Numbers vs. Names

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New cars lack a certain something. But what is that something? What’s changed that’s made them less emotionally involving – and more appliance-like?

Herewith some thoughts along those lines:

* Liters vs. cubic inches

Engines seem more interchangeably anonymous today, in part because of the way they are identified. Which is by liters of displacement – like bottled water – rather than cubic inches, which is a more viscerally mechanical way to measure cylinder volume.

The metric system ruins everything.

Yes, of course. It is more precise. But that just the point. The metric system does not convey the same thing as, say, 289 Hi Power. Or 454 Turbo-Jet.  engine badge

 “5.0” liters has an empty and generic ring to it. Lots of different car companies sell (and have sold) “5.0” liter V8s. American, Japanese.. . how to know the difference or even talk sensibly about the differences?

In contrast, there was only one 302 Turbo-Fire V8 in 1967.

It was found under the cowl-induction hood of the ’67 Camaro Z28.

No other car company sold a 302 that year – so when you talked up (or talked down) the virtues of the little Chevy V8, everyone who knew cars knew exactly which engine you meant.

Walk with me down the halls of history and glance left, then right: Pontiac 389 (early GTO). Ram Air III 400 (’69 Judge). Both “6.6” liters in terms of their displacement. But which sounds better? Which brings back fond memories?

No more Turbo-Jet 454s or Ramchargers or Street Hemis or Super Duty 455s or Wedge 340s. Just a sea of 4.6 and 5.4 and 5.3 and 6.2 … like milk containers of various sizes.

No wonder they cover up the engines in modern cars with plastic. They might as well, as they’re all pretty much the same.

* Numbers (and letters) vs. names

Lincoln is reportedly going to resurrect the Continental name. Happy news! A step back in the right direction, at least. Once upon a time, all cars – well, all American cars – had names. Individuals have names. Interchangeable things have numbers.T-bird badge

Blame the Germans – BMW and Mercedes. They popularized this business of identifying cars alphanumerically. Which is eminently logical but  – like Mr. Spock – cold and passionless, too.     

Lincoln Continental. That’s a proper name for a car. Bonneville, Cougar, Thunderbird, Pantera, Interceptor.

And the best one ever, perhaps: Eldorado.

As opposed to another X, Y or Z followed by the numbers 1, 2, or 3.

* Same-same steering wheels – 

Uniform means all the same; having one form. It is the specialty – the defining characteristic – of regimentation. One size fits at all. Take it or leave it. Before government got all micro-managy about car design, designers were free to indulge their imaginations and one of the ways this manifested was in the styling of steering wheels. They were often the signature feature of a car. An excellent example of this being the three-spoke Formula steering wheel found in every Pontiac Trans-Am made during the 1970s – when that car was extremely popular. Which it was because it was unlike any other car. Even its sister car – the Chevy Camaro  – looked very different from behind the wheel. Because it had a different steering wheel.

No other car – GM or otherwise- had a steering wheel anything like the Trans-Am’s steering wheel.TA wheel

There were also delicate wood wheels, sometimes inlaid with ivory. And cheap, mass-produced plastic wheels, too – which the owner could replace with a custom steering wheel of his choosing. There used to be whole racks of them at auto parts stores. Horn caps, too. All gone now, because of the government’s air bag mandate. Only so much you can do, as a stylist, when the steering wheel’s got to have a big fat blob in the center.

Uniform. All the same. Like the dreary gray khaki onesie-wearing ranks of the Dear Leader’s subjects. We’re “safer,” perhaps.

But it’s a lot less fun.

* Gear whine –

Like the sound of a caburetor’s secondaries opening – roaring vacuum, great gulps of gas and air being sucked down deep and for good like an object that got too close to the event horizon of a black hole – the high-pitched whine of a Super T-10 (or better yet, a “rock crusher” Muncie) is, as the saying goes, gone with the wind.

Blame insulation. Blame the current obsession with reducing to nil (or as close as possible to nil) what the car industry PR people refer to as NVH (noise/vibration/harshness). New cars are like Grant’s Tomb. Quiet as the grave. It is deliberate policy. It is what most people want … apparently.

The new boxes have much to recommend them. Overdrive gearing, especially. No more having to choose either a car that’s really quick but a beast on the highway due to the high revs (due to the absence of overdrive gearing) or a car that’s got long legs on the highway but takes forever to get up to speed (due to the granny gearing). If only they had some soul. Gave some feedback.

Made some music.

* Fuel injection –

If there is any one thing that hastened the transition of the car from being something more than an appliance to a Cuisinart on wheels, it was the retirement of the carburetor in favor of electronic (and lately, direct) fuel injection. Which is without question more efficient. More power, better mileage. Usually starts every time, regardless of weather – and rarely, if ever, stalls out on you. But what is all that to the aficionado of things mechanical when compared with the sound of twin Carter AFBs opening up? Or of three Rochester two barrels singing in tandem? Those who missed it due to youth and bad timing will never know, perhaps, such joys.

It is too bad. six pak pic

Sure, they flooded and they stalled and sometimes they bogged, too. But the various inductions systems once found under the hood were highly brand-specific, which gave the car identity and you – its owner – something to form a bond with. You got to know the quirks, the tricks, the techniques. In a current car? They all have the same made-by-Bosch injectors, located in pretty much the same place, pretty much doing exactly the same thing – Corolla to Cadillac. There’s nothing to tweak or tune. Not much to see or hear, either. The vacuum signal is muffled under all those “air boxes” and “resonators”… and the smell of raw gas – one of my favorite smells – is nonexistent. Can’t have those noxious vapors befouling the air.

But our noses are the poorer for it.

And cars have become throw-aways in consequence of it.

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95 COMMENTS

  1. “Pontiac 389 (early GTO). Ram Air III 400 (’69 Judge). Both “6.6” liters in terms of their displacement. But which sounds better? Which brings back fond memories?”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RS5bhTXxr1Y

    Little GTO, you’re really lookin’ fine
    Three deuces and a four-speed and a 389
    Listen to her tachin’ up now, listen to her why-ee-eye-ine
    C’mon and turn it on, wind it up, blow it out GTO

    Is there any question?

    I have to admit though the first time I saw the “6.5 LITRE” fender emblem, I did a double take!

    There ain’t no substitute for cubic inches.

    https://www.opgi-static.com/common/1K0023-lrg.jpg?v=102420131155

  2. Hi Eric

    I nearly forgot. Some of the most memorable names for cars are Japanese.

    How about “Bongo” for a van, “Toyopet” for a sedan, “Cedric” for a limo, “Gloria” or “Fairlady” for a sportscar? And their are plenty more. Some are weird, some are outstanding and some are “nobody knows for sure”. First place goes to “Van” which is, as may be guessed, not a van. Best of all though are the instruction manuals with such unforgettable advisories as, “the horn is for to be tootled politely in emergency and if does not hear, then do more again urgent shouting” and the important admonition “do not use it (the car) for that other purpose” (what the other purpose may be is best left to your imagination and a few bottles of spirits). Used Japanese imports are excellent value and a lot of fun.

    Sione

  3. I still think the name “tunnel port” is evocative. And then there is “Ram Air”. What about “Hemi”? These are (were) names that didn’t need you to even know how big the engine was. You just knew it was special and deserved respect.

    Sione

    • Amen, Sione

      That’s part of the emotional tug – gone now.

      Also, the way they (engines) looked. It gave each car another special something.

      • Yes. You could open the bonnet and actually see the awe inspiring heart of your car, not some uninspiring fake plastic cover.

  4. Splash! Total dozenal immersion for beginners

    Day One opens – but which day is it?

    Now you’re in a new world, a world where numbers may look familiar, but are rather different.

    Is that the alarm clock? Rub your eyes, and look again’

    The clock face looks similar, but not all the digits are familiar. The old clock tells us it’s ten minutes past ten; and the new one? The new one is not working in minutes – sixtieths of the hour – but dozenal divisions of the hour.

    We need to know these new divisions – and we need the words to name them.

    Starting with the number names – you can keep “ten” and “eleven” and add “zen” for the dozen, and “zandred” for the gross.

    One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, onezen (*10);

    onezen-one, onezen-two, onezen-three …. onezen-eleven, twozen (*20);

    and then threezen (*30), fourzen, fivezen, sixzen, sevenzen, eightzen, ninezen, tenzen, elevenzen and zandred (*100).

    Yes, some of these sound quite awful, and need to be turned into proper English by knocking off the corners and rubbing them down with emery paper;

    From now on it’s “semzen” for 70, “levzen” for E0.

    So what time is it by our dozenal clock?

    For the moment let’s divide the hour into twelve “primes” and the “prime” into twelve “ticks”. We can say that the time on the clockface is “twozen ticks past ten”, or as “ten point two hours” or as “ten hours twozen”. (The tick is divided further into *100 tim, one zandred tim.)

    A quick look at the tv tells you it’s going to be a fine day, and that the temperature is *20°Z – twozen degrees on the dozenal thermometer.

    This has replaced both the Fahrenheit and the Centigrade (Celsius) thermometers and runs from 0 (like the Centigrade did) to *100.

    (And, if you want to know, *20°Z is about 62°F and 17°C.)

    The speedometer and rev counter look strange: The rev counter is calibrated in revolutions per tim, of which 3 revs/tim are roughly equal to 1000 rpm.

    The speedometer works in grafut/tim (called Vlos, for velocity) and 1 vlos is just under 4mph.

    The numbers on the speedometer have changed – so have those on the speed limit signs… in built-up areas the sign now reads 8 (vlos), with some streets marked 5. The countryside limit is now shown as *11 and the motorway limit as *16. (A “ton” – hundred mph- comes out at *22 vlos).

    Halfway down the road you come to a steep hill – which years ago was labelled “1 in 8” and then 12½% – its sign now reads *16% (but the % is per zandred).

    Base 12 – Numberphile

    Why we should switch to a base-12 counting system

  5. Hey Eric, I see Ralph Raico is comparing you to Gustave de Molinari for your critique of the metric system.

      • Ralph Raico is a senior fellow of the Mises Institute and the author of The Party of Freedom: Studies in the History of German Liberalism (in German) and The Place of Religion in the Liberal Philosophy of Constant, Tocqueville, and Lord Acton. He has also published two collections of essays with the Mises Institute, Great Wars and Great Leaders and Classical Liberalism and the Austrian School.

        Ralph mentioned you on the LRC blog:
        https://www.lewrockwell.com/lrc-blog/the-evil-metric-system/

        The Evil Metric System
        Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

        Writes Ralph Raico:

        Lew, I was interested to see the article by Eric Peters, on the allegedly super-scientific metric system. That was, of course, another of the brainstorms of the French revolutionaries, who aimed to extirpate all of the inherited traditions and ways of life of the people they came (briefly) to rule over.

        Peters’s article brought to mind the critique by the “reactionary anarchist,” Gustave de Molinari, who founded the doctrine of anarcho-capitalism, horrifying even famous liberals like Bastiat. Rejecting the French Revolution root and branch, Molinari attacked “the system of weights and measures, invented by professors of mathematics, in contempt of the experience and needs of those engaging in exchange.”

        Throughout his very long life, he was tireless in condemning imperialism and war, including Lincoln’s war. That conflict, Molinari held, “ruined the conquered provinces,” but permitted the Northern industrialists to impose the protectionism that led to “the regime of trusts and produced the billionaires.” No wonder Murray loved this guy.

        Newest article by Ralph Raico on Lew Rockwell:
        https://www.lewrockwell.com/2015/04/ralph-raico/the-camp-of-the-saints/

  6. blame it on the germans?
    only some of them.
    volkswagen went from numbers to names
    opel and ford, grtman iterations, always use(d) them.
    as did many defunct getman marques
    but names were for common cars, with upscale ones having numbers. named cars, over there, were always seen as lesser.
    so of course the japs emulated this, for their upscale models, the pleb versions all have names .

    and theres the culprit: shitty names!
    jap cars are masters at crappy, retort, just-not-right names

    and that annoying need to end on A…

    so gimme numbers no problem
    at least one has a ring to it:
    911

  7. EP: “No wonder they cover up the engines in modern cars with plastic.”

    So far I like my plastic engine cover – keeps the engine cleaner.

  8. You shouldn’t overlook the Canyonero:-

    Can you name the truck with four wheel drive,
    smells like a steak and seats thirty-five..

    Canyonero! Canyonero!

    Well, it goes real slow with the hammer down,
    It’s the country-fried truck endorsed by a clown!

    Canyonero! (Yah!) Canyonero!
    [Krusty:] Hey Hey

    The Federal Highway comission has ruled the
    Canyonero unsafe for highway or city driving.

    Canyonero!

    12 yards long, 2 lanes wide,
    65 tons of American Pride!

    Canyonero! Canyonero!

    Top of the line in utility sports,
    Unexplained fires are a matter for the courts!

    Canyonero! Canyonero! (Yah!)

    She blinds everybody with her super high beams,
    She’s a squirrel crushing, deer smacking, driving machine!

    Canyonero!-oh woah, Canyonero! (Yah!)

    Drive Canyonero!

    Woah Canyonero!

    Woah!

    And what about the Homer?

  9. God Damn it Eric. Please don’t write stuff like this ever again!

    All you managed to do was make me want to go get some old beater and work on it for two years. I read this and went through car by car remembering so many of these that it hurts to think about it.

    It was just so much more fun then wasn’t it?

    How many hours of sitting around our garage or a buddies and BS’s about how much better out motor/carb/gearing, etc etc was? Best of all dreaming about what you were going to do to your baby next.

    I gotta get back into it, no I don’t, yes I do. ARggggg.

  10. In other company, it would be wise to not resort to feelings of nostalgia to defend the imperial system; here are a few more functional reasons (as a mechanical engineer by training and trade, this fight is one in which I am a Judu master.

    The metric system generally leads to expensive mistakes as a result of abuse of significant digits (which raises costs, sometime dramatically), whereas the imperial system smoothly transitions from fractions, all the way down to decimals when critical.

    The imperial system units are often based on readily available objects. An inch is a thumb width, a foot is a foot. A mile (was) 1000 steps in the march of a roman soldier. Not good enough? Sound arbitrary? Lets consider the meter. What is a meter? It is the estimated distance from pole to pole of the earth, divided evenly 10 million times. Functionally, this unit is meaningless. Nobody can fathom 1 ten millionth of half the circumference of the earth.

    Often, people say metric is better due to it being based on units of 10. There is no reason we can’t talk in tenths of inches, and with machine work, we sometimes do. But what we don’t have is dozens of sub-designations for each unit of 10. Centi, deci, milli, nano, kilo deca, mega, giga, and on and on and on. We have inches, and fractions of inches. Feet and fractions of feet.

    Fractions are infinitely and easily divisible by two. This is useful when you are pligging hairs. Whereas with demicals and units of 10, you go 10, 5, 2.5, 1.25, .625, .3125, and on and on. Versus 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, 1/64, 1/128, 1/256. Divisibility by two is not only incredibly handy if you measure something many times a day as I do but also in programming, as you will notice, binary is base 2.

    And for libertarians, metric is already the official unit system of the USA. The reason we don’t use it is our government hasn’t outlawed imperial, like it had to do in other countries.

    Though, I will admit, knowing how many liters my 5.7 liter 350in^3 engine has is useful when I tell people how many of their engines would be required to be equivalent.

      • Why not go hypernumerate? Eliminate girlie semantic primes where possible, and substitute more meaningful numbers-specs for us XYse guys.

        Instead of Eric Peters. He’s 1967.23 Peters, being as Eric was the 23rd most popular baby name of 1967.
        http://www.babycenter.com/popularBabyNames.htm?year=1967

        Maybe 1967.23’s thirsty for some H2O(1.1.8). A nice refreshing silica(13.8.8) cylinder of 1.1.8 is very hydrating for an XY Sapien on an 82F day like today. WikiGnome-sayin?

        Avoid metric where possible. Where necessary, metric being mathematical is probably better than random words like the ones used for colors. Red is a fuzzy term for. I like to use something exact, like 650 nm. 650 nanometers is a pleasing to the retina vibration of visibile light.

        visible violet light has a wavelength of about 400 nm.
        visible indigo light has a wavelength of about 445 nm.
        visible blue light has a wavelength of about 475 nm.
        visible green light has a wavelength of about 510 nm.
        visible yellow light has a wavelength of about 570 nm.
        Low-pressure sodium lamps, like those used in some parking lots, emit a yellow (wavelength 589 nm) light.
        visible orange light has a wavelength of about 590 nm.

        At sunrise and sunset, red or orange colors are present because the wavelengths associated with these colors are less efficiently scattered by the atmosphere than the shorter wavelength colors (e.g., blue and purple). A large amount of blue and violet light has been removed as a result of scattering and the longwave colors, such as red and orange, are more readily seen.

    • Your idea sounds likely, but the simple fact of Metrics is you cant metricize the basic components of our daily lives: the calendar, clock, and circle, alla which’re based on dodecanese, or twelves.
      So another fact of Metrics is, its another fine example of a bunch of Mattoidinal products of our public educationl system sitting round with too much time on their hands, much like how we got our pub-ed system to begin with — a bunch of morons like Dewey, Mann, Thorndike, Skinner and their ilk studying rats, chickens, dogs, &c, and deciding kids can learn the same stupid way.
      So here we are 100+ years later, the dumbest nation on earth, and quickly wending our way to the bottom of alla other grading areas also.
      tnx for dialoguing….

  11. While we are at it we should give up on amps, volts, and watts. All metric. And light wavelength (and lots of other wavelengths) meters, centimeters, millimeters, micrometers, nanometers. And this has been going on for over a century. When thinking about the speed of light which would you prefer? 300 million meters a second or 186,000 miles a second.

    • Since 186,000 miles/sec. is the way I learned it 55 years ago and have thought of it ever since, that works for me.

  12. Ha! Regarding carburetors, that’s why I specifically bought a year 2000 Dyna Glide Harley Davidson, since that was the last year of any carbureted Big Twin. Simple, I’ve rejetted many of these carburetors, and easy to rebuild. (That reminds, me: I should buy a rebuild kit while I still can!)

    • Bought a 2005 Softail, new, that came with a carb…waited 3 months for it, but finally arrived. I think 2006 was the last year the 88 came with a carb. 🙁

      For lack of time to properly care for it, I just sold my ’85 Mustang GT, the last year it came with a carb…

      • I also like that my Rex has no got-damned computer. It’s a 2003. One of the very last sport bikes to have carbs – and not have an ECU.

        Why do I dislike the EFI and ECU? One rational reason, one emotional reason.

        Rational reason: I keep bikes for decades. Computers and EFI are fine for 15 years or so. Then, they start to crap out and the fix usually entails replacement (if you can find replacement parts). Carbs are pretty much eternal – or at least, they will usually last as long as you will. I have several 40-year-old bikes. They still have their original carbs. Once rebuilt, they hardly need much attention except for occasional cleaning and tuning. Plus they are purely mechanical things and you can literally see what it (and is not) working. Much easier to deal with tuning problems as they occur. And remember – no got-damned computer. Which means: No sensors, no extra wiring harnesses, etc.

        Emotional reason: I find carbs emotionally appealing. They are tactile. They make sounds (and produce smells) that FI does not and cannot.

  13. Metric engines aren’t even more precise than the English engine displacements. Chrysler’s 361 was an entirely different engine from its 360, but both are listed as 5.7 liters.

    I feel like that old bar hound in Orwell’s “1984” complaining about beer served in half-liter mugs rather than pints.

  14. As a young man I loved the characters of the great American muscle cars. What often disappointed was that so many turned out to have unbelievably poor brakes and unspeakable handling. Too many were mebbe cars and it really hurt to find that. I couldn’t understand how a sane manufacturer could allow some of that stuff to be sold in that appalling form- brilliant drive-trains, inspired styling, amazing audio, woeful dynamics. What a let down these cars could turn out to be. Hell! Even the Okkers demonstrated that a muscle car ought to and could be manufactured to have reasonable open road manners.

    I think a great deal of the cause of the death of the musclecar was down to the hopelessly cynical specification they were often built to. One soon realised you could easily out-drive the car and arrive at a point of no control whatsoever quite easily. Some were so single dimensional- little depth to them really. Then the dream was gone, as was respect. As magic as they could be, as a breed they were difficult to defend against the assault of the shrill nannies and prohibitionists of the early ’70s for this very reason.

    Anyway, I’ll keep the 351 Cleveland XD Falcon. Sure it isn’t standard but it does have soul and it goes around corners right properly.

    By the way, who could ever forget the “E-type”. Which category of name type does that one fall into?

    Sione

    • Hi Sione,

      Ah, but that (awful brakes, etc.) was part of the fun!

      Speaking of which: Some classic bikes are of a piece. The Z1 Kaw being the obvious example but there were many. All engine, style and attitude. The mighty 900 was capable of 140 MPH… but Elvis help you if dared to explore that country!

      • Yes, the Z1 and the H triples. Interesting and terrifying. Still, at the time that was the best Japanese production technology. Kawasaki, they learned and improved their bikes- model by model there was always improvement and progress. You could never say in the case of the majority of muscle cars that the chassis and brakes were the best let alone up to scratch. Worse, the US manufacturers failed to improve their cars in major areas (like chassis and brakes, overall quality, rust resistance, finish and fit) over many, many, many, many model cycles. Even worse yet was that the needed improvements to the muscle cars would have been so damn easy to incorporate. Call it cynical indifference.

        Mebbe brakes and useless handling are not fun, especially when your supposedly “high performance” muscle car is revealed to be an inept mess at the first set of corners, let alone ones with bumps. Sorry, that aint fun. It’s frustrating. It’s also disappointing. A friend said this about one of the muscle cars he had admired until he actually drove it- “It’s like waking up the morning after and the girl is a nine jugs beautiful special edition.”

        Thankfully people like Herb Adams tried hard to change things for the better back in the day. And there were others active as well. Still, he actually managed to get a lot done and seems to have been influential within product development and also with automotive enthusiasts. He stressed handling and brakes as a necessary part of the muscle car package. I had a good discussion with him once and came away feeling that there was so much that could have been and ought to have been achieved. Too many people failed to listen, I guess.

        As an aside, for over thirty years the rest of the world watched the cars coming out of “Detroit” and marveled at how people with the highest standard of living on the planet could be counted on to purchase and drive what have been some of the worst examples of automotive product. Putting aside the performance models for the moment (and even most of those had severe shortcomings, as previously discussed), what was there that was admirable or best practice or World class? I can not think of very many really. And as for every second commuter in a truck? What on earth is that nonsense about?

        Sione

        • The problem was that the cars as planned were actually pretty good but the usual piss poor decisions in the boardroom whose idea was to sell a ‘poverty pack’ version (as well as many other variants) which you could add your own bits in either at the dealer or out in your own garage which would boost sales numbers and reduce liability. Not enough people would add those bits in.
          The Japanese did for that system with offering only a couple of models usually with good enough contented at a similar price with the usual anodyne one design fits all styling.

          • What I miss more than anything is being able to order a car exactly the way you want it. There’s no more of that, either you take what they have or you don’t get one. I remember going to the dealership and ordering my 1976 Ford, F-150 4X4. I ordered the short bed, black in color, vinyl seats, rubber mats, (no carpet), granny gear 4 speed, 360 V8, plain steel wheels with their cheapest tire, no air conditioning, no front bumper. It had a Dana 44 front axle and a Ford 9 inch limited slip in the rear. I ordered it this way because I wanted a tough work truck that I could hose the mud out of without worrying about wet carpet or seats. I ordered it without a bumper because I had a home made winch bumper and Warn upright winch sitting on the floor of the shop waiting for it. I ordered the plain wheels because I wanted a set of 33 inch 12.50R 15 B.F. Goodrich Mud Terrain Radials on it. I didn’t need air because I was constantly in and out of the truck all day and it would never be used. Yep, that was the good old days. Oh, I’ve still got that Ford. It’s the only brand new truck I ever had. These days, it goes mudding once in a while, but mostly it sits in the garage and leads a pampered life.

            • A cousin had one like it but 3/4 T with 16.5’s and 34’s. He did a lot of irrigation work with it among other things. That old a/c compressor was a bitch though and the straps that held it on broke constantly as did the alternator brackets. We finally used some 1/4″ strap and cut slots in it and made new brackets out of it that you didn’t have to take a pry bar to get right with the holes. And that funny thing was you could count miles, probably every 30K or less those bigger brackets would be broken and need to be replaced. It got to be old hat to whip out some more.

        • This is generally true – point conceded.

          But – in their defense – a major limiting factor in terms of the handling/braking capabilities of classic-era muscle cars was the tires available at the time. They sucked.

          I have a ’70s Pontiac Trans-Am and the thing actually does corner pretty well… or rather, it would… if I could get a better tire for it than the BF Goodrich Radial TA!

          • Okay, I have to chime in here. Cars built in the 60’s and 70’s as muscle cars were really meant for stock drag racing. Yep, Friday & Saturday night stock 1/4 mile drag racing. Many owners did just that. Eric’s car is yet another example of that type of racing. Americans as a whole never did get into rally or Leman’s type racing until Steve McQueen made it cool. Then there was James Garner doing it too (God I miss that kind of man in film!) Didn’t help that James Garner did most of his own car stunts in the Rockford Files. LOL. Up until that time it was who was the fastest in the quarter.

            By 1969, I was convinced, I was in a band playing through the season. First year the band as a whole before paying for equipment earned 265k. Don’t get me wrong 265k didn’t go to 7 teen morons. 🙂 Van Payments, Truck Payments, Hotel & Food bills along with cost of Guitars, Amps, a 16 channel Public Address system, Organs. Drums & you name it took a huge majority of what we made along with Cover Royalties. At the end of the first year we were absolutely appalled! We lost money! Who ever said being in a band was glamorous was insane!

            Second year was better. We stopped doing covers, unless requested. Most of the equipment was paid for. So a little was available to spend on hobbies. I sank a lot of money into what is considered now as a really heavy car. A 1968 Mercury Cyclone GT. It was a salvage with a bent frame. Jettisoned the frame for one from a 1968 Ford Fairlane GT. Grabbed a 292 Pontiac rear end. Took the 390 that came with the car fitted it with a steel crank and 429 cobra jet heads. The intake was pure Edlebrock with two 3 barrel racing carbs from Holley. Add in a 308 duration cam and it was on. I’d like to add, I put on a front air dam and custom ground effects long with a rear deck spoiler. This added more stability to the ride.

            The last thing I did to this car was chunk the rear seat. You see the under the trunk gas tank of 22 gallons not adequate. I had a custom made 55 gallon tank that fed the under trunk tank with fuel levels in both displayed in with analog gauges on the dash. GOD I Miss that CAR!

            This was the fastest car I’ve ever drove, Only because I knew every spec of the car.

            The last car I drove at 160+ was a 1969 Chevy Chevelle. the owner had it tricked and was complaining about performance. It had a 396 with a 288 cam and 2 Rodchester quads on a Doug Thortan intake. The ignition was pure Accel. Dual Point distributors and Coils. Sweet set up with the one exception one of the headers had a cracked pipe. Tuned it up for the customer. He came back in a week complaining. It cuts out. So we go for a test drive on I-20. Did a cruise to the Yazoo City exit which by the way is about 12 miles from Vicksburg, MS. Did the loop and started back at WOT.

            The car performed flawlessly in first, second, third and forth until it hit 160 mph. It started to cut out. The owner yelled, “See? See?”. Sadly I had to advise him that the engineered limits of the car had been reached and he was lucky it didn’t throw a rod as the 396 was a long throw design that was notorious for doing such.

            Yeah, I know it was along story but hell it was worth it! LOL! Moral of the story? 60s and 70s cars were built for a drag race and not cornering.

            David Ward

            • 1968 fairlanes (and torinos) were unibodies. Same basic design as Falcon/Mustang/Maverick but everything scaled up in size.

              The only ‘frame’ are the frame rails front and rear. Now of course they can be removed and replaced, it’s just not an easy thing to do

      • And in the early 70’s before the Z1 there was the scary fast Kawasaki 750 H2 , aka “widow-maker” – a 2-stroke rocket that was reportedly capable of doing a wheelie in third… at 100 MPH.

          • eric, a friend bought the small one(H3?) new. He came by the day he bought it and asked if I wanted to ride. Sure. I got on and proceeded to almost lose it in 2nd when I hit the throttle hard. Spent the rest of the afternoon trying to retrieve my undies.

            He and the bike became infamous one night. He sold it after he recovered.

  15. Don’t forget about three classic rides that made the number thing work: Oldsmobile 88, Oldsmobile 98 (usually spelled out “Ninety Eight”) and the Chrysler 300 letter series.

    Of course, Olds and Chrysler added to the numbers with names like “Dynamic 88,” “98 Regency” and “300-C”.

    They came with engines like the “SkyRocket” “Starfire” and “Rocket 455″ with the”Quadra-Jet” four-barrel and the “FirePower” Hemi with dual quads and later the “Golden Lion 413” and “Sono-Ramic Ram-Charged 413.”

    Now, even Mercedes-Benzes, BMWs, Jaguars and Cadillacs share 2.0 liter 4-cylinder engines with Fords, Chevvies, Toyotas, VWs and Hondas. They may be more powerful and reliable, but sorely lack character. One 2.0 is almost the same as another.

    And even car names sound alike, like “Elantra” and “CTS” and “Altima,” even though they try to aspire to greatness.

    Even workaday cars had names like “Impala” and “Gran Fury” and “Galaxie 500.” Luxury cars took the tamale with names that harkened back to Ye Olde Worlde elegance like “Coupe DeVille” and “Continental Town Car” and the real topper, “Imperial LeBaron Crown Coupe.”

    No wonder car sales are so slow.

    • You leave out some of the best numbers such as 442, that actually meant something other than the engine and 409 that’s playing on the mediaplayer right now. She’s real fine, my 409…..kinda catchy ain’t it? Little GTO you’re really lookin fine. And that was the second famous GTO.

      I know about Infinity, not a very good car name in my book. Lexus, what in hell is that. Volt is sorta self-explanatory I guess. Fusion, a complicated physics process….or simply welding, technically maybe, mixing dirt and water. Then there’s the mostly misspelled Camaro. Don’t know what that is. A Thunderbird elicits a lot of speculation but in a good way. Hell, I can’t even tell what brand they are these days except for the straightforward Ford blue oval and the Chevy bowtie. I see Mercedes everywhere now…..but they’re a Japanese knockoff and if you can’t see the 3 points it’s hard to say.

      I always liked Wagoneer, didn’t take a lot of thought to put that one in its place.

      A friend asked me the other day about those tiny exhaust pipes on the new Ford pickups and evidently they were six cylinders but sure don’t look like they could breathe and WTF were they doing anyway. I replied, Setting themselves up for another disaster it would appear. They oughta call them f 133.

  16. I’m talking to myself. Nobody knows what CR is now, rarely even know their ride may require premium but not a clue why. Or maybe they’re the only ones who do. Some premium ain’t fittin to buy though and that’s when they should be able to run anything. I couldn’t say #1 fuel even exists now. I never see it but it used to be an option. I’d buy a tank everywhere I found it.

    HFCS has addled everyone the school system hasn’t. I’d never have a surprise with a pyrometer, a boost gauge and a fuel pressure gauge. A fuel pressure gauge would even be great on cars but you have to be able to understand numbers.

    Stayin in a motel one night and not a zag to be had but Gideon came to the rescue and loaned me a page from the book of numbers. Thanks Gideon, I owe you one.

      • Don’t know about the lord but Gideon proved himself a righteous brother. I guess I should pay him back but from the looks of it, I really doubt that page was missed. All in all though, I owe him.

        • Gideon, which means “Destroyer,” or “Feller of trees” was, according to the Hebrew Bible, a judge of the Israelites. His story is recorded in chapters 6 to 8 of the Book of Judges.

          Gideons International that puts King James bibles in hotel rooms got its start in 1898, when two traveling businessmen arrived at the crowded Central Hotel in Boscobel, Wisconsin, for the night.

          The two had never met, but there was only one double room left, so they decided to share it. The men got to talking and found they shared a common faith and had both toyed with the idea of creating an evangelical association for Christian businessmen.

          Any time I found myself out on road and out of the prison yard, I’d be out looking for a little extra-curricular under some kind of alter-ego.

          Come to think of it, Gideon the Destroyer has a cool sounding ring to it. Glory days, they’ll pass you by. Glory days, glory howl lay loo yah!

          Since 1908, they’ve distributed more than 1.7 billion Bibles. When a hotel opens, local Gideons members will present a Bible to the hotel’s general manager in a small ceremony and then give enough books for each room and some extras to the housekeeping staff for distribution. In addition to hotel rooms, the Gideons also give Bibles to military bases, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and to students on college campuses. Each Bible handed out is free of charge, and the project is funded entirely by donations to the group.

          The Gideons will also replace any books that go missing, get worn out, or end up missing a page and such, the group says that the books have a six-year life expectancy.

          The Marriott hotel chain, founded by a Mormon, places the The Book of Mormon in many of its rooms, and some hotels also offer Buddhist, Hindu, Christian Scientist or Scientologist books in addition to the standard Gideon Bible.

              • WTF, in El Paso? They couldn’t count that high, at least not in motel rooms. Didn’t seem to have a problem with any other count of 420 though. In fact, 420 to a factor of ten would only have extended the “processing time”…….given you time to have a few more brews…….and other things…..So get that Mexican Blackbird and send all your troubles back home.

  17. Miata. It’s one of those made up words. Fine. Beats MX-5 hands down.

    On a totally unrelated automotive topic, a local talk show was bemoaning the fact that teenagers don’t seem to care about getting a license to drive. It’s no wonder. While callers universally couldn’t understand why kids these days don’t value the freedom they sought in their youth the ignored the fact that Johnny in the first grade is given drugs if he shows any sign of not wanting his daily indoctrination which includes why the planet is being destroyed by industrialization with the auto being the centerpiece. He’s then told don’t drink, drive or think while driving. Checkpoints are placed to harass and intimidate. He’s been given a colorful light to stare at and play with since childhood where his thumb gets blisters. is it any wonder?

      • I know I’m not the only one here who remembers the sound of things like a 427 Chevy, rock crusher in things like my buddies’ 56 Chevy. You could feel it all in your butt, feel the rears squirreling around and the RC like it was right beside you…..oh yeah, it was…..and that 427 would be howling. That ’56 and it designers never dreamed that “other” driveline would be in it with a bunch of extra springs and 450 hp of roar of open headers. I’ve never been in a Super Fortress but I’d bet the experience would be similar. Fire and fury from everywhere around you. Crank it up and it hits or misses enough to light them all and then it all ROARS like a beast on fire. Those were scary rides, got your heart pumping and made you think of horsepower gone wild and an old car overwhelmed at it all just like the occupants.

        Back in the day some guys would rent an old building and build the scariest rat rods you ever saw or rode in. of course rat rod wasn’t even a term back then.

        I don’t even know what that old coupe with the top chopped and the big hopped up Olds engine was but it was all noise and smoke and fire and oil and gas combined. Whatever those seats were robbed out of barely felt like your butt was off the pavement and all you could smell was the oil and high octane(ethyl)and unburnt fuel and lots of wind and sound and feeling like you’re dragging on the ground.

        Now that made the later to come muscle cars seem really tame. Hell, you could even look at those tires and know you were gold with those new safety tubes. They may not have been that fast…..and they might have been….but speed is relative to everything else around you.

          • It mighta been TBA on the register and fuel and oil on another key and that covered most of everything except Cheese Crisps and 6.5 fl oz Coca Cola’s. Car washing didn’t go in the register and neither did oil changes for the most part. Some things never change and everybody liked cash back then like they do now and there was a great deal more of it.

          • But, yeah, if it wasn’t GTO it should have been. I saw Le Mans everywhere I went and everything I went in. Giving a farm truck hell for 90 mph on a dirt road the horn button looked like it said de Tomaso to me. When I was 14 and looked every bit of 10 I wondered why everybody didn’t mistake me for Fireball Roberts. To be honest, I guess some thought of me as something, maybe not FR but a FU doing his worst. They generally had on a costume with a shiny badge and a Colt six-gun. The rub came in the form of none of them being able to keep up with my Blue Flame six. There’s more working than power. They could chase me down on the highway but nobody said I had to stay on it. Get the wind blowing up your butt and then slam on the brakes and turn and stop and they’d go right on by in your dust on that old dirt road. By the time they ran out of it and realized you weren’t ahead, you’d be long gone back the way you came or if pasture was right, over a hill on a 90.

  18. Eric,

    Interesting article. Cubic inches have little meaning to me regarding engine size / power due to being more familiar with Liter displacement. (Even though I could have figured it out–BrentP: thanks for the conversion.) Although I considered anything over 300 ci to be large (~ 5L), I never really developed a sense of what the cubic inch number implied in terms of size/power.

    I love hearing the engine (or turbo) whine/rev up. Sometimes the sound would bring images of Mad Max in his Interceptor even if I was driving a sub-2L (122ci) engine.

    Being familiar with how my engine/car should sound under typical conditions is useful when my engine/car makes atypical sounds (A warning for me to do some investigating.).

    I do not miss the carburetor much. Never became familiar with its workings, so when it was phased out, I did not miss it. I do not care much for the increased cost and complexity of FI, but I am willing to tolerate it for better performance and/or fuel economy.

    ===========

    In contract, there was only one 302 Turbo-Fire V8 in 1967.

    Do you mean contrast?

    • Hi Mith,

      On Max’s Interceptor: The supercharger was a dummy – not operational. I don’t think anyone’s yet built a de-clutching supercharger that can be turned on and off!

      • eric, whaddya mean? James Bond had one back in the 50’s. It was one of a kind. But when he flipped that switch, hang on buddy. You weren’t supposed to try to figure out how it changed fuel delivery or timing.

        I don’t remember what vehicle it was but the first time I saw a litre rating on one I knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore. And then for me, the ultimate insult, GM changed their venerable 350 in the pickups to a 5.7 L. Hell, I had to figure it up. Now you can’t even say 5.7 L since at least 3 manufacturers advertise on the side of their pickups 5.7 L and they’re so generic I can’t even remember what any of them are called except the Dodge that says Hemi with the number. The Toyota is really forgettable too since it implies something weird and I don’t even know if GM has anything to go with their 5.7. Now if Dodge had a 353 or Toyota had a 348 as compared to a GM 350, I’d have no problem, and neither would anyone else in discussing each and not being confused. Then GM went from a 6L??? to a 6.2L?????? I don’t even know what those are in cubic inches and that’s all I care about.

        Remember when the Tiger came out with the 4.3L engine and later with the 4.7L? I don’t. But I recall the Tiger being a Carroll Shelby creation first with a hopped up Ford 260 and later with the 289. And they ran like stink. Or recall that 4.7 AC Cobra? Shit!

  19. Cadillac was in freefall when the Eldorado was renamed ETC. So the flagship luxury coupe became “Et Cetera” and sales sank even lower. Ford names cars a Probe and an Escort, colonoscopy and prostitution come to mind. Seriously? Does anyone know the words have meanings? No wonder the Asians invent names that never existed.

      • If you’d ever been to Albuquerque, you’d know why they don’t name cars that. Drove right past a government indoctrination center (aka “public school”) there that had barbed wire on the fence around it — facing INWARD (as in, to keep the inmates / students in rather than intruders out).

        • Jim H – hadn’t though of that aspect. I figured it was because Clover couldn’t spell it if he heard it and couldn’t pronounce if if he saw it.

          • PtB, All right, you and Henshaw asked for it. If they made an Albuquerque model they’d have so many submodels it would be confusing, like Albuquerque. You’d have the RM model, Real Man that would be a slow seller. Then you’d have the DW model, the Desperate Woman model that would be the most widely sold. Then maybe the Model D with fake extra large engines and scrubbed up paint and the arm of a t-shirt on the visor to roll your pack of Camels in, the O version of the Model D, the OD, Obvious Dyke. Then a thin tired sporty convertible, the Model F standard with a fake Ostrich feather on the antenna.

            I was indoctrinated in my middle twenties hauling sheetrock to the big A as we called it or gay city. The bars filled early with the DW model owners. I didn’t go to the other bars.

        • Albuquerque is that place where you can have to make a left or right turn, and apparently it’s very confusing (at least to rabbits).

          Too much military-industrial complex in Albuquerque (and New Mexico in general). A shame, because it’s a beautiful place if you like deserts. Only place I’ve visited in the west where I worried about parking my car overnight.

    • Classic Eldos from the ’60s and early-mid ’70s are – to my taste – among the finest road sharks ever conceived and executed.

      Gibs me a ’74 convertible…

      • eric, I’ll see your ’74 and raise you one ’70 model 455 HD. They’d suck the hood in and probably the rag top too if they’d had one.

  20. Gears still make noise and when people hear it these days they freak out even when it’s normal. But silence will do that when you finally hear something. Not like being able to know what sort of car you were in by the transmission’s sound alone.

    Anyway the society we live in is a hundred some odd years in the making. Everything is fungible including the people. We go to government school to become fungible. All products are moved towards being fungible. We live under notions of societal efficiency and such from the 1930s. At some point even people might not have names.

    BTW: 389CID = 6.37L 400CID=6.55L ( 1 liter = 61.023 744 095 cubic inch )

    • It may have happened in some sci-fi I’ve not seen, but even in Star Trek, people still have names, not just numbers, because they are not YET ready to give up their individuality. This is throwing sand in the gears of the One World Order machinery.

    • Yeah, that whole 389 and 400 CID both being 6.6L jumped right out at me. But then, Eric’s a car guy, not a math nerd.

      Personally, didn’t agree with ANY of this particular rant. Give me a Mercedes E350, and you can keep your slower, poor handling, carbureted Ram Air III 400 Pontiac Judge.

      I’ll take actual performance over flash every damn day of the week.

      • Hi Jim,

        Guilty!

        And, I think you’ve pretty much summed up the issue/problem: Most people aren’t “car guys” – they want reliable A to B appliances; can’t really fault them for that…

        • Yep, my old Malibu with good suspension and tires. Probably get pulled over sitting at a light. Back in the day cops would pull up beside it at a light and look bofus over. Even if the exhaust had been silent the solid lifter cam virtually screamed. Maybe there’s an 11.5-1 compression ratio car you can buy these days but I doubt it and if there is, I think you’d still get looks from a lot of people.

          • I can think of two examples, the new GM 3.6L V6 is listed at 11.5:1 scr and the LS-7 is listed at 11.0:1 scr. There are probably others as well…

            • Wow, I had no idea about the 3.6L. I bet it don’t exhaust through 2 1/2″ Corvair Turbo mufflers though and probably don’t have that mechanical lifter Duntov cam either.

            • Sure enough. I did a search on it, 335 hp although the twin turbo does 420hp. Same specs for the V-8 too with only 455 hp and a measly 617 lb. ft. or torque. Either one should move the new 200 lb lighter Camaro down the road fairly well.

              Back in the day 455 hp from a small block would have been easily believable but 617 ft. lbs of torque would not.

              • I noticed on their 4 6 and 8 cylinder engines of this type will run on regular and got the wrong number on the torque, identical to the HP at 455. Next year my prediction is the car gets the twin turbo six and the 8 cylinder will be bumped up too.

        • Agreed, Eric.

          If I have to go somewhere and be there at a specific time for a specific thing, I’ll take the wife’s Lexus ES 350. But if, in the slim chance it breaks down, I’m screwed. I likely won’t be fixing it. If my constraints are less specific, I’ll take my Toronado. If it breaks down–not super likely, but more likely than the Lexus–I’m not screwed because I guarantee I can fix it. When I open the hood, I know what I’m looking at on 99% of it. On my Lexus I’d probably know 80% of what I’m looking at, but doubt I could fix more than 40-50% of it.

          Old cars have many faults. That’s why I garage, pay attention to and take care of them. Just the same way I take care of my wife with her faults and pay attention to her. My other cars are so much a utility, that it’s hard to remember to even check the oil. They’re like the dumb bitches that I dated. When their times up, trash em and replace em. You just don’t love them like the old ones that have personality. What’s to “love”?

    • The tipping point came when companies changed the name of the Personnel Department to “Human Resources”.

      • As a Christian, I do not believe a machine can have a soul, but hey, can’t they even try to fake it?

        • That would give the sheeple a shot of adrenaline, might wake them up a bit too much from their indoctrimation and/or sugar-induced coma….

          They wish to aid in lulling the livestock to sleep.
          Rebellion or escape. The Herd wants neither, they love their somnambulance… The servitude is predictable.

          Not everyone was built for the tempestuous storms of liberty. 😉

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