of course.


24 posted on 04/18/2002 6:01:47 AM PDT by Hemingway's Ghost
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To: Maelstrom
what do YOU want in a vehicle?

Well since you asked. I want what I've always driven. It has to have a V-8, sportscar preferrably, American made if possible. It has to have at least 350 HP, do standard sub 5 0-60s, run at least in the 11s on the quarter. That's about it. And yes it also has to be convertible, and not a Chevrolet

25 posted on 04/18/2002 6:05:52 AM PDT by billbears
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To: Maelstrom
Well, we do take excellent care of our cars. That obviously helps. We also buy compacts and as few bells and whistles as possible. That also helps (less to break and less expensive to fix). But every GM we've owned has gotten at least 125,000 miles before we've replaced it. And aside from a starter, an alternator, brakes, tires, and one head gasket, we've never had a seious problem. Often, no minor ones either. If it weren't for the price, we'd still be driving one.

As for the high-end GM cars, others in my family drive them and are constantly dumping money in them. So maybe there's the problem.

26 posted on 04/18/2002 6:09:11 AM PDT by mewzilla
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To: Maelstrom
Well...let's help them out, what do YOU want in a vehicle?

A blonde in a short skirt whose vocabulary does not include the word "no". ;o)
27 posted on 04/18/2002 6:12:27 AM PDT by wheezer
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To: general_re
Have you seen the GT2? It looks more like a "standard" 911 Turbo, but without the AWD, rear seat, etc., and something like 50more hp.

Wicked fast...Motor Trend clocks it as the quickest production car its ever tested.

28 posted on 04/18/2002 6:12:51 AM PDT by Palmetto
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To: Hemingway's Ghost
"... satisfied with my F-150, and completely heartbroken at the loss of my first true love, a 1972 Porsche 911 T. Targa ..."

I LOVE F-250s ... sounds like you & I could go places together! LOL

29 posted on 04/18/2002 6:13:06 AM PDT by 2Trievers
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To: uglybiker
Woo Hoo! Now that is a car!!! A 57 Chrysler 300C! THey don't come any neater than that! A 392 Hemi w/ dual quads and black too!
30 posted on 04/18/2002 6:15:24 AM PDT by wjcsux
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To: dalereed
I used to use a '64 3/4-ton Chevy to cut firewood. 283/turbo350, with posi-traction, free-foating rear axles, and overloads.

I regularly put 2 tons of wood on that truck and I couldn't count the number of times I snapped chains and steel cables dragging timber. It never even made a funny sound, unlike another manufacturer's truck , whose name I won't mention.

31 posted on 04/18/2002 6:19:22 AM PDT by Crowcreek
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To: dalereed
My Chevy workhorse. A 2000 S-10 ZR2 King Cab. It's pretty AND tough. Towing capacity of 5500 lbs, and it'll go anywhere I'm willing to take it. I LOVE this truck. It came down to this and a Toyota Tacoma when it came time for me to buy. The Chevy was $3K less, and had 1500 more lbs of towing capacity, which was important to me since I have several towable toys. (boat, jet ski's, etc.). Oh and another handy feature is this thing is fast as a thief! Plenty of power to pass! This is the third S-10 I have owned. The first was an '87 S-10 4x4 when I was in high school, the second was an S-10 Blazer in college and I had nothing but good experiences with them too (I did have to replace the transmission in the Blazer at 161K miles!). This is a solid truck that I plan on keeping for at least 7 yrs. It rides smooth, never given me the first problem with 32K miles now, and it just looks MEAN!
32 posted on 04/18/2002 6:36:50 AM PDT by Space Wrangler
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To: 2Trievers
GM lost me a long time ago due to shoddy quality, poor service and idiotic branding (e.g., repackaging a Nova into a Cadillac). It is highly unlikely that I will ever buy a GM car or truck again. The last decent American car I had was a 1968 Dodge Charger w/440 hemi (Ahh, those were the days).
33 posted on 04/18/2002 6:41:52 AM PDT by pt17
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To: 2Trievers
I long for the days when I could recognize the year, make and model. Everything looks the same anymore. I still have my 1968 Olds 442 that I bought in college for $3,600 new. My 19 year old son has no interest in speed and wants a Cadillac Seville STS instead. Times have changed.
34 posted on 04/18/2002 6:46:25 AM PDT by clodkicker
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To: 2Trievers;general_re
Wow, if I lived next to a garage containing an F1, I'd probably get myself arrested for stalking.

I'd pay the guy just to let me HEAR IT or at least give me a ring when he's leaving the house.

I'd probably mow his lawn for life just to drive it around the block.

Unfortunately, since nobody knows what it is, I'd get frustrated driving it when people didn't evacuate the road in front of me and pull over to the shoulder, like they should.

A strong candidate for the finest automobile ever to wear license plates, absolutely. Yours for what, $1.5 Million or so? A Bargain.

35 posted on 04/18/2002 6:48:06 AM PDT by xsrdx
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To: 2Trievers
I LOVE F-250s ... sounds like you & I could go places together! LOL

If the trievers are labs and you look like Ashley Judd, Freepmail me!

36 posted on 04/18/2002 6:54:05 AM PDT by Hemingway's Ghost
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To: Hemingway's Ghost
You have FReepmail! &;-)
37 posted on 04/18/2002 6:58:28 AM PDT by 2Trievers
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To: 2Trievers
With the exception of pickups and the Corvette, GM builds junk.

Aztec? Ron-Day-Voo? Astro Van? Escalade? OMG, who is responsible? How much tacky plastic can you possibly use in a car's interior?

Controls subcontracted to Fisher Price.

Corvette Z06 is world class, and the Silverado HD pickups are truly contenders in the big pickup category. Saturn is a contender in the no frills transportation category

Buick? Pontiac? Cadillac? Not a chance.

GM has a long and storied history of giving the people what it thinks they should drive, rather than what they want.

That might have worked in 1975, but Toyota-Lexus, Honda and even Daimler Chrysler have put the screws to that business plan.

38 posted on 04/18/2002 6:59:33 AM PDT by xsrdx
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To: xsrdx
Vrrroooom ;)
39 posted on 04/18/2002 7:01:55 AM PDT by general_re
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To: xsrdx
LOL ... know the feeling! He hardly EVER takes it out ... claims that too many try to race him and it gets too dangerous (doesn't want to crash it). His 'round town wheels are a big Benz of some sort.
40 posted on 04/18/2002 7:03:31 AM PDT by 2Trievers
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To: hopespringseternal
I drive a 95 Lincoln Continental now. If it were rear wheel drive, 6 speed manual with a bigger trunk, it would be about perfect. You can cruise at 80 like it's 55.
41 posted on 04/18/2002 7:08:24 AM PDT by AppyPappy
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To: taxtruth
And they are made by UAW union thugs who vote DemoRAT. I'm sticking with Jap cars.
42 posted on 04/18/2002 7:10:45 AM PDT by StockAyatollah
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Comment #43 Removed by Moderator

To: 2Trievers
German cars are the best.


44 posted on 04/18/2002 7:18:42 AM PDT by 1Old Pro
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To: 2Trievers
He hardly EVER takes it out ...

Now that's just not right. These things are for driving - they aren't museum pieces. I don't know if I'd spend much time on the street with it, but if I could afford one, you can bet I'd be plunking down some cash at the local track pretty regularly. Hell, give me a nice big piece of land and I'll build my own road course for the thing.

McLaren had one that was clocked at 240 mph, for crying out loud. But I'd have to verify that for myself, to make sure I got my money's worth. No limey carmaker is gonna stiff me ;)

45 posted on 04/18/2002 7:19:00 AM PDT by general_re
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To: 2Trievers
George Will could explore this thing further by writing about Ford's former CEO Jacque Nasser. He could have been called the non-car guy. It has been alleged that while bringing this once great company to its knees(check stock price), Nasser neglected the product while nobly attempting to change the corporate culture. For whatever reasons, Ford has a big hole to dig out of because of Nasser's mismanagement.
46 posted on 04/18/2002 7:21:20 AM PDT by Biblebelter
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To: 1Old Pro

My personal favorite.

"Go ahead punk...hit me in the trunk"

47 posted on 04/18/2002 7:22:37 AM PDT by Registered
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To: 2Trievers
I still don't trust Chrysler but I have to admit their stylists are on to something.

I drive a 97 Nissan Maxima, very reliable.

But I fantasize about Beamers, Audis, and Porsches.

Oh well.

--Boris

48 posted on 04/18/2002 7:42:06 AM PDT by boris
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To: pt17
...1968 Dodge Charger w/440 hemi (Ahh, those were the days).

Must've been since Chrysler never made a 440 hemi.

49 posted on 04/18/2002 7:46:10 AM PDT by uglybiker
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To: wjcsux
Have an Uncle who had a 300 with the big motor. He looked like Mario Andretti, the car was a white convertible. Sweet ride.
50 posted on 04/18/2002 7:46:11 AM PDT by Benrand
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