Les Jones was recently pondering the change of gas prices over time, and that got me to thinking, too. The pre-post-Katrina high point in gasoline prices in the US was in 1981, with unleaded regular spiking to $1.80, which doesn't sound like much, until you adjust it for inflation.
To put things in further perspective, I remember the very first time I saw gasoline dip below $1.00/gallon. The year was 1986, and the gas station at the Dunkin' Donuts on the corner of Sandtown Road in Marietta, GA had the magic numbers "99.9" lit up on its sign. "Woo hoo!" I thought, "No more Coke Classic for me; I'm drinkin' regular unleaded now! Heck, it's so cheap, I'll water the lawn with it!"
Of course, that $.99/gal gas had to fill the 20 gallon tank of a '74 Gran Torino that got 12 mpg downhill with a tailwind, and was paid for by a poor high school chick eking out some spare coinage babysitting and working as a part time drug-store clerk for $3.40/hr. You can imagine how bad it was just a few months earlier, when gas was $1.25/gal and it took almost a quarter of my part-timer's paycheck to fill a tank.
Anyhow, back to that 1981 peak: Gas was $1.80, the minimum wage was $3.35, and a brand new sporty hatchback from Plymouth (TC3 Turismo) would set you back $7920 if you got crazy with the option boxes. Now gas is $2.20ish, the minimum wage is $5.15, and a new sporty roadster from Pontiac (Solstice) will set you back $24,640 if you pile on the goodies.
It's all in how you look at it...