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Machines of YouthAmerica's Car Obsession$
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Gary S. Cross

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226341644

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226341781.001.0001

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Last Stand of the Cruiser

Last Stand of the Cruiser

(p.137) 7 Last Stand of the Cruiser
Machines of Youth

Gary S. Cross

University of Chicago Press

American teen car culture reached its peak in the 1960s and early 1970s with the era of the muscle car, cheap gas, and well-paying factory jobs awaiting high school graduates. This story (at least the white part of it) is romanticized in American Graffiti, celebrating the end of a presumed golden age of the cruise in the early 1960s. Nevertheless, the cruise culture went on, only to begin its decline in the mid-1970s with the high fuel costs of the oil crisis of 1973 and 1979 and the subsequent downturn in the American manufacturing economy, especially the American auto industry. But there was also a little recognized trend: law enforcement was beginning to crack down on cruising and kids and their cars intruding on public space, resulting in the eclipse of cruising by the end of the 1980s. The story is part of the decline of the white largely working class greaser and is also about the clash of race and age, an assault on the Latino low rider, and a reversal of the permissive attitude of adults toward autonomous youth.

Keywords:   teen car culture, 1960s, 1970s, American Graffiti, cruising, law enforcement, youth, autonomy

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