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Make v-room for American car culture

Updated: Dec 10, 2020

By Natalie Gao and Larry Ye Dec. 9, 2020

Ivan Zhu Art

Spearheaded by Henry Ford’s 1908 Model T automobile from the Industrial Revolution, American car culture grew in popularity throughout the post-World War II era of the 1950s.

The emergence of car culture has had large impacts on past and present-day society: Jeongsuk Joo, former graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo found that the increase in car tourism created many new establishments that still exist today, including motor hotels, drive-through restaurants and drive-in movies. The entertainment industry has also been affected by car culture: automobiles became a major inspiration for many rock ‘n’ roll songs including “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner. Television shows such as “Magnum, P.I.” featured luxury sports cars like Lamborghinis.

In the 1960s, American automobiles such as the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Corvette were developed, and according to Car Throttle, nearly every vehicle at the time had a powerful V8 engine. However, in the 1970s, the United States experienced stagflation—a combination of stagnant economic growth and high inflation rates—and these automobiles were dominated by new fuel-efficient cars from foreign carmakers such as Toyota, Honda and Mercedes Benz. In 1973, the film “American Graffitti” was released, highlighting the sense of freedom that many teenagers at the time found in driving. By the 2010s, electric and hybrid cars began rising in popularity.

“American car culture grew in prosperity throughout the post-World War II era of the 1950s...[it] has had large impacts on past and present-day society.”

“I drive a small, four-door Toyota Prius because I wanted a hybrid car to support the environment. The Prius is also very fuel-efficient, which helps me save on gas money, as I drive a lot,” Julie Montgomery, Math Department, said.

Culture may be a significant indicator in car preferences, as the New York Times found that Americans prefer larger cars like Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs), while Europeans stick to smaller cars because their cities tend to be more crowded and have higher gas prices.

According to a study conducted by Sangho Choo of the Korean Transportation Institute and Patricia L. Mokhtarian of Georgia Institute of Technology, former graduate students of the University of California, Davis, the type of car that an individual owns can also correlate with various personality traits such as status seeker, adventure seeker, family-oriented. For example, mirroring their self-image, “adventure seekers” are associated with SUVs and sports cars, which are suitable for grand outdoor activities. Individuals who drive smaller cars are usually more environmentally-friendly and prefer living in more populated neighborhoods. Additionally, drivers of minivans typically do not travel long distances often and have children. Owners of luxury cars or SUVs have a greater chance of being highly educated and wealthy. Moreover, individuals with pickup trucks are more likely to work long hours.

“I drive a cherry-red Volvo XC90. This was a rebound and a retro escape car that I got after many years of driving a minivan when my kids were young. My car reflects my way of life: crossover cars feel more spontaneous and exciting,” Speech and Debate coach Michaela Northrop, said.

Many people also like to decorate their cars with accessories such as bumper stickers and license plate covers that can further represent one’s personality. For instance, car owners can broadcast their political sentiments by using stickers containing slogans or visuals that support particular candidates or policies. Other decorations can reveal general information about the driver, such as their alma mater, involvement in organizations and miscellaneous interests. To express their emphasis on family, people often attach family stick figure decals onto their vehicles. Numerous individuals also place accessories on their cars to convey their beliefs to the world around them, such as the “CoExist” bumper sticker, which showcases the symbols of various religions, calls for religious tolerance and world peace.

“On my car, I have two decorations that are from a spiritual point of view. Since I am a Vajrayana Buddhist, I have a double-vajra hanging from my rear-view mirror for protection from harm. I also have a Namgyalma Decal to protect everyone who sees it and to provide protection to insects and animals, especially if my car hurts them,” Montgomery said.


About the Contributors

Natalie Gao

Staff Writer

Natalie Gao is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer. She likes playing Tetris and making mac and cheese in her free time.

Larry Ye

Staff Writer

Lawrence Ye is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer for the Leland Charger Account. He likes to swim and travel and loves his pet dog named Meatball.

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