What’s the Most America You Can Get In a Car?

What’s the car that symbolizes the ideals of the United States to you?

byAaron ColeJul 4, 2022 1:00 PM
What’s the Most America You Can Get In a Car?
Subject: Apollo 12 Astronauts Charles Conrad, Richard Gordon, Alan Bean sitting on their Corvettes. Cocoa Beach, Florida September 23, 1969 Photographer- Ralph Morse Time Life Staff Merlin- 1199168.
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I see you firing bottle rockets out of your Trans Am’s T-top with a lit cigarette, Captain America. And you, Patriot Pete, over there, rocking today's preferred flag and sticker accessory: a full-size pickup truck. You’re not hiding from me.

We didn’t invent the modern automobile in the U.S.; we just made it inefficient and excessive. In certain circles, that’s good enough. But we can do better. 

As I’m learning—and as many of you know—the United States is a big place. In every corner of our giant country, there are different needs for different people. It’s no surprise that we have more variety in our cars than we do in our Buffalo wings. 

My question, “What’s the Most America You Can Get in a Car?” is equal parts literal and figurative. There are low-hanging fruits to pick here: anything with a 350, anything with an open bed, two-seater astronaut cosplay machines, and more. I prefer the deeper cuts myself: Remember when we wanted to show the world how we could out-Italian the Italians? (Chrysler TC, Cadillac Allante, etc.) Showing the world our superiority in suboptimal ways is just so us.

I also like the Bolt EV for the most America you can get in a car. Assembled in the U.S., reasonably ugly but also a moonshot, the Bolt EV was a watershed moment for General Motors and battery development—an unlikely missing link bridging the low-energy Malibu Hybrid of yesteryear with tomorrow’s onslaught of Ultium-battery-powered EVs.

Of course, as a nation that loves personalization, accessorization, and bigification in all our vehicles—even the ones that have no rights to any of them—nothing smells like all three to me like the Mini Countryman. The Mercedes ML built in Alabama started a genre of automobiles that’ll outlive us all; I could say the same about the AMC Eagle, too. 

For my money, the most America to me is the sixth-generation Honda Civic. My pick says a lot about my age and my view of personal transportation. Cheap, relatively efficient, ubiquitous, and a blank slate for personalization, the Civic embodied to me what cars in the U.S. should be: a vessel of my own to explore America. 

There are other answers, and perhaps there’s not just one. It’s a big place out there, after all. 

Then again, America loves an argument. So, let’s rumble. What’s the most America you can get in a car?