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Enrico The Cruiser, 2015

March 31, 2009 - Paul Giannamore

A kid born in 2009 walked along the row of shiny cars in the field at the dragstrip at Friendshp Park on the first Saturday in June of 2015. All of six years old now, he tugged at his dad's arm and stopped him as they were walking by an elecrtric-blue PT Cruiser with wood sides and the license plate N RICO.

"A woody, Dad, look," the kid said, beaming.

The father smiled, too, but kept on tugging the kid toward the 2009 Dodge Challenger in Hemi Orange parked next to the little blue wagon. The owner of the PT said, "Hey kid, you know these cars were made by a company called Chrysler."

The father wheeled around, proudly displaying his T-shirt with a big picture of the original Henry Ford and the slogan, "America's Last Stand" all sort of looking down over a 2014 Mustang doing a little burnout on a dragstrip.

The father and the Cruiser's owner then got to talking about how we got to 2015, automotively speaking. The Obama administration pulled the plug on the Dodge Challenger and the big Ram pickups as part of finishing the deal with Fiat. Chrysler's private equity fund managers already had killed the popular little Cruiser without investing a dime in advancing the model to a second generation.

The men told the kid the story of how Fiat, Italy's big automaker, tried vainly to sell its cars in America, even reviving the Plymouth brand to sell the little 500 economy car in 2011. But it didn't last. By 2013, tired of its reputation being slammed by the old "Fix It Again Tony" jokes about quality -- as undeserved for Fiat as they were for Chrysler -- Fiat pulled the plug on its Chrysler venture.

GM, under direct federal control, was making electric golf carts by 2015, the Obama administration having killed the Corvette, the Camaro and the SS versions of everything by the end of 2009. There were no 2010 or later models at all at the classic and hot rod show at the fairgrounds.

Ford, on the other hand, having shied away from the feds, still made Mustangs. A host of its European small cars were being built in plants all over the U.S. before the end of 2011, and people took to them, and the ad slogan, "Ford: America's Last Stand" in ways they hadn't taken to any previous "Buy American" baloney. Nobody wanted to see the last free American car company become another "Made in China" product, like coffee pots, sneakers and bicycles had done in years before Depression II, as the period of 2007-2011 were being called by the bloggers, who had replaced newspapers and TV pundits completely sometime around 2012.

"I just put $2,541 in gasoline in the PT yesterday, and it fired right up. I haven't driven it for three months," the owner told the man and the kid.

"That would have been about $40 worth of gasoline in 2008," the father said to the kid, who just tugged at his dad and started running toward the line of shiny Ford F-150 trucks, some hybrids and some older big-engined models.

"At least Tony didn't have to fix 'er up, right," the dad said to the PT owner as he and the kid went on down the line of cars.


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