My Favorite All-American Machines

Our nation, in all of its glory, blazoned with patriotism and everything else Americana!

And, yet we live in a time where we have been squeezed between anger, division, and a pandemic. Just when I thought that my faith in this country was restored, I am concerned about the overall health of the nation I call home. The nation in which I hold my passport.

When I was younger, I has more faith in this country. Even with Watergate, Vietnam, the Oil Crisis, the hostages in Iran, I was taught to be proud of who I am and value the flag every morning when school began.

Still, I am happy where I'm at. I am still hopeful that we will be united once again. I am still hopeful that I can walk down the street knowing that no matter how I identify myself that my citizenship is in still in tact.

At this point, I will stop being political, and get on with this month's My Favorites column on All-American automobiles.

The rules are strict here – their final assembly must be solely done right here. That eliminates a lot of favorite cars, I am afraid. It also eliminates some of the best cars ever built because they were built elsewhere included in the USA.

It is not difficult to parse out, but challenging nonetheless. There they are, however…

1955 OLDSMOBILE NINETY-EIGHT STARFIRE CONVERTIBLE: If you were a baby, what car would you like to be driven home to from the hospital? My mom did well in choosing her beloved convertible – bought pre-owned in 1958. Not sure whether there was a child seat attached or anything to cart the second child of Barbara and Sheldon Stern home from West Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Encino, California. Little did she know that she enabled this second child into becoming an automotive scribe by virtue of this all-American baby carriage. Oldsmobiles were built exclusively in the USA – nowhere on Earth could you build a Rocket-powered car. Rightfully so! An Olds embodied the ambition of a typical American who wanted a combination of style, luxury and performance. They also wanted a dealership they can relate to in terms of their needs. Mom's convertible was at the top of the line – any more car and you would end up with a Buick Roadmaster or a Cadillac.

1971-76 OLDSMOBILE NINETY-EIGHT: My first car was as American as apple pie. Built either in Lansing or Linden, New Jersey, the biggest Oldsmobile was the epitome of American might. Well, at least I thought they were. These land yachts were amongst the best of the breed – big, bold and mid-valued. To see the rocket up front is just like waving the American flag – nothing could be equal to it. Hence why there are still arguments over the euthanizing of the brand last decade. Some of us still remember the brand because it was part of our heritage. Oldsmobile was the one that welcomed everyone to their showroom and enticed us with really nice wares. I, for one, am glad they did – considering one such 1972 Ninety-Eight Luxury Sedan.

1983-88 FORD THUNDERBIRD: Aerodynamics on a basic platform – not exactly world beating, would you think? But, damnit, I loved these personal luxury cars! Built in Lorain, Ohio or Wixom, Michigan, the aero T-Birds were considered art. When I drove them, they were quite the upgrade. They had doors as big as a smart forTwo, but had plenty of comfort for cruising, taking on the Los Angeles freeway system or the streets of San Francisco. The T-Bird defined my mid-1980s in terms of the kind of car I would prefer to roll in.

1984-91 DODGE DAYTONA/1984-86 CHRYSLER LASER: Laugh. I dare you. This is not a joke. I do have a fondness for the derivatives from the K-Car platform – and, this is my favorite. I actually had access to a Laser in the late 1980s and found it to be fun to drive. The Daytona was relevant at a time when affordable sports coupes, such as the Toyota Celica, Nissan 200SX and Volkswagen Scirocco, were part of the automotive landscape. To ensure its place in that segment, Chrysler's 2.2-liter engine was turbocharged – and then some. The Turbo Z put the Daytona squarely within reach of even bigger sports coupes. Applying the Shelby name is now considered legendary. These St. Louis and Sterling Heights-built coupes were once on my radar for ownership if it were not for the dancing dual calipers in my dreams.

2015-Current FORD MUSTANG: The most iconic automobile produced within my lifetime is the epitome of our country does best when we put our minds to it. The coupe and convertible are made in Flat Rock, Michigan and exported to dozens of markets worldwide. In some cases, it is the only car in the Ford lineup. Aside from all of that, the internal combustion engine-powered Mustang is a treat to drive. That is an understatement, if you end up driving any modern Mustang with a V8 engine. Who doesn’t love a V8-powered Mustang? 

All photos by Randy Stern

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