The Automobile: An Overlooked Luxury Driving home for the weekend, taking a road trip across the country, going to the store across town at midnight for a quick snack: none of these simple tasks would be possible without the existence of the automobile. The ingenious work of a man named Henry Ford changed the scope of American life with an invention that rocked the entire world. When they came into existence in the beginning of the 20th century cars were considered a luxury, something reserved for the rich and famous. Henry Ford realized his dream of producing an automobile that was reasonably priced, reliable, and efficient with the introduction of the Model T in 1908. It was easy to operate, maintain, and handle on rough roads, immediately becoming a huge success.

In less than one hundred years, with a plethora of styles and manufacturers, the automobile has been used to give Americans an identity and has offered a unique freedom to anyone over the age of sixteen. America's fascination with the automobile, however, has lessened and the convenience that it offers is often taken for granted. The people of America do not realize how much automobile dependence has increased in the last one hundred years. Neither do they account for the fact that cars have been around for only a century. Imagine a day without a car resting just twenty feet away, and how different life would be.

Life would be much slower; it would lack the extreme rapidity that exists today. If one icon serves to represent life in America, the automobile would be it. Baseball has been around for the same amount of time, and has been labeled "America's pastime", but most people do not watch or play baseball everyday. Neither is our icon the American flag; in the wake of our nation's tragedy, the stars and stripes has lost a large part of its symbolic qualities. America's fascination and subsequent need for the car has caused the automobile to become the one icon that has stood the test of time. On a typical afternoon back home, as mom cooks diligently in the kitchen, I suddenly hear an outburst.

"Oh, no! I forgot to get milk at the store". She had gone to the store just hours beforehand, planning dinner for the family. It seems like such a great inconvenience to have to drive three miles back to the store for one insignificant yet imperative item. It takes all of twenty minutes to drive to the store and back; in the minds of people today, that is a hefty portion of our extremely fast-paced days. Just fifty years ago, however, a three-mile walk to the grocery store was a short jaunt that lasted almost an hour each way.

I remember talking to my grandmother about when she was a little girl growing up in the forties. She told me that a three-mile walk to and from the store was a common occurrence after school and before dinner. "Many people had cars back then", she explained, "but your great grandfather had to take our only car to work every morning and wouldn't return until late in the evening. We didn't have cellular phones back then, so we couldn't ask him to pick up a few things at the store on his way home. So I had to walk to the store, just two miles down the road to buy the necessities for dinner that night.

My mother was always busy with the younger children, and I knew that was just my duty as a part of the family". My grandmother lived without the automobile luxury while growing up; for me, it is hard to fathom what life would be like without a car attending to my every move. This American icon has changed life as we know it today; most conveniences we enjoy stem from the ownership of our automobiles. The automobile not only presents great conveniences, and it doesn't just help speed up the pace of our lives; this versatile machine exists as a means of finding a specific identity. Stereotypically, there is a specific make and model that fits certain types of people. Most male drivers enjoy driving either gigantic trucks with huge tires, lifted so high it is impossible to even get on board, or a boosted muscle car bejeweled with performance parts and a roaring sound.

The classic female automobile is the Volkswagen Jetta, a sporty little car that would tarnish a man's image if he was ever caught driving one. Middle-aged mothers drive minivans or SUVs to and from soccer practice; the wealthy businessperson will drive a nice BMW or Lexus, dressed professionally en route to a large metropolitan location. Add something here As a young teenager growing up in Suburbia, California, I anxiously anticipated the day when I was to turn sixteen years of age. I saw what my older brother had been able to do with his license and newly found freedom, and I could not wait for my day to sit behind the wheel. The feeling is indescribable; for years I had to sit in the passenger seat, watching the driver as he turned the wheel and clicked the blinker.

On a scorching July afternoon, just months from acquiring my license, and while my brother enjoyed his day at the beach with his friends, I was stuck at home with my remote and my overused basketball. I could only watch television and shoot hoops for so long; I was trapped at home with a license to kill rather than a license to drive. Finally, when my day came, I got my license on that fourteenth day of February and I, too, could have that right of passage. I was amazed by the audacious freedom that car ownership offered to me. Purchased with my money alone, the old Honda Prelude was my ticket to anywhere I desired to go. I felt like I could go anywhere or do anything and nothing could get in my way.

I no longer had to ride my bike in the blistering heat for a cherry slurpee. I could drive to the beach, or to the snow, or to my buddy's house, parent-willing of course. No car illustrates these fascinating qualities like The Ford Motor Company's model of the 1964 Ford Mustang. With its sleek fastback body style and muscular 289 V 8 engine, this eternal machine offers the very freedom that all Americans long for. As a young, na " ive sophomore, my friend's '64 silver-blue Mustang convertible was perfect for cruising down Main Street on a Saturday evening, music blaring and pedestrians staring. We were free from the grips of our chauffeur-parents; we were labeled with the "cool image", or so we thought.

The Mustangs of the mid-60's have been popular since the day they hit the showroom floor, and many people today still work endlessly to restore their beauty to perfection. The new models are just as appealing; they are fast, sporty, and even relatively affordable. There is no stereotypical driver for this legendary automobile; anyone can own and "sport" a Ford Mustang. Henceforth, if the automobile is America's icon, then the Mustang is America's classic car of all time.

Thanks to America's one and only icon, we can claim our freedom and can enjoy the luxuries that automobiles offer to our ever-so-transient lives..