Valentine’s Day is my favourite artificially concocted holiday.
Originally a religious festival in celebration of Saint Valentine of Rome, a priest who was martyred in the third century, it is now a commercially driven exercise in forced sentiment and preplanned passion. Like any good holiday, Valentine’s Day places added stress on both those who celebrate it and those who do not. If you’re in a relationship, there’s pressure to get the right gift followed by the least spontaneous sexual congress of your life. If you’re single, it’s an opportunity to feel like a lonely loser. Either way, the only people who truly look forward to Valentine’s Day are chocolatiers, florists and wine merchants.
Of course, for many years North Americans also associated Valentine’s Day with the romance of the automobile. The decades between 1950 and 2000 were the golden age of cars and carnal lust. Car radios and bench seating made our vehicles rolling motel rooms. It was an era when motorists looked forward to parking. The dawn of self-driving cars promises a renaissance of dating and driving. As our artificially intelligent cars take car of the driving, they’ll leave us free to take care of, well, each other.
That leaves us stuck in a car-sex limbo. In an effort to bridge these two epochs, here is a guide to automotive aphrodisiacs broken down by decade, with the classic cupid matched with its contemporary equivalent.
The 1950s: 1953 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible. This vehicle’s staggering luxuriousness epitomized the postwar decade, a time when the economy boomed and paranoia ran rampant. The Eldorado came with an OHV V-8 engine and four-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission. Two words: Smooth. Ride.
Contemporary: 2016 Escalade ESV. This “full-size” vehicle channels the Eldorado’s imposing aura. Even its press material sounds naughty. For instance, it is “designed to offer added legroom and seating for up to eight passengers, as well as larger rear doors to make entry and exiting easier.”
The Sixties: 1963 Volkswagen Bug. This VW (a.k.a. “Herbie the Love Bug”) epitomizes the optimistic free-love sexual revolution. Back then, if you pulled up in a VW Bug, all you needed was long hair, a copy of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and an attitude.
Contemporary: 2017 Beetle Dune. It’s inspired by the 1960s Baja Bug, but unlike its predecessor, has air conditioning and a turbocharged engine. It’s still says “Peace and Freakin’ Love” but in a “I Love Money” kind of way.
The 1970s: 1974 Pontiac Firebird Esprit. The 1970s had plenty of muscle cars, but for a ride that personifies the glam yet gruff introspection of the “Me” decade, nothing comes close to this flashy yet affordable beauty. The Firebird was made famous on The Rockford Files, driven by its chiselled star, James Garner, who played the private eye the public loved. Garner was a car buff who did a lot of his own stunt driving.
Contemporary: 2017 Camaro. This baby boasts a V-8 and an eight-speed automatic transmission and has the same gritty flash of the original Firebird. Feather-haircut and eight-track player with Leif Garrett tape stuck in it not included.
The 1980s: Ferrari 308 GTB. No other car, not even a DeLorean or a Lotus, symbolizes the decadent 1980s sex appeal more than this fiery red gem. Many a mullet-wearing car lover had a poster of one on his bedroom wall. Thomas Magnum (played by Tom Selleck) drove around Oahu in one for eight years on his eponymous series. Selleck was selected one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world. Sexy.
Contemporary: Ferrari 488 GTB. This gorgeous testament to automotive culture boasts a large signature air-intake scallop (an homage to the original 308 GTB) that is divided into two sections by a splitter. The 488 GTB has all the style and power of its predecessor – only it’s newer. Nothing more need be said.
The 1990s: BMW E39 M5. The 1990s were about booms, busts and showing off. This vehicle from BMW is arguably one of the finest it has ever released. It had 400 horsepower and seating for five. Confident and charismatic.
Contemporary: 2017 BMW 5 Series Sedan. It’s “designed for an ultimate athletic driving experience.” I’m not sure what that means, but you have to admit it does sound kind of sexy.
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