This Thanksgiving we asked our writers to reflect on what cars they are thankful for.
Thanksgiving is one of those rare American holidays that goes beyond raw consumerism and asks us to step back and contemplate what it is we really value. In that spirit, this month’s Critics’ Choice challenged our writers to identify those vehicles for which they are most thankful. Answering the question of what we are thankful for allows for broad interpretation. What does “being thankful for” a car really mean? Does it center on utility, enjoyment, sentimentality? All three to varying degrees? The open-endedness of the question resulted in some interesting answers from our writers. We hope you enjoy their answers and do a bit of reflecting yourself on what cars you’re thankful for.
I’m thankful for all cars and the memories they’ve have helped make since their creation, but that’s too open of an answer. If I have to boil it down to just a specific vehicle then I’ll have to lean into how they helped shape the automotive industry as a whole. There’s of course the Ford Model T helping in the success of automobiles as a whole. Then there’s vehicles like the AMC Rambler that brought about innovative vehicle features and standard safety equipment like seatbelts to the market. Plus, there are cars like the Honda Civic CVCC that not only made Honda a popular offshore brand but helped pave the way for fuel conscious engineering through its fuel efficient CVCC engine design. I also couldn’t forget about the performance cars that have etched their names in motorsports history like the Hudson Hornet or the Plymouth Superbird.
After I weighed all the options out there, I finally settled on the 1962 Oldsmobile Cutlass F-85 Jetfire. Now, this model had its issues back in the day, but it holds the honor of being the first gas powered production vehicle to have a built-in turbocharger straight from the manufacturer. Turbocharged engines have since been commonplace in the automotive market as both a performance addition for some cars and aiding in fuel efficiency for others. We get to thank this ‘60s turbocharged pioneer for models like the Buick Grand National, Nissan Skyline GT-R, BMW 2002 Turbo, and even all those Ford models featuring the EcoBoost engines.
The 1962 Oldsmobile Cutlass F-85 Jetfire I found for sale on Carsforsale.com is a wonderfully kept example featuring a bright red paintjob, polished chrome trimming, and Jetfire badging throughout. Under the hood you can see the 215 CID Turbo Rocket V8 engine paired with an early T5 turbocharger from Garrett AiResearch over the intake manifold. The boost from the turbocharger was limited to 5 psi but helped in generating a compression ratio of 10.25:1. With the help of the additional turbocharger, the Turbo Rocket V8 was able to achieve one horsepower per cubic inch – 215 horsepower.
The one thing to worry about this engine is detonation due to the high compression. To help combat detonation, Oldsmobile integrated their own methanol injection and marketed Turbo-Rocket Fluid, a mix of water and methanol, available at dealerships. That helped keep the turbocharged engine in check for up to about 200 miles before needing to refill the specialized fluid. When the fluid ran out while driving, a throttle valve would trigger limiting the boost until it could be refilled. This created somewhat of a headache for upkeep and limited the effectiveness of the early turbocharged unit if not handled routinely.
Around 3,700 of these turbocharger early adopters were sold in their inaugural year, and this is one of them still looking nearly as it did on the showroom floor. The interior of this Cutlass is made up of polished red metal components, red vinyl seats, red carpeting, and a bit of chrome accenting all around. It’s possibly one of the greatest living examples of the Cutlass F-85 Jetfire on the market.
I knew right away how I was framing the question of what cars I’m thankful for. I looked immediately toward those pillars of the automotive landscape without which I’d feel a diminishment. As if the color of the world had turned a bit grayer. A car, when properly engineered, designed, and executed, is a perfect balance of form and function, aesthetics and utility.
Sometimes function is a form in itself, as in the case with the Toyota Land Cruiser. For over seventy years, the Land Cruiser has built a reputation for ruggedness and reliability like no other (except maybe the Toyota Hilux). From the very Jeep-like early FJs to the new, next-gen 2024, the Land Cruiser has been the SUV other SUVs aspire to be. But as thankful as I am that the Land Cruiser is a thing, it wasn’t quite the end of my search.
The Mazda Miata MX-5 is another car I’m eternally thankful for existing. This once “hairdresser’s car” has long since turned into the answer to all questions automotive. Through four generations, the Miata proved you don’t need huge horsepower numbers or even a back seat to put a smile on the face of anyone lucky enough to get behind the wheel of one. The Miata preserved, hopefully for all time, the joys of driving a “slow car fast.”
Another blend of form and function I’m grateful for is the Toyota Prius, and especially the gorgeous new fifth generation. For most of its existence, including the second generation I owned for many years, the Toyota Prius had what you’d call an anti-aesthetic. So practical and utilitarian, the Prius spurred such troglodyte-like considerations as not looking exactly like the appliance it so clearly was. Aside from aerodynamics, did the Prius need to be aggressively ugly? Perhaps not, but how else to signal to fellow motorists your eagerness to be coal rolled? The new Prius Prime is about as utilitarian as it gets. A plug-in hybrid that offers 44 miles of electric range, 50 mpg city, and it actually looks cool.
I could gush all day about how thankful I am for the above three vehicles but to be honest, there was only one pick for the car I’m most thankful for and that’s the Porsche 911. Much like the Land Cruiser is to SUVs, the 911 is the sports car pinnacle the rest of the automotive world looks up to in awe, and a little bit of envy as well. The car has been and remains fast. It’s visceral and engaging; it can feel knife’s edge dangerous in not a few iterations. For sixty years, the Porsche 911 has perfectly blended beauty and brute force, athletics and aesthetics. The simple formula of a rear-mounted six-cylinder boxer engine has proven the test of time.
For the car I’m most thankful for, I am choosing a late model 930-generation 911 Turbo. The 930 is notorious as a challenging, turbo-laggy beast that tested the competency and skill of drivers, earning it the nickname “The Widow Maker.” There is something to appreciate in each generation of 911, yes, even the 996, but the 930 is for me the best looking of the bunch.
Again, like Toyota with the Land Cruiser, Porsche has chosen to slowly but steadily tinker with the 911, eschewing radical change for incremental improvement with the results speaking for themselves. The current 992-generation is among the quickest gas-powered production cars in the world with a level of refinement to match. As a guiding light for the rest of the automotive industry to follow, I’m thankful Porsche still makes the 911.
What a topic, huh? There are so many options. Do I go the legacy route? I mean, without the Ford Model T or the Willys Jeep or the Tesla Roadster, who knows how cars would have evolved? Do I pick one of those truly historic cars? Or am I most thankful for the well-built 1999 Ford Contour that stood sturdy when I was hit from the passenger side? Or maybe I just pick the car that’s a blast to be driving? I went with the last option in the form of a 1966 Ford Mustang.
Actually, the Mustang is historic, too, but we’ll get into that later. First, the selection process. I knew the Ford Mustang was going to at least be on my shortlist, but I didn’t know which model year to pick. There have been several awesome Mustangs over the years. The 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429? That’s a find! Before that, Bullitt made the 1968 Ford Mustang as famous and as cool as could be.
A good deal of change occurred throughout the Ford Mustang generations, too. Newer Mustangs have all the modern conveniences one could ask for, plus performance. There’s something about a classic, though. I was leaning toward the first generation of the Mustang, but the fifth-generation Mustang was still on my radar, too. I particularly liked the styling of the fifth-generation Mustang, which was influenced by the 1960s designs. It makes sense that these were the two generations it came down to for me. In the end, though, I had to go with the original.
Beyond better looks, there’s the fact that the first-generation Mustang is legendary. It ushered in the pony car era of the 1960s and 1970s. From 1965 to 1973, the first generation of the Mustang was an economy car inspired by the long hoods of European cars. It was meant to appeal to younger drivers with short tails and fresh styling, and it certainly did just that. Ford sold 22,000 Mustangs on the very first day it was on sale.
It wasn’t just the polished outside, mix of chrome, and shape that caught attention, though. The interior and a round gauge cluster, armrests, and woodgrain accents. At the time, all of that was new and fun. It’s now 57 years later and those are all still good features, so I think it’s safe to say that the Mustang has stood the test of time.
Let’s talk about this specific 1966 Ford Mustang, though. It’s coated in a vibrant red color. The chrome wheels, trim, and badging work great in contrast to that glossy cherry red paint. Dual exhaust pipes stick out under the rear bumper and GT fog lights lead the way up front.
Inside are an aftermarket center console and radio, but many of the original elements of the ‘66 Mustang remain. There are factory bucket seats, and the owners kept the manual steering. Under the hood is a 289 cu in V8 engine, 289 Hi-Po exhaust manifolds, and an Edelbrock carburetor. It should pack a punch and give some growl while it’s going. This Mustang also uses Kelsey Hayes 4-piston front brakes.
This ‘66 has 36,071 miles on it, but it is $8,000 below average. It certainly looks like it’s been well taken care of. Even if this particular 1966 Ford Mustang doesn’t work out, there are plenty of other ‘66 Mustangs currently listed. Like I said, I have specific generations in mind, but there are Mustangs of every generation ready for purchase.
I could come up with a full list of cars I’m thankful for, but the Mustang brings history, great form, great performance, and there are some models that don’t cost an arm and a leg, even if they need a little fixing up. Regardless of the model year, the Ford Mustang is the car I’m thankful for.