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Of Clunkers and Camaros: Accelerated Vehicle Retirement Programs and the Automobile Enthusiast, 1990–2009
Abstract

Abstract:

This article examines the theory and practice of “accelerated vehicle retirement,” or “scrappage,” programs during the 1990s and 2000s. Scrappage programs, championed by smokestack-industry executives, as well as local, state, and federal authorities, sought to purge the streets of older cars so that their supporters could meet their federal- and state- level air-quality-improvement targets on the cheap. Put another way, these programs aimed to reduce the overall emissions of the nation’s fleet of cars—and, thus, to reduce overall air pollution—by hastening the pace of motor-vehicle obsolescence. Ultimately, vigorous opposition to these programs, especially though not exclusively among antique-and classic-car enthusiasts, led to their abandonment in all but a handful of cases. By examining both the origin and evolution of scrappage programs and the emergence of organized opposition to them, the article contemplates the relationship between the old and the new in the twentieth-century United States.