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Flyer Flashback

To mark the Flyer's 20th anniversary, we're looking back at stories from our first two decades.

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Cars are the lifeblood of America. Car factories in Spring Hill and Smyrna put Tennessee in the middle of the Southern car-manufacturing industry that helped depress Detroit and the industrial Midwest. And car advertising helped newspapers, including this one, get off the ground, prosper, and survive the current recession. So let's hear it for the car biz.

In the fall of 1995, the Flyer proudly displayed two full pages of car ads, which was something of a catch at the time for a five-year-old struggling to compete with the local daily and its near-monopoly of the lucrative car-advertising market.

You could buy a brand-new 1995 Mitzubishi Galant four-door sedan for $12,899 or a Mirage for $207 a month. A new BMW started at $19,999. Today, that will get you a nice used luxury car. Used cars were cheap too: a 1994 Ford Escort for $7,988, a 1994 Mercury Topaz for $8,688, and a 1995 Saturn for $11,488.

The Saturn made its debut in 1994. It was touted as a new kind of a car from a new kind of General Motors, and the assembly plant at Spring Hill was the pride of Middle Tennessee. Former governor Lamar Alexander landed the plant, and the announcement seemed to foreshadow decades of prosperity, good jobs, and near full employment. Which it did, although not so many decades as we might have hoped. The Saturn died this year after Roger Penskie's rescue plan was aborted. GM had stopped making it at Spring Hill a couple of years ago. The plant will be shuttered this year, its future in doubt just 15 years after the first Saturn rolled off the line.

I'll miss the Saturn. My 1995 model served my family well until I sold it last month for $2,000. Good car, good for the state, good for this newspaper. RIP.

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