A million years ago (OK, about twenty…), when I was a student, I spent three summers in Northern California. Back then, America was still a very different place to the UK. The choice of music on the FM dial was much wider, there were more TV channels, the streets were lined with hip cafes and shops sold then-exotic kit such as chinos and expensive Oakley sunglasses.
But it was the roadscape that was the most intriguing. The streets were still heavy with Alfa and Fiat Spiders, MGs, Porsches and even the odd Austin Healey. All were sun-faded and well-used daily drivers. The home-grown cars were still mostly oversized, crude and big-engined.
In fact, I was in Marin county the week that the MX-5 was launched in the US to huge acclaim. And it might be argued that the arrival of that light, compact and beautifully-engineered machine which started a slow process which reached its peak at last week’s LA auto show.
A walk through the halls was an eye-brow raising experience. The profusion of European-sourced machinery wearing US badges was remarkable. Familiar fayre such as Ford’s Fiesta and Vauxhall’s (lightly modified) Insignia lined the stands as did variations on the Astra. Even the impressive new Caddy XTS is effectively a very souped-up Insignia. And compact Japanese cars such as Jazz are now serious propositions in America.
At next January’s Detroit show the new Mondeo will join the transatlantic show and Ford will sell the C-Max MPV as its hybrid-only rival for the Prius. Indeed, Ford’s embrace of the Euro-car is such that the huge-selling F-150 pick-up, Flex Crossover and Mustang now sit in their own little sub-brand of Ford’s US arm, three machines that will be made largely for domestic consumption.Chevrolet - GM’s unexpectedly successful global brand - was one of the few manufacturers to brave showing a classic from its back catalogue, in this case a rather fine Impala SS.
Parked up to the tiny Spark supermini, the only obvious connection between the two were the stylised circular rear lights. I suspect that LA 2011 – and the reality of the near-$4 gallon – marked the demise of the Yank Tank road car.