Kipper on Cars: Going the distance

2013-07-11T08:30:00Z Kipper on Cars: Going the distanceTravis Kipper Auto Columnist nwitimes.com
July 11, 2013 8:30 am  • 

One recent Saturday morning, I ventured from my home in Porter County to Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood just to get a glimpse of a non-functional car from the 1980s.

It was a DeLorean—made iconic in Back to the Future, with its Mr. Fusion addition and personalized license plate—parked in the back of a coffee shop. I stepped to the counter to buy a cup of China Breakfast tea and gander at this replica for a just a few moments while my tea steeped.

When I was a kid, cars like the Batmobile, KITT and that DeLorean permeated pop culture. Today, by contrast, there is a decline in the prevalence of iconic cars as studios and automobile manufacturers strike sponsorship deals that put movie stars behind the wheel of sensible vehicles they hope movie fans will later purchase.

The famed automobiles of yesteryear stood for innovation and the idea of a car becoming more than four wheels and an engine, but instead a vessel capable of almost human-like qualities.

Take that DeLorean in Wicker Park. More than four decades ago, John DeLorean, who brought us the the GTO, Firebird and Grand Prix, thought it would be swell to leave the comfortable confines of General Motors and venture out to create his own motor company.

The DeLorean DMC-12, made famous with the help of Michael J. Fox and a flux capacitor, was an icon even before making its way onto the big screen.

Another legendary car was the original Batmobile, the ol’ Adam West whip built by the legendary George Barris. Barris is single-handedly responsible for creating the careers of hundreds of automobile designers. Barris built the Munster Koach, the original Batmobile, KITT from Knight Rider and Black Beauty from the Green Hornet TV Series.

And we must not forget the most legendary of all the iconic cars: the Bond mobiles. These cars made famous by womanizing British spy James Bond, showed both adults and children what is possible with four wheels and sometimes only two when a car is split down the middle.

The most famous Bond car was the Aston Martin DB5. This little gem, often considered the most famous car in the world, graced the screen with a swerving, vodka-martini-swelling spy behind the wheel.Cars like the DB5 helped build Bond into more than just a man with a license to kill, but instead a man with civility and a certain level of composure.  

Now we watch TV and movies and hero is driving a Ford Focus or amping up in a Hyundai Santa Fe. Main characters climb behind the wheel of respectable cars capable of delivering the kids to soccer practice and going to the grocery store for a late night carton of ice cream, but lacking the appeal of the out-of-reach luxury sports cars once commonplace on the silver screen.

I want more cars that have rockets and parachutes tucked in a glove box, or cars made with red buttons the main characters are not suppose to push, but always do just to spite the rules. Call me old fashion; I want a car that can serve as a silent sidekick and can hold the screen just as well as the main character.

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