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Thread: The Vista Cruiser returns

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    The Vista Cruiser returns

    The Vista Cruiser returns
    By Eric Peters

    In the end, it won't be $3 per gallon gas that causes Americans to rethink SUVs -- it will be their rediscovery of the station wagon.

    Large SUVs with big V-8s have been on skid row, sales-wise, for the past two years and more. There are a handful of exceptions -- such as the flashy Cadillac Escalade -- but overall, the market for the big lunkers has tanked. Ford had to cancel its super-sized Excursion and the grand-daddy of all the SUV Blingmobiles -- Lincoln's Navigator -- is almost a sideshow relic these days.

    It's no coincidence that the slide began just as wagons began to reappear -- only the modern incarnations aren't called that, of course. Instead, the marketers and product planners came up with an ingenious new designation -- "crossover." But the idea is largely the same.

    Like the Vista Cruisers and Colony Parks of another era, today's crossovers are generally large, roomy vehicles, with versatile interiors that can be configured to handle people or cargo (or both). But unlike the originals (and like SUVs), crossovers ride higher off the ground than the typical passenger car, so the driver has a better view of things and doesn't feel like an insect among sheetmetal Leviathians. This is a big draw for many buyers, especially women.

    Another departure from the past is that today's crossovers typically have (or offer) some kind of all-wheel-drive -- providing traction and safety advantages. And of course, they tend to be sporty in style -- reflecting the owner's "active lifestyle."

    The only things missing are the fully boxed frame and two-speed transfer case -- design features that are about as useful to the average suburbanite as his or her appendix. Losing them -- and the gas pig mileage and clunky handling that comes with them -- is hardly a sacrifice if the other attributes (big interior, lots of room, sportiness, etc.) can be kept.

    And that's what crossovers are designed to deliver; all the good stuff, none of the bad.

    It's no wonder this market segment is growing like Kudzu in Atlanta. Ford, for its part, is on its knees praying that two new crossover models it has on deck -- the Ford Edge and Lincoln Aviator -- will help turn around what to this point has been an incredibly bleak year. GM and Chrysler are still heavily invested in their SUVs, of course -- but both have read the chicken guts and know where the market's heading. Dodge and its Jeep arm have a couple of smallish crossovers already out -- Caliber and Compass -- while the General is looking at several possible crossover spin-offs that could be derived from the Zeta/Camaro program, including a rear-drive (or all-wheel-drive) Chevy Impala sometime after 2009. But they're going to have to run fast to catch up to the imports, who largely created the crossover segment and have already brought forth a slew of hugely appealing models, ranging from Mazda's CX-7 to the Nissan Murano to the Subaru B9 Tribeca.

    Most of these crossovers can out-run, out-handle and even out-haul (when it comes to passenger capacity) an equivalent-in-size SUV -- a design type notorious for its inefficient use of space. That makes them more fun to drive -- as well being more efficient to drive.

    An example:

    The typical part-time 4x4 system found in a truck-based SUV is next to worthless on dry, paved roads (and even wet ones, if it's just moisture and not snow we're talking about) while the crossover's AWD system delivers phenomenal grip and control under all conditions -- and is only out of its depth when taken off paved roads. Which for 95-plus percent of American SUV drivers is never (or almost never).

    Lights are going on in the brainpans of folks all over the U.S.

    People turned to SUVs back in the late 1980s and early '90s, when the trend began, because SUVs were big, powerful, versatile things that were great for families and for carting stuff around. There used to be big sedans and wagons like the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser and its kind that could do this -- and they had been the dominant vehicle type in the American market for decades -- but the gas shortages and later emissions requirements that became factors beginning in the mid-'70s killed them off. People were left to contemplate downsized, front-drive K-cars and the like -- and many people didn't like that one bit. A few people noticed that a Chevy K-5 Blazer or Ford Bronco was a lot like their old (and much-missed) road king V-8 wagon. And didn't get stuck in the snow, either.

    The SUV craze was born.

    Now things have come full circle -- and the "modern" SUV is yesterday's wagon, on the verge of pariah-hood and extinction -- while today's wagon has been reborn as a "crossover" -- and is finding a large and growing audience of enthusiastic buyers.

    In another 20 years, the circle may turn again. The more things change, the more the more they stay the same.

    We just call them by different names!

    END

  2. #2
    Senior Member Kwozzie1's Avatar
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    Re: The Vista Cruiser returns

    today's crossovers typically have (or offer) some kind of all-wheel-drive -- providing traction and safety advantages. And of course, they tend to be sporty in style -- reflecting the owner's "active lifestyle."

    Now, of course by driving everywhere we definitely have an "active" lifestyle ;D
    Rex
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: The Vista Cruiser returns

    [quo

    Now, of course by driving everywhere we definitely have an "active" lifestyle ;D
    It's more marketing flapdoodle - agreed!

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    Re: The Vista Cruiser returns

    I wish the real Vista Cruiser would have had the chance to return. My favorite year was 1964-1967 followed by the 1968-1972 models. The post 1973 models were a joke. My parents had a 1969 Vista Cruiser with the 400 engine, 4 bbl. My friends mom then copied my parents and bought a 1970 model. I remember that it took the premium gas.

    Our Vista was aqua blue with the fake wood paneling. It had a brown interior. It was equipped with A/C, power windows, seats, locks and cruise control. It had an uninspired dash with the normal 120 mph speedometer surrounded by idiot lights, a gas gauge, and water temp gauge. The car was generally uncomfortable, but few cars were comfortable back then anyway.

    The best trip we took in the car was to Nashville to go to my brothers college graduation in 1971. I was 7. We drove down the half-way completed interstate system from Darien, CT to Nashville in a couple of days. We had several stops along the way, but I was too young to remember each one. I do remember crossing the Deleware Memorial Bridge on I-95 and stopping at a Howard Jonsons soon after. We also stopped for the night at the Holiday Inn Airport in Greensboro, NC. When there, my dad let me hold the wheel at 70 MPH on U.S. 29. I also remember that back then, Tennesee posted a 75 mph speed limit and we busted it wide open on I-40 following a chicken truck at 95 mph the whole distance between Knoxville and Nashville. Back then, the roads were wide open and so were our gas pedals.

    I haven't seen anyting close to the Vista Cruiser in recent years. The Buick Roadmaster and the Olds Custom Cruiser came close, but they didn't have the guts that the Vista had. They also don't have the memories. I hope that someday, Detroit will start building cars that will give our younger people some good times as well. I hope that our road building gets into high gear so that we have the asphalt to enjoy it. I guess I'm pipe dreaming again.

    Here's to the real Vista Cruiser, not the crossover type.


  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: The Vista Cruiser returns

    Great memories!

    I have a few like that also. We didn't have the Vista Cruiser - but we did have a '70 98 Regency with the 455 "Rocket" - forest green with green interior and wood trim. It was enormous - and I can recall at will a mental picture of that super wide 120 mph speedo heading toward the triple digits as my mom (who was the leadfoot in my family) ran it up to 80,90 and beyond.

    A friend's family had the Vista Cruiser (not sure exactly what year) and I can remember being out back with a couple of other kids rolling around in the cargo area - no godamn child safety seats (or belts of any kind). We were free!

    Was it "unsafe"? Perhaps - theoretically. After all, none of use ever got hurt. It was a better time in many ways, methinks. It's ironic how obsessed we've become with the trappings of safety today - yet back in our day, when kids routinely rode up front (or out back) unbuckled and even sitting on Dad's lap handling the steering, we could play in the neighborhood without worrying about sex offenders, gang bagngers spraying Uzi fire into crowds of pedestrains (even in "bad" neighborhoods) and had (many of us, anyhow) two-parent families with only one wage-earner needed to provide for the family.

    Times are FUBAR today in so many ways - but instead of confronting the realproblems, we comfort ourselves with things like child safety seats, seatbelt laws and other such tripe.

    I'll take a ride in the Vista Cruiser over a new minivan with its back-up cameras, buzzers, air bags and safety seat latches any day o' the week!

  6. #6
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    Re: The Vista Cruiser returns

    Eric:

    Yeah. Both my parents were leadfoots. Back around 1985, my parents and I took a trip to Texas from CT. When going through PA, I had the gas pedal set around 75-80 mph in our 78 Caddy Seville. When my dad took over the wheel, he put it around 80-85 mph. It was at that moment, I realized I needed to speed up. I wasn't going to be upstaged by my 69 year old dad.

    My mom was heavy on the gas as well, although not as fast as my dad.

    My parents were good drivers. My dad never had a wreck in his whole life. He got his last speeding ticket at the age of 77 in Texas (in 1993 - for 78 in a 55 mph zone). Thanks to Gail Morrison, we don't have to worry about those types of tickets today. My mom only had one wreck as I remember it. To tell you the truth, both were horrible drivers around cities,as am I, but when the road opened up, all of us were on it. Just the way it should be.




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