Published January 13, 2015
By Patrick ColabellaAssociate Professor, Accounting and Taxation, St. Johns University
June 1, 2009 the day that a 101-year-old company files for bankruptcy. A company that held a special place in the hearts of Americans. For me it is a very sad day. It feels like the fond memories of my youth have been somehow lost like losing family keepsakes after a house fire.
I grew up in the fifties and sixties, as a boy I fell in love with automobiles, I made drawings of them, I made models of them that I bought from the dollar my Uncle Louie gave me when I visted grandma's house on the weekend. That was the start of my passion for cars....American cars.
Back in the fifties and sixties, and even now I could tell you the year, make and model of any American car. It was a time when I could not wait for October when the new models hit the show room. There were several dealers in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn not far from where we lived and I made sure I visited every one of them to see these glorious machines. I can remember the 1955 Ford Crown Victoria resting majestically in the window of Four Star Ford but then, just a walk across the street to Alpine Pontiac, there was the most beautiful 1955 Pontiac convertible.
My cousin and I used to walk down the street looking for the cars that our uncles liked and owned. I had six uncles and each of them had their passionate preference for their cars. Uncle Louie liked Chevy's, Uncle Tommy Buicks, Uncle Pauly a Hudson and uncle Pete and my dad were partial to Oldsmobiles. I can reacall me and my cousin catching hell for trying to impress my uncle by simonizing his 1954 Chevy without him knowing it...in the sun! Those were the glory days of the Amerian car...it is sad to see them go.
The first car I drove was my dad's 1955 Oldsmobile, It was sad to see GM fold this model but how was I to know there was even more hurt on the horizon. It is especially sad for me to see Pontiac die. When I was fifteen and my passion for cars was in high gear, my cousin gave me my first ride in his 1965 Pontiac GTO. It was four gears of American muscle car and screeching wheels that made me fall in love with that car. At seventeen I bought a 1966 GTO convertible. I drag raced with it and blew out about every part on the car once -- the engine, transmission, clutches ... several times. The day I sold it I cried watching it being driven away. But I was getting married then and I needed the money. I got $1,300 for it.
Over the years I wanted the car back. By the time I had some spare cash it was 1987. So I bought a 1967 GTO for $750 and proceeded to restore it. I still have it and I treasure it. Just one viewing of the Barrett Jackson automobile auctions will tell you what the American car really means to us. Today the very car I owned back then was gaveled down and sold at the classic car auction for $130,000.
Now we know there are other fine cars, like Ferrarri, Mercedes, BMW and the like but look in the eyes of the bidders when they are shelling out hundreds of thousands for that Hemi Cuda or split window Corvette coupe or a 1957 Chevy and you'll see the value of the glory days of the American automobile. With the death of GM I fear they are gone forever and all we have left are these relic treasures that we saved from the crusher
I see Toyota has taken to Nascar racing. It is only a matter of time before we see Hyundais in the mix. Not that they should not be allowed to compete but the paradigm shift is hard to take. I, for one, cannot forgive the unions and the government for the demise of GM and the American car. I don't think it can recover. I would have rather seen GM be sold off to "car people" who would be motivated to make the cars that Americans really want. It is competition that sells cars not protection tariffs. It is good old Amerian ingenuity that makes cars...real cars. American want to see that again, at least I do.... Rest in pieces GM!