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5 Cars That Became Metaphors (deserved or not)

1. Edsel= Failure

The Ford Edsel has become a metaphor for commercial marketing failure. It was manufactured from 1958 til 1960. The failure of the Edsel brand is attributed to a combination of factors: an overhyped premiere, the perceived high price, an economic recession in 1957, ambiguous consumer targeting, the consumer shift toward smaller, fuel-efficient cars, and the perception of the car and its name as "ugly." Future Secretary of Defense Robert McNamera, a Ford executive at the time, changed the Edsel design and slashed its advertising budget, eventually burying the program. Due to its commercial failure, the Edsel was perceived for a time as a "lemon", but the car was as well-built as its contemporaries at Ford. The brand lost money, the equivalent of $2 billion in today's dollars, but the Edsel didn't damage Ford's overall profits.

2. Corvair=Unsafe
435_1960 Corvair.jpg

The Chevrolet Corvair was produced from 1960 to 1969, in response to the public's demand for smaller cars (the demand that helped derail the Edsel). The car (avialable in several models) was a sales success, selling over 200,000 units its first few years. In 1965, a little-known consumer advocate named Ralph Nader published a book entitled Unsafe at Any Speed. The book charged the American automobile industry with active resistance to the incorporation of safety features in cars, such as seat belts. The Corvair was only mentioned in one chapter of the book, but its reputation and sales slumped as a result. GM improved its design after the book was published, but also investigated and harassed Nader, who later sued. Only 6.000 Corvairs were produced for 1969, the last model year.

In what may be the automotive industry's greatest irony, NHTSA, the federal agency created from Nader's "consumer advocacy," investigated the Corvair and issued a report in 1971 clearing the car's design, two years after the car went out of production.

3. Pinto=Volatile
435_1971 Ford Pinto_jpg.jpg

The Ford Pinto had a tendency to explode. Forbes Magazine included it in their list of the Worst Cars of All Time. Two million Pintos were sold between 1971 and 1980, and 27 people died when the gas tanks ignited in rear-end collisions. The magazine Mother Jones wrote an expose on the Pinto in 1977. The real scandal stemmed from the Pinto Memo, which calculated the cost of fixing the known design problems in the fuel tank area at $121 million, versus the cost of projected lawsuits, estimated at $50 million. The Pinto's reputation became so bad that it is used in pop culture as a reference for something ready to explode. In the movie Speed, Sandra Bullock's character was asked if she could drive a bus filled with explosives. She replied, "Oh sure, it's just like driving a really big Pinto."

4. DeLorean=Overhyped
435_DeLorean.jpg

The DeLorean has such a wild story that it became more than one metaphor. Built from 1981 to 1983, it was the dream project of John Z. DeLorean. A Detroit native and engineer and executive at GM, DeLorean founded the DeLorean Motor Company with the help of high-profile investors and huge financial incentives to build his factory in Northern Ireland. Only 3,000 of the strange-looking and expensive cars sold the first year, nowhere near DeLorean's projections. Trying to pull the company out of British government receivership, DeLorean became involved in a cocaine-smuggling scheme and was arrested in 1982. He was eventually found not guilty due to entrapment, but the damage to his reputation, and to his car, was already done.

260delorean.jpgThe car starred in the Back to the Future movies as a time machine. The DeLorean was chosen because it looks like a UFO. In the first film, Doc said he used it because it was stylish, but Marty was puzzled at the choice because the car was a commercial flop. Around 6,000 DeLorean models survive today, and you can get one for less than its 1981 selling price of $26,000. Parts are hard to find.

Update: Two sources of DeLorean parts (from the comments) are DeLorean Motor Company (Texas) and DeLorean Car Show.

5. Yugo=Shoddy
435_yugo.jpg

The Yugo was sold in the United States from 1984 to 1992. Priced under $4,000 at its US debut, the car sold very well until UN sanctions against Yugoslavia forced the end of the import program. The Yugos manufactured for export to the US had higher standards than those for domestic use, but the Yugo still gained a reputation for shoddy construction and unreliability, earning Car Talk's Worst Car of the Millenium survey. The Yugo is still sold today in the former Yugoslavia under its European name, Zastava Koral.

Could you suggest other cars that could be metaphors?

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The Sky Was No Limit: The WASP Women Pilots of WWII
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Shirley Slade sat on the wing of a plane and looked off into an uncertain future. Slade—clad in her flight suit with pigtails guarding against Texas wind—was posing for the July 19, 1943 issue of Life magazine, and the composition between the aircraft and its operator was a juxtaposition spelled out in the cover headline: "Air Force Pilot."

Slade was one of more than 1000 women who had been solicited by the U.S. government to enter an intensive seven-month training course that would make them the first female pilots to enter the Air Force. What had been a boy's club was being forced into a kind of reluctant gender neutrality as a result of World War II and severe pilot shortages. By recruiting women, the Air Force could maintain delivery of aircraft, ferry supplies, and perform other non-combative functions that fueled the war efforts. Collectively, the group would become known as WASPs: Women Airforce Service Pilots.

While all of these women risked their lives—and more than a few lost them—they were not perceived as equals. Because they were designated as civilians, they were denied military honors and compensation. As the war wound down, men returning from combat jockeyed to take the WASPs' places as active-duty pilots. Occasionally, the women would be used in target practice. It would be decades before the women of WASP would finally get their due.

 
 

America's entry into World War II following the attack on Pearl Harbor heralded a new policy of rationing. Food, materials, and manpower were doled out carefully, but demand for pilots quickly exceeded the available personnel. By 1942, the Air Force realized they would have to tap into new sources in order to continue their campaign.

Jacqueline Cochran had a solution: A pilot in her own right and a contemporary of Amelia Earhart, Cochran knew there was a strong contingent of female fliers who had licenses and had logged air time who could be recruited for support missions. She petitioned the Air Force, including commanding general Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold, to approve a training program that would ultimately relocate volunteers to Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. Another pilot, Nancy Harkness Love, submitted a similar proposal.

WASP pilot Elizabeth Remba Gardner looks out from her plane while on a Texas runway
WASP pilot Elizabeth Remba Gardner
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Cochran and Love were up against considerable resistance to involving women in military efforts. General Dwight D. Eisenhower once admitted he was "violently against" the idea (before concluding that none of his concerns came to light and women were an integral part of the effort). Internally, there was concern as to whether women would even be capable of handling a massive aircraft like the B-29 bomber, so superiors hedged their bets by creating two organizations.

Love was put in charge of the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS)—an organization to ferry planes—while Cochran was put in charge of the Women's Flying Training Detachment, which did whatever the Army Air Corps required of it. A little under a year later, these two groups were merged into a single organization: the WASPs. This new group demanded that incoming women logged at least 35 hours of flight time before coming to Sweetwater. More importantly, the women would be considered civilians, not military personnel.

Roughly 25,000 women applied; around 1900 were accepted and 1100 completed training. On their own dimes, these women streamed into Texas to begin the seven-month program that taught them every aspect of military flying except for gunnery duty and formation flying. Every day in the barracks included intensive lessons, physical fitness training, and studying. At night, the women would dance, sing, or play ping-pong. Life described their ambitions as "piloting with an unfeminine purpose" and noted that some of the women needed cushions in order to sit comfortably in planes designed for male bodies. Their mascot, a tiny winged sprite named Miss Fifinella, was designed by Disney, and the patch appeared on many of their jumpsuits and plane noses.

According to Life, the Air Force reported that the women were faster on instruments while the men "had better memory for details." But in virtually every way that counted, the magazine wrote, there was no practical difference in ability.

Graduates were dispatched to bases around the country, though the most pressing job was ferrying new aircraft from factories to places like Newark, New Jersey, where the planes would make the jump overseas. The women shuttled 12,000 of these planes during the war. They also escorted military chaplains from base to base on Sundays for religious services and operated test flights for repaired aircraft to make sure they were safe to fly in combat. Sometimes, they'd be tasked with towing targets behind them so soldiers could use live ammunition for combat practice.

Simulated combat may have been nerve-wracking, but it was no more dangerous than the actual flying and the very real possibility that the WASPs would experience equipment malfunction or fuel issues. In the two years the squad was active, 38 women perished during missions. At the time—and for decades afterward—the families of those women were denied many of the basic privileges afforded to the families of their male counterparts. When a WASP died, her colleagues—not the government—would pitch in to pay for her burial. Their families were prohibited from putting a gold star in their windows, a sign of a military casualty, nor were they "allowed" to drape the American flag over their coffins.

 
 

On December 20, 1944, the WASPs were sent home. The war wasn't yet over, but men returning from the front lines were dismayed that jobs they expected to find waiting for them were being occupied by women. Despite Cochran's petition to have the WASPs permanently incorporated into the Air Force, Congress turned her down.

WASP pilots are photographed circa 1943
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The pride the women had felt serving their country turned to confusion. By being classified as "civilians," the WASPs found little respect for their efforts. When entering the workforce after the war, some even became flight attendants, as no commercial airline would hire a female pilot.

In the 1970s, the Air Force announced they'd be accepting female recruits for the "first time," a proclamation that angered the surviving WASPs. Their efforts had largely gone unheralded, and now it seemed like the government was wiping them from history completely. Petitioning for recognition and receiving aid from fellow war ferry pilot Senator Barry Goldwater, they were finally granted military status on November 23, 1977.

As the WASPs aged, a handful got the chance to enjoy another honor. In 2010, the women were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their efforts. After flying 77 different types of planes over 60 million miles during wartime and being largely ignored for decades, it was recognition that was long overdue.

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The Best European Destinations to Fly to on a Budget This Summer
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Get your passport ready. According to Kayak, it's the cheapest summer for air travel to Europe in three years—especially if you're flexible about where you want to go.

Kayak crunched some numbers to discover the cheapest European destinations to fly to from each U.S. state, usually including several international airports in that calculation. Prices can vary wildly depending on where you live, but with this data, you can at least figure out the cheapest median airfare you can expect.

Across the board, Reykjavik, Iceland—a famously budget-conscious place to fly into—was the cheapest destination for the most airports analyzed. But how low that median price actually is varied quite a bit. If you're flying out of Pittsburgh, you can get to Reykjavik for a median price of $319, whereas if you're flying out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the same destination will cost more like $789.

An orange map of the United States with illustrations showing the cheapest European travel destinations for the summer
Kayak

Dublin came in second for the cheapest-destination crown. It was the cheapest European destination city from 15 U.S. airports, though those airports apparently have quite expensive international flights in general. The lowest median airfare to Dublin is in the $700 range.

Unsurprisingly, though, the bigger the airport you fly out of, the more likely you are to find a cheap fare. From both international airports near New York City, you can get to Paris for a median price of just over $500. From Denver, you can get to Brussels, Belgium for $379. From Miami, you can fly to Madrid for around $545. From Boston, you can get to Stockholm for $479. (If a state didn't have its own international airport, Kayak used the nearest one, meaning that a whole lot of New England is included in Boston's cheapest fare data.)

The prices are all median airfares, so you could encounter both lower and higher fares, depending on the flight you book. But if you’re looking for travel on a budget, it looks like Reykjavik and Dublin are the way to go from most cities.

If you've gotten inspired, now is a good time to book. According to Kayak, you should book summer travel six months in advance, but other travel sites say you should book a little later. CheapAir.com recommends booking summer travel around 47 days in advance, which right now means planning for early June.

See the full list of prices and destinations below or head over here to Kayak.

State

Airport Code

Destination

Median Airfare

Alabama BHM Paris, France $1110
Alabama HSV Frankfurt am Main, Germany $875
Alaska ANC Reykjavik, Iceland $677
Arizona PHX Madrid, Spain $563
Arizona TUS Zurich, Switzerland $805
Arkansas MEM London, England $1068
California SFO Reykjavik, Iceland $442
California LAX Reykjavik, Iceland $404
California SAN Dublin, Ireland $766
Colorado DEN Brussels, Belgium $379
Connecticut BDL Edinburgh, UK $548
Delaware BWI Reykjavik, Iceland $359
Florida MIA Madrid, Spain $545
Florida MCO Reykjavik, Iceland $541
Florida TPA Reykjavik, Iceland $615
Georgia ATL Budapest, Hungary $640
Georgia SAV London, UK $830
Hawaii HNL London, UK $906
Hawaii KOA London, UK $960
Idaho SLC Venice, Italy $468
Illinois ORD Reykjavik, Iceland $450
Indiana IND Reykjavik, Iceland $788
Iowa DSM London, UK $898
Kansas MCI Reykjavik, Iceland $600
Kentucky CVG Reykjavik, Iceland $509
Kentucky SDF Reykjavik, Iceland $789
Louisiana MSY Dublin, Ireland $732
Maine BOS Stockholm, Sweden $479
Maryland BWI Reykjavik, Iceland $359
Massachusetts BOS Stockholm, Sweden $479
Michigan DTW Reykjavik, Iceland $409
Michigan GRR Reykjavik, Iceland $789
Minnesota MSP Budapest, Hungary $463
Mississippi MSY Dublin, Ireland $732
Missouri STL Dublin, Ireland $752
Missouri MCI Reykjavik, Iceland $600
Montana BIL Dublin, Ireland $822
Montana BZN Dublin, Ireland $797
Nebraska OMA Dublin, Ireland $864
Nevada LAS Copenhagen, Denmark $563
Nevada RNO Reykjavik, Iceland $871
New Hampshire BOS Stockholm, Sweden $479
New Jersey EWR Paris, France $521
New Mexico ABQ Geneva, Switzerland $705
New York JFK Paris, France $517
New York BUF Reykjavik, Iceland $740
North Carolina CLT Dublin, Ireland $739
North Carolina RDU Dublin, Ireland $665
North Dakota BIL Dublin, Ireland $822
Ohio CLE Reykjavik, Iceland $457
Ohio CMH Dublin, Ireland $694
Ohio CVG Reykjavik, Iceland $509
Oklahoma TUL Venice, Italy $760
Oklahoma OKC Venice, Italy $952
Oregon PDX Reykjavik, Iceland $642
Pennsylvania PHL Reykjavik, Iceland $497
Pennsylvania PIT Reykjavik, Iceland $319
Rhode Island BOS Stockholm, Sweden $479
South Carolina CHS Reykjavik, Iceland $789
South Dakota OMA Dublin, Ireland $864
Tennessee BNA Dublin, Ireland $771
Tennessee MEM London, England $1068
Texas IAH Madrid, Spain  $598
Texas AUS London, UK $642
Utah SLC Venice, Italy $468
Vermont BTV London, UK $780
Virginia ORF London, UK $845
Virginia RIC Dublin, Ireland $793
Washington SEA Munich, Germany $663
West Virginia PIT Reykjavik, Iceland $319
Wisconsin MKE London, UK $835
Wyoming BIL Dublin, Ireland $822
Washington, DC IAD Reykjavik, Iceland $482

 

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