Friday, June 30, 2006

How to Save Detroit

104 How to Save Detroit


The musical instrument manufacturers figured this out decades ago and it’s part of the reason they’ve survived the onslaught of equal or superior quality from the Far East.

Want a Martin Flat Top guitar made to 1937 specifications? No problem. A Gibson Super 400 just like the one Scotty Moore used on the early Elvis records? No problem.

They don’t do this with just one or two models. The major manufacturers are making dozens if not hundreds of instruments that supposedly either “evoke” some alleged golden age or duplicate it.

If you can buy a “Muddy Waters” Fender Telecaster guitar, why not an “Elvis Presley Pink Coupe DeVille?”

Chrysler is making a nice knockoff of its own “300” car from the 1950s and a little wagon that looks something like what they made in the 1940s. Both are selling well.

But they could make a REAL 300, one of those 20-foot long canal boats with the big front teeth and the taillights that auto writer Tom McCahill once described as “sparrow strainers.”

They’re using Walter P. Chrysler’s name and faux signature on some cars (see our signature rant on misusing the concept “signature” on everything.)

Ford’s current nostalgiamobile is a Thunderbird that suggests the 1950s or 60s. Not bad. But not yet on target. They could re-make a real one from 1955 or 56 and it would sell like mad.

Volkswagen has sort of reissued the Beetle.

How hard would it be for GM to bat out a few ’57s in those two horrid signature color combos, turquoise and white and salmon and cream?

Auto purists will argue that times have changed so radically that you can’t reproduce those earlier cars. That’s true. We now have those pesky federal air pollution standards, can’t (or shouldn’t) build engines that run on unleaded gas. You can’t GET unleaded gas and would have to add the stuff yourself.

But the repro crowd today doesn’t really know about that stuff. Oh sure, you’d hear a lot of braying and moaning from people who actually DROVE those 1940s or 1950s cars. But there aren’t that many of us.

And don’t worry about pricing. A “Lead Belly” style 12 string Stella guitar cost 50 bucks in 1935. In modern money that’s about $800. The “real” instrument today fetches about $12,000. And a good reproduction, about four grand once you finish the necessary modifications.

So a Pontiac that cost three thousand dollars new in 1958? Now, what would you pay?

You don’t have to have a true mass production run. You can crank out just a handful, stir up demand and there’s your market.

And maybe you can get some concessions from those unions you believe are putting you out of business. For example: 1958 repro? 1958 wages while you work on that model. Today’s UAW lapdogs probably would agree to that. Now, what about the executives, the guys whose retirement costs are the REAL villain? Nah. They have a much stronger union than the UAW.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

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