What you think about the K-Car, as is the case with so many other things, depends on your perspective. If you are a fan of the Chrysler company, the K-Car represents the way that the Chrysler Company survived throughout the 1980s through a shared platform applied throughout the company’s various divisions, providing a range of popular cars and minivans with a modular design that allowed the company to return from bankruptcy and the threat of destruction to survive into the 1990s. When you think of the record of cars like the Chrysler LeBaron, Executive Limousine, and Town & Country, there are at least some solid cars present in the roster.
Yet, for some reason, within the past week I heard two ministers give stories about how terrible K-Cars were for them. The first minister gave a story about having received a K-Car for almost nothing from a pastor who had it as a second vehicle and driving it around during a difficult time financially before the pastor’s wife wrecked the car and the insurance adjustor had a difficult time giving an appropriate value for the car given the fact that the adjustor claimed that the car came out pre-Kelly Blue Book and basically being a worthless piece of junk. The second pastor commented that the K-Car was an even worse car than the legendary Ford Pinto, which is saying a great deal when it comes to looking down on a car.
What is it that accounts for the difference between the K-Car as viewed by automobile historians and people in the ministry of the Church of God? Without knowing all the details (and those who do are welcome to comment here to fill me in), I would strongly suspect that the difference lies in the space between looking at things from a very wide perspective and looking at things through the perspective of one’s own anecdotal experience. Those who praise the K-Car do not tend to praise all of the individual models, but rather the way that the choice of a modular car design allowed for greater efficiency and profitability and also provided the basis for some cars that sold well and allowed the company to return from the brink of destruction. The big picture of the K-Car includes good-selling minivans as well as a few notable car models among a large body of models that was provided.
The issue comes when one’s experience with the K-Car is more limited to particular models that may not have been all that good. It is not exactly clear to me looking back thirty to forty years after the fact which models were particular bad, but it is not hard to imagine a scenario where a ministerial fleet of cars is made up of a particular poor-selling but inexpensive (at least to the church) model of vehicle whose problems become legendary and shared between ministers who view the car as particular terrible. The end result is a gulf between the car as it ended up working out for Chrysler itself and how it is that the car was experienced by a group of people with a shared institutional history and a great deal of communication about their shared anecdotal experience which may have been very negative, at least as it has been reported to me.
This sort of experience is not an uncommon one. When we look at things that we are not emotionally and personally invested in as historians, we can have a broad perspective that looks at a variety of factors, while also including a lot of related items together in a way that makes them all look good overall in context. When we look at things that we are emotionally and personally invested in, especially when our own personal experience is mirrored by people we are close to and whose experience has been similar, we tend to be confirmed in our opinions about something, without being able to see how it is that other people could have far different views. There are a lot of life lessons about the way that our personal experience colors our appreciation of things that can have a far larger basis than our own experience. But we can explore those another day, I suppose.