Take Me to the Moon: historian, Charles Phoenix talks about car culture

ORCHID MIST 1957 TURNPIKE CRUISER at the MIAMI BEACH AUTO SHOW- - Photo courtesy of Charles Phoenix

ORCHID MIST 1957 TURNPIKE CRUISER at the MIAMI BEACH AUTO SHOW- - Photo courtesy of Charles Phoenix

Entertainer, Charles Phoenix refers to himself as an ‘Ambassador of Americana’ and is a student of retro American culture. A writer and humorist, Charles travels the country unearthing the history of kitschy style. He is an expert of an era that defined car culture in America: the 1960’s. “It’s all related,” says Charles in reference to cars and local flare. “We invented car culture.”

TOP DOWN SUMMER FUN in a TAMPICO RED 1960 INVICTA CONVERTIBLE BY BUICK - Photo courtesy of Charles Phoenix

TOP DOWN SUMMER FUN in a TAMPICO RED 1960 INVICTA CONVERTIBLE BY BUICK - Photo courtesy of Charles Phoenix

In the 1960’s, car design was heavily influenced by what was called the ‘Space Race.’ Following World War II, the Soviet Union and the United States fed their rivalry by competing against each other. The first goal was to put a man in space, then in orbit, then to the moon and beyond. This technology battle was household news in America in the late 50’s and early 60’s. “No car like the ’59 Cadillac says ‘I want to be a rocket!’ Even though we were earthbound, with the styling we were already halfway to space. It was a fantasy, it was futurism. We were living the dream of progress!” Features like fins, and lights and wrap around windshields were a standard of that era. Car designers were inspired by the vision of the Final Frontier.

WONDERBOWL in ANAHEIM CA in 1958 - Photo courtesy of Charles Phoenix

WONDERBOWL in ANAHEIM CA in 1958 - Photo courtesy of Charles Phoenix

Charles would define that era of American cars as: “Seminal. I would say that there were a few cars that dictated style.”  He listed the 1953 Corvette, 1955 Chevrolet and 1958 Thunderbird as game changers. “They are the epitome of Americana.” Once the astronaut craze landed, the cars reflected the next chapter of American culture. The Space Race era was a time where America had big dreams and even bigger cars. It was a time when our daily drivers could take us to the moon.