When owning a car made you a god

Story highlights

  • A car was the ultimate status symbol for teens in the 1960s
  • Movies, music and pop culture glamorized the '60s car scene
  • Young men were groomed into car consumers at a young age
  • 1960s cars still evoke romantic memories and style for people today
There were two distinct groups of guys in high school back in the '60s: Those who had cars, and those who didn't. For the sake of your reputation, you didn't want to be the kid without a car, says 70-year-old Brian McDaniels.
From the time he was 12, McDaniels counted the days until he could get his license. He worked at a grocery store, sold ice cream and delivered newspapers just so he could buy a car as soon as he turned 16. He purchased a 1953 Ford Coupe in 1960 for $200 before he could even legally drive it, getting his license a few days after. Two years later, he traded that car in for his shining glory, a 1954 Chevy Bel Air.
The Chevy Bel Air was as amazing as he dreamed. This car was the center of his social life. It was where he listened to his local Columbus, Ohio, radio station's Top 40 hits for hours on end, where he ate countless meals with friends at the drive-thru, and where he had his first date with the girl of his dreams, the woman he eventually married.
"When I got the car, it was really hard to describe the pride," McDaniels says. "To work for so long and then to get it. There was a certain culture when you got the car, you spent time with the car."
The 1960s era is known for its collection of trends and fads, from hippie fashion to British rock 'n' roll, but nothing defined youth culture more than the '60s car, says Matt Anderson, a historian and curator at The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
Brian McDaniels, 18, stands in front of his 1954 Chevy Bel Air.