My Wheels, My Self

On TV, the motor-vehicle makeover is a windshield to the American soul

American car owners have a peculiar habit. When we walk out of a mall, blinking and dazed, and realize we've forgotten where we've parked, we scan the parking lot, keys in hand, and ask, "Where am I?" Where am I--because your car, in this country, is you. It expresses your aspirations, your taste, your social class and your virility (or your need to compensate for same). I learned this growing up near Detroit, where people lived for their cars--American cars!--and lived by the GM slogan, "It's not just your car, it's your freedom." And it's not just your freedom. It's your...

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