It finally happened; and the company personified with everything America and the UAW stands for, sought protection of the courts by filing Chapter 11, otherwise known as application for bankruptcy. General Motors, the company us baby boomers grew up with, and whose cars most of use owned at one time or another, finally faced reality and came to the sad conclusion that the cars it’s 5 divisions make (8 if you want to include Hummers, Swedish Saabs, and the mysterious Saturn) decided that it’s cars just couldn’t compete with better made and more reliable Japanese ones as well as luxury models like Lexus and Infinity (also hailing from the Land of the Rising Sun). Whether they be cheap Korean Daewoo made ones with Chevy logos on them, or 4 X 4’s with a Buick or Cadillac crest, stuff that either local or foreign GM plants slam together, just don’t cut the mustard besides Hondas, Toyotas, Nissans and even Mazda, for that matter.

GM muscle carsIt’s taken the American auto giant more than 35 years to realize that it’s present line of cars are not like the ones made in the late 1960’s when names like Chevy’s Z-28 Camaro, Pontiac’s GTO and Firebird, Oldsmobile’s Cutlass, and of course, the all fiberglass Corvette Stingray. Those were cars, and we “boomers” loved them – especially with premium gasoline only going for 36 cents a gallon. I remember my first Chevy, a 1956 Bel Aire that my mom had previously driven, and my dad let me buy for only $300. I had torn two transmissions out of that car; the second one I had to pay for. I later moved up to a ’66 Pontiac GTO with the Jan and Dean 389 engine but with a 4 barrel carburetor instead of “3 duces”. It also didn’t have a “4 speed stick shift” transmission, but still moved down the road well with a 3 speed, floor mounted automatic.

GM’s fall from grace began in the mid 1970’s; about the time a new kind of gas, unleaded, began to be used. The quality of the cars also underwent a lot of changes, and many people still remember horrible ones like the “X” frame ones, which were a bad dream; or the earlier models of the Pontiac Sunbird. While Detroit automakers built cars on the idea of “planned obsolescence” Japanese companies in Kyoto, Kobe and elsewhere built cars that needed leas maintenance and could be driven for more than five years (GM’s and other US automaker’s maximum car lifespan).

GM’s more recent decision to outsource some of it’s Chevrolet models to Korea hasn’t worked out that well either, as all they did was to take over a Korean car company that was in bankruptcy itself (Daewoo) and simply attach the ubiquitous Chevy) logo to the products, along with a few minor cosmetic changes. Daewoo itself had tried to produce it’s version of one of GM’s German products, the Opel Kadett, which although cheap was poorly put together. GM also enlisted the assistance of a Japanese automaker, Suzuki, to assist in GM’s GEO line, which also wasn’t a real success story.

Over here in Israel, people are buying a lot of these little Chevys, but only because they’re low priced compared with better made Hondas, Toyotas, and that standard bearer of many high tech company employees, the Mazda 3. A lot of older GM cars are available on used car lots too; including Chevy Cavaliers, a much inferior car to Japanese models, as well as plenty of Daewoo made Opel clones.

But one thing Detroit’s largest auto maker was good at (in former years anyway) was making muscle cars, like the “Vets” Z-28’s, Firebirds and GTO’s noted above. Maybe this might eventually be the company’s salvation; and not tiny, boxy little electric cars like it is now planning to produce (some are calling them “Obamabiles”), after undergoing a major “restructuring” that will involve closing numerous auto assembly plants and car dealerships, resulting in the laying off of thousands of employees. Why not bring some of these dreamboat cars back; albeit modernized a bit, and designed to run on bio-fuels make from corn and seaweed. We baby boomers will appreciate this gesture, and may even buy some of these cars to try to recapture memories of our lost youth.

If we have the money to buy one, that is.