Stuff That’s Gone Away

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I guess everyone gets to that point in life where they start to say,  “I remember when… . ” Here’s some from me:

* Economy cars were rear-wheel-drive –

Today, only a handful of cars – most of them high-end cars – are rear wheel drive. But back in the day – the ’60s, ’70s and into the ’80s – most cars were rear-wheel-drive and that included most economy cars. Pintos, Vegas, Chevettes – even imports like the Datsun B210 and of course, the old Beetle – were burnout-capable (assuming there was a little black ice on the pavement). Vegas – and even Chevettes – were popular as sleeper hot rod projects and bracket racers, because of their RWD layout. Stuff a big V-8 into a Vega (or a V-6 into a Chevette) and you had an M80 on wheels – and for cheap, too. That’s the other thing about RWD econo-cars: Their mechanicals were the essence of simplicity, which made them genuinely economical in a way that modern economy cars aren’t. No CV joints to fuss with. You had a solid beam axle that would outlast the car instead. A pair of shocks – $40 for the pair – instead of $200 for a set of struts. True, you usually only got a gas gauge and a speedometer and a dial-control one speaker AM/FM radio – but you also didn’t get a $300 a month payment for the next five years. I miss that. And being able to spin the rear tires, too.

* White-lettered tires –

I just put a set of factory-correct raised white letter tires on one of my old bikes. But you never see white lettered tires on cars anymore. They’ve gone the way of whitewall tires. It’s all blackwall now – and so, tires all look just the same. Which is a shame. Tires used to be a signature element of a given car’s look. Anyone who remembers Firestone Wide Ovals or the BF Goodrich Radial TA will know what I mean. The style of the lettering – and the name of the tire itself, boldy called out – added something to the car that’s absent today. Goodyear Wingfoots with the cool checkered flag. The Eagle GT. Even the el-cheapos they used to sell at places like Pep Boys were fun. I remember buying a set of Revenger HP tires for my old Camaro back in the late ’80s. They were the perfect accessory for the primered rear quarter panels and glass pack’d exhaust.

* Air shocks –

This one’ll take you back. Well, it takes me back. The leaf-sprung muscle cars of the ’60s and ’70s tended to sag in the tail after ten years or so – which was right around the time my generation (Generation X) got their hands on them as their first/high-school cars in the early ’80s. One of the first things many of us did was to go to local auto parts store and buy a set of Gabriel Hi-Jacker air shocks to give the car the proper nose down, ass up attitude. It looked cool – but transferred too much weight onto the already worn-out, overburdened front end while simultaneously unloading the already too-light rear end. Already marginal handling and braking was thereby rendered downright catastrophic in the event of sudden inputs. You learned to drive carefully – and preferably, in straight lines only. The best part, though, was when the air line to the shocks frayed or came loose and they lost air pressure. Instant low-rider! At least, partially. Now, instead of looking down at the pavement, you looked up at the sky. It made for fun times. If you weren’t there, you’ll never know!

* Buying a stereo for your car –

I guess people still do this – but it’s not as default standard as it once was. This is good – or bad – depending on your point-of-view. For the past two decades at least, factory stereos have been both pretty good and pretty thoroughly integrated into the dashboard. It’s not like it was once, when radios were all more or less shaped the same and interchangeable – which also made them attractive targets for thievery, incidentally. You don’t see much car stereo theft anymore – because most factory stereos only fit the make/model of car they came in – and removing them is no easy thing, even if you could use the thing in another car. Still, I had some good times going to the car stereo place to window shop – and spent some (mostly) enjoyable hours putting in a new rig in my car or a friend’s car. It was a way to customize your machine – and make it something uniquely yours. We’ve lost that – and I miss it.

* Affordable gas –

My god, it was not all that long ago that one could fill up the 21 gallon tank of a V-8 muscle car for about $25. Which made it feasible for even a high school kid to own a V-8 muscle car.  My high school parking lot was filled with SS Chevelles, cruddy but still running GTOs, 289 Hi Po Mustangs and a plethora of Camaros. The richer kids had new Mustangs and Camaros. IROC-Zs and “5.0” GTs. A part-time, after-school job at McDonalds at the then-minimum wage of about $3.35 an hour was sufficient to keep the motors running. Gas is still cheap today – but thanks to Fed funny money, it takes more dollars to buy. If you use the current price of regular unleaded – about $4 a gallon –  as the measure, we’ve been impoverished by more than 50 percent since the mid-1980s. The same 21 gallons of gas now costs about $84 – too rich for most middle-aged wage slaves, let alone a 17-year-old working part time as a fry chef.

We had some good times. Maybe someday, we will again.

Throw it in the Woods


  1. One thing that’s gone away is childhood. We’re stuck in an age where empty-sack heartless old men deep in the throes of manopause suck the very living marrow out of every young bone. The starving youth clutch feebly texts s.o.s. to each other, vainly in search of their natural rda of wild oats, bruised and bloody beaks, and preening and prancing young pullets.
    Off with the head of any wayward young malchick who dare cluck up the barnyard of their ancient eggless hen elders and shriveled cock-of-the-walkers.

  2. Ok I got one.

    As far as why white wall tires have disappeared, I think it is the same reason vinyl tops, wire spoke wheel covers, bench seats, opera lights and column mounted shifters have disappeared.

    They were tacky looking.

    Now the thing I remember as a kid in the 70s that is gone now:

    How about vent windows?

    Remember these? It was a small triangle shaped window in front of the regular window. You could turn the thing sideways to let some air in. I explain this because some of you youngsters may never have seen a car that has them.

    When I was a kid it seemed like every car had these, then they just disappeared. My 90 Miata has them, or a facsimile of them. They don’t open though.

    • Shoot. This was a bit before my day, but I have been some vehicles with side floor vents that would open and let outside air in near your feet! That is pretty cool. And yes, I remember the vent windows. I had a couple trucks with them.

      • I miss quarter panel windows that pop open. Makes for good and relatively quiet airflow. We are just supposed to use the ac now…

    • Tires were originally white, that was the color of rubber after being made into tires. This is why the Michelin man is white. Vulcanization made the tires black. I believe white walls were to replicate the earlier look. But those were nearly the entire sidewall. They got smaller and smaller until they vanished.

      • Natural rubber is tan,(although latex sap is white) carbon is mixed into the rubber to block light reducing ultraviolet light damage to the rubber.
        White sidewalls are a white layer on top of the black rubber.
        White sidewalls were , in my personal belief, a status thing to show that the owner was wealthy as his car did not have to be driven on gravel and dirt roads. When essentially all roads were paved, the status symbol lost its meaning. [ my personal theory of it]
        In addition to plain old black and white, there have been red tires and sidewalls in green, red, yellow and blue.

    • Bench seats and column-mounted shifters disappeared as a result of the inane trend that has convinced everyone that being “sporty” is the shit. Thus, even luxury cars are fitted out like sports cars, with hooded gauge pods, bucket seats and consoles. Look at me, I’m sporty! Even though I am driving my 360 hp luxury-sport sedan at perhaps 5 MPH over the under-posted speed limit….

      • Having used column shifting cars, I am happy to see that troublesome shift linkage disappear.

        The shorter and more direct the linkage is, the better the result. Some after-market floor shift linkages do not work well either.

  3. The thing I miss are the people that don’t want any part of something fake.
    We used to laugh at the British powdered wigs, matching red uniforms, and kneehigh pants.
    We used to hate the way the Chinese all had the same hair cut and wore the same color clothes.
    We used to hate standing in lines like the Soviets.
    We used to hate marching in lines like the Italians or Germans.
    We used to hate violent enforced group conformity like the Japanese, Muslims, Christians, Jews, & Spaniards.

    The founders hated standing armies with no purpose. You war machine lovers are the worst traitors of all, may you find yourself in East Detroit when the EBT cards run out.

    • We used to hate handing over our papers! Now if you get pulled over they demand papers (cards) from everyone in the car. I got asked for my papers once in Monterey Ca. just for waiting for my buddy to close up shop. I still had my army boots on so I did the whole snap the boots together, and gave him a Hitler solute, didn’t say a word then walked away. The commie pinko didn’t know what to do and did nothing. I’m a large mammal and not exactly white so that probably realy freaked him out.

  4. My first pickup was a 1980 GM custom. Straight 6, three on the tree, two wheel drive, AM sterio, not even a dome light and the dimmer switch was on the floor where it should be. The triangle window. I paid 1,500 bucks for it. Mint.

    I added a sparkomatic sterio, 6 by nines across the entire back seat and two home sterio speakers behind the seat. Amp under the seat, a cassette deck that recorded (even had a microphone). Then I added a sun roof and sliding back window. Pin striped it, white letter tires, Roll bar with fog lights. Tinted the windows with the plastic stick on stuff. I bolted a bus seat in the box so I could add more freinds when we cruised town drinking beer. Sometimes we would buy a keg, park at the car wash and sell cups of beer to pay for it. (If the cops got called the worst they would do was to tell us to get out of town) Tinted plexiglass over the headlights. White rims, fat slicks on the back that barely fit. Ripped out the catalytic converter so I could run Regular gas that was less than a buck a gallon, while the attendent washed my windows, checked the tire pressure and oil. Added a two barrel holly. Even with just that straight six I could toodle along at 10 miles and hour dump the clutch and roast em. I got pulled over 18 times one summer alone for excessive noise and never got a ticket. I loved that truck.

    Drivers ed was two hours of watching corny blood on the road video’s, the driving part of the test was going to McDonalds and back with the instructor (we went in and ate). This of course was done during school hours, the instructor was our shop teacher, his cronic halitocis and funky body odor was the only dangerous part.

    Believe it or not they actually have banned the kids from cruising, how could they do that? They all did it? Don’t even think about driving aroud in a truck with kids in the back.

    • Regarding cruising…

      Cruising has always been a mild problem for police.

      But before the 90’s it wasn’t banned outright because it was manageable. After that period, many cruise nights simply turned into very one-sided wars.

      I used to cruise in Richmond VA with friends from my high school, from about 1980 through the mid-80’s. The only time I saw one of my cruise-mates littering was due to the open container laws: I asked him why he was putting all his empty beer cans in the street gutter, and he said “because a single open beer can will get you locked up.” I understood immediately.

      [Chalk up another victory for (or perhaps unintended consequence of) “zero tolerance”.]

      In five or more years of cruising — I NEVER saw even a fight.

      The group I hung out with were a racially-mixed group (albeit all thoroughly middle-class). Some of us dated across racial lines, and would come to cruise night with our dates. I brought such a date to several cruise nights, and she was accepted just like any other.

      We were also brand-diverse. I drove my 69 Ambassador 390 2-door hardtop; we had another guy who had an awesome 69 Charger 383 who I loved to race, a kid with a GenI Camaro that had been converted from a six cylinder to a 396, and a couple of Ford guys.

      At no time in all the years I cruised, right up to ’85, did I ever witness a fight.

      But then things started changing, and very rapidly. About the time I stopped going, thugs began showing up. The beat-downs began and fights became common. Last time I ever cruised, I was sitting nearby when a thugscrum walking along the sidewalk suddenly attacked two guys who were facing away from them, working under the hood of their car. The two had not said even one word to the thugs. A half-dozen of us chased off the hoodlums, but that was it for me and a lot of my friends. I got tired of hearing all the angry thugs screaming obscenities and threatening people, and the last straw was witnessing those animals attack two young men who had done nothing to them. I never went back after that.

      A few others kept going; but by the early 90’s some of the middle-class kids from the ‘burbs ended up getting shot by the trash. Rubbish-strewn streets became the norm and spilled blood common, and the normal kids abandoned cruising to the thugs.

      Who wants that kind of crap on their streets?

  5. What I miss most is the demise of the Peace Officer and the birth of a LEO. My first vehicle, at age 16, was a beat CX500 that still had some pep left in the engine. I’d flog it mercilessly around town when road conditions allowed – once I rode through a stop sign, and twice I got pulled over for speeding – in all three cases I admitted knowingly violating the statute but pointed out that the roads were empty and I was endangering no one, and twice I was given a pass by reasonable men who and told to go and sin no more, and once given a written warning(for the stop sign), but not a ticket. These days, those same victimless crimes would no doubt require that I be handcuffed, sodomized with a flashlight, beat to within an inch of my life, and then booked for ‘assaulting an officer’ to explain my bruises.

    • Alex,

      I remember those days, too – long gone now. It was routine – normal – at one time in this country to get out of your vehicle when pulled over to talk with the cop, who as you say, was (in those days) if not reasonable at least not a steroid-jacked bully – and even if he was, there were rules: You (the cops) didn’t just assault people over minor traffic infractions, even if they made it plain they were unhappy about being ticketed. Sure, there were bad cops then – and excessive use of force, too. But it was not routine and normalized, as it has become today. That’s the difference.

  6. Loved the article, Eric. Received the link from I know not too much about (only a little) about those days, as I was born in ’81, but to read of them and the comments… I miss the hell out of them. Speaking of stuff that’s gone away, Dr. Paul’s campaign is apparently not the choice of the masses, (they’re being fooled,) but do you think we will have Rand in four to eight years? Will we still be here by either of the two aforementioned times? I long to return to the days when all I had to worry about was my social life and my grades… unfortunately, we are living at an extremely pivotal time. Another question: did the American experiment end before we were born? I truly believe it did. Welcome to the welfare-warfare State.

  7. I actually saw gas for 98.9 cents back in September of 2002. Last time for under a dollar gas. Then we got the Iraq war, which was touted to be paid for by the oil we were gonna steal from Iraq. Of course this was all a lie, and gas went up 400% in less than 6 years time.

  8. Our high school was the rural variety. Lots of chevelles, gto’s, mustangs. one guy had a blue convertable gto that got him a lot of attention from the girls. One weekend he wrecked the car, and I think there was a week of mourning for that car.

    I do miss the days of the guys, rich and poor who raced against each other on the weekend. The rumour was the beetle guy had a porsche v-8 engine.

    Also at school, we did have the smokers hill,just across the street from the front entrance. i remember ditching an hour of class, just having a smoke.

    Finally we had an “open campus” which meant we could leave the high school at lunch. There were several business whose income was for the most part supplied by kids leaving school for lunch. Needless to say they closed the open campus policy in 1990 and none of the businesses are open today.



    I find economics a rather boring and tiresome subject. But so far, something tells me that the “Austrians” likely have economics right.

    Who benefits from inflation? Or perhaps the question should be, who benefits MOST from inflation?

    If inflation does no harm, then is it a good thing?

    If inflation makes no real difference, then why inflation?

    While I agree that “SHIT HAPPENS” I am well aware that everything that happens is caused to happen by something.

    When explanations become lengthy and complex, it seems that a lot of bullshit creeps in and parasitic skimmers multiply.


    • Inflations is the cruelest form of taxation. Anyone who has savings gets taken. They must either make risky investments or lose what they have. People on fixed incomes get taken because the CPI is BS even they admit it’s not computed correctly. The poor get hammered because everything they buy goes up. You would think that it’s good for business because your inventory goes up in value but so what? You do have to replace it and everything you need to live off of goes up as well. Only the elite benefit from the printing of money (that is true inflation). They get their hands on it first, while it is still worth 100%.

      Six years ago I convinced my parents to put half of their savings into silver, a couple hundred grand (now it’s worth over a million). It was around $5 and ounce although it’s down now, it’s still around $29. I did the same as did some of my friends. If it ever drops to under $20 again buy it!

      Also everyone should have a store of junk silver. These are just silver coins that have no collecting value. I would suggest APMEX. They have been great to me. Buy the full bags if you can. Why? Because everyone who holds silver in their hand knows it’s worth something. If the SHTF you will be able to barter. The full mixed bags are the best buy.

      Eric I hope this isn’t considered spam. I have nothing to do with them other than as a happy customer.

      When silver was low I made a bundle of cash buying these bags and sorting through them. I would put together sets and sell them on e-bay. It would always pay for the remaining coins. When the hunt brothers helped skyrocket the price I was just a kid. I would go to the bank and get rolls of fifty cent peices. and sort through them.

      Keeping your treasure trove hidden is the hard part, I use a few different strategies that’s what I call diversification.

  10. Related to one of your earlier posts: for today’s teenage guys, the quintessential status symbol is not a car, but the latest iPhone or iPad or iWhatever.

  11. My bright red Malibu sport had an AM radio with one speaker. It didn’t matter since the radical 327 I had would easily outrun those other brand cars touting 425 HP, like the bad ‘Stangs and the overweight Chrysler products. You only wanted to hear that engine since it begged to be opened up. I loved that car with that engine and the close ratio tranny. I used to take it out every Sunday morning while the highway patrol was still in bed and running it out of town on a road with curves I could take at twice the posted speed. That was a lot of fun. I loved road racing, thought Jim Hall was god.

    • Excellent!

      Some of my favorite sounds:

      The secondaries opening up on an 800 CFM Quadrajet…

      All four carbs on my Kz900 opening up at once…. breathing through individual pods….

  12. Ah, a stroll down memory lane. 🙂 My first car was a 1947 Ford, black. No idea what mileage it got… probably never even thought about it. Gas was 17 cents a gallon, as I recall. Varied some, of course. I was in high school, working part time for my mother in a dry cleaner’s shop. I figured I was rich earning 50 cents an hour. No taxes then either, for me at least. I think I brought home about $5. a week. Kept me in school supplies and gas for the car anyway.

    I had a boyfriend (briefly) who owned a 1955 Chevy in classic red with cream interior. Oh how the girls loved that car!! 🙂 I’d have had it made if I could have kept the car… sigh. He was a turd.

  13. White-lettered tires: I never cared for them anyway. I always had them turned toward the inside.

    Rear-wheel drive and air shocks: relics from the days when the great American speedster was a one-trick pony: it went fast as long as it was going straight. Yeah, they were a lot of fun, but it helps to take off the rose-tinted glasses to see the warts as well as the beauty.

    A little side note regarding the V8s in Vegas and such: the most beast of projects like this that I ever saw involved a front-wheel drive car. A local guy took a 425 ci Toronado engine and transaxle and dropped it on a trike!

    $.99 affordable?! Better were the days when you could buy a gallon of gas and a pack of smokes together for a buck!

    @Brandonjin: “You know I wish cars were as simple as they once were.”

    Not me. Back then cars HAD to be simple to work on because they always needed it! They were pieces of CRAP. Ten year old cars like the ’67 Mustang were classics yeah, and they needed vast amounts of restoration to make them road-worthy once again. Along with the enormous amounts of engine work went a few cans of bondo and an Earl Scheib special to replace the rust, seat covers and a host of other interior work. Today I’ve got two mechanically sound 10+ year old cars with 150,000 miles with no rust and beautiful interiors.

  14. This article makes me even happier that I bought that ’78 TA.
    Rear-wheel drive (with the cool “hump seat” in the back)
    crank windows
    just had BF Goodrich Radial TA’s put on it cause they look cool.
    going radio shopping this summer to replace the dead pioneer that a previous owner put in it.
    Of course finding cheap gas ain’t happening but that won’t stop me from cruising around in it on nice summer nights….and days….

      • that is awesome. i few of the TA’s i was looking at still had them in to. I found a few under-the-dash ones on Ebay that i was thinking about buying. that an some Pink Floyd and AC/DC 8-tracks. But you are right, I’ve had the car for 4 weeks now and just love hearing it run, haven’t missed the radio at all.

        • Wait till you get the Ram Air manifolds, proper dual exhaust and a hot cam in that thing!

          PS: I’m using a Competition Cams version of the old RA III 400 cam in my 455. It has a nice chop to it, but is still completely everyday driveable.

          • Cool! I appreciative all the advice. Been copy and pasting all the suggestions to talk to my mechanic about….when I have enough money, working on the interior right now and need to get a bit of rust removed and it re-painted this summer. thankfully the car runs well so i can focus on appearance this summer and then work on the rest.

            • If you don’t know about them already, check out Ames Performance Engineering and Performance Years – these two are among the best supply sources for OEM/NOS and repro stuff for classic Pontiacs. Year One has a bunch of stuff, too. There’s also the F Body warehouse.

              We’re lucky in that there is a lot of aftermarket support for our cars!

          • I just got an order from Ames and I have Year Ones catalog. Will check out the others. Thanks.
            It is nice that there are lots of resources out there for our cars

  15. My first car was a 64 VW. 40hp
    Try as I might I never could put $3.00 of gas in it.
    Gas was 32.9 and with the ten gallon tank.. Easy math.

    Also, my uncle had a Sunoco station.
    Back then you could “dial an octane.” Up to 120 octane!!
    Warren Johnson (I thought he’d be bigger than that) and I were laughing about Sunoco a few years ago, in the pits after Friday night qualifying.
    Warren was running 118 octane in his bad “Mr. Goodwrench” 500 cubic inch 2 four barrels pro stocker. I used to run that in my 68 International Travelall when I delivered produce in the winter. The bikers sure loved Sunoco!

    Good memories.

  16. Heh .. my first car was a ’49 Plymouth; 15th birthday. Ugly tan. Immediately painted it black primer. Then a buddy and I decided to rebuild the engine, which it didn’t really need, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. It actually ran after that, so I guess it wasn’t all that bad an idea for a couple of nerdy 15-year-olds. This was long before ‘stereo’, much less any sort of aftermarket audio; I built a power amp out of a pair of KT88s and a vibrator power supply (remember those?) — about 50 watts. Mono, of course, and a 12″ speaker in a box placed so as to inconvenience shotgun passengers. Maybe I was hoping that would force girls to sit in the middle. If so, it was a futile gesture; girls are apparently not very interested in nerds. :^(
    Gas was 20-21 cents; 19 during occasional gas wars, with S&H green stamps. ‘Reclaimed’ oil was 10 cents a quart, in glass jars with a screw-on pour spout.
    Them was the days …

    • Now I KNOW you’re an “old fart”….you used the term “Gas War”..haven’t seen one since ’72…oh, perhaps in ’94 and ’95 when most AM/PMs in Sac town were hovering right at the $1.00/gallon level for unleaded regular (or maybe even the all too BRIEF period right after the 9/11 garbage where gas had shot up to almost $3/gallon overnight, then fell so dramatically that at one point I gassed up for $0.879/gallon in Fresno.
      I’d say the “war” has been on the American Consumer ever since. But not necessarily by the oil companies alone. Oh, as the late Slim Pickens would have said, like he did in the “1941” movie, “Yer all in cahoots!”. The entire gaggle of multinationals and banksters is robbing the willing American idiots blind, and they actually believe that who they vote for in six months will make a difference. The scary part is that the candidates themselves and their respective political supporters are probably just as bamboozled into thinking that it really matters as well.
      Maybe we need to scrounge up enough spare cash and supplies so all the productive Americans left can go sit on our collective asses for about three months to bring the whole nonsensical system down. What will they do, mobile the National Guard and shoot us all if we refuse to go to work?

  17. I’m a prosecutor in a suburban community. In our town, if the officer can hear your stereo from 30 feet away or more, you are in violation of the city’s noise ordinance. Nearly every defendant I deal with on one of these charges is convinced that he couldn’t have violated the noise ordinance with a factory stereo. Always cracks me up when they try to argue that.

    • Hey Jack,

      As a guy who test drives a new car every week, I can personally vouch for the fact that numerous OEM stereos are more than powerful enough to annoy others from 30 feet away – and then some! Several OEMs even offer the loathsome ghetto-noise inducers – you know, those massive bass reflectors (or whatever they are). To paraphrase the Reichsmarschall: Whenever I hear rap, it makes me instinctively reach for my gun.

      • I’m waiting for the remake of “Falling Down” (one of Michael Douglas’ better contributions to society at large). I’d like to do nothing more than go to a screening of same at the UA on Greenback Lane in Citrus Heights, CA, on a Friday Nite starting at 10:30 PM, sitting in the top row surrounded by a gaggle of “homies”, then laughing my ass off when a carload of “bruthas” skee-daddles out of their “ghetto-mobile” that had been spewing out the “thump-thump” heavy bass of rap crap and annoying the crap out of an ostensibly docile nerdy guy…who produces an RPG-7 and fires off a rocket which punches a shaped charge straight through the $8,000 worth of stolen stereo equipment on a vehicle worth at best $1,500. The best part would be hearing the miscreants in the audience mumble, “shee-it…muffuggas got they ride blown muffuggin sky-high!”

  18. Paul, seems like the formula shouldn’t be, “mpg for the average car 25-30” but rather it should be 10-15 mpg in both instances to get the price per hour over time.

    For example, the old farmer down the road who drives the same truck today as he did in 1960 (while getting the same fuel mileage) does not think gas is cheap today.

    • still less than half the price. One hou
      r of work buys you two gallons of gas, 50 years ago it bought you only one gallon And if he has a working 1960 pickup, he is rich; they are worth a fortune!

  19. Eric, usually you are spot on, but you are dead wrong on this one. Gas is dirt cheap. the problem is our dollar is worthless. Several facts to back me up
    1. minimum wage when first introduced (about 1960) $0.25/hr (check it out!)
    2. price of gas at that time $0.25
    3. mpg for the average care 10-15
    4. therefore it took one hour of work at minimum wage for every 10-15 miles you drove.

    a. minimum wage now approx $7-8
    b. price of gas now $3.50-4.00
    c. mpg for the average car 25-30
    d. therefore one hour of work at minimum wage gets you 50-60 miles.

    As I said,,,gas is cheap. Blame the Fed.

  20. I seem to remember buying sealed beams for about $4.50 and installing them in a few minutes with nothing but a screwdriver. Never had a problem seeing with them except in a dense fog.

    Kathy had her driver’s side low beam failure corrected in her 2006 Altima this week.

    Bulb $088.99
    Labor $010.00
    Tax $008.41

    Total $107.40

    *sigh* I’m sure glad she doesn’t have the real expensive model with the super duper death ray lights.


    • Just checked Autozone’s website for kathy’s vehicle. You can get OEM Sylvania elements for $7.99 ea (high and/or low beam). Cripes, how hard is it to change a bulb? The “stealership” robbed her blind on the part, and the labor charge, ever-so-nominal at ten bucks, is proof positive of how easy it is. At least they didn’t slap on some bogus “minimum” shop labor charge of one hour at $120/hour. And the local and state “gubmints” are likewise happy for the 9.5% sales tax! (Sheesh, tack on another .5% and we can call it ‘tithing’!!).
      If somebody can’t pull a bulb, check the functionality of a circuit with a test lamp, then replace the offending bulb (99% of the time the problem), then they deserve to get financially raped by these jerks.

      • “Trust, but verify.” –Ronald Reagan

        I checked out the prices today and am greatly disappointed to discover that the trusted independent who services Kathy’s Nissan apparently gouged us.

        As a surgery scarred 76 year old diabetic retired shop owner I rarely service and repair our cars. Especially if the job involves even a slight head down position (However, if there is a next time for this particular job I will do it myself since, after closely examining the part I know how relatively simple it is once you’ve noticed the two tits on the bulb base.)

        I do know that the parts supplier delivered the wrong part twice while we waited but $39.95* plus 30 percent added to a .4 hrs labor charge does not add up to $98.00 plus tax.

        I have a soft spot in my heart for folks in the car repair business but it isn’t THAT soft.

        All things considered, I’d still rather simply sit on a stool and replace an inexpensive but adequate sealed-beam with a screwdriver without even bothering to open the bonnet.


        *I took the old bulb and found that one brand was a low as $7.95 at Autozone and the Nissan dealer part was only $28.00 list.

        • If I were your neighbor, I’d let you get the appropriate part from Autozone and I’d spend a half hour of my time putting the bulb in, having a nice chat, and maybe you’d offer me a cold one…shit, that’s what family, friends, and neighbors are for.

    • Modern lights do provide better illumination – but, so what? People managed to drive quite well with the old sealed beam units and were arguably better drivers as a result of having to be better drivers because of such things as not-the-greatest headlights.

      Today, we have great headlights – and terrible drivers.

      Was it worth the swap?

      • “Iron men in wooden ships have been replaced by wooden men in iron ships”…not just true for the US Navy nowadays.

        • In the 1950s I spent more than two years on the Buoy Tender Sweetgum. The Buoy Gang on a Tender in the days of acetylene lighted buoys was probably one of the few remaining instances of Iron Men aboard Iron Ships. We were routinely worked to exhaustion and only our youth kept us going.

          Gotta admit though that I would not want to work on an aircraft carrier flight deck during operations.


      • Remember Eric that the old sealed beam headlights were mandated by law, as to for factor, function, size, power draw and light output.

        They became cheap because for well over half a century the fed nannies dictated to acceptable sizes and styles. Federal intrusion commoditized lighting so that all manufacturers could only compete on price; otherwise their products were 99.9% the same as every other manufacturer.

        This is one of those few areas where federal intervention actually lowered prices for the end user. The lower performance was an added cost that’s hard to figure.

        Some things I have mixed feelings about as far as federal intervention in the form of imposing standards. I used to be a car stereo installer, and frankly it always annoyed me that the auto manufacturers just had to have their own proprietary formats for everything. Car audio should have been standardized long ago.

        Government could actually set standards without forcing it, just by managing their fleet purchases with certain standardized equipment. For instance, next time it buys 50,000 cars, split up the order between 4-5 different manufacturers and require standardized audio form factors and connection, a standard wheel & tire combination, a standard headlight configuration and composition, etc.

        Manufacturers would likely see their proprietary profits as inferior to the profits to be had by selling 10,000 vehicles and would set up their vehicles to be easily converted to the standardized format — which other fleet buyers (rental car companies) would demand as well.

  21. Are the Good Times Gone For Good?

    I remember when Merle Haggard sang that for President Reagan. Each was a fan of the other.


      • Haggard is a year younger than I and also a Redneck like myelf. I cannot imagine him endorsing Obama. It would be interesting to know why.


        • Rich celebs are often lulled by left-liberalism (or its flip side, right-conservatism). A great deal of Obama’s support is also the result of white guilt; i.e., look how broad-minded I am – I support a black guy for president.

  22. You also don’t see ground straps dragging the ground under cars anymore. I remember back in the ’60’s it was a common sight around Petersburg, Va.

  23. I have to agree on the aftermarket stereo thing.

    I think a couple things led to the downfall of aftermarket audio:

    1) As Eric mentions – factory stereos have gotten much better and there are very few “universal” two-shaft or DIN size head units anymore. Also – Digital Signal Processing (DSP) have allowed even cheap, mediocre speakers to sound passably decent (much better than the best Kraco and Sparkomatic offered back in the day).

    2) The financial crash of 2008 led to unsecured credit drying up. Since most aftermarket audio systems were financed by such (credit cards), it became impossible for every “cool” guy to put a $3,000 audio system from Car Tunes in their $2,000 beaters.

    Eric: On this topic, if you have enough time with the cars during your reviews – a sentence about how you think the audio system sounds would be fantastic (as well as how it is described on the sticker). I work in speaker design and release for an OEM and would love to know your thoughts. Nobody else (Car and Driver, Autoweek, Motor Trend, etc.) reviews car audio systems.

    Only one recommendation. Use a CD or high bit rate MP3 file, not satellite radio. You can’t polish a turd – and satellite radio is a turd from a sound quality perspective. Content is great – but it is all about quantity – not quality.

    Here’s one thing I do not miss about back in the day: Packing the bearings when replacing the rotors. Almost are cars now have separate hubs. On the flip side, the rotors seem much cheaper nowadays. One panic stop and the pedal is pulsating,

    • Pulsating Brakes

      With quality rotors and lugs torqued to specs the rotors should remain true. I seem to recall that the acceptable runout is no more than .008 with a thickness variation of .004. This from memory and it’s been about fourteen years since I retired.

      I would guess that the most common cause of pulsating brakes is still the overtorquing of lug nuts.


      • My buddy runs a shop and he and I talk about this stuff a lot. He tells me (and I have seen it myself) that in general late-model OE rotors are lighter/thinner than was typical in years past, which apparently makes them more vulnerable to heat and stress-induced warping.

  24. The Ford Mustang is still near a proper Amerikan car.
    I only recommend 4 cars to people who don’t want to be burned (much) by car stealerships…They can’t make money selling new cars so they steal from you in the service shop. Their entire business model is obsolete but they continue to pay off political terrorists for protection:

    Mustang (The coyote V8 is nice…Still too new but proper low-end torque)

    I personally will never knowingly buy anything the UAW had a hand in making but I do recommend the Mustang to people cause it is pretty reliable and less costly to fix than most cars…good value. The Chevy Impala is OK but the political/MBA-Bozo parasites and criminals at GM – along with the mentally weak/infantile/unevolved UAW proletariat apes – can phuking die.

    • *sigh* The early Mustang was such a wonderfully simple machine. Had I insisted on having A/C I might have forsaken the VW Beetle for a Mustang. You could probably find service and parts for it in places as remote as ROOSTERPOOT ARKANSAS, or TALLYWHACKER GEORGIA.


    • I have a 1996 Mustang GT which has 145K on the ticker and runs great, and gets ~ 25 mpg HW, too. Not as powerful as the new 5.0 – not even close – but paid off, reliable and fun to drive.

      • Yup – and easily hopped up to be as powerful as the 5.0 for a lot less money! A cam swap, ECU reprogram and supercharger kit could get you to 400-plus hp for a fraction of the cost of the new 5.0 –

        • A ’96 will require a PI head swap to get there. NPI heads simply don’t breath well enough.

          PI heads and intake alone will get it to 270hp range if I recall correctly. Converted NPI motors make a little more hp than stock PI motors which as I recall are about 265hp. Then a supercharger to get into the 300s and more serious work to get to 400s.

      • Those cars were the best. I envy you. I wish I still had mine. It was silver with a grey leather interior.I used to get 27-28 mpg on my 80 mph trips from NC to AL back in the late 1990’s. Except for the brakes and the steering, it was extremely reliable, solid and bullet proof. I loved the 4.6L SOHC engine. I had some great times then and really miss that car.

        As time has worn on, the Mustang has gotten heavier and heavier. I liked the retro theme of those models. The newer ones are overdone in my opinion.

        • The new ones are very powerful – even the base V-6 now makes over 300 hp. But, they are also too rich for my blood – and the complexity of their many systems scares the crap out of me. Look into the cost of spark plugs (and a basic tune-up) for the 4.6 cammer engine in the current car. It is shocking.

          I much prefer the ’80s-era 5 liter cars. Light, simple and so – fun!

          • True. I just looked up the weight of even a 1996 model. I didn’t realize it was a 3400 lb car. The 1996-1998 models had a complex set of hoses and lines under the hood, but they were economical to drive.

            A new Stang can cost north of $30k. They were 20k in my day. I had planned on keeping that car at least 15 years, but things didn’t go the way I expected them to.

            I don’t want to even think about tuning up a 4.6 today. How much for plugs?

            • If it’s the same plug as they use in the new F-trucks, it is on the order of $50 per plug. That’s if you can remove them all without breaking them. If you do, and this is apparently a real problem with these plugs, then the head (heads) may have to come off. My buddy who owns a shop tells me (and I’ve had this confirmed elsewhere) that a basic tune-up for a new (recent vintage) F-truck can easily cost $1,500. Since the Mustang uses the same basic engine, I would expect a similar bill.

          • Keep the old iron running as much as possible. Find an old “Vee-Dub”, or a mid-sixties Plymouth Valiant, and stockpile essential parts (starter, alternator, plugs, points, carb rebuild kit, ball joints, tie rod ends, filters, etc). Between the dirt-cheap registration rate (at least for now) and the ease of self-maintenance, you’ll be motoring as cheaply and SELF-SUFFICIENTLY as one can possibly do nowadays.
            I don’t know if the automakers have purposely designed cars to be “throwaways” and impractical to perform extensive maintenance, but it would certainly serve their interests, as well as the “Gubmints” that reap monies off of exorbitant registration fees and sales taxes, and insurance companies that reap higher insurance premiums, to foist upon the motoring public a more frequent replacement cycle than what engineering and the knowledgeable motorists’ ability to perform practical maintenance otherwise dictate.

            • Old bikes, too.

              I keep a basic dual sport and also an ’83 Honda GL650. They require very little (and very cheap) maintenance, cost a fraction of what an operable car costs and get 60-plus MPG, vastly better mileage than any car you can buy.

          • Re: “The new ones are very powerful – even the base V-6 now makes over 300 hp.” I rented one recently while visting family in Arizona, and that car is a rocket! Test drove the 5.0 last year and it is a very powerful engine and a nice car, too, but 35K (and no IRS)? Probably not going to happen… I am hunting for a 1998 Cobra in good shape, though, and if I can find a nice 03-04 Terminator, I’d grab that.

        • Re: “Those cars were the best. I envy you. I wish I still had mine. It was silver with a grey leather interior.I used to get 27-28 mpg on my 80 mph trips from NC to AL back in the late 1990′s….” Hey, there are plenty of nice 96-2004 GTs out there for very reasonable money…. jump back into the pool, the water’s fine! If you want to go fast on the cheap, an 03-04 Mach I is a fine bargain.

  25. My second year of college Fall 1993 I bought a Honda Rebel 250 for $800 and gas was .97¢ a gallon, that was good year… grades not so much.

  26. I think white letter tires disappeared because they eventually got such a “Pep Boys” image. Wasn’t that long ago that they were still available.

    Allow me to mention two more things that have “gone away…….”
    1. “Wire Wheel” hubcaps. I always hated those. Hope they never come back! (Of course, “alloy wheel” hubcaps are still around.)
    2. Vinyl roofs. Always hated them even more.

  27. White dog poop has gone away too. I remember when I was a kid, you could walk down the street and see dog poop that had turned white after being out in the sun for a few days. Now-a-days they just shrivel up like little tootsie rolls. I’m guessing that they banned something in the dog food that used to be available in the 70’s.

    • Kathy has a moose of a puppy and my shod feet seem to be turd magnets. At least the beast shits outside. I keep a large container of lime and cover the feces with lime as soon as I see it in the fenced in backyard. The lime marks the shit and the flies avoid it. (Whenever a fly lands on food or drink I cannot help but wonder where it last alighted so I do not consume food or drink on the patio.)

      After a day in the sun, I rake the turds onto a shovel and deposit them in a small fairly well sealed plastic garbage can. I seem to recall that Kathy repeatedly promised to take care of the dog and whatever mess it made. After five years of pestering I consented to her having a mutt and of course I’ve ended up taking care of the nasty beast.


  28. You know I wish cars were as simple as they once were. Difficult today to get started working with them.
    Is there any real reason white-walled tires disappeared?
    I like most cars’ stock stereos. Aftermarket ones look so out of place and ugly.

    Your section on gas got me thinking about my high school parking lot.
    -One spoiled kid, a junior at the time, got a brand new Camaro for his birthday. Only RWD coupe in the parking lot.
    -We had a few neons and civics with loud exhausts.
    -One true ricer, it was a lowered prelude with a lot of body add-ons, spoilers, skirts, ect.
    -We had a group of hicks that parked their raised trucks and Jeeps in the corner farthest from the school. Drug traffic originated from that corner. Most of the trucks had those loud exhaust towers in the bed.
    -Every other car was a subaru.
    -All of daddy’s little girls had brand new Jeeps.
    -My friend, who I was jealous of, always had a cool car to drive to school. An Oldsmobile Alero coupe, then a newer Monte Carlo.
    -Then there was the few like me, who drove the 12-13 year old family sedan. 🙂

    Needless to say, I like your parking lot better. But I like a lot of things from your high school days better.

    • Regarding white walls: Only opinion, but I think they disappeared due to people not wanting to clean them regularly.

      Re: car stereos, I bought a nice unit with a removable face. I still have it. Perhaps one day I will be able to use it again.

      • That’s probably part of it – though they seem (generally) quite willing to blow $25 on a car wash and pay $8 more for wheel cleaner!~

        • Point taken.

          There also are people willing to spend money on 22″ rims and low ratio tires. (I do not think I will ever understand this). White walls I understand since they (IIRC) did not cost more to buy and they did look good when clean.

          • Whitewalls cost about a buck or two more to purchase per tire, but the look was worth it.

            What I’m missing now is the body side molding common on cars until abour five years ago. Now even luxury cars don’t have it. Don’t cars get dinged anymore?

    • Me too!

      Check this out:

      I could legally buy beer when I was 18. And we could smoke in school. They had a smoking arcade. Really. No fooling.

      We did not have to wear seat belts. We could – and did – carry shotguns in racks in our pick-up trucks and park them on school property and no SWAT teams descended.

      • Mithrandir, I can see that. I’m guilty of that as well. I guess I’m alright with black, but the white lettering did add some nice contrast.

        Eric, your entire reply astonishes me. Shotguns!? Two different worlds…

        • Yup – and it wasn’t that long ago – ’80s.

          No one shot anyone – yet we all had guns, or access to them. Hardly even fistfights – at least, not the brutal beatdowns that are common today.

          • I was struck, during my strange childhood, by the vivid contrast between the already-gone-leftist East L.A. were I spent most of my youth, and the rural Ontario/rural Missouri communities where my parents had the sense to send me each year to help on the family farms at harvest time. East L.A.: no (legal) guns, and fights EVERYWHERE, sometimes fifty or more a day even in a n elementary school… and on the farm, LOTS of guns (I remember a pleasant afternoon spent trimming a nail to make a replacement firing pin for a .223 varmint rifle)and NO FIGHTS!! Even the kids were POLITE! According to my parents and grandparents, the difference WAS the guns, because twenty years earlier, L.A, HAD guns everywhere… and no fights at all. Sigh.

            • Yep. There are probably many here who can relate a similar experience.

              What has changed?

              A major factor is the exportation of the ghetto (and underclass culture) to the suburbs – and the wholesale importation of a criminal underclass from places such as El Salvador and Haiti and so on.

              Add to this the taking away of real consequences for scumbag criminal conduct while at the same time, ratcheting up the harassment of not-the-problem people over penny ante technical foul “offenses” – victimless crimes: everything from speeding and seatbelt “crimes” to laws denying not-the-problem-people their right to keep and bear firearms. The latter is a key barometer of an area’s likelihood to be safe vs. not-safe. Areas where not-the-problem people are not denied their right to own/carry firearms are axiomatically low-crime, low-violence areas. And the reverse.

      • In the 1800s able bodied men were expected to carry firearms. Any nagger who dared nag you about your intentions to smoke or drink what you pleased was likely to get a punch in the mouth, or worse.

        What’s ruining this country is all the naggers, and the nagger-lovers.

        Since lynching violates the non-aggression principle, I propose a simple three strikes policy would suffice.

        Any naggers found to be nagging more than three times, someone not of their own concern will be run out of town and not allowed back. Their nagging-loving deeds and names will be recorded and published on a black list posted in the public square.

        There used to be signs, and there could be once again:

        Naggers, don’t let the sun set on you here, keep on walking through.

        • NAGGER

          New Orleans’ Lakeside Toyota fired the best parts manager I’ve ever known over that word. The Black delivery driver saw the handwritten word and successfully sued Lakeside. Parts manager Mike Bush involuntarily took the blame for Lakeside.

          As it turned out, the parts were going to a man whose actual name was “Nagger” but the innocent parts manager was neither reinstated nor vindicated. He subsequently spent the last of his money in an effort to sue Lakeside but was unsuccessful. The affair caused great tribulation and psychological suffering for both Mike and his family.

          It also came to light that over the years the driver had collected on six successful lawsuits involving racial matters.

          “Equal protection of the laws?” No, I don’t think so. If wishes could kill, the juris doctors and the Lakeside conspirators benefiting from this legal abomination would have met their undertaker long ago.


      • I am a product of the Detroit Public Schools. My high school had a rifle range on the top floor. You could bring your .22 to school, and shoot up there after classes.

        • Back in 1970 I took the ROTC classes in high school. No ass-hole gym teachers. The class was more interesting. Our rifle range was in the science wing of the school. We would shoot 22 caliber rifles with live ammunition while school was in session. There was a classroom full of students on the other side of the wall. We did not even think of doing something daring like walk out of th unlocked classroom door with our loaded rifle. My 16 year old classmates were expert riflemen. six rifles would be pointed in the other direction pronto.

          I also recall the locked-up rifles mounted on the rear windows of the trucks. The trucks and rifles would be parked in the student parking lots. After school fun was target practice shooting cans, rabbits, or pernaps a deer.

          Our pocket knives came in handy for peeling apples and oranges.

          Those were normal times, before PC.

        • John Illinois, times sure have changed, haven’t they? As a boy in the early 1970s, I learned to shoot partly in an NRA class for pellet and BB guns held inside – yes, indoors – at the local park district. No one batted an eye; it was perfectly safe and a good time was had by all.

          • Eric, as a boy scout shooting sports volunteer I can assure you we look at and fire a lot of guns. We have a venture scout group which is co-ed and they “shoot what they brung”. We take the older scouts out on the last day and do some plinking with Aks, Enfields, and various other real guns.
            A typical week of camp will burn approx. 4000 rounds of 22LR, plus the other calibers. We do allow certain handguns also.

          • My eleven year old shot his first shotgun at scout camp last month. (The silly bugger chose the 12 gauge rather than the 20 I advised and didn’t know if he should be ashamed or proud of the bruise).
            They were also using 22’s and I’ve kept the target he used.

            The camp’s here

            • Magnificent!

              My old scoutmaster was an old army guy; we called him – affectionately and with earned respect – The Old Bastard. Not to his face, of course! TOB took us on Appalachian Trail death marches that instilled confidence in us 13 and 14-year-old boys. I got a lot of out of Scouting and am proud to this day of my Eagle Scout award. Good times, forever remembered.

          • Few here will know of Inglewood CA, where I went to high school(Class of 71).
            I don’t recall any guns in racks at school but I used to walk the mile down to Centinella Park where the shooting range is with my .22 slung over my shoulder. I had to take the bolt out and keep it in my pocket. No one even raised an eyebrow.

        • This was at a private school i went to, but in 8th and 9th grade i belong to a trap/skeet shooting club. on ‘shooting’ days we brought our shotguns to school and they were kept locked in a closet by the teacher who was the club sponsor and after school the teacher and a parent or two drove us to the range.
          try pulling that off in a school, even a private one these days.
          hell some schools have banned dodge-ball in gym class cause its ‘mean’

      • eric wrote, “I could legally buy beer when I was 18.”

        And so could most of my friends, but not me, they changed the law when I was 17 to 19 and I was denied while my friends had free range. That’s when I knew something was wrong.

        As I recall, it happened to me again when I was 18 and they changed the legal drinking age to 21. The bastards!

        The effect of all this law changing, instead of drinking in bars and learning how to drink with adults, many of us were forced to go out on the hyways and back roads to drink, where we learned how to drink from other kids, not adults.
        Lots of unnecessary deaths resulted from that SADD MADD change in the law. And the same beat goes on today…

        • Well said. It sounds like you are from NY.

          I have traveled to Europe and I do not see (or hear of) young people have problems with drinking.

        • Agree –

          There is also the despicable fact that an 18-year-old is considered an adult as far as “the law” is concerned in criminal and civil matters. He can be drafted. He can be sent to prison. But he cannot legally purchase a six pack. At minimum, then, a person ought to considered a juvenile by the law until his 21st birthday. Legally not responsible for his actions as an adult is. Not able to sign contracts or be drafted.

          • Or just lower the drinking age to 18. Cripes, Florida had legal drinking at 18 when I grew up there, and there was no carnage on FL highways.
            Or why have a state-mandated drinking age at all? Is that not what PARENTS are for? Or, at least, no stupid Federal mandates about having to have a minimum drinking age of 21 to dole out the Federal highway funds (and not have Uncle collect the taxes or allocate said funds anyway!). What happened to state sovereignty? Oh yeah, went down the dumper at Appomattox Court House in April 1865…

            • I grew up in Germany–well, from 8 to 15–and the ‘no drinking age’ is a myth. They want you to be 16 years old, though the parents can buy it and hand it to you and underage drinking is MUCH more tolerated.

      • My experience, exactly, in suburban Maryland, although I missed the beer at 18 thing by a few years. Shotguns, rifles, and bows on the racks in trucks. We all had knives, but no one ever pulled one on someone. In all my high school years, I doubt that more than a dozen fights broke out, and only a few punches were thrown in any of them. Totally different world.
        Not only was there the “breezeway” where smoking was allowed, but teachers didn’t seem to care about chewing tobacco in class, as long as the floor stayed dry.

      • Yep I smoked in school. They had a fenced in area off of the gym for us. 18 for beer 16 for cigs, not that it mattered all I had to say was I was picking them up for my uncle.

  29. That last pic, of the Speedway sign, is right out of my personal 1990. Sigh.

    (And what’s with the use of the new CAPTCHA code? Getting lots of spam these days?)

    • Yup!

      On Spam, yeah. It is unreal. People who haven’t run a web site have no idea. We get deluged with it – it would literally over-run the entire site, if we didn’t have these filters and if people weren’t here pretty much all day, deleting “new members” and their “posts.”

  30. That takes me back. The last rear wheel drive economy car I owned was a 1981 Toyota Starlet. It lasted me 24 years on and off. I wish that the automakers would get the idea to offer an economy rear wheel drive car again, but i don’t think that will ever happen again. The closest thing to that is a Hyundai Genesis Turbo or the new Toyota FRS, which will sticker for the middle 20k range.

    I miss the days of buying a car without a radio, power windows, seats and locks. I liked the idea of having a substantial car without all of that BS that actually does break.

    Days gone.


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