Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Little boxes all made out of ticky-tacky.

So the conversation in the lawyer/engineer post about the new CAFE standards turned, as it always does, to people's fond reminiscences of high-mileage cars of days gone by.

The most recent time that America really had mileage on the brain was in the wake of the '79 Energy Crisis. If you go up to my attic and look at car magazines from the era and I can talk you out of offing yourself, you will notice that nowhere in any of the auto ads of the period are things like horsepower or acceleration touted at all. Everything is Em-Pee-Gee: Even the ads for the brand-new Camaro touted the mileage you could get from the base Iron Duke four-cylinder powerplant (and I use the term loosely) and conveniently forgot to mention that a four-banger Camaro wouldn't accelerate hard enough to pull a greased string out of a cat's ass and would get sand kicked in its face at traffic lights by any passing Beetle.

The early '80s saw plenty of cars that would be considered efficient even by today's standards enjoy sales success in America, from the Toyota Starlet to the Honda CRX HF, which sometimes leads people to ask "Well why don't they just sell those cars again?"

Because they wouldn't be legal to sell. They lack airbags. They'd fail side-impact and offset crash tests. And, more importantly, have you looked inside a small car lately? All but the most wretched clean-it-out-with-hose loss leaders on your neighborhood dealer's lots are stuffed full of things that used to be considered amenities: power windows, remote adjustable mirrors, power door locks with remote. Automatic transmissions outnumber manuals in passenger cars by a staggering margin, and even performance-oriented cars are like as not to have some paddle-shifted clutchless setup rather than the classic three-pedal row-your-own.

The aforementioned Toyota Starlet, one of which was my dad's commuter vehicle for many years, was a two-door hatchback on a tiny sub-92" wheelbase that weighed in at under 1700lbs; by comparison, a current Prius stretches over 106" between the axles and weighs in at over 3,000 pounds. (And lest you think that's all batteries, even the current Mini outweighs a Starlet by better than 700 pounds despite being a good ten inches shorter.)

I don't mind austere cars that crumple like beer cans in a wreck, but the rest of the market seems to think differently...

(Eurodiesels get good mileage these days even in lardy modern autos, but try telling that to the EPA.)


TomcatTCH said...

My dad used to swear by the Starlet's.

We survived running into the rear of a pickup on the freeway in one, and he survived rolling the other on a slippery turn.

Looking back, they did pretty well for being older construction.

He took the two wrecks and made one car out of em. Then drove that little Starlet for years after, including a trip to NYC from Texas.

Meanwhile, my TDI Jetta Sportwagen is hampered in the economy area by EPA mandated crap that dumps raw fuel into a "particulate filter" high temp burn box to burn off the evil black smoke diesel's are prone to produce.

If you remove all of the emissions crap, they gain anywhere from 3 to 8 MPG. But it costs more than I want to throw at it, and is at best a gray market mod.

Jay G said...

[cringes remembering, well, (almost) all American cars from the late 1970s and all 1980s...]

Tam said...

Jay G,

"...all 1980s..."

I dunno, I'd date the beginning of the modern performance renaissance to '85 or so, with the appearance of the TPI GM small-block, the first 5.0 Mustangs that were legitimately quick, and Chrysler stuffing turbo 2.2's in everything but their rolling desk chairs...

That'd make the Dark Ages run from '74 to '84, a nice round ten years.

Just My 2¢ said...

Ya know... my wife drives a restored 1972 VW Superbeetle. It gets great milage, but you would never be able to get the like now adays. The whole reason that VW killed the bug was because there was no place to shove a catalytic converter between the engine and the exhaust.

There IS hope, however. Folks are licensing 2 & 4 passenger 4-wheelers and running them on the street as commuter vehicles. Since they aren't automobiles, they don't carry the same regulatory baggage. 'Course that will change as soon as somebody gets killed in a collision.

MedicMatthew said...

Screw the Toyota Pious, er Prius.
In my VW TDI I'm getting up to 54mpg on a stock 1.9 liter 90hp engine with no mods (yet).
It's got enough torque to be pretty damn peppy as it is.

I get better fuel efficiency than most hybrids and without those pesky batteries that can never be recycled and will sit in a landfill for all eternity

Mileage varies according to driving conditions & methods- it's a 5-speed, by coasting when possible I saw a 3mpg jump.
The 7/27 fuel up was after running a full tank with a faulty MAP sensor & manifold temp sensor that were shutting off the turbo.


This is about 50/50 city/highway driving and my highway driving is at 75-80mph.

Bubblehead Les. said...

I'd go back to '73 because of the weight (and the disgusting way they screwed up the cars looks) of the Nanny States 5 MPH Bumpers that were mandated, plus by then, lots of the good engines were being pulled from the Market. Then came the First Oil Embargo, so I'd say 1972 was the end of the First Golden Age.

Tam said...

Bubblehead Les,

'73 was the last year for the first-generation Mustang, so it makes a handy cutoff date. (It's also the last year for Chrysler's 340, which wouldn't meet '74 emissions regs.)

Bubblehead Les. said...

Tam, I'd fight you over this, but then we'd be quibbling over which car had the best colors. It's all close enough for Gooberment Work. But correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't '72 the last year one could get the Mopar 426 Hemi? Or did they kill it off a year earlier?

Tam said...

'71 was the last year for the Hemi and '72 for the 440 6-Pack (although they only made a handful in '72.)

Tango Juliet said...

IIRC, '72 ushered in the first anti-smogmobiles nationwide and with it, performance, both in terms of power and economy.

Dialed back timing to reduce emissions and all that jazz.

bedlamite said...

Years ago a friend of mine had a Chevette Diesel automatic. 52 mpg no matter how or where it was driven. Top speed: 55-65 mph depending on the grade and wind. It had a cruise control; that was the brick on the floor of the drivers side that you flipped onto the accelerator when the light turned green. My '64 Bug with the 1200cc engine was faster.

Tam said...

Tango Juliet,

Also, '74 was the first year of the NMSL, the first year with 5mph bumpers fore and aft, and the last year without catalytic converters.

(My first car was a '74...)

B said...

I love small cars. Specifically light cars. Light by modern standards (and my definition) means 3000 lbs or less. There are fewer and fewer light cars available today, so I guess I'll be driving old cars (nimble little things with fewer gadgets & better economy) for the rest of my life.

My current car, a 1998 BMW 323is, is just barely over 3000. My last car, a 1995 Nissan Maxima, was just barely over 3000. My fun car, a 1994 Miata, is way under at 2100. But even with the little Mazda in the garage, I find myself wondering how I could get my hands on a really light car like a Lotus elan. I can dream...

theirritablearchitect said...

"...the first 5.0 Mustangs that were legitimately quick,"

Interesting timeline you have there, but I'd argue that it may have started a couple-three years earlier for the Mustang. It was able to run circles around those cross-fire injected POS 'Vettes of the time, even with only the 2-barrel and smog heads of the day. I'd agree, however, that the last carb-equipped '85 models marked the start of a performance awakening in the automotive world, in the U.S. at least.

Tam said...


Yup. The Zed Drei is a '98 model as well, and at 2800 lbs, is substantially heavier than my '97 924S was, and only a hundred pounds or so lighter than my '79 280ZX 2+2, a car derided in its day as a lard-bottomed boulevardier.

Tam said...

(Make that an '87 924S. The '97 models are ultra rare. ;) )

Angus McThag said...

'Twas insurance rates what killed the early 70's muscle cars not mileage. Emissions started in but hard in '74 finishing off the scraps remaining. Mileage comes a bit later on and makes it appear that performance cars would never return. Thank the Gods for the microprocessor and the fuel injector!

The second gen Camaro (70-81) did not come with a 4-banger, ever. The Iron-Duke first appeared in the third-gens (82-92).

Tam said...


Yes, the ads to which I am referring are for the Brand New '82 Camaro.

Daddy Hawk said...

So much nostalgia, so little time. My first car was a '73 T-Bird...all 4800+ pounds of it. It had the 460 with the 4 barrel carb that would drain a gas tank faster than anything but my friend's '73 Mustang souped up with dual carbs on a tunnel ram intake. The hood would sleep four people comfortably. Compare that lane yacht against the 2000 Nissan Maxima sitting in the driveway with 311,000 miles on it. The Maxima will get 35 miles to the gallon if you know how to drive it right...and it's paid for. I do still yearn for the '70 Datsun 240z I had for a while. Easy to work on. Fast, quick and reasonable.

Ed Foster said...

Everybody was good today, but I have to give first kudos to MedicMathew for the "Toyota Pius".

And I still think a radial aircooled three cylinder diesel of about 75 to 90 ponies is the way to go for a 2800-3000 pound vehicle, with a second bank added for trucks and larger vehicles.

Big, hollow 7075T6 aluminum frame serving as the fuel tank, and an all alcohol standard ignition version running at about 12 to 1 ratio for places like L.A.

There is NO technological reason for mixing gasoline and alcohol at all, other than minor amounts used as drygas. Alky has 20% less energy than Gas, and usually used up at least a gallon equivalent of gas, diesel, natgas or LPG.

With the aforementioned 12 to 1, it's higher octane rating gives back much of what was lost to the fewer calories, and does make sense in a "wind trap" like southern California.

Run at a standard 8 or 9 to one ratio in an essentially unmodified gas engine, it reduces mileage and runs up our food costs. E85 has to be one of the greater dupes recently hung on the suckers, which means it fits right well with the Pius driving Glueball Wormening worshiping Luddites.

B.S. philosopher said...

Small factual error. The Iron Duke wasn't an option in the '79 Camaro. The smallest engine that year was the 250 inline six. In 1980 the smallest engine was the 229 V-6, basically a 305 less two cylinders. A 231 cid V-6 was also available in '80 and '81. The first year a 4 cylinder was shamefully available in a Camaro was for the 1982 model year IIRC. That was the new smaller body-style completely different from the heavier 70-81 2nd gen car. That would be two years AFTER the '79 crisis assuming an August 1981 availability on a 1982 model year.

Murphy's Law said...

My used Ford Fiesta got 40MPG back in 1985...until it was totaled in a parking lot fender bender.

I'm so just going to buy another mid-60's Mustang and be done with it. When the rest of you drive more fuel-efficient cars, there will be just that much more gas for me and my fun cars.

Tam said...

B.S. Philosopher,

I didn't say it was. (See comment two above yours.)

Can we agree that the '82 F-bodies were designed "in the wake of the '79 Energy Crisis"?

Tam said...

Murphy's Law,

Haven't been following the comment thread, I see. ;)

Drang said...

Chrysler stuffing turbo 2.2's in everything but their rolling desk chairs...
Still kick myself for passing on that Omni GLH. It would have been almost as hard for me to get in and out of as Mrs. Drang's 240SX has become, but still...

Justthisguy said...

Oh, how I miss my '83 Mazda B-2000!
It would get about 38 miles/gal. on the highway. I could drive it from Southern FL to Atlanta on one tank of gas. There were head gasket warranty issues with some of them, and I suspect the head and block faces on mine might have been re-shaved at the factory, as the thing had a tendency to ping at large throttle openings and low speeds on the gasoline it was supposed to run on.

I miss my '81 Courier even harder, as it had no carpets, had a vinyl bench seat, non-locking steering wheel, no AC or radio, no door beams, no safety bombs... The Sweetie and I survived a rather nasty wreck in it with no injuries but for being slightly sore for a day or two. The crash harnesses were sufficient.

WV: money. Yeah, that's good stuff to have.

Butch_S said...

B: "I find myself wondering how I could get my hands on a really light car like a Lotus elan."

Pull the power train out of your Miata, sell the rest on eBay to the spec racer crowd.

Find a copy of Keith Tanner's How to Build a Cheap Sports Car, and follow it. The result a Lotus 7 replica roughly 600 pounds lighter than the Miata.


theirritablearchitect said...


I'll take that Miata carcass, thankyouverymuch.

In goes the 'Roided 5.0 that I'd build for it...and now we've fixed the power-to-weight ratio issue.

wv: no shit here, entice - yes, I must say I am.

Tam said...


I've driven a couple of 5.0 powered Miatas. They were nose-heavy and wanted to understeer like an S.O.B., but you could fix that by just giving the gas pedal a harsh look, whereupon the thing would get gloriously sideways. :)

Anonymous said...

Car Nerds.

Jeez guys, do you guys get some sort of evil thrill knowing all that trivia about the worst cars "engineered", in the US quality equivalent of the the British bumper stickers that used to say" all the parts falling off this car are of the finest British manufacture"?

I mean seriously, I can respect train spotting detail on knowing details the Buggati Veyron, the peppy Porsches, and old Duesenbergs, or 50 and 60's muscle cars, but knowing the cruel details of Camaro's when they had anemic power?

You all are masochists. I'm sure you are looking looking forward to the mandated 54mpg CAFE regs too , so you can all whimper "more please, it hurts so good to see a 4000lb safety box with 0-60 in 25seconds - if you drop it out of the back of an aeroplane."

abnormalist said...

Performance MPG cars are fairly easy to come by these days... Just look to anything VW that say GTI on it :-)

A few years back I had a 98 GTI VR6 that was stupid fast for the era, and if you drove it reasonably could pull about 30MPG freeway. Triple digit speeds still returned 25MPG all day long.

Right now I have a nice 99 Miata as my drop top two seat toy, and for practical stuff a Scion XD. I can pull about 40MPG freeway in the scion if I respect the speed limit, it can carry myself, the wife, both kids comfortably and a pile of guns all at the same time.

The only car I owned that was born during the dark days was a 81 'Rustang with the 200 straight six. A header and dual two barrels on that though spiced it up sufficiently

Robert said...

" I find myself wondering how I could get my hands on a really light car like a Lotus elan. "

Friend had a Elan. 1700 pounds and managed to tweak the engine to about 250 HP. That's like 500+ HP in an average sized car.

Anonymous said...

Bought new:

'74 Gran Torino w/ 302 2bll weighed two tons and got 8-9 mpg, but had a 24 gal. tank which came in handy as you idled in block-long lines to get 10 gal. so you'd have enough to go around and get back in line. Still, I was 20 and it was my first new car; chocolate metallic with 6-ft long doors, a vinyl roof and "opera" windows, so it gets a pass...

'76 Mercury Capri sold in '75 as an early '76 model w/2.3L four and a stick. Wonderful little car and I shoulda kept it longer. Peppy, fun, and economical. This was before Capri was just a rebadged Mustang, which that year was an abortion called Mustang II; it was really a little German car, which explains why it was wonderful.

'76 Chev Monte Carlo was a radically beautiful design at the time, and the worst POS I ever owned...and the last American branded non-truck. 305 ci returned about 15 mpg 'til it burned a hole in a piston at 2500 mi.

'79 Datsun cum Nissan 280ZX bought because it was Motor Trend's Car of the Year (recheck those attic mags, Tam). I loved it. Yes, it was a little fat and soft in the rear (bottomed the shocks when shifting hard) compared to those great little Spartan early gen Z's, and I imagine that long turd of a 2+2 version was much worse. But it was a blast to drive and cruise the beaches in, that rose-colored rearview probably somewhat related to that being the year I was temporarily single in Palm Beach with money to burn and bitches to spurn :). Yeah, I had to line up for gas again, but it sipped fairly petitely, and it was so worth it.

So what caused that big Detroit crash of the mid-70's? A combination of factors, as others have said. But I'll put the bulk of the blame squarely on Corporate. The so-called oil shortage of '74 was in the pipeline, so to speak, as early as '68-'69. That's when Toyota started pumping out those cute little Corolla things, and the first mini-pickups, so that in '71-'72 in my last years of high school they were muscling out the muscle cars in the rich kids section of the student lot.

The writing was on the wall, yet Detroit decided to milk the success and profit of their prior dominance, and Japan bit the hand that fed them, and then ate their fucking lunch...took the Big 3 a decade to retool and recover somewhat, and of course by that time the auto biz was truly global. You know how in the mid-80's an upstart outfit calling itself Wal-Mart was nipping the heels of the monolith big K, which laughed them off and kept to business as usual? That's what happened to the US auto business in the 70's. K-Mart nevered recovered and never will. As to Detroit...???

After a dry spell due to family responsibilities and the Reagan Recession (oh yes it was; it took years of pain to turn that giant peanut around), I got back to my little vice of car-buying in '87 with two Toyotas; a Corolla and a tiny truck. I've since gone back to American trucks, but haven't bought a (new) USA branded car since that f'n Monte Carlo. A string of Toyotas and Hondas in '87, '90, '92, '94, and '96 have been succeeded by little Germans from '98 forward. And right now I see no reason, mpg or otherwise, to reverse that trend.


Ruth said...

Gosh that makes me want my '91 Civic again....itsy bitsy hatchback, with the smaller engine in it. No airbags, no power anything (It didn't even have a cig lighter). Had awesome pickup and go, I hit over 100mph in it once, got over 40mpg on the highway till the day timing belt broke when it was 16yrs old. Then I sold it for $100 to some guy who fixed the engine and what not himself, and last I checked he was still driving it and still getting the same gas milage. *sigh*

Woodman said...

1988 Ford Festiva. Over 40mpg at 20 years old. I bought it for $300 in 1999 and put 100k miles on it in two years, followed by several years in a garage when the clutch quit. Sold it to my step daughter for a $300 clutch replacement and she drove it for three years.

Over 200k miles when we sold it, for $250.

The whole car was a crumple zone, but it did just fine until the tailpipe corroded all the way off and it was so loud it was doing damage to my daughter's hearing.

Of course, it was a Korean/Canadian/Ford, not a real 'merican car. Impossible to kill that damn thing though.

Chuck Pergiel said...

Diesels are evil. I don't care if they smash the oil just as it came out of the ground, like god intended.

CGHill said...

Weight is the enemy of fuel economy and handling. (That "road-hugging weight" in the Fifties? Well, you should have seen those antediluvian suspension designs.)

My current ride weighs 400 lb more than its predecessor (same model year), and those 97 extra ponies drink quite a bit. Is it worth four seconds faster zero to sixty? Sometimes.

(WV: aniliki. Describes several unctuous media types you probably know.)

og said...

As much as I've been thinking about shooting brakes these days, I've given some serious thought to putting my hands on a Bobcat wagon, taking a GT-40 headed 302 out of a sploder, coupling it to that nice Borg Warner T-5 transmission, a narrowed Ford 9 inch pig, and bolting on the Mustang 2 doghouse- they call it a Muscat. I'd have to make some serious changes to the suspension, but it could be done.

There's just something about a nose heavy light car with mucho cojones that appeals to me.

bedlamite said...

Here's an alternative to the nose heavy V8 Miata The right turbo setup should satisfy your sideways urges.

Tam said...


"Motor Trend's Car of the Year (recheck those attic mags, Tam)."

MT was for plush-bottom yayhoos and their "Car Of The Year" was payola and every gearhead knew it. ;)

Old NFO said...

I picked up a Datsun 510 with an L16 engine and 4 speed in 74 when my Vette got stolen, went from 6mpg to 30 mpg in Hawaii... I could damn near drive for a month on one fill up!

Anonymous said...

"MT was for plush-bottom yayhoos and their "Car Of The Year" was payola and every gearhead knew it. ;)"

Well of course. Those ZX's were damn sure a lure for the plush-bottoms I was after; let's say they had a broad appeal ;)...

And if effective promotion is payola then every mag, every show, and every commercial blog could be called payola too. Every "gearhead" of every ilk is really just another mark, and every amused and aloof observer knows *that*.

It's all just so darn relative and subjective, ain't it?


Tam said...


I loved my '79 280ZX, even if it was a 2+2.

Sure, it was a soft, plush-bottomed boulevardier compared to the 240/60/80Z's that came vefore it, but it was a knife-edged dueler compared to a '79 Camaro mullet-mobile. :)

(But Motor Trend's "Car Of The Year" is still payola, and every gearhead knows it. :p )

Anonymous said...

Yes it "is", not "was". And every *everybody* knows it. It's the American way!

I was gonna say, if as I inferred from your original quip you were a 10-year-old girl car nut, that would be quite a rarity.

Then I remembered we're talking about you. :)


drew458 said...

Most overlooked performance car of the early 80s: 1984 Dodge Colt Turbo. At less than 1900 pounds, 91" wheelbase, it had the "huge" 1.6 liter engine that made just 105hp but had scads of low end torque. Coupled to the dual-stick 8 speed manual transmission, this ugly little bucket could eat Omni GLH Turbos, or any other Mopar turbo for sale, all day long. Or any new Camaro or Firebird. With only 70hp less than the 84 Mustang GT, but weighing in nearly 1000 pounds less, the Colt was usually faster. And if the Mustang guys really tromped on it, they were liable to break the rear axle. Oops. Brand new, I think the 84 turbo Colt cost about $1.79 or something ridiculous like that.

Oh, and if you could resist the urge to tromp on the gas, they'd give back 45mpg or better on the tank. And you could fling them through the corners like a maniac.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Well, my first 3 cars were a 67, then 68, then another 67 Chrysler Newport 4 door, all with the 383 Four Barrel. SLOOOW off the line, handled like a Fishing Trawler, but when you wanted to cruise from Ohio to Texas, they were Sweet! No joke, one could easily could put 3 Six Foot Tall Bodies in the Trunk, because that's how I snuck my friends into the Drive-In.

Fast forward to 1982, bought my First New Car, a Dodge Omni 024. 1.5 VW Engine, no turbo, stick, but it got 35 MPG on the Highway, and under the 55 MPH speed limit, it was good enough.

Yesterday, I took my '07 Honda Fit down to West By God from Cleveland and Back, and I got...35 MPG. So after 30+ years of CAFE Crap, and 25 years of Technological Innovation, I have ZERO improvement in Gas Mileage. But I guess I'm supposed to be Safer and Greener.

You know, I have a 400 SBC with the 4 Bolt Mains sitting in my garage from an old '74 Impala I once owned. I have the Vortec Heads sitting on a 350 SBC that is moving my Pick Up around. Now if I drill out the steam holes, and find me a rust free 2nd Gen Camaro or Firebird....

Gnarly Sheen said...

You can bet your ass if it comes down to saving Gaia, saving gas money, or saving your ass, people will invariably pick the last.

The thing with those old, tiny cars was that they seemed safe if you were the one running into something, because there just wasn't any energy behind it. Something hitting you on the other hand...

Anonymous said...

Tam - All but the most wretched clean-it-out-with-hose loss leaders on your neighborhood dealer's lots are stuffed full of things that used to be considered amenities: power windows, remote adjustable mirrors, power door locks with remote. Automatic transmissions outnumber manuals in passenger cars by a staggering margin, and even performance-oriented cars are like as not to have some paddle-shifted clutchless setup rather than the classic three-pedal row-your-own.

We just bought a Honda Fit to be my commuter car, replacing the CRV I was driving. MPG went from 27 to 36, which is a nice increase. I suspect that it would be even better if the Fit didn't have all the crap you list PLUS an automatic transmission because my wife (like many Americans these days) finds using a clutch to be only slightly easier than building a space shuttle using common household materials.

How DID we survive in the days when the average car had nothing more than a manual transmission, vinyl seats and floor mats, hand-cranked windows, manual door locks, single-speed windshield wipers, and an AM radio with one speaker???

The other problem with modern cars is all the electronic gadgets required simply to get the engine to run. The days of the shade-tree mechanic are over.

Anonymous said...

1990 Plymouth Acclaim.
Room for 6 AMERICANS

Miss it.

I inherited Mom's 88 Reliant. May add a turbo to the 2.5l four. Hmmm.

Ulises from CA

Larry said...

The new Mustang gets 305hp and 31mpg out of it's six cylinder.
The V8 has 412hp and I am getting 22.5 combined out of the 'vert.
Compare that to the 81 Rampage I had before that was powerful enough to pull dandelions up (if you didn't want the roots) and got 28mpg.
Yes I owned a Rampage. Yes, I'm pathetic enough to admit it.

Anonymous said...

Many modern cars get BETTER mileage with their automatic than with a manual (if the latter is available). The new Mustang V6 is one of those. And you can work on these cars too. It just takes a slightly different skill set and a few additional tools. The days of the shade tree mechanic are far from over.


Woodman said...

You can bet your ass if it comes down to saving Gaia, saving gas money, or saving your ass, people will invariably pick the last.

The thing with those old, tiny cars was that they seemed safe if you were the one running into something, because there just wasn't any energy behind it. Something hitting you on the other hand...

And I guess that's part of the problem. The SUV explosion has killed the tin can. One of the reasons small cars are so dangerous is Sally homemaker loading the Suburban with 1.2 kids and a soccer ball and texting her husband on the way to practice. (Feel free to mix and match genders in the stereotype)

Oddly enough, I see a lot more SUVs and vans in accidents than work trucks or panel vans. I had to take a course in the military before they let me drive a Hummer, but on the outside they'll just hand you the keys to something 5 times the size of your prior car without blinking.

Cargosquid said...

All of these great comments and not one comment about this?

"wouldn't accelerate hard enough to pull a greased string out of a cat's ass"

THAT right there is pure gold.

I still miss my 87 Honda Accord Hatchback with a stick. Used like a truck and a sports cars. 14 years of hard driving and poor service, including a major wreck, and it still got 28 mpg city/ 32 hwy. And it was TOUGH.

Only got rid of it because a new a/c was more expensive than the car since the gov't interfered with the freon..... And you need a/c during the summer in VA if you have a baby.

Angus McThag said...

We car nerds know all about this because it's good to know your enemy!

Also to avoid buying a used one as a project car.

That 280Z embarrassed the Camaro.

If one is stubborn and willing to spend the time and money on it, you can build a second generation Camaro to perform with anything out there. It will also likely be less reliable and more uncomfortable too. My '79 could hold its own with mid-80's ZR-1 Vettes. But where they were just driving their cars, in air conditioned comfort; I was wrenching and welding and troubleshooting about 55% of the time. With no AC! With what I was spending on fixing the damn thing I could likely have made a car payment and had a genuine ZR-1; or at least with the time saved I could have had a second job that could have made that payment.

All things considered, I really like my '08 Vette. Starts every time, AC works, fun to drive, 21 mpg in town without playing the max-miler game (26 if you do).

Tam said...


"That 280Z embarrassed the Camaro."

Mine was a 280ZX (and a 2+2 at that...)

Big difference between the 280Z and its 280ZX replacement: The latter was heavier, had a squishier suspension, and came with more creature comforts. By comparison, the earlier Z's were bare-knuckle fighters (and better-looking, too.)

Funny Story: I was working in small-town Georgia and called the local stereo shop for an adapter kit to put a CD player in "my '79 Z-car."

I got there to find that they were holding a kit for a '79 Camaro.

"No, not 'Z-28'; '280ZX!"
"Oh, you said 'Z-car'."

Anonymous said...

That little open compartment in the center dash console was there for the dealer-installed tape deck which I added; a separate unit from the stereo and about the size of a small cigar box. And I'm not sure about the guys at that stereo shop; the Datsun Z's had a reputation at that time that had eclipsed what passed for a performance Camaro of the same year, and the term was far more universally used among "gearheads" then when speaking of the Jap. Had you told them a '69 Z-car, now that would have been totally understandable. Maybe by the time you had yours (10 years later?), that had changed.

As to this: "...the earlier Z's were bare-knuckle fighters (and better-looking, too.)"

No doubt about the first point, much the same as a BMW 2002 and an Audi Fox compare to later, more "refined" versions.

And the '78 Z was (is) indeed a beautiful thing. But while purists will always prefer originals, the refinements made the '79 a better choice for me, both as a babe magnet (cut me a break, I was 25) and for cruising back and forth from Palm Beach to Valdosta to see my daughters (teen dad, hence my temporary single status). And the (re)designers did a great job of maintaining those beautiful lines and incorporating the fore and aft cowcatchers into the ZX contours, unlike the hideous afterthoughts that plagued the Z.

Except when it came to the 2+2 of course. What those back "seats" did to that gorgeous profile...so in that case, I agree with you on point number two also. But any who care to Google up pics of the three can decide for themselves, on looks alone, which is the more attractive iteration...unless you'd like to post some profile pics here. :)

In my case, the double page spread in Motor Trend's Import Car of the Year issue sold me (not the shills, TK). Sold a bunch more folks too; sales went through the roof. Yeah I know, that's another neg for purists, but purists don't feed the bulldog.

Geez, why does my every little reminisce have to be a frickin' novella?


Tam said...

Boy, once you get the bit between your teeth...

Anonymous said...

Yup, or a whip on my ass...:) AT

Will said...

My '65 Mustang 2+2 4sp with a replacement '68 302 2bbl gave 33mpg highway. Came with a 2.80 open rear. Rated @170hp. Weighed 2800 lbs without the bumpers. (dragstrip weigh-in)

My '86 Colt Turbo (1.6L, 100hp) gave 25mpg combined, 30mpg highway. Actually making boost @70mph doing it. Dad talked me out of it for use as a dinghy for his motorhome.

My '83 Mazda B2200 longbed diesel gave 34mpg combined, 42mpg highway @ 55-60mph, 28mpg @ 80-85mph (loaded w/2 racebikes). 57 hp@ 4000rpm's! Sounded like a sewing machine @80mph.

My '71 Mustang 429 Super Cobra Jet(auto!) gave 5mpg town, 10-12 highway, with a 4.11 Detroit Locker rear. NHRA rated stock @ 475hp (Ford claimed 370hp).

Would love to have any, or all, back. (The '71 only because it's a valuable ($40k+) collectible now.

Angus McThag said...

I'm willing to bet that the ZX would also embarrass the wallowing twisting pig that was the stock '79 Camaro Berlinetta.

All stiffening seemed to do was move stress to some other place that would start to crack or tear. Must have added at least 80 pounds in stiffening by the time I was done; on top of what the subframe connectors massed.

Then having to redo a hunk of it when we fixed the A-arm geometry...

I seriously considered buying a boat because it would waste LESS money.