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Old 05-09-2006, 10:34 PM
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Default Hip to Be Square

From Today's Wall Street Journal:

Hip to Be Square:
Why Young Buyers
Covet 'Grandpa' Cars
Old Models Are Tricked Out
As Fashion Statements;
The Less-Stodgy LeSabre
May 9, 2006; Page A1

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Jabari Bryant didn't go to a car dealership to buy his new car last fall. The 28-year-old went to a retirement community in Tybee Island, Ga., where for $2,000 he bought a navy blue 1988 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Brougham from a man who was "at least 83."

The seller said "his eyesight was going and he had no use for the car," recalls Mr. Bryant, an automobile glass installer from Savannah.

Young people today don't want their father's Oldsmobile -- they want their grandfather's. Some of the hippest wheels for under-30 drivers today are models commonly identified with seniors: Oldsmobiles, Buicks, Chevrolets and Cadillacs from the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.
[Car Photo]
Chris Kilian of Hollywood, Fla., put 26-inch wheels on his 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.

From Collins Ave. in Miami Beach's South Beach neighborhood to International Blvd. in Oakland, Calif., teens and young adults are cruising in "grandpa" and "grandma" cars that they have painted bright colors like lime green, outfitted with fancy sound systems and propped up on monster-truck-style wheels. They're sweet-talking their grandparents into giving up old cars and offering to buy them on the spot from strangers.

Television shows, such as MTV's "Pimp My Ride," and rappers, including Snoop Dogg, are helping to drive the craze. There's even a new magazine, Donk, Box & Bubble, dedicated to the tricked-out-oldie-car culture.

For U.S. car makers, struggling to lift sales, it's a painful irony that the models striking a chord with young buyers aren't those rolling off the assembly lines today but rather ones made decades ago. Detroit's marketers are trying to figure out how to ride the trend without ruining it.

"The worst thing you can do is start to promote this," says Steve Shannon, Buick general manager. (Still, car makers are embracing the idea of marketing the same model to two generations; see related article.)

Besides the older models' low price tags, young people say they like the challenge of adding features like big wheels to vehicles that weren't designed for them. The cars are easier to work on than newer, more-computerized versions and are sure to stand out. There's also the cool factor of being so "out" you are "in."

Mr. Bryant was showing off his car in Augusta on a recent Saturday at the "Big Car Showoff," organized by MIA Entertainment Inc.'s East Coast Ryders, which sells DVDs mostly depicting revamped older cars. He has spent about $11,000 customizing his Caprice, now painted "tangerine orange" and lifted onto 24-inch wheels, instead of the 15-inch wheels they came with. Arrayed nearby were about 300 similar vehicles, from a 1972 Chevrolet Impala with an ostrich-skin interior to a 1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme lifted four feet off the ground.

If you have one of the grandpa cars and you fix it up, "everyone just thinks ...you got the tightest car," says Tilton Jackson, a 20-year-old stereo installer who likes to show off his 1995 Buick LeSabre on Oakland's International Blvd. Mr. Jackson bought it for $5,000 from an elderly couple who had used the car just to get between home, the store and the hospital. "We're not mocking old people or trying to make fun of them. They are just driving cool cars," says Mr. Jackson, who plans to airbrush Smurfs onto his blue LeSabre.

The shift is starting to show up in market research. Brands like Buick still have an average buyer around age 60. But the percentage of used-car shoppers between 18 and 24 who said they would consider a Buick LeSabre jumped 168% in the first quarter of this year from a year earlier, the biggest increase of any model, according to market research firm CNW Marketing Research Inc., Bandon, Ore. And fewer 16-to-24-year-olds think such models are "for an older person" than did in the past, according to a CNW study tracking cars' so-called "stodgy index."

J.D. Power & Associates' Power Information Network reports that buyers 16 to 35 years old accounted for 35% of sales of 1989 Buicks last year, up from 29% in 2003. Similarly, the age group represented 34% of 1989 Cadillac sales last year, up from 20% in 2003.

East Coast Ryders, the DVD company and publication that put together the old-car show in Augusta, this month is releasing a toy model line of tricked-out older cars. Donk, Box & Bubble magazine, an offshoot of Harris Publications Inc.'s Rides Magazine, started at the end of February.

"Donks" derived their name, according to one customizer, from the "big old donkey tires" that people put on those vehicles in the Southern U.S. Originally used for Chevrolet Caprices or Impalas from 1971 to 1976 decked out with fancy features and big rims, the term now often refers to all dressed-up older vehicles. Hip-hop car magazine Dub Magazine is working on building a 1996 Chevrolet Impala in the "donk style" with 30-inch wheels. And MTV's "Pimp My Ride" television show, which provides outlandish makeovers to jalopies, is creating its first "donk."

Rapper Snoop Dogg arrived at the MTV Video Music Awards last summer in a "donk" 1967 Pontiac Parisienne, painted in Los Angeles Lakers gold, with purple trim. In California, where "scraypers" or "scrapers," late 1980s and 1990s Buick models, are popular, a Scrayper magazine is in the works -- the term's origin is unclear, though some believe it refers to the way the huge rims make the tires scrape the inside of the car's fender. And a new rap group recently made its debut with the name "ScrayperBoyz." A Web site dedicated to the so-called Scrayper movement describes the newfound street credibility of the old cars: "We take what was intended to be a car for old retired people, a car whose national sponsor is Tiger Woods...and we make it hood famous."

Car makers say they just became aware of the latest iteration of the mania for older cars in recent months after being contacted by customization magazines and now are trying to figure out how to make some of the hipster allure rub off on their newer vehicles and accessories.

General Motors Corp.'s Buick brand is providing new Lucerne models to Dub Magazine and to customizers to display at an upcoming car accessory show. And Chevrolet is considering dressing the current Impala in "a donk style" for display at car shows and in magazines.

One potential obstacle: many newer models are front-wheel drive, more difficult to lift up "donk style" than old rear-wheel drive ones. "Donk" designs are lifted to accommodate wheels bigger than 22 inches.

"I would rather have an older car than a new car any day," says Cedric Pollard, a 26-year-old from Greenville, S.C., who bought a 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme for $2,000 last year. "It rides better and I can work on it myself." Mr. Pollard's Cutlass now features a picture of comic-book superhero Punisher holding Osama bin Laden's head.

An element of nostalgia also drives some purchasers. "I kind of share a taste in cars with my dad, who liked the big, comfortable stereotypical grandpa cars," says Klayton Kelly, a 27 year old in Bothell, Wash., who just replaced his Honda Civic with a 1993 Chrysler LeBaron. Plus, he says, "everyone has got a Honda," and when you go over a bump in the LeBaron, "it feels like you are floating over it."

Many of the older models have bucket seats, making them perfect for cruising with friends. The girls "yell and scream when you drive by," says Tim Robinson, a 22-year-old from Auburn, Ala. Mr. Robinson's 1994 Ford Crown Victoria, blue with orange flames, has an "orange swirl" crushed velvet interior and 23-inch wheels.

Chris Kilian first saw his 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme eight months ago in someone's yard. He knocked on the door and asked the "older man probably 65 or 70," who opened the door if he wanted to sell the car for $1,500. Mr. Kilian a 25-year-old self-employed car salesman, tools around South Beach in his Oldsmobile, which is now lifted 56 inches off the ground on 26-inch wheels, and painted four different shades of pink.
Chris Hatfield, TLCA# 2768, KACBH
Ad Sales Manager, Toyota Trails/tlca.org
'12 GX460

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Old 05-10-2006, 06:58 AM
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Recycling of culture versus the inception of new culture is a hallmark of postmodernism.
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Old 05-10-2006, 10:05 AM
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Old 05-10-2006, 03:54 PM
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Originally Posted by IanB
Recycling of culture versus the inception of new culture is a hallmark of postmodernism.
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