They are art-deco-on-the-asphalt, capable of masticating Miatas and gas budgets in a single gulp.

And they're hot. You won't see them at every stoplight, but you'll see more and more drivers - trendy, younger drivers - behind the wheel of those ugly, old cars. You know, the big Barbie Doll cars, 20 or 30 years old, on real wheels with room for Skipper and Ken and even Casey in the back seat.Many are not quite old enough to qualify as classics, but neither are the drivers.

``If ugly cars are cool, then I'm way cool,' said Tim Caldwell, surveying his black '75 Ford Torino with the one reluctant window and the peeling vinyl top.

Skip Solberg, a North Texas car enthusiast, says prices are enticing the youngest drivers into buying commodious, convertible Buicks and Oldsmobiles. The prices vary greatly depending on condition, but either of those makes can be found sometimes for as low as $2,000.

``The hottest thing now are the muscle cars of the '60s,' said Solberg, a member of the Scavengers, a Dallas-Fort Worth area ``lone wolf' collectors club.

While many old hunkers end up in the scrap heap, some find their way to Vintage Vehicles, where they are sold primarily to the 18-to-30-or-so set. The Arlington dealership is one of a few in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that carries a consistent load of the polished pachyderms.

Thick and wavy heat rises from the asphalt at Vintage Vehicles and the air conditioning inside the fire-engine red '71 Chevelle is running great.

``Can you imagine a cop stopping a man my age in this? They'd arrest me for being a pervert,' said Bill Hayes, a friend of the owner, ogling the flawless blood-clot red interior.

Yes, they are big and yes, they get about 10 to 12 miles to the gallon. But it's hard to see them as ugly - while keeping in mind that ugly is good. Consider the '67 Pontiac Le Mans with its polished burgundy exterior and custom silver hubcaps or the white '69 Grand Sport with 71,000 miles and one owner.

``They love the rag tops,' said Shawn Helton, who owns the lot with his stepfather, Dean Finley. ``The kids all want stuff from the '60s.

Helton said parents buy these cars for their kids because most don't go down in value when cared for, and they're relatively cheap.

And as for the kids: ``They like to drive things like Kennedy got shot in,' Helton said.

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