cars

The Weight of the Govenment on Their Axles

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Everything government touches turns to crap.

Cars and trucks would be far more advanced than they are now, if only the government would get out of the way. Government, as you might suspect, is made up not of experts in any particular field, or scientists, engineers, or entrepreneurs for that matter. It’s mainly comprised of control freaks, busybodies and egomaniacs whose sole concern is keeping their personal gravy train fueled and rolling. To believe that any politician actually cares whether cars have air bags and back up cameras, or how the most recent CAFE -fuel economy- numbers are achieved is the height of naivete. Far more important to please those who would directly benefit from any mandates in the name of safety, such as those self same manufacturers providing said mandatory equipment.

bankers
In reality, modern cars perform about the same as cars from the mid to late 80s. Fuel mileage is still in the mid 20s. And there were some cars in that era that got as high as 50+ mpg.  With mechanical fuel pumps and carburetors, no less. Surely with modern electronic engine management, better manufacturing methods with higher tolerances and improved tire technology even the most hyper horse-powered car should be able to significantly improve fuel mileage? Nope. And the reason is simpler than you might think.
chevrolet-monte-carlo-33
Weight.
You see, the average new car for sale today is 500-800 pounds heavier than cars from yesteryear. And weight is not the friend of fuel economy. What with the airbags, cameras, engine management tech, bigger wheels, more metal and myriad other stuff added for the sake of “safety,” it’s no wonder that manufacturers struggle to meet fuel standard. It’s also no small wonder why mane fuel efficient cars that are available elsewhere in the world are unavailable here; companies like Renault and Vauxhall just don’t find the added expense of making their cars U.S. compliant worth the trouble.Passenger Airbag_web
It’s not as though we, the consumer have any choice in the matter. It matters not if you want airbags, or computers, or even seat belts in your car. You have no choice. It’s not like it was with power windows and air conditioning, which became so popular the are now de facto standard equipment. Heck, who under the age of 40 remembers when a radio was an option? I venture to say that without government mandates, most safety stuff, like seat belts, would be a popular dealer installed option. Multiple bombs airbags? Maybe, maybe not.
Modern engineers and designers must constantly work to make their creations compliant with the whims of an overreaching and frankly clueless apparatus more concerned with self preservation than with actual advancement. I say get the politburo out of the way, let the creative and brainy types do thier jobs, and let the market decide what is safe. Believe it or not, it might just work.

The Cost of Safety

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Deployed airbag

Airbags saved my life. A distracted driver ran a stop sign, and I T-boned him at 35 miles per hour. And while there were a host of injuries, head trauma wasn’t one of them. So one would think I favor their mandatory installation in all vehicles right?

Oh how wrong you are.

Mandating safety equipment, “average” MPG standards, and a host of other helpful hints have driven car prices to unbelievable levels. The average transaction cost for a new car was  $12500 in 1993. Adjusted for inflation, that’s $20,255.  Today, on the cusp of 2014, it’s $32,252. And true purchase price is further hidden by all the 7 year finance schemes out there. But that’s a story for another day.

In reality, government mandates not only drive up the cost of cars, they actually hinder some of the goals they are trying to EPA_SAMPLE_MILEAGE_LABELachieve. In the case of MPG standards, all cars must achieve 54.5 MPG by 2025. This is up from 36.5 in 2016. Setting aside the fact that government should leave market forces to determine these things, the simplest way to achieve these numbers is to shed weight. However airbags, back up cameras, and all the electronic stuff needed for an engine to run at these levels  adds to the total.

1984ChevySprintMPG_300_0610-md
1984 ChevySprint

Here’s the kicker. In  1984, Chevy re-branded a Suzuki and called it the Sprint. It was bare bones. It weighed only 1600 lbs. It was stark slow, and pretty much a tin can. Yet it achieved an amazing 44/53 mpg without the benefit of modern electronics. Take the same idea (less weight, but with modern materials for strength,) make airbags optional, drop in a modern efi direct injection dual overhead cam 4 cylinder SIDI, maybe 6 cylinders even, and higher mileage is easy peasy. But all the mandatory crap would really drop the numbers.

“But that’s where hybrids and electric cars come in! This will force the evil corporations to develop these alternative vehicles!” Yes it will, at taxpayer expense. Currently, the production of  electric cars is subsidized; Nissan and

Fiat 500
Fiat 500

Chevy and Toyota are producing cars witch are purchased with tax incentives. Which is a fancy way of getting others to partially pay for an overpriced car. And why are they overpriced, you ask? Incentives. When one gets tax money back, it’s taken from someone else. Take away the incentives, and my guess is sales would plummet. Then there’s that word “

force.” In other words, build this or else.

So what all this means is if those who would want to make our lives better by fiat, (Laws, not the Italian car)  would just get out of the way and let us decide for ourselves what we want, they would be surprised by how far we can go without their help. If we want hybrids and alternative cars, we’ll have them. If we want massive SUV’s, ditto. Insanely fast muscle cars. Yes please!

I can dream, can’t I?

Hot Dogs & Hot Rods

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Among the sights and sounds of  the car show circuit, I must confess one of my favorite things is the variety of foodstuffs I can savor. Iron-Invasion It may be the hot dog vendor, sausage stand, or confectioneries galore. Food is a big part of the festivities, and nothing says Car Culture like big blocks and burgers. And an ice cream on a hot day makes the whole party that much more enjoyable.

P51-Rod

But it goes without saying that chocolate sauce and leather upholstery just aren’t meant for each other. And litter just brings the whole atmosphere down. Common courtesy also seems to be in decline these days. With that being said, there are some basic rules of etiquette that we must adhere to. Following these simple courtesies will enhance the experience for all.

Here are just a few…

  • Try to keep the sloppy sandwiches and ice cream away from the exhibits. The $30,000 paint and interior will not be greatly enhanced by you dripping mustard all over them.
  • You’re walking about with beverage in hand and decide you need two hands to examine the fine metalwork of a master craftsman. Don’t put the drink on the fender, hood, or heck THE CAR!!! Doing so will not make you any friends.
  • This may sound basic, but carry your trash with you until you find a waste can. Nothing takes away from a fine event like seeing trash and litter all over. Clean up after yourself, mommy’s not here to do it for you!

These are just a few common sense tips to make the day enjoyable for everyone.

See you on the road!