It’s been a tough week for car lovers like us. After years of anticipating a price drop, the day finally came when we had to say goodbye to our beloved vehicles. On Monday, January 21, all cars were marked down by a staggering 80% – which means you could’ve gotten most cars for free! But now that the nightmare is over, we can look back and laugh – or cry – depending on how much we loved our cars. And we can’t forget that with a little bit of prep work, we could’ve had a cheap and cheerful commuter vehicle that we could’ve sold in the future for a decent profit.
One of the things that brought us so much joy was travelling to the various auto shows around the country and seeing all the iconic American cars. We couldn’t help but daydream about owning some of these legendary vehicles. Now that we can’t, it just leaves a big hole in our hearts. While we were too late to get a front-row seat at the car graveyard, thanks to TikTok we were able to witness the legendary American cars up close and personal. Thanks to social media, we were able to experience the thrill of seeing these cars in person and knowing that eventually, we might be able to own one.
The Early Years
Indianapolis Motor Speedway first opened its gates to the public in May 1911. It would only take a few more years for racing to become a major sport in the city. The Indianapolis Star newspaper began covering auto racing in 1914, which made it a popular topic for newspaper people back then. In 1924, the Indy 500 was founded and quickly grew in popularity. It continues to this day – the race is now an official part of the Indianapolis Colts’ pre-season schedule. You may know that the Indy 500 is one of the most popular sporting events in the United States, with over 260,000 spectators annually flocking to the race. The Indianapolis 500 is one of the oldest continuous sports events in the country.
After World War II, more and more people could afford cars as manufacturing costs came down and fuel prices were low. This allowed for a surge in car ownership, which peaked in the 1950s when nearly 50% of American families owned a car. But mostly, we bought them because we needed them, and the suburbs were expanding quickly. The postwar years were also a time of tremendous innovation when it came to cars. As gas rationing came to an end in August 1949, cars started getting better and better. This is largely due to the invention of the transistor radio, which allowed for a greater number of electrical components and more sophisticated designs. The development of the transistor made it easier to manufacture smaller and more reliable devices. These cars all required greater amounts of electrical power, which meant they needed more and more of these transistors to work – which, in turn, led to a huge demand for them during this time. So much so that by 1955, a transistor was worth more than a Cadillac. This is the golden age of the transistor – cars became smaller, but more sophisticated at the same time.
The Space Race
If there’s one thing that marked the early years of the Cold War it’s the space race. The United States and the Soviet Union were engaged in a space race to see who could put a man in orbit first, and the tension rose sharply as they each tried to outdo the other. In the summer of 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space. It would take nearly a decade for the Soviet Union to finally catch up, launching Yuri Gagarin into orbit in April 1961. The two countries went their separate ways after the Cold War, but the space race didn’t disappear – private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin have continued the race with the goal of making space travel available to everyone. We’re closer than ever before to achieving this goal, with plans to launch a fully operational manned space station by 2024.
Flat Rockers And Rollers
The late 1960s saw the rise of a new breed of motorcyclists – the so-called “Flat Rockers”. Thanks to the Vietnam War and the rise of the automobile club, Harley-Davidsons and other custom bikes took off, with thousands of newly-formed biker gangs springing up across the country. The trend continued into the next decade, with more and more people taking to the open road on two wheels instead of four. This is also the era when the rock song became popular, with songs like Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and the Eagles’ “Hotel California” helping to create an anthem for bikers around the world. We’re still a relatively small group – only around 1.5 million American motorcycles are currently registered, compared to over 40 million registered cars – but we’re growing quickly.
The Automobile Era
In the early years of the 21st century, car ownership was at an all-time high, with nearly 90% of American households owning a vehicle. The automobile has always been vital to our economy; in 2008, we sold 11.2 million cars and in 2019, that number rose to 16.9 million. It’s interesting to note that in the early 21st century, a car was worth only around $7,700 and as of April 2020, it sold for $12,500, an increase of nearly 60%. In 2024, it is expected to sell for around $16,600 – that’s a nearly 100% increase in value! It’s tough to put into words the sense of optimism and joy we felt as we were driving down the road in any of these cars – knowing that one day we’d be able to buy a new one and continue feeling this way.
But this was all just a dream. As we mentioned earlier, the car industry took a huge hit in the early part of this year – partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic but also because people simply chose not to buy cars as gas prices hit an all-time high. In early April, the president of the United States prohibited all personal travel not related to work and ordered all non-essential businesses to close. This, coupled with the effects of the pandemic, meant that buying a new car simply wasn’t practical at the moment.
While America was struggling with the pandemic, we at Cars.com were also facing another problem: our offices had become pretty quiet without any visitors or phone calls – nothing but emails and texts between colleagues. That is until one day in April when the phone finally rang. It was a woman calling from a local dealership – she was looking for a particular car and asked if we were still advertising for sale.
We were so relieved that someone had finally called, as we hadn’t sold a single car since the beginning of the year. The woman from the dealership assured us that many people had been calling but that our numbers were very low on the waiting list – if we wanted a specific car, we would need to make arrangements quickly. We were a little taken aback but quickly regained our composure and agreed to meet her at the dealership that very afternoon.
To be honest, we weren’t really sure what to expect – we had sold cars before but had never actually dealt with a car dealership. For some reason, we had imagined that the process would be simpler – you’d drive up, they’d give you a loan, you’d drive home. But as we approached the dealership, we saw a sea of cars inside – all of them on display and waiting to be bought. We were overwhelmed. The salesperson took us to a spacious office where they had prepared an impressive display of cars. When she saw us looking at the cars, she came in from behind the desk and gave us a hug. “We’re so happy to see you!” she said. We were overwhelmed too – it was like a scene from a car show!
We sat down with the salesperson and began going over the different models – when suddenly, she stopped and looked at us with a very serious expression on her face. “I have a little confession to make,” she said. “I’ve been trying to sell this same model for months! No one will make a purchase though – it’s very frustrating!” We assured her that we understood completely and that this was what we had expected. As we left the office, we shook hands with the salesperson again and thanked her for her honesty, assuring her that this was truly the only car we were interested in.