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Tune in, chill out

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Music, according to the late British playwright William Congreve, has “charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” Wow, that’s pretty powerful. Sort of like Kevlar.

So in these uncertain times, I decided to turn to music for some solace. “Songs about cars or driving should do the trick,” I thought. “Cars (and light trucks) represent the spirit of America.”

As I started listening, however, I couldn’t help relating the songs to our industry. Sometimes they comforted and even inspired me; sometimes they didn’t.

In all cases, however, I was left with a catchy tune in my head. So it was all good in the end.
What follows is my exercise in motivation, my own stimulus package, if you will.

“Little Deuce Coupe” (The Beach Boys). When you think of car songs, you naturally think of the Beach Boys, and this may be their best. The “Little Deuce Coupe” was “ported and relieved and... stoked and bored,” which helped make it “the fastest set of wheels in town.” (The Beach Boys also claimed nothing could catch their Chevy “409.” I guess it depends on who was driving.)  It could do “a hundred and forty with the top end floored,” with V-rated tires, no doubt.

Oh, there’s one more thing: The owner “got the pink slip, daddy.” That reminded me of the numerous layoffs recently announced by the major tire manufacturers, nearly 5,000 people at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. alone. Continental AG, Michelin North America Inc. and Bridgestone Americas Inc. also have announced job cuts.

“Hot Rod Lincoln” (Commander Cody & the Lost Planet Airmen). There will always be a place for vehicle modification, especially for hot rod enthusiasts. There’s even a business-to-business magazine, Hotrod & Restoration, and trade show dedicated to professional restorers. It’s not surprising to see a gutted hot rod among the vehicles being serviced at a local tire dealership, although it’s usually owned by one of the employees.

The brakes on the “Hot Rod Lincoln” — really a Model A with a souped up Lincoln motor — were “good,” according to the song. The tires were only “fair.”

Pirelli Tire North America is trying to expand its presence in the hot rod and street rod markets. At the Detroit Autorama in March, the company helped sponsor the “outstanding new custom car” competition. Pirelli also is the “official” tire of Chip Foose and Foose Design Inc.

And in case you were wondering, the Hot Rod Lincoln will beat the “Low Rider” (War) in a race, because “the low rider drives a little slower.”

“Rockin’ Down the Highway” (The Doobie Brothers). “I gotta kick in my pedal, make my Ford move a little bit faster,” sang lead singer Tom Johnston. That philosophy also could apply to Ford Motor Co.’s product plan for 2009. One of its “four pillars” of success is to “accelerate development of new products our customers want and value.”

Ford may be experiencing “those highway blues,” but unlike General Motors Corp. or Chrysler LLC, it remains in charge of its own destiny because it turned down government bailout money.

“I Can’t Drive 55” (Sammy Hagar). The original 55 mph speed limit was enacted in the United States in 1974. According to Drive55.org, the law helped drop our dependence on imported crude oil from about 36% to less than 28% in 1985. That was the same year Hagar released his national anthem.

Two years later, Congress raised the limit to 65 mph on rural highways. It repealed the maximum speed limit altogether in 1996.

Today, 32 states have highway speed limits of 70 mph or higher. In parts of rural Texas, cars and light trucks can drive 80 mph.

Not coincidentally, imported petroleum accounts for close to 60% of domestic consumption.

As late as last year, members of Congress discussed lowering the national speed limit to save gasoline. I hear Hagar is working on a sequel, “I can’t drive 65.”

I can’t decide what to listen to next: “G.T.O.” by Ronnie and the Daytonas? “Drivin’ Around” by the Raspberries? “Fuel” by Metallica? Anything by The Cars would be good. I guess I’ll just hit shuffle on my iPod.    ■

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