Several months ago a friend sent me this picture of a nearly perfect, impeccably maintained and restored vehicle from the automotive past.
In case you didn't recognize it – and honestly I'm a bit worried about you if you did – that's a 1979 Plymouth Arrow Truck. It's something of a punchline, the only truck produced by now-defunct Plymouth and a perfect example of the compact pickup boom of the El Camino era. In no real sense is it a Plymouth (it's a rebadged Mitsubishi Forte, predecessor of the Mighty Max) and in no real sense is it famous, highly regarded, valuable, or sought-after. 36 years have failed to make it collectible.
Why do I like this picture so much? Because we see crap on the road every day. Only very, very rarely does one see perfect, mint condition crap. A restored, flawless car from 1979 is not in and of itself a rare thing. But the vintage auto market and "Trailer Queens" (cars of perfect appearance that are never actually driven) on the Concours circuit are universally high end. Lots of people restore 1970s cars – Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Corvettes, Rolls-Royces, and so on. When lower end cars are restored they inevitably come from the American Muscle Car genre – Mustangs, Camaros, Roadrunners, Challengers, Barracudas, and their ilk. What you see in this picture is the equivalent of seeing a perfect, factory condition 2001 Chevy Cavalier on the road in 2040.
It's so unusual that all I can do is stare at it and think, "Who would do this? Why that car?" And then I want to meet whoever did it and shake the magnificent bastard's hand. Like I wanted to do to the guy who spent $55,000 absolutely flawlessly restoring an AMC Pacer a few years ago.
It doesn't take much taste to appreciate a high priced Italian sports car from the past. Any nouveau riche hedge fund grunt can go to an auction and drop $250,000 on a 1970 Mustang that someone else restored to perfection. That's why I hate the auction/collector car market. It would be far more interesting, at least to me, if more people did things like this. There is nothing interesting about seeing an old Cadillac someone dumped six figures into because he remembers the first time he got a handjob in one back in the Eisenhower years. There's something compelling – if also ridiculous – about having a perfect Matching Numbers 1989 Dodge Shadow, Dodge Shadow Registry No. 0000001. Automotive history isn't just about the highlights. It's about the cars people actually bought and drove. That turquoise Taurus says more about the early 90s than your mint condition ZR-1.
Good on you, Mr. 1979 Plymouth Arrow Truck. If you're going to have an obsession, why have the same one everyone else has?