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Classic Cars of the 1920s

What is currently considered a "classic car", in the 1920s was deemed an amazing new invention in the field of technology.  What is a "classic car", one may ask?  A classic car is any automobile produced between the period of 1925 and 1948, as the car design changed dramatically once the 1950s hit (Classic 1).  Few of these classic cars are still around today, in fact most of these cars are only seen during car shows, especially antique car shows.  However in retrospect, these classic beauties were quickly finding their way into the mainstream of American life during the 1920s and onwards.

Automobiles were mass-produced during the 1920s in America.  In 1920, nine million cars were operated in the United States, while by 1928 there were approximately 26 million cars on the road (Gross 1)!  They had obviously become extremely popular with many levels of society.  Beginning as a commodity for only those rare few who could afford such a dangerous type of transportation, the automobile was soon available to middle class Americans at prices they could afford.  In addition, many Americans picked up the trend of paying on credit or with installments to pay for new items. It was through this availability of buying on credit or installments that middle class Americans were able to afford automobiles.  Through this new trend during the 1920s, the automobile began to become a staple for the rich and less of a luxury for American families.

Middle class Americans used the automobile to their advantage during this time period.  They were able to commute with their new automobiles from their suburban homes into the city for work.  Automobiles also gave teenagers a new sense of freedom from their parents.  They also felt a surge of independence that no other young generation had felt before them with the ability to borrow the family car and transport themselves and friends to new places, outside of the family sphere.  Families began making trips from the city to the country and from the country to the city for weekend trips with the use of the new, fast-pace automobile.  As a result of the increasing youth and family excursions, roadside diners and gas stations also began to grow in number.

Henry Ford was one of the most important figures in the automobile industry during this time.  He built the Ford automobile and made it one of the most popular cars on the market at the time.  He was a prime example of the few existing "self-made" men left in America.  He lived the American dream of rising from poverty, near-poverty, or middle class life and reaching the status of a successful industrial engineer and businessman in the elite circle of the rich.  An example of the popularity of his Model T was the positive response to the introduction of the Model a Ford.  The introduction of the Model A in early December of 1927 came with 50,000 orders!  Due to this popularity, after a few years Americans could buy any Ford model at $290 (Whitley 1).  Henry Ford's Model A and Model T were big hits throughout the country.

The popularity of Henry Ford as the "self-made" man and his Model Fords helped the productivity of the automobile industry in America.  Middle class Americans were in increasing numbers able to buy an automobile, especially middle class families.  The automobile was no longer only for the rich, but also for the growing suburbs, the city dwellers, and middle class families.  The automobile industry boomed during the Roaring Twenties as they became high in demand.  The classic cars of the 1920s were an important part of the period as they represented the upward status of many Americans as they reached for the ever-popular American dream.

 

Classic Car Club of America. "What is a Classic Car?". (15 January 2004). On-line. Internet.  24 January 2004. Available WWW: http://www.classiccarclub.org/definition.htm

Gross, Tamara K. "1920s". (24 December 1999). On-line. Internet. 24 January 2004. Available WWW: http://cdcga.org/HTMLs/decades/1920s.htm

Whitley, Peggy. "Historic Events and People". (May 2002). 24 January 2004. On-line. Internet. Available WWW:  http://kclibrary.nhmccd.edu/decade20.htm

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