Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rust Never Sleeps

The 20th century began during the middle of a machine age. Technology was advancing quickly and industrialists were tapping the benefits of transitioning from steam to internal cumbustion as the primary power source for transportation and food production.

In the late 1890s, J.I. Case began producing a gas-powered tractor. Henry Ford began producing tractors in 1907, a year before he began mass-producing automobiles.

Over the years, millions of vehicles and tractors have rolled off assembly lines. The were their owners' pride and joy for some time, but eventually as they wore out they were replaced by newer, more advanced models.

Now some of the early models of tractors and automobiles can sometimes be found abandoned in barns, fields or yards, waiting while time and rust slowly, but relentlessly wash them away.

They might look like junk to some people, but to a photographer they are pure gold.

Source: Amarillo News

I had seen several likely photo opportunities outside Vega on a recent trip west. Hastily scribbled notes said there were several rusty vehicles outside a building just east of exit 36, and a couple of interesting looking tractors just to the west.

I was concentrating on the drive back toward Vega early Saturday when I realized a pickup parked beside the road had belched out three passengers, who were taking photographs of the very machines I was searching for. Not shy, I pulled up alongside, made a big show of getting cameras out of a bag and stepped out of my rig.

The Langstons were a little uncertain about a stranger pulling up and hopping out of a car on a stretch of road pretty far from other people, but I chatted them up and spent some time getting to know them. They were driving from Arkansas to Las Vegas to attend a funeral and had decided to stop and shoot some photos of a few relics.

Dee had recently won a photo contest using a photo of an old vehicle that she had converted to black and white. I couldn't stay long — I knew where two rusty tractors waited nearby for their own portraits.

The End Of The Road For Pontiac

The front of a restored 1967 Pontiac GTO is seen in Newtown, Pa. Pontiac has gone out of business.

Muscle car maker Pontiac ends after 84 years..,

Detroit -- Pontiac, whose muscle cars drag-raced down boulevards, parked at drive-ins and roared across movie screens, went out of business on Sunday.

The 84-year-old brand, moribund since General Motors decided to kill it last year as it collapsed into bankruptcy, had been in decline for years. It was undone by a combination of poor corporate strategy and changing driver tastes. GM's agreements with Pontiac dealers expired Sunday.

Even before GM's bankruptcy, Pontiac's sales had fallen from their peak of nearly one million in 1968, when the brand's speedier models were prized for their powerful engines and scowling grills.

At Pontiac's pinnacle, models like the GTO, Trans Am and Catalina 2+2 were packed with horsepower and sported colors like "Tiger Gold." Burt Reynolds and Sally Field fled the law in a Firebird Trans Am, which raced through the 1970s hit movie "Smokey and the Bandit."

By the late 1980s, though, Pontiacs were taking off their muscle shirts, putting on suits and trying to act like other cars. The brand had lost its edge.

Bill Hoglund, a retired GM executive who led Pontiac during its "We Build Excitement" ad campaigns in the 1980s, blames the brand's demise on a reorganization under CEO Roger Smith in 1984.

That overhaul cut costs by combining Pontiac's manufacturing, engineering and design operations with those of other GM brands.

"There was no passion for the product," says Hoglund. "The product had to fit what was going on in the corporate system."

Although the moves were necessary to fend off competition from Japanese automakers with lower costs, they yielded Pontiacs that looked and drove like other GM cars.
By 2008, the last full year before GM announced Pontiac's shutdown, sales were 267,000, less than a third of those sold in 1968.

Formed in 1926, Pontiac made cars for the working class until a sales slump in the 1950s nearly killed it.

GM revived the brand by connecting it to auto racing. From then on, each Pontiac sales boom was driven by speed; each bust generally featured outdated or boring rides.

Source: News-Leader