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Back in the days when cars were boats & gas stations gave you S&H Green Stamps
The king of the 1970 “boats on wheels” was the Cadillac Fleetwood sedan.

I am driving a boat.

That is not the first thought that would pop into most people’s heads if they were driving a 2020 Ford Fusion with leather seats that’d put Ricardo Montanan of “Corinthian leather” in his place.

But after driving a rental for two days I could only think how ridiculously big the Ford Fusion struck me.

Do not get me wrong. The Fusion is a nice car. And the rental I had — from push button ignition to a seat that is designed to move you into driving position after one makes the initial tap on the starter and before the engine turns on all so you can have a “skosh” more room getting in and out — would have impressed the Mercury astronauts.

My car of choice is a 2017 Ford Focus that was having its clutch replaced.

To be honest, when I bought the car three years ago, I really wanted a hybrid Fusion to replace my hybrid Escape. But after driving it the Fusion struck me as “an old man’s car.”

That is an unfair statement on a number of levels including the fact it is too small to be an old man’s car. Yes, I’m 64 and that doesn’t make me a young whippersnapper. It’s just that my perspective of old men driving cars was from the mid-1960s to mid-1970s.

If you were around then, this was the Golden Age of Gas Guzzling Speedy Tanks that would take up two and then some of today’s spaces to park.

Old men back then drove 1970 Cadillac Fleetwood sedans that could seat six San Francisco 49er linemen in comfort with room for three more in the trunk.

Gas mileage was of no concern. It was 55 cents per gallon and there were no shortages of gas stations.

It wasn’t unusual to see a gas station on every corner of some intersections. And while this may sound prehistoric unless you are in Oregon, attendants actually pumped your gas at no extra cost.

Station owners would try to woo you from the competition by either giving you a free drinking glass with every 8 gallon or more fill-up, luring you with either Blue Chip Stamps or S&H Green Stamps or a combination of all three. If you do not know what those “stamps” were then you’ve never known the pleasure of helping your mother lick enough to fill 20 books or so in order to get a blender.

They also checked the oil and tire pressure and washed your windshield. Today you’re lucky if a gas station has clean water for you to wipe down your own windshield let alone bothering to replace the paper towels.

And — save for perhaps gum and a few candy selections  — the only “convenience” items a station would sell were glass bottles of Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Orange Crush, Squirt, or Hires Rootbeer. You’d open the soda machine lid, put a nickel in the slot and then grab the top of the neck of a 16-ounce bottle that hung on metal strips, and pull it out.

Laugh, if you well, at the limited selection and the archaic dispensing device but I have yet to buy a soda in either a plastic bottle or aluminum can at a gas station convenience store that was as ice cold as the bottles you retrieved from a soda machine.

Technology is amazing but sometimes you sacrifice a lot in the pursuit of convenience.

A prime example was advent of power steering. It was a rarity until a ways into the 1960s.

Vehicles without power steering were as easy to maneuver as a tank. It is likely the reason why health clubs and gyms didn’t really start popping up until the late 1960s. If you wanted upper body strength all you had to do for a workout was drive to the store.

Both hands had to be on the steering wheel. You had to worry about control of the vehicle every time you did something other than drive such as turn the channel on new fanged options such as radios with FM channels.

Distracted driving wasn’t an issue back 50 to 60 years ago before automatic transmissions started squeezing out manual transmissions. There is no way you could have driven and used a cell phone to make a call, let alone text.

There was no such thing as climate control. There were after- market air conditioners that weren’t all that much better than dashboard mounted fans.

The “cabin” was about as quiet as a New Year’s Eve party.

Safety belts in the early 1960s were optional. Who needed them when mom was driving as all she had to do was extend her right arm out to prevent you from flying into the windshield from your perch standing on the front seat before coming to stop.

This was back in an era when dogs and kids rode untethered in the beds of pickup trucks as their parents flew down the highway at 55 mph.

Ironically all the innovations automakers have in cars today from voice activated radios or the placement of turn signals and even wiper controls on the steering column have been made with the intent to reduce driver distractions.

People, though, have found ways to negate safety enhancements.

What engineer for the Big Three —  once known as the Big Four when it included American Motors before it drove off into oblivion with the rollout of the Ambassador, Javelin, Gremlin, and Pacer nameplates — would have thought their safety innovations would encourage people to comb their hair, read magazines, do makeup or even shave while traveling at 65 mph?

Cars have become rolling offices and places to do things that drivers used to have to do before they put the key in the ignition.

Back in the early 1970s when my mom had a Chevrolet Caprice classic with more cubic feet than the 1957 Chevy station wagon she once drove, everyone was wondering how much bigger Detroit could make cars that were approaching the point they could be classified as land yachts due to their size.

It was also when a two-ton 1970 Chevy Caprice Classic had a 454 cc V8 engine that provided 345 horsepower. Today it isn’t unusual for V6 engines to deliver 450 horsepower while consuming 60 to 70 percent less gas.

The Ford Fusion would have been seen as a mid-size car back in 1970 though some may have sneered of it as just being barely out of the compact class.

There is little doubt it packs light years more technology whether it is what’s under the hood or what’s inside the cabin compared to a 1970 Chevy Caprice.

Still after driving smaller vehicles in recent years such as the Chevy S-10, Ford Escape, and Ford Focus the Fusion feels like an elephant in size, although a fleet-footed one loaded with tech and creature comforts at that.

It’s strange. You’d think for someone who learned to drive in a 1970 Chevy Caprice that I’d be lamenting the Ford Focus is more like a dinghy rather than using “boat” to describe a Ford Fusion.

It just goes to show how times can change your perspective and reality whether it is the cars you drive by the gas stations you pass as you travel down the road of life or how you view life itself.


 This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at