Road Hogs: Detroit’s Big Beautiful Luxury Performance Cars of the 1960s and 1970s by Eric Peters
published 2011 by MBI Publishing
160 pages, hardcover
Purchased new from a vendor at the Toronto Classic Car Auction
I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, and in those years my parents mostly drove full-size cars from the Big Three. A 1960 Olds 88, a 1964 Chevy Biscayne, then a 1964 Buick Electra 225 2-door and finally a 1976 Mercury Meteor Montcalm. My mom inherited her father’s last car, a 1967 Ford LTD 4-door hardtop, and she drove it until 1985. While I certainly loved Mustangs and Camaros and GTOs as any kid would, I always had a soft spot for the big, floaty full-sizers.
That drew me to Eric Peters’ book Road Hogs. At the time, I didn’t recall seeing many books that really showcased these behemoths. Sure, there were anthologies that covered complete marques, and maybe some books that explored top-line luxury cars. But none that seemed to really celebrate the beasts found in most driveways across North America. And make no mistake, Peters’ book is definitely a celebration of these cars, evidenced by this from the introduction…
Great, glitzy ingots of excess, whitewall tired and landau roofed – their mighty prows bedecked in chrome,
their flanks adorned with inscriptions that read d’Elegance and Brougham…
These were cars deserving not merely of names, but titles.
The text is light on technical information – mostly wheelbases, overall lengths, cubic inch and horsepower references. And Peters isn’t actually shy about lamenting, as the 70s became the 80s and then the 90s, how the numbers got smaller and more depressing. Let’s face it, there isn’t enough lipstick to disguise the 4500 lb pigs saddled with 400 cubic inch plants that could barely muster 180 horsepower. There is a reason we know it as ‘The Malaise Era’.
What Peters does is laud the size, the opulence, indeed the excess that these cars embody. Take the title of chapter one, ‘Topless Titans: The Anna Nicole Smiths of the Automotive World’, and the first car featured is the Cadillac Eldorado convertible, probably the most ostentatious production car of the era. Like Anna Nicole the Eldo was glitzy, curvy, it had huge… cubic inches. And Peters outlines how the Caddy and its brethren were the height of plush, luxurious road travel – yards of Corinthian leather… wide sweeping dashboards… pillow-soft suspensions… and gobs of stump-pulling torque to get the lumbering beasts moving.
It doesn’t end with the big convertibles. The next chapter features the top-line sedans like the AMC Ambassador and Ford LTD. He devotes a chapter to the ‘mid-size coupes’, the Monte Carlos and Cordobas which dwarf today’s sedans. Of course, the true luxo-barges are also given their due – the DeVilles, Continentals and Imperials that were truly the biggest and best. Finally, Peters even squeezes in a chapter on the family trucksters – the wagons which today are rare after having been driven into the dust carting America’s future to and fro.
Now as I pointed out in my review of Ford Muscle, I do make note of errors I find when I read a book. And I did unfortunately find a few minor things in Road Hogs – the most egregious being finding a 1958 Chevy being represented as a 1958 Buick (which is a shame – the grille on the 58 Buick is a dazzling sight!) I guess everyone makes mistakes from time to time.
The bottom line on Road Hogs though is, it’s a fun read. Peters’ writing style demonstrates his reverence for these cars, and really the era they originate from. At the same time he is able to accept and even poke some light fun at the deficiencies inherent in what are arguably among the most poorly constructed American cars built. The images are a wonderful mix of original promotional material and contemporary shots of survivor cars. Each car gets a little factoid table to fill in the picture. And while some favourite models may be missing (the Monte Carlo is in, but my Grand Prix isn’t), this book really pays homage to these bloated beasts that so many of us spent so many hours bouncing seatbelt-less in.
Pros: great writing style; large colourful photos; 25 models covered
Cons: minor factual errors; maybe a little light on tech info
Where to find it: Available on Amazon, eBay, used bookstores.