Monday, September 20, 2021

Automotif CCL...

Spotted at 56th & Illinois yesterday while grocery shopping and grabbing a quick frappacino from the Starbucks there, a 1977-'79 International Harvester Scout II.

The Scout II's can generally be identified by model year according to the grille...up until the '77-'79 models, where the front end trim was the same for three years running. In 1980, they went to rectangular headlamps. In 1981, they were discontinued.

Friend of the blog T. Stahl has commented with amusement on the peculiarly American obsession with specific model years. 

German cars tend to go by generations. For example from the Eighties to the early Aughties, 3-series BMW's went from the E30 to the E36 to the E46. A generation will run for six to ten years, typically, receiving a styling update somewhere in the middle of its lifespan to keep it fresh-looking.

"Model Year" in the US has regulatory implications, but it also used to have a lot more significance as a styling thing.

"The concept of yearly styling updates (a practice adopted from the fashion industry) was introduced to General Motors' range of cars by Alfred P. Sloan in the 1920s. This was an early form of planned obsolescence in the car industry, where yearly styling changes meant consumers could easily discern a car's newness, or lack of it. Other major changes to the model range usually coincided with the launch of the new model year., for example the 1928 model year of the Ford Model A began production in October 1927 and the 1955 model year of the Ford Thunderbird began production in September 1954.

Model year followed with calendar year until the mid 1930s until then president Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order to release vehicle model years in the fall of preceding year in order to standardize employment in the automotive industry. The practice of beginning production of next year's model before the end of the year has become a long standing tradition in America.

At its height in postwar America, the new model year launches were a big deal. Dealerships would paper over their windows, the 'longer, lower, wider' new cars would be delivered under tarps and rolled into the showroom by dark of night.

Pretty reliably from the late '40s through to about the early 1980s, enthusiasts of a particular model of American automobile can pinpoint its exact year of manufacture by some sort of cosmetic differences.

This is, of course, a wildly inefficient way to make cars. Post-fuel-crises Detroit, getting clobbered by Japanese imports, generally hewed more closely to the global norm of mid-cycle refreshes on platforms that remained largely unchanged for many years, maybe changing a minor styling detail every couple-three years to keep things fresh.

ETA: If this is correct, the Flame Red color would make it a 1978 model.