1: an indefinite feeling of debility or lack of health often indicative of or accompanying the onset of an illness
2: a vague sense of mental or moral ill-being
– Merriam-Webster dictionary
In 1979, Jimmy Carter stood before the American people and delivered a speech intended to shake up a country that was feeling low. The 60s had seen the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr. There was the Vietnam War and Watergate. And now a raging energy crisis had taken hold. Americans were fed up.
Carter wanted people in the U.S. to take a good look at their indulgent and over-consuming ways and return to a feeling of self-reliance and pride. He wanted Americans to feel like Americans again — but mostly he wanted them to stop using so much damn oil.
The speech didn’t go over so well. What was known initially as the “Crisis of Confidence” speech eventually became known as the “Malaise” speech, a term that later came to define an era of automotive manufacturing known for producing some … how shall I say it? Kinda crappy cars.
Cars that now, with the benefit of distance and nostalgia, have found some very devoted fans.
Malaise Motors Finds A Fan Base
The exact time frame of the Malaise Era of automobiles is a source of debate among car enthusiasts, but generally it’s acknowledged to have occurred between 1972 and 1995. It started during a time when America was deep into an oil and gas crisis. Unlike the 1950s and 60s, when auto manufacturers were free to make cars that were big, beautiful gas-guzzlers, the 1970s saw heavy government regulation. Cars had to be fuel efficient. They had to adhere to emission control. The focus became less about performance and build quality, and all about better economy.
Or, as it says on the Malaise Motors website, “In the course of 15 years, we’d gone from 500-cubic-inch pieces of rolling art to something which has often been described as a badge-engineered sh*tbox on wheels.”
MalaiseMotors.com is the brainchild of Bryan Davis of Fresno. Bryan’s affection for all cars led him to start up the site over a year ago. Why Malaise cars? “Because they’re unloved,” Bryan says. To him, “Malaise” is a term of endearment, not an insult.
The same holds true for Bryan’s partner in crime, Chuck Sherman, who came aboard after viewing the site and deciding he liked the vibe. Chuck helped build up the website as well as its Facebook group which, at the time of this writing, includes nearly 3,700 members.
That’s a lot of people who like sh*tboxes.
Malaise Daze Car Show
The Malaise Motors Facebook group has members that span the globe. A lot of them are from the United States, but there are fans from Italy, France, and even Malaysia (Malaise-ia?). It’s mostly made up of men, but there are some women in there, too. Members post photos of Malaise cars they see out in the wild (or in junkyards), as well as cars they’re fixing up or even just dreaming about fixing up. Posts are enthusiastic, and frequent.
It’s this widespread love and fascination with the most unglamorous era of car manufacturing that inspired Bryan and Chuck to create the Malaise Daze Car Show in Fresno, CA.
Open to 1972-1995 year vehicles, the show accepts all makes and models. As it says on the Facebook event page, “And when I say any vehicle, I mean ANY! I don’t care if it’s bone stock or heavily modded, near mint or clapped out, rolling on 2, 3 or 4 wheels. We want to see it!”
For many of us born in and around the 1970s, this car show will be like returning to our childhoods. For me, growing up with a 1980 Chevy Malibu station wagon (black with black interior — kids at my high school called it “the hearse”), I remember well the days of carefully pulling what was essentially a boat in and out of parking stalls.
I remember waiting impatiently for the AC to kick on and cool down the interior so I could handle the steering wheel and black vinyl seats — and eventually giving up and using towels so I could just drive the mile-and-a-half home from school. And I recall stomping on the accelerator of that giant wagon and not going anywhere.
But dammit if I don’t look back at that car with affection.
As Bryan says, “The cars of this era are ‘Malaise’ in name only. It’s time they had a show that gives them the acknowledgement they deserve.”
The Malaise Daze Car Show is May 13 at Full Circle Brewing Co. in Fresno.
Vehicle entry fee is $10.00 per vehicle. Admittance is free to the public. There will be craft beer from Full Circle, as well as food and vendors.
Anyone interested in entering a vehicle to the show or being a vendor is encouraged to contact Bryan or Chuck at email@example.com.
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