It’s cost-benefit analysis.
Increasingly, the costs of all this technology are of little benefit – to me.
I don’t feel the need for six (or even one) air bag, so I’d rather not have to buy them. I find it annoying that – as in several new cars I’ve test-driven recently – merely to place a small package (such as a Subway sandwich) on the front passenger seat is sufficient to arouse the ire of the air bag sensor – which triggers an obnoxious “safety” chime urging me to buckle-up the sandwich.
And, no – I am not making that up.
It also annoys me that the radio cuts off – and a back-up camera advising me to “watch for safety” (Really? Where is he?) comes on the flat screen display I do not want whenever I put the car in reverse. My eyes work fine – and they’re free.
Since I am fine with my $12 plug-it-into-the-wall phone, I certainly feel no need for a Bluetooth-enabled touchscreen LCD display in my car. I am not a surgeon; lives do not depend on me. I do not need to be “reachable” wherever I am. Nor do I feel an urge to constantly gabble on – or peck at – a “device.”
But I digress.
One of the claimed superiorities of modern cars is that the pre-computer-era stuff is not viable for daily driving/regular use.
The truth is that any number of vehicles (cars and bikes) from the ’70s can be a daily driver – or rider – today. Indeed, with a few simple upgrades, you can have almost all the tangible, functional advantages of a modern car without the needless complexity, the excessive cost (the debt) or the frustration.
My ’76 Kz900 Kawasaki, for instance. I’d not hesitate to ride this bike anywhere, including cross country. It is as reliable as any modern bike – arguably, more so. Because if something does go wrong with it, it is almost certain to be something I can deal with myself, with basic tools, right there by the side of the road.
There is no ECU or drive by wire throttle to fritz out. If a cable snaps, it’s both obvious – and easy to fix. Pretty much anything that might go wrong with the carburetors is something that a can of Gumout and a screwdriver can address. They might need cleaning and adjustment every now and then – but carburetors don’t just stop working – as electronic fuel injection sometimes does.
The old bike’s ignition system is simple, rugged and very durable. A modern bike’s is rugged and durable. But not simple. If something craps out – and there are many possibilities – look out. Not so with the Kaw. I replaced the original points with a breakerless system, but otherwise, it’s just two coils (one for each pair of cylinders) that typically last for decades (the ones on my ’76 are original; that is, they are almost 40 years old), a few wires, a simple charging system and very little to go wrong.
The engine has no “sensors” – so no worries about weird/intermittent/inexplicable problems. There are no “trouble codes,” no “check engine” flags. There is a tachometer (mechanically rather than electrically driven) a speedometer (again, mechanically driven) and an oil pressure gauge that I added because the bike originally came with just an idiot light for that.
This bike is not far from a half-century old – and it’s not only still running, it’s running reliably and cost-efficiently. (It gets about 40 MPG – and can still out-accelerate almost any new car.)
My ’70s-era Trans-Am is another case in point. No air bags, no computers, no TCS or ABS. Hence, a wiring harness that’s simple, durable – and most of all – cost-effective to replace, if it ever becomes necessary. So far – after 40 years – it has not been necessary.
I read an article recently in Hot Rod magazine about replacing the carburetor of an old muscle car – it was an early ’70s Hemi Charger – with a self-learning fuel-injection system. My eyes widened and jaw dropped as the article went on – as the writer (briefly, for obvious reason) sotto voiced the price for this “upgrade.” It was more than $2,000.
Now, I’ve upgraded my car with an overdrive transmission – which cost a bit less than the Hot Rod article’s fuel-injection system. This was a cost-effective upgrade.
Unlike the HR project car’s cash-burn festival.
But even so, either upgrade will yield tangible benefits – immediate, easy starting; the ability to precisely meter the fuel (in the case of aftermarket fuel-injection) and modern car “highway legs” (low engine RPM at high road speeds) and superb fuel economy, in the case of the overdrive transmission.
You’ll end up with a better car, arguably. It will certainly be lighter (see my recent article comparing the weight of the new Camaro vs. the weight of my ’70s-era Pontiac) due to the lack of all the “safety” crapola that’s folded into the design of a modern car. And not just that. It will be less fragile – because it will not have flimsy, tinfoil-thick fenders and hoods that crumple beyond repair in even minor impacts; nor rubber/plastic front and rear “fascias” that tear beyond repair in minor impacts.
It will be simpler – and so easier to fix (yourself). And most of all, it will be yours to command, as opposed to a modern car’s commanding (and controlling) you.
The new stuff is by no means all bad. There’s a lot about it that’s very good. It’s just not what I want. Maybe you agree. And, like me, you’d rather not pay for what you don’t want – much as the government wants – no, insists – that you have.
Throw it in the Woods?
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