People Ask Me . . .

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For those who may wonder why I talk-up manual windows – and am unhappy about the fact that it’s not easy to find a new car (or truck) that even offers them anymore:power windows lead

First of all, I don’t mind rolling down the windows by hand. It never seemed like a major (or minor) chore. But I prefer manual windows chiefly because I have more control over them this way. I can roll the window up (or down) exactly as much as I want. With power windows (in many vehicles) you have to fight the system, which tries to roll the window all the way up – or all the way down. Getting the glass to stop just where you want it can be a hassle. Sometimes – in some new cars I’ve test driven – it is almost impossible.

Now, I readily acknowledge that power windows have their selling points, too. And I don’t object to them, per se. I just object to the marketing-PR riptide that’s convinced most people they simply must have power windows (manual windows now being taken as a sign of poverty rather than a nod to practicality) and so most – virtually all – new vehicles come standard with power windows. That means the additional cost has been folded into the sticker price – and it means you’ll have to eat the cost of new electric motors when they fail (which they eventually will) not to mention the cost of the higher-amp alternator and battery – both of which are necessary when a car is fitted with lots of electric-assist gadgets. There’s a cost-multiplication effect that goes hand-in-hand with increased complexity. I do my own internal cost-benefit analysis – and for me, the cost is not worth the benefit.P1060713

Same goes for another item I could do without – but won’t be able to, if I ever buy a new truck: automatic four-wheel-drive.

I just finished reviewing the 2014 Toyota Tacoma (available here). It’s a nice truck. But like most (and probably soon, all) new trucks and SUVs, the four-wheel-drive system is controlled remotely and automatically by a knob on the dashboard. Convenient? Certainly. Easy? Surely.

No doubt, these systems came into being at least in part to make trucks more female-friendly. But, I am a man – and it does not bother me – or even inconvenience me – to engage four-wheel-drive the old-fashioned way. That is, manually. By pulling back on a mechanical lever – as in my older model Nissan Frontier.manual shifter pic

There is something pleasingly tactile about doing it this way. The feel of gears meshing under my direction. But there is more to it than the purely psychological. With the manual engagement, you know you are in four-wheel-drive High (or Low). It is not physically possible for the 4WD to engage by itself – without you reaching down and grabbing that lever and pulling it. With the automated 4WD systems, it has not been unknown for the servos and actuators and electronics to engage 4WD – or leave the system in 4WD.

Unless you’re in the mud and can see the wheels spinning (or not, as the case may be) the only indication you’ve got as to whether the system is operating in 2WD – or 4WD – is that little light in the dashboard.

I like to know.

I also prefer simplicity of function, which (usually) means a given system is less likely to break and (almost always) means that it will be easier – and cheaper – to fix if it does break. The mechanical lever in my old truck, for instance, may lose a washer or snap ring at some point – but the lever itself is almost break-proof. Not so much electric actuators. Which are also harder to get at (usually) and (certainly) will cost you more to replace than a few washers and snap rings.rube Goldberg

I don’t consider any of the above Luddite-ism. To me, when something does it job well it ought to be left alone unless there’s a better way to do it.

Consider the steering wheel, for instance. The same basic design today as 100 years ago. Not square. Not triangular. Not replaced by a joystick (so far).

Or, the rotary knob to adjust temperature. Is digital automatic climate control really an improvement in a  functional (rather than marketing/PR/psychological) sense?  Can you really tell the difference between 70 and 71 degrees? I can’t. Warmer – or cooler – is good enough for me. And I much prefer turning another knob to increase – or decrease – the fan speed. Tapping buttons (or simulated buttons on a flat screen display) strikes me as going around the block to cross the street.rube 2

Maybe I’m just cranky – and stuck in the past.

But maybe I’m clinging to common sense in a world gone wacky.

What do you say?

Throw it in the Woods?

PS:This site is almost entirely reader supported now. No Google. (They blacklisted us – so we dumped them. See here for the full story about that.)

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  1. Get your new car now and save a few thousand dollars.

    Auto safety initiative seeks to reduce driver errors
    Jerry Hirsch – Los Angeles Times
    Auto safety regulators are pushing for new equipment to protect motorists from
    their biggest threat: themselves. They’re aiming to keep drunk drivers off the
    road with the help of onboard technology that immobilizes their cars. New
    vehicles may soon come with systems to help prevent collisions. And engines may
    not start unless occupants buckle their seat belts. It’s all part of a push by
    the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to use technology to reduce
    traffic fatalities. “Ninety percent of all crashes have an element of human
    error,” NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said. “We really need to focus on
    what more we can do to address these risks.” Automakers for years resisted
    federal safety initiatives, originally objecting to seat belts, air bags and
    more recently making backup cameras standard equipment. But for now they are
    supporting NHTSA’s efforts.,0,2620405.story#ixzz2mG26j9Fd

    • Hi Gary,

      People often accuse me of being paranoid, or over-stating things when it comes to this stuff.

      I think I’m not paranoid enough.

      • Not nearly paranoid enough Eric. I believe Darwinian theory is being (unintentionally?) circumvented by the “authorities” through saving us from ourselves. No wonder more and more bad drivers are out there because they’re not being suitably killed off.

      • “Ninety percent of all crashes have an element of human error,” NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said. Well duh!

        Simple solution, just remove humans from moving vehicles. Can we fire this joker and move on now?

      • There is NO SUCH THING as “paranoid enough.”

        There’s always some dickwad who will want to whip it out and measure, just because he can.

        Like the joke about the guy with three balls…
        He had a great time, it worked on the ladies, worked for getting drinks, making friends… He would walk up to someone, say, “You know, if you put your balls and my balls together, you’d have five?” And then of course, conversation goes on… Women would hear about it, want to see… you get the idea.
        All was well and good for him, life was great.
        And one day, in the normal course of life, he said to one guy, “You know, if you put my balls and your balls together, we’d have five?”
        And the fellow looks over at him, and sadly says, “What, you only have one?”

        Always someone going to be able to one-up you.
        Someone will think through a full plan, a full design of steps, to persecute, prosecute, or damage you.

        I do really believe most people are at their core “good.” Most are simple, stupid, or TOO good – but they aren’t evil.
        They’re just USEFUL IDIOTS. Who will join the mob, led by the (say) 20% who ARE evil, who SEEK power. Government employees, a percentage of corporate Executives, Percentage of Bankers, and of course, cops (who are part of the Government Employees category, ut also the worst offenders due to their intentional failure to uphold the law.)

        Some are doing money manipulation; some are covering for bad products; some are flexing their “little man” muscles; some just get off on hurting others.

        So be VERY paranoid. As in, check the car for tracking devices. Check for bombs. Have motion-sensors on the edges of your property cued to human-level heat signatures.
        And have a defense and fall-back plan, and a bug-out plan. If you never need it, you refit as needed, probably once a decade.
        If you need it, you’re ready.

        If you need it and don’t have it, you’re SOL – and will disappear.

        Simple and obvious.

  2. Car Hacking: Your Computer-Controlled Vehicle Could Be Manipulated Remotely
    CBS 2/KCAL 9, Los Angeles

    The growing prominence of cars controlled by dozens of computers — and the ability to manipulate some with the touch of a smartphone — is leading researchers to question their vulnerability. The circumstances surrounding the June death of investigative journalist Michael Hastings in Hollywood prompted former U.S. Coordinator for Security and Counter-Terrorism Richard Clarke to suggest that “what evidence is available publicly is consistent with a car cyber-attack.” Despite the crash being classified as an accident by the Los Angeles Police Department, the Department of Defense has acknowledged the Pentagon has explored remotely controlling cars by computer hacking. And a counter-terrorism expert now tells CBS2 News we may never know what really happened in the fiery single-car crash in that killed Hastings.

      • Tom Clancy is dead… “they” cremated Hastings body… yep… I’m selling my house as is (I’ll walk away with money in hand) and am moving out of the city ASAP. Fuck this shit.

      • @8 – That will teach him to keep his mouth shut comrade.

        One of those Alex Jones Dallas Sheriff deputy’s will pick your new car next. Or are those operations run by the drone pilots in NV or VA?

        Lets go surfin now
        Everybodys learning how
        Come on and safari with me

        • Garysco, no shit. I imagine your new car is “team” picked, delivered to the dealer of your choice.
          Jacob, that’s one of my stand by terms indicating I have “had it”.

  3. If I still had an unreliable UAW-built car like my old Mercury Gran Marquis, where the FN power windows kept failing over and over, then wind up windows would be a huge advantage. In the Toyota Avalon I currently drive, not so much so. Same with AWD.

    The automation I dislike most is the push button start in my Avalon. It works great — until it doesn’t. Until you accidentally launder the remote control, and a week later it dies on you, and you have to find a place that sells a replacement. And then the replacement battery dies a few days later because washing rusted out the electronic chip, and you switch to the spare push button start fob, and then go to the Toyota dealership to buy a replacement backup fob, and they quote you $600 to replace it.

    So now I’m one careless washing of my keys away from an unstartable car and a $600 replacement bill.

    A push button start would be GREAT if they had a backup turnkey option you could use when the battery in the fob inevitably dies.

    • Jim, let’s see, 21 cents for production costs, 30 cents for distribution and $200 cause the dealer can’t get them anywhere else. $400 profit, not bad for a key fob. A friend lost his fob to his Cummins diesel Dodge a couple years ago and I nearly shit when he paid $375 for a new one. I’ll tell him to thank his lucky stars it wasn’t a Toyota. My Nissan pickup was just out of sight costwise on parts, always chapped my butt. When the head gasket blew taking part of the block and head with it, I was less than thrilled since the engine had virtually no wear on it. Jobber cost on parts and machine work was $400 more than the price of a guaranteed small block Chevy crate engine at the time. I could never figure how to get a large enough radiator or it would have been a Nissanolet, had another better tranny and transfer case. Toyota. Oh, What a feeling.

  4. The old-style climate control is great for heat adjustment, but lousy for A/C temp control. Since it (usually) shares the heater core valve switch, you are letting in engine heat to fight the A/C output — a total waste of energy.

  5. Eric,

    All this confirms my latest come-out-of-retirement business plan. For the last couple of years we have been buying up old, basic transportation cars and trucks and restoring them to dependable operating condition. We’ve sold every one and now have a waiting list. And many of our customers can easily afford any new car on the market. Most common comment: “Just need a decent car/truck that isn’t loaded down with breakable, expensive bullshit.” Think we’ll call our business “Anti-Bullshit Motors.” ’til the gummint closes us down, that is.

    • Hey Uncle Bill,

      That’s outstanding!

      I’ve had thoughts along a similar line, but with this twist:

      Updating them with the two things that have made modern cars so much more versatile, dependable/reliable and efficient to operate: An overdrive transmission and a simple stand-alone (TBI-type) fuel injection system.

      • Eric,

        We thought about doing a few space-age updates, but the cost of components is prohibitive unless the customer is willing to pay more for an O/D tranny than some of these cars are worth. We’ve done cars from a ’62 Chevy Bel Air 6 cyl. to several 70 to 80 Toyota trucks to a couple of former phone company Chevy vans that are now delivering for a local florist. While we do have some well-heeled customers, what’s developing are price-conscious small businesses or big family types. And of course, all us Luddites.

        Happy Motoring,

        Uncle Bill

    • I have predicted that old car restoration and resto-mods would slowly become a mainstream business or close to it until the government shuts it down.

      Today I saw a 1975 LTD 2door for sale. I was very tempted to buy it if the price were right. But I currently don’t have a good place indoors to put it. Too old and too nice of a condition to subject to the winters around here.

      • @BrentP – Several years back I went to the home of an airline pilot. He had a sort of big barn in the back of his property that was full of dismantled old Oldsmobile parts. He told me it all started when he wanted to restore a 1951 Olds, but had trouble finding parts. His hobby is now to look for old Olds cars wherever he can find them, then sell the parts to the restoration community. He said it was a lot more profitable then restoring the cars himself.

      • Hey Brent,

        Ah feeeel your pain!

        There is a very nice/original ’76 LTD (lime green) sedan in my area that’s for sale – $1,500! – but my garage runneth over and I just can’t park a car like that outside….

  6. What I like best about manual windows is that if I should happen to wind up in deep water due to accident, I can still opwn a window to escape. Same for an engine fire. All this electric crap doesn’t work if there’s no power.

    • That is such a remote possibility that its not worth bothering yourself with.
      Really, how often do you think you’ll end up on fire or in a body of water?
      Please,don’t say something inane like “it only takes one time” either.
      You’ve got more chance of a swarm of bees coming through your manually cranked window and stinging the be jeezus outta you.

      • Electric windows don’t immediately short out under water, just as your headlamps will stay on for a while. You might not be able to budge a window using a manual crank with the weight of the water against it until the interior is mostly full of water and equalizes the pressure. Electric windows can actually give you more of a chance in that scenario.

        • ekram, I never had a window motor short. When you have water half way up the door and even those good old GM gaskets aren’t letting it in the cab, you know due to the position of the door vents that motor’s been underwater a while, never had one quit. I’d take the electric window under water too. I once had to open the crank windows on Baby pickup, a compact Nissan that had the road collapse under it and let the water fill the cab so I could open the door to get out. I could have gone out the window but rushing flood water had me wanting to hang on to the pickup as long as I could. Damn, that’ll wake your butt up at 3 am.

  7. I bought an old Hyundai Sonata when I was first married. It had 250 000 km (I’m Canadian) on it. EVERYTHING electronic worked on it, cruise control, power windows, A/C, trunk release button, etc. EVERY American car I have had has had electrical problems. The buttons for cruise control didn’t work on the used Ford I bought, the dash lights went out and the only way to fix it was to replace the whole instrument cluster. I had an old Plymouth and it was one of the worst vehicles I have had. All electrical problems. We have a Ford Excursion because it is the biggest SUV with the biggest towing capacity. Rated to tow 11, 000 lbs, it can tow any travel trailer we want. But, and my wife agrees with me, the ONLY reason to buy an American car now is when you need a tow vehicle. Of the guys I work with and have talked to about vehicles, all of them say they have had electrical problems with their American trucks. They (foolishly in my view) bought new trucks. How PO’d would you be if you paid $80 000 for a new truck and five years later there electrical things that just don’t work anymore? I have never had these problems with Asian cars I bought. Only American cars have seem to have so many electrical problems.

    God bless Ebay, loaded with BMW’s, Mercedes Benz and hoard of Japanese cars with electronics that actually work!

    • Jason, then again we get back to knowing how to work on one too. A friend has an ’04 Mercedes, bought it used 3 years ago. It had dash lights that didn’t work, and as it turned out, a lot of other functions that didn’t work she didn’t know about, guess reading the owners manual was too hard(never said she was smart). Finally takes it to ‘another’ Mercedes dealer and they don’t know what’s wrong but replaced the window regulator that allowed the window to fall down where it stayed. Dealer finally installs a new battery, everything works now. They all think the old battery was bad. It wouldn’t have started and run all over town several times a day with a/c on, lights etc. for years if the battery was bad. I maintain all it needed was re-booting, not an uncommon fix but one often not tried.

      • Not necessarily. I’ve worked on car/truck electronics along with medium to high end marine electronics, plus 10 years in avionics R&D on all sorts of aircraft. Low or inconsistent voltage WILL most certainly screw up the newer digital gizmos, but not quite fail them completely. They will have intermittent and inconsistent problems, very accurately considered to be “gremlins” until the battery/primary voltage regulator of the system is stabilized at the correct voltage. They’re just too twitchy to either just work or just fail. I guess some corporate asshole thinks it’s funnier to watch techs like me chase their asses and see the owners tear their hair out, than to just build the equipment to more realistic base tolerances for the mobile environment.

    • I’m all for people buying what suits them, but European cars are some of the worst to have failing electronics. BMW has all kinds of issues with the headlight console board where lights stay on all the time or refuse to turn on, when it comes to fix the problem its not as easy as just replacing the circuit board. The reason is that the headlight circuit board also control the odometer and because this must be tamper proof the car’s cpu must detect and report a non-matching odo by a flag.

      Yes the flag can be reset by setting the new circuit board to the same odometer reading, but the idea that the two (headlights and odometer memory storage) are on the same module is just a small issue along with re-setting a new board to the old odometer. The real problem is why these always fail electronically and so consistently on BMW cars. In this case some junior engineer at BMW utilized an under rated transistor driver, or his Chinese floor technician decided to replace the one chosen by a senior engineer with a under rated one that was cheaper.

      I hate to say it but being an electrical engineer I don’t see the design of these things being different from say a German engineer and an American one. Semiconductors such as microcontrollers, caps, resistors have about the same six sigma tolerance. Yes there are shitty electrical designers and designs , BMW headlight display being one of them. Sure some dumbass at BMW used an underrated transistor driver in his design, and it happens with junior engineers or arrogant ignorant ones in big companies all over the map. BTW you ask how I know about this? Because I’ve designed a product to address it.

      Then you have the China factor. Anything an electrical engineer in the USA or Germany makes here, all the schematics and parts lists are given to a manufacturer over there. The Chinese board manufacturer then goes to the trouble of replacing all the expensive temperature compensated capacitors (NPOs) with Z caps as just one example because they are cheaper. Never mind the fact that the design can’t work with Z caps replacement over all temperature ranges. Or he replaces a more expensive higher rated driver with a cheaper and lighter rated one. And to the average CEO the boards look identical and work at room temperature the same for 10 minutes without burning up they seem the same, but they just aren’t going to be the same. But the CFO exclaims victory outsourcing and gets his bean counter perk for saving 4 cents a board.

      The problems with your conclusion by the way is oversimplification. Anyone that has worked at a big company already knows, large groups of men and women (mob) work on the same recalcitrant methods no matter what the name of the corporation and no matter what country. Big and old entrenched companies is what I’m talking about. They lose the innovators, the best designers and replace them with yaks that play politician all day long, they replace the brightest innovators with bean counters. And I’m not defending GM as they suck just as bad ass the 20+ year old companies in Asia and Europe. The problem is that real quality and low cost doesn’t exist anymore simply because all these companies are permeated with junk status employees. Its everywhere both there and here in old mature companies, and yet remarkebly the quality with all the crap I’m talking about has improved in 40 years. There is a reason for this as the amount of variation in electronics has nearly became flat since 30 years ago. Hence they don’t need innovators anymore to make an altered IC automobile and pretty much use the same shit that worked over and over again with only slight modifications and improvements plus discovery of past mistakes.

      The reason your analysis is also ages in the past is because anyone who has been in a modern electronic or auto factory understands that the average blue collar worker is nonexistent. Robotics has replaced the sloppy error of the 70’s and 80’s middle class worker. Thus the only difference in quality is quality of engineer designing and the parts. Germany and Americans have the same access to the same electronic parts period, we use the same sources. And sadly we both utilize cheap electronic manufacturers in Asia who go to the trouble of unitlaterly replacing components without asking. We do the Asia thing for the stuff that still needs cheap labor, like wiring harnesses and hand adds.

      The reason your comments were especially true 30 years ago and not today is for the same reason that when I hear the joke about weather men not being able to predict the weather I don’t laugh. Because while meterologist and forecast were truly the joke 30 years ago, the science has improved and they get it right more than wrong anymore. Its ok to be decoupled from the behind the scenes of how things have changed dramatically. Its ok to have preference for manufacturers of cars, but I hate to inform you that you aren’t seeing things in the current decade where globalization and big mama company has made the world uniform for better or worse.

      I’d like to see small car companies enter the scene in a real free market, as I think that would really make everything more reliable. BMW, Honda, GM, Ford are all the same gilagloth producing substandard crap for more to a true free market.

      • A lot of what you are describing is what happens when people break a good rule I heard a long time ago: “never make an engineering [or, more broadly, operating] decision for accounting reasons”. That extends to making accounting decisions for marketing reasons, and so on.

        • Very well put Phil and if I may say the problem with accountants in engineering companies is they fail to see all the intangible costs and profits in their limited present tense calculations. Its a bit myopic for marketing as well to assume one can define markets by research of current demand as well. The one thing I’ve learned is that a new product often can create its own demand. Computers are just one example and cars another of this phenomena, and it explains why so many people neglected to make the personal computer earlier. Steve Jobs and Ford who were both outstanding technical visionaries saw the truth despite the bean counters.

          I’m seriously not against accountants bean counting, or even marketing doing research but usually their advise in innovation is pure bunk and worthless. Further as you so eloquently put in words they don’t belong in design at any stage at all. I believe upper management in ossified big and old corporations is at least 80% useless MBA and business type degrees. Whereas successfull and growing startups are always 90% engineers, firmware, software and other assorted technical geeks. I’d never buy a company stock that the CEO didn’t look or have the title of a geek, but then again I’d never buy another stock anyway as its like throwing good money in a pit of vipers.

          An accountant inside of my company walls will be the last guy I hire. I’ll outsource payroll to accountants and probably tax accountants, but they won’t reside there. Pure business MBA degrees, arts, and HR can also take a hike, I’d rather deal with a greasy car salesman than employ a guy worth less than a high school non degreer.

          And though I love Asian, my best friends are Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Pakistanian, and Indian. They are the best of people to know and have as friends, I’d never outsource a thing to these countries. Its because quite frankly they are too smart and do business with a man to learn how to compete against him. I’m not that short termed thinker and I understand that to keep profit margins higher one has to protect his own technological innovation by investment barriers. This usually involve time investment in R&D. I don’t know how many CFO types I would fight at companies that would export not only their schematics and PCB and BOMs but also the protected firmware. My prediction of bankruptcy for the company was always predictable in <5 years as the Chinese would basically copy it. Now that is what I call immature short term thinking and that is what these business idiots do.

          Oh well back to work, take care of yourself Phil.


  8. Eric on the mark as usual.
    My 18 year old Defender-90 has neither push buttons nor hand cranks for the windows. They simply slide fore and aft on a locking track. They can’t be beat for Functionality, Reliability and Simplicity. They even swipe away frost on the integral rubber lip/seal with one pass. Most new cars just fail completely on that (F R S) score. Forget about amenability to basic user repair. Today’s autos are ultimately intending to provide climate controlled transport for humans that are either asleep, or watching TV, or on the phone, or touching up their make-up. Most days I think I’d rather ride a bicycle.

  9. completely agree with this article
    give me a modern version of the vw bug, with no air conditioning and a simple radio, i bet they’d sell millions

  10. Eric:

    You ARE stuck in the past but that’s not all of it.

    As you know, rural driving is different than urban driving, and it may be that the newer vehicles are designed primarily for urban driving and urban drivers. Maybe that’s where the market is.

    I kept my Volvo 122S’s on the road for as long as I could. What great vehicles. A mechanical nincompoop like me could do just about everything with two tools, both of which were wrenches. I had occasion to drive a newer Honda lately, a common vehicle that many motorists drive. I thought I was trying to operate a space capsule.

    As drivers from a previous time get older and begin to leave the motoring population, the older, reliable vehicles, the ones with feel and character, will pass from the scene. I think rural Americans will be hit the hardest, forced to operate with vehicles more suited to urban needs and lifestyles.

    Seen any Smart Cars in the rolling hills of the Blue Ridge yet?

    • Hi Lee,

      I think you’re right … unfortunately!

      And, yep. There are at least two of those mechanical cockroaches scuttling around these parts…

  11. EP you are right on the money as usual. These expensive gadgets, are being shoved down our throats whether we want them or not, and either federally mandated or just dumped in the cars base models by the manufacturers.

    This results from the federal barriers to entry to new vehicle manufacturers.. Since places like Russia, China, India are barred from selling us cars, these lower price-point sources are taken off the list of options we could choose. So the manufacturers we are allowed to buy from get fat and lazy. It’s in their best interest to stuff every expensive gadget they can in the base model, because we have no other option.

    It all comes down to the absence of free trade, and a consumer (you, me) lack of choice. The worst upcoming option (in every car) , is the “automatic radar slam on the brakes stop” so in future, thugs and carjackers, will be able to toss a trash can in front of our moving car, which will conveniently screech to a halt for them (radar controlled) so they can shoot us and take the car. Thanks Toyota!!

    • No, that “creeping featuritis” is almost certainly driven by the mechanism I described in a comment on this site a couple of years ago, that I will repeat here for convenience:-

      When I did an MBA twenty years ago, it brought out a point about the car industry: firms mostly competed on features rather than price, since a successful feature was spread over so many sales that its cost was nearly irrelevant – to that. But the costs of development and of setting up production were still important financially, and they were still incurred even when a feature failed in the market. It struck me that this was the logic of the Dollar auction, which drives competitors into faulty behaviour; each firm has to keep upgrading its features and wears the cumulative cost whether it keeps sales up or not. This is a market failure even without state intervention, and it was visible even twenty years ago.

      • P.M., from my perspective that just ain’t true. If I were *allowed* to buy $6k Chinese made basic transportation, I probably would. Further, there is no such thing as a “market failure” in a free market, just the inability to find/buy what might be your preference.

        • I agree, Duncan.

          In this economy, can anyone seriously doubt that there is a market for simple, reliable – and inexpensive – transportation?

          In an case, why not let the market operate? Why not allow (god, how I hate that term) Tata or Cherry (or whomever) to offer their basic, low-cost cars for sale and see whether people are interested?

          You and I know why this will not be allowed, of course. Precisely because people would buy such cars – and that would impose pressure on the industry at large to simplify their offerings, too – and reduce the cost.

          Can’t have that.

          It is critical to keep people perpetually in debt. Why allow them to buy a new car outright – or pay it off in two or three years (as was common, and within living memory of any person older than 40) instead of signing up for 5 or 6 years of payments?

          That’s the truth of the thing.

          It’s not about “safety” – or any other such altruistic palaver.

          It is about power – control – and, of course, money.

          • Dear Eric,

            Control over other people — always the underlying impulse for the totalitarian control freak.

            LRC just linked to a highly relevant article on just this matter.

            Are You a Gorilla or a God?


            Humanity stands about halfway between gorillas and gods. The great question that looms over us, is this: “Which will we incorporate into our lives? Gorilla things or God things?”

            Gorilla things are those which operate on a dominant/submissive model. Hierarchy (high-level individuals controlling lower-level individuals) is the blueprint of the gorilla world. Dominant gorillas seek status and the power to control others. The submissive apes seek to pass along their pain to the apes below them (females, juveniles, etc.) and to avoid punishment. They are servile toward the dominants and cruel toward those they are able to dominate. Females trade sex for favors.

            Gorilla things are these:

            The desire to rule.
            The desire to show superiority and status.
            Avoidance of responsibility.
            Reflexive criticism of anything new.
            Abuse of the weak or the outsider

            Sound like any politician or cop you know? How about every politician or cop you know?

            God things operate on a creative model. Blessing is the blueprint of the god world: distributing love, honesty, courage, kindness, blessing, awe, gratitude, and respect into the world and to other humans.

            God things are these:

            Producing things that preserve or enhance life.
            Invention and creativity.
            Expressing gratitude and appreciation.
            Experiencing awe and transcendence.
            Adaptability and openness.
            Improving yourself and others.

            It should be clear that libertarians, authentic libertarians, fall into the latter category, and that these two categories of homo sapiens create very different man made worlds.

          • The point I was trying to bring out there was that, even if you were allowed to buy plain vanilla cars, the logic of car manufacturing means that the low end of the ranges would be phased out anyway (that’s what happened to the post 1989 Trabants that were made with Volkswagen engines, that did reach decent standards as far as customers were concerned). The thing is, once the costs for R&D and for production line set up for advanced models have been sunk, which has to be done to cope with high end segments of the market and to avoid other firms getting all the growth segments, then it’s no cheaper to make “cheaper” cars after all and they don’t get offered – and that’s what has been going on for years. That might change once 3D printing matures; it’s already showing promise for gun making, which has always had a synergy and overlap with car making.

            You did agree with my comment about this a couple of years ago (linked above).

          • “the logic of car manufacturing means that the low end of the ranges would be phased out anyway ” Phased out by whom? The manufacturer? Why the fuck would a manufacturer phase out something that is making them a profit? They wouldn’t, unless they had an incentive to do so by the government. And even if this apparent dumbass manufacturer were stupid enough to phase out something profitable, that just means their competitor would step in to offer that same product to make the money that the original manufacturer was apparently too stupid to continue making.

            • Hey Jacob,

              You’re right in re:

              “Why the fuck would a manufacturer phase out something that is making them a profit?”

              The VW Beetle is a good example. It was forced out of the US market in the late 1970s by a one-two punch of emissions and bumper-impact/crashworthiness edicts. But VW continue build the Beetle in Mexico for decades afterward.

          • Jacob, right there in these replies I gave examples of things like the Trabant. Those “cheap” things do get phased out by the manufacturers precisely because they do not make a profit. The whole point is that the distortions are making that true, and that is how things are even without a specific government change at the time to make that. I showed how it all works, or where you could find out how, and mockery doesn’t change any of that.

            If this goes on, pretty soon I shall switch from following the advice of Proverbs 26:5 to that of Proverbs 26:4.

          • “If this goes on, pretty soon I shall switch from following the advice of Proverbs 26:5 to that of Proverbs 26:4.”

            Ohhh noooooo! I’m just a little bitch that can’t handle some biblical bullshit. Please sir, don’t switch to Proverbs 26:4!!!! Lolz.

            The point is, if the government didn’t exist, there would be nothing stopping someone like me from manufacturing a simple, cheap car to drive. The government DOES NOT ALLOW homemade cars to be driven around town without all the “proper” taxes, regulations, and licenses.

            Bring on Proverbs 26:4, mofo.

          • PM, Jacob, manufacturers often quit making cheap transportation for one simple reason, expensive stuff makes much greater profit. I give you the big 3 as an example. They’d all be glad to make nothing but truck based vehicles from now on and exclusively. Crewcab, dually, diesel, upscale $65,000 sticker. Questions?

          • Eric, I had a 64 Stude and a few other cars that had the floor mounted dimmer switch. The snow, ice and salt made replacement more frequent than spark plugs. The FMS often stuck in the on position, and required the use of a hammer to get it off again. I am short so the dash switch makes much more sense to me. Same with power windows in my full size wagon. I suspected the use of carpet and floor paddings made the use of the FMS not feasible.

          • The floor mount highbeam switch is really just pain. Especially in a proper three pedal car. It’s awkwardly placed and not very reliable with age on it.

            However it makes for a good old-timey story/rant/slogan 🙂

          • Brent, the first vehicle I had with stalk mounted dim switch was fine until I was driving too many times, only right hand on the wheel, leaning to the inside and just chilling and then needed to switch and had to raise my arm, grab the stalk and switch, then return my arm. My foot was right there where the switch would have been and easily switched it. I noticed this a lot because I drove two pickups constantly and one with one sort and one with the other. I much preferred the floor switch although that’s not a big thing one way or the other. Still though, I cussed having to move my arm when my toe would have easily done. It all came to a head though when the stalk mounted switch needed to be replaced and then it was a no brainer, money and timewise both….time to replace stalk, a few hours the first time since I had to get metric bolts for my puller and then replace the entire switch that was very expensive. A few dollars and a couple minutes and the floor switch was brand new. I’d still take the floor switch since my foot is still down there.

          • Having good night vision, being glare sensitive, and almost always driving in built up areas means 99% of my high beam use is ‘flash-to-pass’. Using the floor switch with a clutch is just awkward and then the floor switch would often need multiple pushes to turn on or off.

            I had wires break in the multifunction switch on my ’97. But the high beam part is on contacts that did not fail as I recall. I fixed the wires a few times before I just bought a new one. Then I fixed the wires again and put it on the shelf. Other than that, no problems.

            • Hi Brent,

              Having owned (still owning) cars with the floor mounted dimmer, I never had that problem. I can see it might be an issue if you were clutching while trying to operate the dimmer, but (as a rule) the clutch is out and so it’s not an issue – or wasn’t/isn’t – for me.

              On the other hand, in the new cars I test drive, I often inadvertently engage the wipers when trying to activate or deactivate the high beams!

        • Dear Duncan,

          Well put indeed.

          If something characterized as “market failure” has occurred, you can be sure that somewhere along the way, market forces were forcibly prevented from expressing themselves.

          Elaborate Keynesian style sophistry “proving otherwise” notwithstanding.

          • You’re getting into the deeper stuff, that I mentioned in the last paragraph of my reply to Duncan (see below). But you can certainly have a market that has distortions and isn’t experiencing current distortions but rather the continuing effects of previous distortions that are over without being done with (think Russian oligarchs, and so on and so forth).

        • P.M., from my perspective that just ain’t true. If I were *allowed* to buy $6k Chinese made basic transportation, I probably would.

          But that isn’t something from your perspective, it’s something going on at the manufacturers’ end. They really are competing on features; that has been confirmed by the empirical evidence. Spotting that that pattern is the same as a Dollar auction is my take on that, but Dollar auctions have also been studied and there is empirical evidence for how they behave too. The issue isn’t whether you would buy a car like that if it were on offer, it’s that it doesn’t make sense for the manufacturers to offer one. That’s why Volkswagen stopped making its traditional model, why the Trabant was phased out after German re-unification rather than keeping the version with a Volkswagen engine that they made transitionally, and so on.

          Further, there is no such thing as a “market failure” in a free market, just the inability to find/buy what might be your preference.

          That very much depends on what you are trying to say here:-

          – If you just mean that a free market is the kind of market where nothing is going wrong, then that is just a tautology that is true by definition and it isn’t a useful observation. For one thing, it isn’t what we have today.

          – But if by free market you mean a market in which nobody is putting their thumb on the scales separately, then no, you can certainly get a market that has distortions all by itself without them being put in separately, and those distortions do get called market failures. I’ve studied the labour market, and by these definitions it is now suffering from government distortions like unemployment benefits and minimum wages – but those were introduced to cope with distortions that were there anyway, like Vagrancy Costs and lop-sided employer bargaining power.

          I wouldn’t call that second kind of market a free market, but some people would. For instance, I don’t think the car industry would be a free market even if it were left to itself, what with that feature competition process, and there is a lot of government intervention going on on top of everything anyway.

          At a certain level, it is arguable that “distortions that were there anyway” were the result of previous distortions that changed the playing field from being level, like the English Enclosures of the Commons that once built up Vagrancy Costs, but if we are dealing with things as they are while they are going on, then that sort of distortion doesn’t need continuing intervention but only the continuing, locked in effects of past intervention.

          • How many times do you need to be told that it is not the manufacturer’s fault for not making cheap cars available, but the government? Do you believe everything you are told by the media? You do an excellent job of typing out a bunch of bullshit in an attempt to disguise the fact you have no idea of what you’re trying to say. Are you too scared to speak your truthful mind, or just too ignorant?

            You are in Britain, correct? There is no longer a free market in Britain or America (truthfully, there never was, except in the black markets). Without thinking from the terms of a truly free market (black market) you can’t say what the public would and would not buy. Wake up, dude.

          • @PM – The term “free market” is a sadistic joke. Our government masters don’t need no stinking free market when there are DOT’s, EPA’s, OSHA’s, thousands of pages of compliance rules, requirements, selective tax breaks, offshore subsidies, insider lobbyists, CAFRA investments by government entities, on and on.

            Last year I was at Corbin in Hollister, CA having a new seat done for my motorcycle when I had lunch with Mike Corbin, the inventor of this electric car ( ). He knows how to run a successful business ( and has for years. He said he threw in the towel on the car, and would not personally get involved in its resurrection, because of excessive government interference and costs in making it available to the public.

          • Jacob, I do know what I am talking about and I have told people where I got it, even if you think that it is all made up. The very fact that you mistakenly think I am in Britain (even though I have made comments around here that state where I am) shows that you haven’t checked any of it but just relied on your preconceptions. Simply repeating those is only argument by repeated assertion; go and check things like that Dollar auction link, or google for posts I’ve put up elsewhere about Vagrancy Costs and the English Enclosures of the Commons, that have a lot of backing material within them. It is possible for me to be wrong, but it is not possible that I am just repeating made up stuff that has no backing.

            Anyone who has a wider interest in these areas should google the work of Kevin Carson, who has been posting at C4SS in recent times.

          • PM, way to jump on one thing I got wrong while ignoring the other points I was making. You have no idea what you’re talking about, you’re a mouth piece for the government.

            Let me guess, because you lived a successful lifestyle while working for the side of the government you think you can preach to others about the “way it is”. Not everyone is willing to suck the government’s dick in order to be successful like you. And no, I won’t be googling any stupid bullshit. How’s about you type out your points, in words that everyone can understand, without the need for googling some other douchebags that apparently have to make your points for you.

          • The Trabant was a soviet government car for the masses. It had a 2 cycle engine, fiberglass body, and was the only car the workers were allowed to buy.

            Seems it died a natural death, once its target market had another option for purchase.

          • Dear Jacob, Gary,

            There is no longer a free market in Britain or America

            The term “free market” is a sadistic joke.

            Correct, and correct.

            Therefore one can hardly cite “market failure” given the widespread abrogation of bona fide free market conditions in these and other nominally “free market” nations.

            To excuse crippling government regulation, direct and indirect, given this undeniable reality, is flagrant evasion and intellectual sophistry.

          • Dear Ed,

            “The Trabant was… the only car the workers were allowed to buy. Seems it died a natural death, once its target market had another option for purchase.”

            Exactly. Whenever individual choice is not overridden by government coercion, market forces reassert themselves.

            Sad to say, government coercion today is so widespread, so deep rooted, and so indirect, the threshold for market forces reasserting themselves is becoming higher and higher.

          • Ed wrote:-

            The Trabant was a soviet government car for the masses. It had a 2 cycle engine, fiberglass body, and was the only car the workers were allowed to buy.

            No, not quite. The Trabant was an East German car for the masses. It had a two cycle engine, wool/plastic composite body (much more durable than fibreglass, though made in a similar way), and was one of the few cars the workers were allowed to buy (it was the low end car; there were also better ones like the Wartberg).

            Seems it died a natural death, once its target market had another option for purchase.

            Again, not quite. As part of the reunification transition, production was kept going, but with Volkswagen sub-assemblies like the four stroke engine I mentioned. That was indeed phased out “once its target market had another option for purchase”, just like the earlier bubble cars – but that is something that showed through in accounting terms, precisely because the better cars worked out cheaper than they might from larger production runs and so on, just as I described. If the Volkswagen had remained in production, its sub-assemblies would probably have remained available to keep a cost advantage for that reinvented Trabant (the same effect that the Mini got from its parts sharing). The Trabant died along with the original Volkswagen, more than simply from the end of the Soviet Bloc.

          • Dear Gary,

            I’m living on Taiwan at the moment.

            Taiwan is a region of China. It is “governed” if that is the word, by the Republic of China government. The system here is a typical monkey see, monkey do “liberal democracy” modeled after Western democratic socialism. Its problems are not surprisingly, pretty much the same. Taxes are noticeably lower, but total gun prohibition prevails. The latter really sticks in my craw.

            The Chinese Mainland is also a region of China. It is governed by the Peoples Republic of China government. It used to be a hardline Communist system. But during the 80s reformers turned it into an odd mix of “Deadwood” with lip service paid to Marxist ideology. Where it is headed is hard to say.

            Any conventional monopolistic government, no matter how free it might be at any given moment, tends toward creeping tyranny. The USSA is offered in evidence.

          • @Bevin – So street crimes like home burglaries, attacks and thefts are lower? And are dealt with severly or how? I am guessing, but the weapon of choice is a bladed instrument?

          • Dear Gary,

            Street crimes are lower. No relation to guns vs. no guns. Has to do with relative social stability. As gun rights advocates have long maintained, crime is primarily a social order issue, not a weapons availability issue. Switzerland is one example.

            The local Triads (Chinese equivalent of the Mafia) all have guns. They are smuggled in from the outside, the Philippines or Mainland China if I’m not mistaken. Again, as gun rights advocates have long maintained, “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns.” Crimes of passion by normally peaceful civilians are committed largely with knives.

            One relatively bright spot. The cops here as of now at least, will not beat you half to death merely for looking at them the wrong way. How long it will stay that way is anybody’s guess.

          • @Bevin – Thanks. That reaffirms my view that crime is a local social/ cultural issue, and guns are nothing more then a tool.

            I just read that Staislaus County politicians in California are very proud of a push they initiated and that their cops wrote 83 tickets in 90 minutes county wide for pedestrian violations and such. Also the California Highway Patrol is very proud that they just got 5 million extra dollars to educate drivers and enforce motorcycle violations. 4 million went to enforcement, 1 million to education. Which proves that our culture here is revenue and frustration generation, as they would be hard pressed to prove their actions reduced traffic accidents.

          • Ed, I’m correcting these apparently minor details about the Trabant for the same reasons I gave Bevin for giving more accurate details about the robustness or otherwise of the AK47. Do a find on this page to see them. It turns out that this sort of accuracy does matter.

          • I agree it’s possible that no manufacturer would offer cheap basic transportation; what say we try de-regulating the market, just to find out? Maybe allow foreign manufacturers to compete without crippling tariffs?
            Just to clarify, by “free market” I mean a market where no one has a legal right to intervene at gunpoint between a willing buyer and a willing seller, and institutions (e.g. jury trials) exist to address fraud and other aggressive actions. I did not mean to imply that such a creature ever actually existed.
            Now I would ask, can you give me a useful definition of “market failure”? I mean, something other than, “The market isn’t producing the results I would like.” As Hayek (I think) pointed out, the market is a discovery process; to begin with a conception of what results the market should produce, and label any deviation from that a “market failure”, is bass-ackwards reasoning.
            And do you mean to imply that the gunvarmints just can’t help creating and enforcing 20,000 pages of regulation, just to deal with the “distortions that were there anyway” resulting from the English Enclosures of the Commons between the years of (roughly) 1235 to 1801?


            Are you for real?

  12. Eric – It’s funny you should bring up the Miata and manual windows. It’s one of the few vehicles that I’ve ever heard of where you can simply pull the power regulator and associated hardware, replace it with the manual set up, drill a hole in the door panel and you’re good to go. Since the Miata has a known issue with the track gumming up and the power window running slow (or failing), I’ve considered doing this on my ’97 rather than shelling out the big bucks for a new PW regulator. Here’s the how-to write up:

    I too miss wing vents. Every car my folks has when I was a child had “wings.” They were great not only for directing air at you, but also great for pulling cigarette smoke out of the vehicle. My Wrangler has Steel Horse door uppers with sliding windows similar to the Land Rover windows michael.white describes above, but they aren’t much for ventilation. It also has a very effective vent at the passenger’s side floor that will about blow you out of there. I simply solve the window problem by removing the doors and the top for the summer. 😉

  13. Consider the steering wheel, for instance. The same basic design today as 100 years ago. …

    Ah… no. That is, things hadn’t standardised yet, so that, although there were steering wheels around, there were also tiller bars, handlebars, and a few other things, though I grant you that steering wheels shook out as the standard before the controls for gears, brakes and accelerators (just consider how late the Ford model T layout was still provided – I have heard that you could still use mail order to get enough spare parts to build your own as late as the 1950s).

    Tapping buttons (or simulated buttons on a flat screen display) strikes me as going around the block to cross the street.

    Actually, the touch screen approach is ergonomically unsound on fixed equipment as it causes RSI from your finger joint having more give than the screen, unlike buttons that actually move when pressed (this isn’t so bad with light weight, hand held things like mobile telephones, as the device itself can move).

  14. Dear Eric,

    I’m on the same page.

    I’ve never owned a car with power windows, or even AC.

    I remember seeing an interesting kind of window on an old British sports car. Don’t remember the brand. Might have been a Lotus.

    There wasn’t even any crank mechanism to go wrong. Only a vertical slot in the door. To raise or lower the window, you loosened the knob then moved the window up or down, then retightened the knob.

    Now there’s my idea of K.I.S.S.

    • Excellent (in re the Lotus mechanism)!

      I really miss wing vent windows as an alternative to AC.

      Moderns cars are designed such that (if you live in an area that has hot summers) AC is more or less essential (and hence, it’s become almost universally standard).

      With wing vent windows (and a properly designed duct-ventilation system) one can often stay cool and comfortable without AC. I know this to be true from personal experience, having owned several cars with wing vent windows and “flow through” ventilation.

      AC entails several significant negatives, in my view:

      * It adds 50-75 pounds of deadweight to the car – and it’s not just the weight that’s bad. The additional poundage necessarily increases the front weight bias of the car.

      * It increases the cooling load on the engine and transmission (if automatic). This is addressed by increasing the cooling capacity of the radiator, etc. – but that in turn entails its own functional (and cost) liabilities.

      * It almost always makes the engine much more difficult to work on, even for routine things such as changing spark plugs.

      * It requires you to “see the man” (and pay him) when there is a problem – because it is effectively impossible to do one’s own AC work unless one has a license. The EPA put the kibosh on buying refrigerants that predate the current 134a – and even if your system uses 134a, unless you have the “recovery” equipment, it is big-time illegal to open up any AC system. For all practical purposes, 99 percent of the population has no choice but to pay to get their AC system serviced when there’s an issue.

      • Actually, if they used a Hilsch tube system instead of a conventional refrigerator, it would be much lighter weight than that – but it would consume far more power, too (then again, it would be nearly “free” power if the Hilsch tube drew off a turbocharger unit that the engine didn’t need for its own operation). That would make sense if it only had occasional use.

        On the other hand, you could make the reverse trade off: you could run absorption refrigeration off engine heat with no power drain but with a weight increase.

      • The demise of side vent windows is one of the car industry’s unforgiveable acts. The vents channel air to your torso, not head as with windows, and if even that is too much they can be turned to direct the fresh air at the dash to give you an indirect breeze. There might be Florida summer days when only air conditioning will give relief, but we don’t get those here and what’s more, even those days would be alleviated with the vent windows. Ah, well.

        • Ross, in ’88 when GM redesigned their pickups a friend worked at a dealership, called me at work and said Come by, gotta see these new ones. I drop by and the first thing I notice is No Vent Window. I was mortified. So now instead of having a nice breeze naturally, you have the engine generated breeze of an a/c. Now on a car it might not be that bad of a thing but often in a pickup you are hot, sweated down and just want the cooling breeze because you’re going to be that way again all too soon, don’t want to turn on the a/c since it just exacerbates the problem.

        • I agree, Ross – having owned a couple of older cars with wing vent windows.

          There are several new cars that almost seem to have been designed for wing vent windows. They have small, separate front side quarter glass – fixed in place. These could easily be made functional. In some of these cars – the Prius C hybrid, for instance – it would seem a no-brainer thing to do. With operable wing vents, AC – and its weight, parasitic drag and additional fuel consumption – could be eliminated or at least made optional.

          But then, that may be just it. They – the car companies – don’t want AC to be optional. There’s at least a couple hundred bucks in profit per car – not to mention the profit down the road for the dealer in terms of service and repair.

          • Dear Eric,

            All this talk about vent windows suddenly got me thinking about the possibility of an aftermarket vent window attachment.

            Visualize some sort of transparent acrylic triangular fin that attaches to the A pillar, just inside the plane of the front driver and passenger side windows.

            You roll down the side windows, then pivot them to the angle you need.

            I suppose it’s pretty low rent “JC Whitneyesque.” But I think it would be doable.

          • In today’s cars the fixed parts are there because the geometry of the doors doesn’t allow that area to be part of the window that rolls down. 1/4 panel windows on 2-door cars no longer open either (except on convertibles).

            The vent window is gone IMO because of CAFE and AC. The cars already have AC standard so eliminating opening vent windows is a cost savings. Optional AC just isn’t worth the hassle and more expensive in the long run vent windows or no.

            CAFE because the hardware to open the windows is weight and drag. The fixed windows are smooth, they use fixed seals too. No hardware on the outside causing drag. Now the buyer isn’t going to notice these fuel economy benefits but they likely show up on government tests.

          • Dear Brent,

            “The cars already have AC standard so eliminating opening vent windows is a cost savings. Optional AC just isn’t worth the hassle and more expensive in the long run vent windows or no. ”

            I do believe you are right about that. That was my own thinking as well.

            It wasn’t that I didn’t know it or suspect it. It was that I didn’t like it.

          • Vent windows being nixed is one of the greater tragedies of recent automotive history, agreed. My nominee for most asinine deletion of really convenient used-to-be standard equip (and Eric, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about) is the floor-mounted highbeam switch outboard of the clutch. I also frequently drive cars and trucks other than my own, and finding the right damn switches for lights and wipers is hard enough in daylight when you’re sitting still. What was so wrong about the little silver button in the same on the floor of nearly every car that always did the same thing? Assholes.

            • Absolutely, ecliptix!

              My ’76 TA has the floor-mounted dimmer button to the left of the brake/clutch pedal. It is infinitely more sensible than the multifunction stalks now in common use that often result in the wipers coming on when you try to turn on the high beams. Minimally, the stalk switches require the driver to take one hand off the wheel – and there is also the issue of distraction caused by engaging other functions, etc.

              The floor mounted dimmer was nixed – IIRC – because of ridiculous “safety” considerations. The notion that people could not deal with turning off their high beams because their left foot was too busy clutching or braking. This is preposterous, as anyone who has owned or driven a car with the floor mounted dimmer knows well.

            • My ’76 Trans-Am has the floor-mounted dimmer!

              Another simple, effective way of doing things tossed in favor of a more complex, expensive, failure-prone – and less safe – way of doing it.

          • Eclip, those switches were heavy duty contacts and rarely wore out, the only way they would fail. I had enough old pickups that got abused I kept one in stock just in case. One night coming back from fishing the one on my buddy’s pickup quit switching from low to high. He pulled up to the barn and I said Cut it off, I’ll be right back, walked in and got a brand new Delco Heavy Duty Headlight Switch, pulled his wires off, unscrewed the old one and stuck that new one on. He only had to drive about 5 miles without it working before we got home. I think he was kinda amazed I had a new one. I keep some important new parts that aren’t expensive on hand or used to when there were inexpensive parts you could replace. You can’t compare the quality of durability of a stalk mounted high/low switch to one of those. Those almost never quit and the stalk mounts quit all the friggin time. There are a great many parts a person can keep in a vehicle that don’t cost much. A box of fuses in every size, a fuse puller, an old accessory drive belt, a headlight, rear tail light bulbs, fuel filter(yep, changed one on baby pickup on the side of the road due to getting fuel with water in it), at least 6 qts. oil and filter, an extra gallon of 50/50 coolant mix or coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid and a sealed gallon jug of distilled water that’s always there if you need it personally or for CJ. The wife’s Cutlass has all this stuff stuck in various places along with a good tool set and funnels(the long kind you can use on transmissions). I keep quite a bit more parts for the pickup since it has more storage and tool boxes. Oh, and an extra male and female trailer coupling.

    • The Land Rover Defender with the removable window tops are sort of like that. The windows are sliding two-piece: you can open the front half, the back half, or somewhere in between. If you want the window to be fully open, you unbolt and remove the window.

  15. In general I am in favor of a more basic car with less electronics. I prefer MT over AT. I definitely prefer a non-interference engine over an interference engine.

    PW/PL are convenient, but not necessary. (biggest convenience is being able to open W w/out needing to stretch or stop the car.)

    Mechanical dials work fine for me. I liked the uncluttered layout of a 2001 VW Golf. It was simple and easy to use. While I usually can adapt to a fancier electronic control layout, I agree with you in that it (fancier electronic control layout) does not provide a measurable benefit to me over a simpler mechanical controls.

    I never drove a truck with manual 4-wheel drive, but I understand your points in favor of them, It probably will never matter to me since I do not foresee getting a truck with 4-wheel drive.

  16. What I miss the most is wing windows. I never had a need in the old days for AC in the car because if it got hot, simply turn the wing window to scoop up air and blow it on your face. The real crime is getting rid of wing windows.

    • Dear Larry,

      “What I miss the most is wing windows.”

      I second that!

      What could be simpler or more effective than directing outside air towards the driver and passengers with a simple pivoting window pane?


      The ecofreaks yammer about “harnessing the wind.”

      Wing windows really harnessed the wind.

      • Wing windows??? You are not from the south. Not only are the love bugs all over the front of your truck, they’re on your glasses and all over the inside of your car.

        • Dear Curtis,

          Not the Deep South.

          Lived in Maryland, Texas, and California. Never had a real problem with bugs, except on the windshield at times.

          I guess it’s a regional thing.

          • Bevin, somewhere along about Hamilton you get into love bugs from there south but not necessarily in the valley, depends on rain, season, etc. But when you get them hard and heavy, it’s like being in a purple rain, pounding on the windshield. You’re steady looking for a car wash an 18 wheeler will get in to wash the cab, radiator, grill, etc. One side of the air cleaner element will be purplish. I came out of Galveston one night in a love bug frenzy(breeding), got to west Tx. and ran into a mud storm near Merkel, got to Sweetwater, pulled up to a friends house who said What color is that truck? I dropped off his wife(yeah, taxi service me, long distance)and went to the car wash. Those were the good old days, no busybody’s like WFW to jack with you for carrying passengers, thanks, totalitarian insurance companies. Did you notice Tx. passed all nine Constitutional amendments? $2B for water but it doesn’t say what the fund if for. I was raising hell about it and said WTF? Wife says Make it rain? No shit. Maybe I’ll get me a trailer and rent out to start delivering my secret formula for rain. Rain Man!!! No, since the yankee thing hit here when Ronnie was prez, we just never get enough GOVERNMENT!!!!!!

        • Curtis, I’ve driven a “purple” truck more miles than I care to remember. What’s bad is having to stop every 60 miles and clean the windshield just to see. Houston in a good, wet summer, yowsuh. Back then trucks had adjustable cowl vents and they really did some serious good since they were just below(high pressure area)where bugs could enter. On a cool night you’d have to close it down to a great degree. That’s what they should have kept on cars, really did some good. Kick panel vents were the berries too. I used to run cool in the heat of Texas for hours with a bag of ice in a dishwashing pan in the passenger floorboard(with room for the passengers feet), kick panel vents open and the rear windows just barely open. Good a/c, reliable. In the pickup, full vent window in your face though if the bugs weren’t bad. I guess the sorry exposed terminals on electrics eventually stopped cowl vents but they used them in trucks into the 70’s, 80’s.

          • Mith, the cowl vent is right in front of the windshield. I must not have been thinking on my first reply. Of course they were eliminated so people would roast and be forced to buy a/c. You might roast in Tx. during the day but at night with the cowl vent open you might have to shut it eventually to not get hypothermia. When I wanted cold to stay awake, I’ve left it open and put on a jacket. Now that’s cool.

        • I’ve lived all over the country.

          Including Louisiana for four years.

          I loved the “Drive-up” Liquor stores. I loved them not because I drank and drove, but because they were in-your-face defiance of the nanny-ocracy.

          Wing windows worked fine for me.

          The odd Love-Bug may get in – but not many, and they don’t splatter on the wing-window.

          Most older pickups have them. And BTW… What would life in the Deep South be like without taking the ol’ pickup to the levee? Or Toledo Bend? Or muddin’ around the Bayou???

          Oh… wait.

          The Corps of Engineers dropped funding for levee maintenance and no one who depended on the levees would lift a finger to save their lives (literally). So hurricanes have wiped out the levees.

          Toledo Bend is probably off limits because the Red Cockaded Woodpecker won’t feel frisky if it sees a single bald ape.

          And the Bayou has probably been named the Not-For-You by Enviro-Nazis.

          They’ve probably even outlawed Boudreau and Thibideaux.

          • El Gordo, somebody funded building the levees(fed govt.) since I know several people who hauled day and night rebuilding them, almost went and did it myself.
            Drive up liquor stores exist so when you can’t walk very well you can just drive up and get what you need and something for the drive home….or that’s what I just figured. PS, don’t toss your empty at the cop sitting there watching you leave. Say boys, pass another cold one back here.

      • Oh yes! And those fresh air vents near the floorboard, under the dash, in front of the door.
        Those were the bomb. On many days it was better than AC.
        …So long as you weren’t stuck in a traffic jam of some sort.

        • Roth, Mithrandir, kick panel vents are in front of the door in the “kick panel”, worked better on GM than anything for obvious superior designs. Cowl vents are in the cowl in front of the windshield, think 30’s and 40’s enclosed cars, nearly all had them and a few up into the 50’s with pickups and larger trucks having then into the 80’s. There is a high pressure area(cowl induction)right in front of the windshield and a big cover than raises up from a seal(gasket)with handle inside will air it out. Best have your floor clean or be ready to eat whatever is down there when you open it full up at speed. I’ve seen countless times the air temp would get into the lower 70’s and you would have to shut it down to avoid hypothermia and I’m not joking. Hell, I”m nostalgic now, wish I was adjusting that air ride seat and grab another gear, listen to her wind. AND THEN YOU NEARLY JUMP OUT OF YOUR SEAT BECAUSE YOU’RE BARELY AWAKE AND THE SHUTTERSTATS CLOSE AND IT’S LIKE THE ENGINE FAN JUST JUMPED IN THE CAB WITH YOU….I’M AWAKE, I’M AWAKE….stay tuned to WBAP for more Bill Mack and the Country Road Show, all you truckers keep the shiny side up and don’t nod off cause we’ll be right back for a new hit song from Red Sovine, Phantom 309. Damn, where’s that cold drink in all this ice water? Oh hell, I’ll just scoop some water out of the cooler. It’s cold, a little label glue won’t hurt you.

    • Perhaps wing windows are not practical down south in love bug country or other areas of high concentration of aerial pests, but in drier climates I find them cool and useful.

  17. I agree.

    Speaking of complexity – I’ve got one for you: I am a cubicle dweller at a large audio company. Our OEM car amplifiers now have FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards) they must comply with. This is because some of them process the lane departure warning chimes and blind spot detection chimes.

    Yes – we can now have a severity 10 on a DFMEA for a car audio product since people are too lazy to look over their shoulders or apparently, even the road itself.

    Now every new amplifier we sell will have a not insignificant chunk of change devoted to satisfying Federal Safety Nazis and their reams of completely unnecessary paperwork.

    And YOU get to pay for it all – if you buy a new car with one of our systems.

    Ask me why cars are getting (already are) so expensive.

    I’m looking for a rust free early to later eighties GM G Body. Mechanical work is OK. I have no auto body skills (or patience for rust). I will make it how I wish I could order a new car today. Small block TBI with manual OD trans (I know I’ll have to do that myself). No airbags, no ABS, no seat belt chime, no tire pressure monitor, no radar based cruise control, no backup camera, no lane departure warning, no ETC pedal, no spy box, no yellow plastic headlights.

    I too am damn tired of unreliable gadgets that teach us to not pay attention on the road.

    • Ditto all that, Blake.

      If my ’76 Trans Am were not a collectible antique, it’d make a great everyday car.

      No, really.

      The suspension is actually very good – even by modern standards. The mid-late ’70s Trans-Ams were esteemed for their combination of excellent handling and a decent ride. Yet, the layout is simplicity itself: Rear leaf springs and solid axle; virtually unbreakable and requires minimal (and inexpensive) occasional maintenance. Front coils and stamped steel A-arms with the usual tie-rods and so on. Again, very simple, very much DIY-maintainable.

      The drivetrain:

      Big ‘ol 455 with a mild-street performance cam. This engine produces immense torque and – provided you don’t over-rev it (which is not necessary with all that torque available) it is an extremely rugged, reliable engine – and one that can be rebuilt from oil pan to carb for maybe $3,000 and good to go for another 100,000-plus miles.

      I put an overdrive 2004R behind it. This is a great (and non-electronic) overdrive transmission, with a steep overdrive fourth that lets the car run at 75 with the engine only turning about 2,000 RPM … with a 3.90 rear set.

      Amazingly, this car gets better gas mileage than several new cars I’ve driven lately that have engines not even half the size of the 455.

      I can tickle low 20s on the highway.

  18. The biggest problem with the newer power windows is the actuator mechanisms. The “gears” are actually nylon tractor strips (like the paper ones on the dot matrix printer paper) driven by the motor gear, in a channel. When the window moulding strips get a little age on them, they get hard. If the windows aren’t used much they tend to stick to the glass and the first thing to go is the tractor strip. It isn’t a difficult job nor expensive if the strip is supplied seperately. It’s just one that shouldn’t have to be done. Manual windows do not have this problem.
    You’re right about wanting to shift the thing into gear, but I sure don’t miss getting out in the mud and locking the hubs.:)

      • Used to love the old scouts. So many levers, it confused anyone who didn’t know anything about 4WD and its uses. Matter of fact, I think the 3 levers for the tranny and X-fer case was an early anti-theft device.

  19. We all get power windows because of cost. They are commodity items now. With probably little exception if any, manual crank windows can only be cheaper if and only if they are the sole offering. Why? While the motor may add a little cost to the regulator assembly, that cost is saved and then some by not having two door assemblies in all the various interior colors. Yes, today power windows across the board is cheaper than having them optional.

    Factor in tooling for the crank, knob, and trim bits vs the one piece needed to cover the switch assembly over the production life of the car and the crank windows across the board could lose out on over a power window assembly using a standard motor that can be purchased from a supplier where the tooling costs are shared throughout the industry. Same with the switches. Maybe pay to change the part of the switches that shows, that’s it.

    And yes, I’ve replaced a failed manual window regulator in my life and I at least two power. What broke wasn’t the motors either, but the mechanisms. That is the two power regulators failed for the parts that also exist in the manual regulators. It’s usually the pinion gear that fails, sometimes it’s the pivot pins, sometimes the pivot pins stick putting too much load on the pinion gear…. the motor and switch are about as reliable than the knob on the hand crank if not more so.

    Every physical part needs to be tooled up. The more that comes off the shelf the cheaper things get. A supplied off the shelf motor or solenoid instead of a complete set of stampings, castings, and plastic trim pieces for a manual control is way less money when tooling is included. Tooling money is only recovered with volume, and it seems individual models these days often lack volume. Even when it does exist, like for an F150, the automaker is still going to opt to save the money. Up front money. Money that has to be spent if they make five cars or five hundred thousand.

    In the end there are fewer parts to tool up with the automatic systems. Fewer parts that show so they don’t have to look nice. More comes off the shelf. It is more flexible because things are connected by wires which means more sharing across vehicles and less fitment issues…. shortened development times.

    That doesn’t address desirability, which is opinion, but the best thing to put in a product is something you can do cheaper that people will pay more to have.

    • BrentP, also the entire regulator assembly goes in as one unit, the door panel as another and it’s done, much less labor. How many times have you had to remove a crank and reposition it to a better location? I have many times. Often they install them with the handle knob toward the occupant but it’s much better in many ways to have it away from the occupant and then some people position them up to stay away from knees. The switch is out of the way for the most part. Now it’s just trying to figure out which is the window and the lock. And for people who think zippy windows are the nads, I’ll take the slower ones, the ones with more durable gears.

  20. I’d agree that rotary knobs are usually more intuitive, and less distracting than tapping simulated buttons.

    But manually rolling up or down windows is one of the most inelegant, redundant controls anyone ever had to use in a car. Sort of like a dog scratching itself for fleas. Distracts a portion of a driver’s attention. And makes one hand unavailable for operating any other controls.

    Power windows certainly “can” fail. But they are a very mature technology, with most of the weak links already fixed. I’ve never had one fail in a whole lot of Japanese cars. Only time I ever had one fail was in a Mopar with over 100K miles.

    Funny you should anticipate anyone would accuse you of being a Luddite. In fact, I have a suggestion for your next “back to automotive basics” campaign. How about getting rid of those unnecessary electrical starters. They might eventually fail. They require heavy duty alternators and batteries, and add extra weight. You just can’t beat the durable, light weight, manual hand crank for turning over an engine. 😉

    • Wow, MikePizzo. From your comment it almost seems like you don’t think the unitedstate is going to slide downhill into Third Worldliness and drag many (most?) people down along for the ride?
      Post-SHTF, people might have to keep their cars long past 100,000 miles, at which time, having an actuator or power electric motor go out might be a very bad thing. Especially in Winter! Imagine having to wait for a repair shop to fix your window while you drive around in the Winter,.. or a hot assed Summer! I see it quite often now. They don’t look happy. …plastic and duct tape flapping in the breeze.
      Yeah, some people might have to wait to get a window crank fixed too, but there are work-arounds for when the parts aren’t available, unlike with an expensive electric motor, for the most part.

      Yeesh, even now, replacing an actuator (plus installation) can cost more than some vehicles are worth. Not too mention, post-SHTF, getting replacement parts might be near impossible. Doubly so for imports.

      The same goes for starters.

      Myself, I have one of those durable, light weight, manual hand cranks for turning over an engine, however; I call it a manual transmission.
      If the starter goes out (a very common thing for us peon folks) having a manual transmission doesn’t mean you’re stranded and at the mercy of a tow-truck driver, or an out of town repair shop.

      If you’re one of those people who can simply throw money at the problem, and doesn’t mind waiting for a tow-truck, or relying on a repair at a shop, I can see your viewpoint on that.
      Well, not really. Ceteris paribus, always, and forever?

      What I really cannot understand is, how rolling down a manual window crank distracts a portion of a driver’s attention, and makes one hand unavailable for operating any other controls, more-so than pushing a button does?
      Not too mention fighting a button to get it to open just the amount you want. That’s not distracting?

      For some reason, I imagine you would never drive a vehicle with a manual transmission, too distracting, I’m sure.

      Just curious, would you have to pull over to the side of the road to operate a manual transmission AND a manual window crank, simultaneously? Or are you ok with that?

      Mang, I guess I’ll just never understand the type that looks forward to a Google dashboard where a wave of the hand replaces turning knobs. Not because it’s a so-called advancement in technology, but because it represents a reliance on shit parts, and/or things that don’t last, and cost an arm and a leg to get replaced. In other words, it’s not durable. Or practical.
      It even borders on foolishness, imho.

      • Just to back up what you’re saying, Rothbard, let me say this:

        America was the most powerful nation in the world, because they built (produced) things that were built to last. There was no “shit hitting the fan” because “we” (American citizens) actually gave a shit about the things “we” produced. And with that, and a strong set of morals throughout most of society, and a very small government that didn’t majorly*** on the rights of peoples and the things they wished to buy/sell/trade, “we” were doing very well.

        ***We don’t have awesome things like automobiles that were built to be user friendly, and easy to work on, because the government is hijacked by bankers who wish to be the downfall of society. If you enjoy power windows and want to pay the extra money for those features, so be it. Personally, I want a automobile with the bare necessities, that will get me from point A to point B reliably, and is very easy to work on so I don’t have to rely on specialized mechanics to get shit fixed. But now that the government owns every fucking car manufacturer in this country (remember the bailouts?), “we” are not “allowed” to have automobiles with manual windows, or that are built domestically, or that are easy to work on. The more they break, the more “they” know you will have to go out and either pay a shit ton to get it fixed, or better yet, buy a whole new piece of shit automobile.

        • America was the most powerful nation in the world, because they built (produced) things that were built to last.

          Rubbish. You could say precisely the same about Britain and Germany – even more so, actually. Even though Britain was indeed the most powerful (single) nation in the world at one time, Germany never was – so you should look elsewhere for reasons. Not suffering infrastructure damage and Pyrrhic victories had a lot to do with it.

          • ??? Everything you just said just reaffirms the points I was making. Sovereign countries used to have power in the world, or at the very least produced “good” things, but now they don’t because they produce shit products (all thanks to their governments regulating all the good products out of business).

      • Rothbard, I think it’s quite possible that the USA may slide downhill into third world conditions…..or experience a fate far worse. And if/when that happens, power window failures are going to be a very trivial concern, compared to the struggle to just get fuel to keep vehicles running.

        Pushing a power window button is one instantaneous move using only one finger. If you’re honest, you’ll admit that takes much less time and motion than manually cranking a window.

        I’ll agree that getting those one push windows to stop at one precise point in the middle could be challenging. It’s never proven a problem for me, because I almost always want that window to go All The Way up or down. The exception would be lowering the windows just a bit for slight ventilation while parked during hot weather. I find it easy to do that with adequate precision. Very easy.

        You’ll have to re-calibrate your imagination, because my daily driver is an Acura TL with 6 speed manual. It does monopolize my right hand a lot of the time. But I find it worthwhile, because my particular car is faster and gets better mpg with a stick. And shifting the Acura/Honda gearbox is fun. And I don’t ever have to try to shift gears while ponderously cranking a manual window

        If you are going to claim that cars with crank windows are measurably faster and get better mpg, I can’t want to read your explanation.

        If you’re going to claim that cars with manual windows are more “fun to drive….” well that explanation will be very entertaining.

        • Dear MP,

          The examples you cited were obviously tongue in cheek.

          On a more serious note, I’m sure you’ll agree that it isn’t any one fancy schmancy optional extra that breaks the camel’s back. it’s the sum total of all of them.

          The expression “reliable as a hammer” represents the ideal. As few moving parts as possible. Those that are indispensable, should be as rugged and not prone to breakage as possible.

          This is true for firearms such as the AK and its variants, and this true for motor vehicles such as the tried and true front engine, manual transmission, driveshaft, live axle, rear wheel drive configuration.

          • The expression “reliable as a hammer” represents the ideal. As few moving parts as possible. Those that are indispensable, should be as rugged and not prone to breakage as possible. This is true for firearms such as the AK and its variants, and this true for motor vehicles such as the tried and true front engine, manual transmission, driveshaft, live axle, rear wheel drive configuration.

            No, the AK 47 isn’t. The piston rod in those was prone to buckling, so the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese routinely carried several spares. GIs were puzzled when they first found bodies carrying mysterious rods they didn’t yet understand. Curiously enough, the Soviets did indeed come up with a truly reliable design that was broadly similar but used a lever delayed blowback system, only by then the AK 47 was too entrenched to be superseded by that improved gun. And it took a lot of R & D to make drive shafts superior to chain drives, even though the latter were sometimes only strong enough if a drive shaft went most of the way with just short chain drives going the last part of the way to the driven wheels – chain drives allow flexing by design, unlike drive shafts.

          • Dear PM,

            Those can all be debated.

            But really, the specific examples aren’t the central point.

            As long as you got my point about “Simpler being better” then I’m happy.

          • Bevin, there are lots of reasons why it’s important to get supporting material and argument right and not just the conclusion (which is why tutors mark down answers that get those wrong even when the general idea is right, often with the note “give your working”). Here are just a few reasons:-

            – It forms good habits and makes it less likely to be led to unsound conclusions on other occasions by merely plausible supporting material and argument.

            – It makes it less likely that doubters can muddy the waters by pointing at poor supporting material and argument, and then claiming that it’s not worth paying any further attention to the rest.

            – It gets your own background stock of supporting material and argument up to a higher grade, which not only leaves you better prepared for other occasions but also leaves you with more bubbling away in your subconscious where it can cross-connect to other sound stuff and generate creativity and inspiration, which it can do because there is more likely to be an underlying pattern that can be found.

            Anyhow, that is why it matters for me to point out supporting material and argument that isn’t the way you think it is, even though you only meant it to support stuff that happens to be true anyway.

          • The thing is, Bevin and others, is the choice factor. Those who wish to have all the bells and whistles, and can afford to buy them, should certainly be able to get them in any configuration they want. Those who want fewer or not doo dads and whiz kid stuff should be able to buy those… and everything in between.

            And I seriously look forward to the day when even more wonderful gadgets and doo dads are available! The more the better… as long as we can choose which ones we want and pay for them ourselves.

            When I was very young, we didn’t even have a refrigerator.. I kid you not – just an ice box. A man came down the street each day with a wheelbarrow full of big ice chunks. We did not have a telephone until I was 12 years old, nor a TV. The first one was about 6 inches diagonally. We did not have a car, and my mother didn’t know how to drive until after my father died. We got milk and bread delivered to the door when we lived in town, which was only a short while. I remember when we got our first refrigerator with a real freezer and bought some of the newfangled frozen vegetables… We thought that was a miracle, but it all tasted funny…

            One generation’s miracles become another generation’s commonplace. And that’s not a problem as long as we are all free to choose.

          • Dear ML,


            The unspoken premise for bona fide libertarians is always zero coercion.

            I’m merely expressing an individual consumer preference in the free marketplace.

            The fact that you felt compelled to say what you did, even though I am an avowed, hardcore free market anarchist, speaks volumes about how far modern society has degenerated.

            Today, whenever anyone states a preference, he or she usually means “It’s better, therefore it should be the mandated solution.”

            I of course meant no such thing. But I certainly understand why you would feel the urge to make that clarification, even with a fellow hardcore free market anarchist.

            It was not so much a reflection on you, as on the political environment we inhabit, where brute force coercion is presumed to be a matter of routine, and all perfectly “normal.” Where “if it’s right, it must be compulsory. If it’s wrong, it must be illegal.”

          • I didn’t mean to jump on you either, Bevin. This on-line conversation is just so darn limited. Wish we could sit in my kitchen with some good coffee and my special apple crisp and just talk, voice, body language and all. 🙂

          • Dear ML,

            No offense taken! I know none was intended. I was merely making explicit what was already implicit.

            As I said, I sensed where you were coming from.

            The impulse to clarify that what we advocate must be purely voluntary, is understandably powerful in this statist political atmosphere we inhabit.

            It’s sometimes a shock when one drops an anarcho-capitalist bombshell into a conversation, expecting and bracing for a backlash, only to hear someone say “Amen, brother!”

            We, meaning free market anarchists, are actually gaining some real traction. Many young 20 something Paulians are swiftly transitioning from minarchism to hardcore anarchism.

            So not to worry. And thanks for responding to my earlier comments as well.

          • I’m with PML on the AK example. If you look at the Armalite (AR15) platform, its piston (yes, it has a piston, it’s in the bolt carrier) has fewer moving parts than the AK and as much as it goes against endless youtube propaganda, is quite reliable even under adverse conditions.

            That said, modern autos are marvels of complex engineering, not robust, simple and easy-to-repair “hammers.” Their subsystems are often very costly, unique, and requiring of very specialized tools and skill to troubleshoot. My hybrid Camry is a perfect example. I hope it’s reliable for 250,000 mi/10-15 years and my fingers are crossed.

            In a SHTF (or TEOTWAWKI) scenario, I figure the gasoline will run out or be in very short supply long before my starter or ECU fails so Max Maxing my way cross country seems pretty unlikely.

          • dc.sunsets, the Armalite still had its own problems in Vietnam conditions. I heard that GIs often kept toothbrushes with them to clean the muck out in the field, and wrote home to get private supplies of molybdenum sulphide dry lubricant to make up for the deficiencies of official maintenance procedures.

        • Hi Mike,

          I don’t disagree with your points, but:

          In a small vehicle – a regular cab pick-up, for instance or a Miata – power windows seem pointless to me. Therefore, I’d prefer not to buy them.

          I have the perspective of someone who drives new cars every week and in some of them, the power windows add to rather than reduce effort – by not stopping when you want them to stop. They seem to have programmed in “steps” and are very hard to modulate. This annoys the hell out of me. If I want the window open just 2 inches and no more – that’s how much I want the windows open.

          The main focus of my rant, though, was not power options – or power equipment as such. It’s that the PR/Marketing – the selling of this stuff as “must have” – is making it hard to say no thanks to.

          It’s of a piece with the inanity of fitting minivans and Camrys with 18 alloy wheels and low profile high performance tires.

          Just as it’s hard to find a new vehicle without power windows, it’s also getting tough to find even an A to B transportation appliance with less than a 17 inch allow wheel and a fairly aggressive tire package.

          • Our first minivan, a 97 Caravan, makes a good argument against manual windows, because the the crank is so poorly located that it is difficult to operate when stopped, let alone while driving. But that’s a design problem.
            Being older than some here, and living in wintry climes when power windows were not all that common, I heard many tales of power window drives being stripped because the window was iced shut.

          • Can’t we blame CAFE for a lot of the complexity of modern cars? That, and the obsession with “safety” (whether or not airbags make us safer is clearly debatable) in our increasingly maternalistic society probably double the cost and complexity of cars today.

            Cars simply reflect larger social narratives promoting a brittle, centrally-planned, once-size-force-fit-to-all experience. Everyone is to eat the same kind of (corporate) food, drive the same cars, wear the same clothes and think the same (approved) thoughts.

            Apogee of collectivism, I’d call it.

          • Eric, you’ll notice most military vehicles agree with you (and me) and are purpose-built bare bones. No electronic gadgetry to go wrong and disable the thing or cause a fire. If they have anything such as a selector for 4wd or diff-lock, then it’s either more robust hydraulic or air/vacuum powered.

            It all depends on the person too. Here’s a guy that would seriously have benefited from power windows:

            I was teaching a guy to drive an Army Unimog (Mercedes) back in ’91. As he rolled down the window to chuck out his smoke, his other arm did the same motion, with the truck doing little swerves in both directions. Same when he rolled it back up. I just shook my head in disbelief.

            Incidentally, we had another guy that had never driven anything other than motorbikes. No shit – he leaned into the corners! Truebie.

        • Actually, MIkePizzo, what’s truly entertaining is your implied suggestion that manual windows are a lot of work and potentially dangerous. I had no idea. I’ve been hand cranking windows all my life (hate AC) and I’ve never been in an accident (except twice while rear ended by cars that I assume had power windows) and I’m not exhausted from the inelegant task of cranking those babies, although I must admit it does make me thirsty from time to time. I just happen to believe that simple, elegant solutions beat needlessly complex ones 100% of the time. I realize that makes me a member of the minority, but I can live with that because the majority is leading us over a cliff. I want nothing to do with them, no offense intended to you, my friend. Happy motoring. Be careful. Needlessly adjusting your power windows can lead to carpel tunnel syndrome.

      • Dear Jacob,

        I hear you, loud and clear.

        What is an automobile anyway, when you strip away all the extraneous features?

        Say you’re out on a remote stretch of highway somewhere and your car breaks down. What do all the geegaws really count for?

        At that point, what is it you really want and really need? What was the point of an automobile anyway?

        The answer of course, is locomotion, plain and simple. What you want is a man made device able to hold one or more people, and move from Point A to Point B. That’s it. Nothing more.

        That’s why I’ve never been all that wowed by many of the more recent innovations in automobile technology.

        To me, many “primitive” automobile designs are advanced enough. If they are cheaper and more reliable as a result of being cruder but simpler, I say “Why the hell not?”

        Examples include front engines with manual transmissions and live rear axles.

      • RothbardianamericanHelot,

        I agree that MikePizzo seems to believe that all change is progress. CLEARLY not the case.

        Moreover MikePizzo seems to have missed the point.

        The point is that the problem IS NOT the PRESENCE of handy electro-gadgetry up to an including driving the car when you nod off.

        The POINT (and problem) is the ABSENCE OF ALTERNATIVES.

        My last three cars have had electric windows. My last two have had at least one electric seat. My previous four cars (and I drive ’em until they become impractical to maintain, or until I pass them to a relative) had NOTHING electric; okay, fine they had a starter.

        Electric windows? I’ve never lost a motor…but I’ve lost lots of switches, relays, wires, and other equipment without which they cannot run. However, I have to say, when driving a stick-shift it is a WHOLE LOT EASIER to roll down your window with an elbow using the electric while one hand continues to steer and the other operates the transmission.

        DITTO for the electric adjust on the side-mount rear-view mirrors… It was often a real hazard to find a place to pull to the side, then lean all the way to the other side of the vehicle and adjust that passenger side mirror… especially when they got old enough that the occasional bump or strong wind could change the view JUST enough to be really annoying.

        Then again…my first three cars only had such a mirror on the driver’s side anyway.

        Electric seats? I have a motor out right now. And since my car hasn’t been manufactured for 13 years now, those kinds of parts are getting scarce. I’ll probably end up redesigning the system to use a generic motor that I can easily get.

        I wasn’t always capable of things like that. Even my nephew (who is a professional mechanic) thinks I’m nuts to dig into the electronics and electricals like that.

        But what would I do if I were a teenager again?

        Back then I couldn’t afford the gadgetry.

        Back then I couldn’t REMOTELY afford new cars…only used cars that needed frequent maintenance.

        Back then all my tools could fit in a case the size of a book.

        Back then no car meant no job, no independence, no girlfriend, no way to get out of the parent’s house until I’d saved a decade or more small-job money – or with help from family, which was OFTEN not available.

        What do today’s young ones do?

        Oh yeah. They stay in their parents house until their 30’s with no job, no independence, no girlfriend, etc…

        Sooner or later, no alternatives means no Life.

        And that, my friends, is the real point.

        • El Gordo, I think I have lost two switches for windows and one for locks but the trade-off is worth it to me. My pickup is so wide the far door is in another zip code. I wish I had electric mirrors. In west Tx. 70mph gusts of wind are not uncommon and traveling at speed, 80mph and running into one will move the mirrors. It’s a pain, esp. pulling a trailer, to pull over and adjust the mirror. OTH, when I was a teenager I was very proud to have a second hand second hand 55 Chevy pickup. It was tricked out with options although not all of them, no radio, no lighter but it had a heater and that was a boon. It was tough too, had a rear bumper and surrounding steel so thick a guy ran into me in his dad’s 63 Ford station wagon and did several hundred dollars of damage, damn near totaled it. What did the pickup suffer? A shiny spot. It was upscale though, a custom cab with wrap-around rear glass, a real looker. I’d give my left one to have it back.

    • As someone who has had an electric window refuse to go up during a heavy rainstorm while driving on the Washington beltway, I can say that I prefer windows with cranks.

    • Wind up windows shit me.
      The stupid bloody things always end up in exactly the wrong spot with the knob right where I want to rest my knee.
      Dunno about you blokes, you might like being poked in the hock by knobs,but I can do without that sort of thing.

      • Good point Klavdy. Have had that happen to me many times because of shit design. Wait until the winding unit wears out and gets slack in it. Then you can have the window where you want and move the winder out of harms way.

      • Klavdy, I second that. I have had a knot the size of a hen egg raise on my elbow just from repetitive abusive work. Got in Red Dog, the big block big pickup to go to town one day and the wife asked why I wasn’t taking Baby pickup. I just pointed at my elbow. Baby pickup had crank winders and manual shift, Red Dog, auto and elec. winders. I always had a dog so elec. winders were the ticket. When I had vehicles with cranks though, I’d always run them up fully and down to where I might want them most of the time. I’d just remove the crank and position it to suit me, a $5 tool at the parts store. I opened a friends door one day after his crank had broken. He had a Makita cordless on the shaft, worked well too.


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