Automotive Inanities

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The other day, I was visiting my friend’s repair shop. He was working on a late 1980s Subaru wagon. I  noticed it had 13-inch wheels and four-lug hubs.

You never see this anymore.

That’s too bad.

The smallest wheel/tire you’ll find a new car riding on is a 15-incher. My ’76 Trans-Am, a big (and heavy) muscle car also has 15×7 wheels. But it is a muscle car. Large (for its time) wheels and fat tires made sense because it has a big V8 and lots of power and you need as much traction as possible to keep it all tied down. The fact that bigger wheels and tires add weight and increase rolling resistance and so hurt gas mileage isn’t something people who buy muscle cars tend to worry much about.

But why put sixteen and seventeen inch wheels on ordinary family sedans? On economy cars? It makes as much sense as inviting the Pope to the Bunny Ranch.

And yet, new economy cars do come with at least 15-inch wheels and usually sixteens – with seventeens sometimes optional.

This is one of the reasons why the fuel efficiency of modern economy cars is pretty mediocre.

It would be interesting to take, say, a new Corolla or Civic and replace its factory fifteen or sixteen inch wheels with sane-size – for an economy car – fourteen or thirteen inch wheels and skinny, low rolling resistance tires and see what effect this has on gas mileage.

It would probably improve it by 5 MPG. Maybe more.   

The car’s high-speed cornering capability would be reduced. But how many American economy car drivers partake of high-speed cornering? How many American drivers do?

I don’t see it much, myself.

And there would be no effect on saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety. Wheel/tire size doesn’t alter a vehicle’s crashworthiness, its ability to withstand impact forces in a crash.  So it’s something the car companies could do tomorrow without NHTSA ululating outrage . . . if buyers expressed interest.

They probably would not. Why? Because we live in Cod Piece America – our cars serving as expressions of virility we no longer possess. We sit, emasculated, in traffic. “Buckled up” and compliant, ready to present our papers at the next probable cause-free checkpoint. But while we are meek and submissive, our cars look tough.

Yes, it’s true emergency braking distances might increase a little due to the reduced contact patch – but the much superior braking systems (almost always four wheel disc and always with ABS) that all modern cars have makes up for that, especially vs. the older stuff that lacked those features.

Here’s another thing that’s gone for reasons that don’t make much sense: Three across seats in front and rear.

I came across an old ad for an Aries K-Car coupe. A two-door that was advertised as seating six people. And, did.

Three up front and three in back. Notwithstanding it was about the same physical size as a new Corolla sedan – which realistically seats four (though advertised as being able to seat five).


The car had three-across bench seats. No stupid “sporty” center console in between a pair of equally stupid (if the car is being used to transport people, as opposed to giving its owner “sporty” pretensions) “sport” bucket seats.

Once upon-a-saner-time, sport buckets (and center consoles in between) were to be found in . . . sports cars. And muscle cars. Just as you expected to find four-wheel-drive in a truck (but not a Corvette). Today, the interiors of trucks are Corvette-like, with “sporty” bucket seats and “sporty” center consoles with console-mounted floor shifters that waste space for the sake of image.

Another feature the K-car had (and touted) that’s been forgotten is the flat floor.

Which was a side benefit to the front-wheel-drive layout, which was a new thing in the early ‘80s – a time when most cars (even economy cars) were still built on a rear-drive layout. That meant engine and transmission up front (and mounted longitudinally, or front to rear) with the drive axle in the rear, the two connected by a driveshaft. Which ran from front to rear within a “tunnel” pressed upward into the car’s floorpan, which neatly divided the car’s interior space in half.

But in a FWD car, the engine is mounted transversely, or sideways (more compact) and it drives the front wheels, through a combined transmission/axle assembly (much more compact) called a transaxle. This eliminates the need to press a “tunnel” for a driveshaft into the floorpan, which is now flat. This allows the person sitting in the middle (on a three across bench seat) to sit normally – without his knees up against his chest, in the fetal position.

So how come today’s FWD cars (which is almost all new cars) have regained the hump in the floorpan?

It’s for two reasons.

One, new cars sit lower than they used to and that creates  clearance issues for things such as exhaust pipes and other plumbing. For two, all-wheel-drive (another victory of marketing over common sense) is becoming extremely common and it requires a drive axle to the rear wheels. Re-enter the “tunnel” to accommodate it – and bye-bye three-across seating.

And they ask me why I drink . . .

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  1. Looks, looks and looks. Those are the top three reasons manufacturers offer 17’s with their minivan. My wife’s 2016 VW Golf Sport wagon has 15’s that take a pothole like a champ and are great in the snow.
    Sadly my 2012 Passat came with 15’s and an atrocious suspension package. This is the first generation of VW to be built in the Tennessee factory. The Germans definitely designed the suspension for Americans. Sloppy with tons of body roll. Not a very German driving experience.
    I changed out the suspension and wheels to 18’s ( brakes, lines and bearings too). The transformation was astounding. When I put the steel 15’s back on for snow season; the handing suffers noticeably. Yes I do push it in the turns because going fast in a straight line isn’t as much fun and attracts the attention of the law enforcement community. This is the same approach I take to motorcycling.
    Some vehicles out there do benefit from larger wheels and stiff sidewalls. Otherwise it’s all looks.

    • Andrew, I used to keep up with the retro crowd who bought old 60’s performance cars and used new technology to make them run and handle like new cars and raced them. In every instance they’d have some(mostly)16″ racing wheels and tires but put 17’s on them for photo sessions.

      In every case of really large wheels the vehicle could do its job better with smaller wheels and tires and get better mileage. I’ve seen a set of 20’s and 16’s weighed. The 20’s would weigh 40 pounds more per wheel/tire than the smaller ones. That’s a lot of unsprung weight to eat fuel plus more rolling resistance.

      I’m about to replace the tires on my pickup that has 265-75-16’s, load range E and that’s what I’ll use for replacements. For people who don’t load their pickup very heavily load range E isn’t necessary but they’ll run over mesquite trees their entire life and not get a puncture.

      • Hi Eight,

        Those gnomesayin’ “rims” look like prolapsed anus on the old stuff; totally screws up the car’s appearance as well as everything else.

        One of the things I love about my old TA is that the factory 15×7 Honeycomb wheels were uniquely “Pontiac” and helped visually define the car.

        Replacing them with gnomesayin’ “rims” would be like putting a crate Chevy under the hood. Better to just crush the car and put it out of its misery…

        • eric, I often see this one TA that’s close to the same model as yours but has none of the decals and has been repainted. It wears what appears to be some really old Centerline’s with taller tires than stock. The repaint isn’t too great either. It looks like shit to be honest. At least it has the sound of a big block. Whether it will get out of its own way is something I don’t know. I see another that’s the original blue and doesn’t look too good but at least I can see the screaming chicken on the hood and the wheels are original TA although not the honeycomb. It looks a lot better than the repainted car just because it’s a real Poncho color with decals…..and dents. I can understand doing a rebuild on one and making something out of it it never was and getting a whole new look and a good look if done right but that gold car just looks like it needs “everything” once more. Rarely do you see original style exhausts which made them unique at the back. I once bought a wrecked Firebird from a friend. It was a 78 400/4sp and I don’t remember the model but it was close to a TA. I was going to rebuild it but it had no original wheels so I just sold it to somebody who wanted to use it for transportation. Another friend still has a TA that’s been repainted and had decals installed but the paint and decals left a lot to be desired. This car has real potential and still has the original running 455 and everything else but paint. Now that car is a good candidate for a strip and repaint with decals. The guy who originally bought it was a Poncho mechanic and he put all WS 6 parts on it. It’s been sitting for many years in a building with dirt floors. What a shame to hang on to it when she could have sold it for a lot of money at one time. She still could and why she doesn’t is a mystery to me.

          • Morning, Eight!

            I feel obligated, like a Medieval monk taking care of ancient books, to take care of my now 40-plus-year-old Pontiac. It is a piece of history and I’d feel wrong molesting it at this point and am not pleased when I see others doing that to similarly ancient cars built by long-gone brands like Pontiac, “updating” them so that they are the same as every other car… with yet another crate chevy engine under the hood; yet another set of 20 inch “rims.”

            Just ugh.

            Makes my teeth hurt…

            • eric, I can understand building one off projects. Back in my day they were fairly common since lack of funds became the mother of necessity. A couple friends and I had a ’58 Ford station wagon frame chopped to a tiny wheelbase with Ford drivetrains of various sorts. It had dual rear wheels and would go most anywhere and fit the RR tracks like a glove. We scrounged and paid $20 often for used engines, had everything from 272’s to 312’s in it and 13 different slushomatic transmission along with 11 engines I recall. I could do an engine change in record time or transmission. None of us had metal working tools or we’d probably have changed it to a Chevy drivetrain. It had no bodywork, just the required windshield, wipers and lights and seat belts to hold you in that slick bench seat.

              My ex-BIL bought a ’46 Ford pickup when he was 15 and I was 10 and we rebuilt it with a big Lincoln engine. It was an obvious hot rod. Those were the days of Barris customs that bore no resemblance to any car ever made so there was that “style” although few had the resources to do such exotics. But 5 year old ’55 Chevy’s stayed the same no matter how big an engine you used.

              A few made drag cars out of contemporary rides and that was just something considered radical and neat. One of the nicest cars I remember enduring year after year was a local ’58 Bel Air/Impala that stayed stock and shiny. Wonder what that would be worth today? Not many of those made.

      • That all makes sense. Looks vs practicality.
        Lots of thought goes into wheel/tire/vehicle combinations and that any change will stray from the intended characteristics.

        Tire swap outs are one of the easiest ways to improve and customize a vehicles ride quality. Just be aware of the consequences i.e. speedometer inaccuracy, alignment, noise, fuel economy.

  2. This is a great article and touches on topics that have bugged me for a while. My 84′ Dodge Daytona TurboZ, even though it’s just a turbo charged 4 cyl, was considered a sports car in its day and came factory with 15 inch rims, which were the only size up from the standard models 14 inchers. This whole trend of having 16 inch, 17 or even larger wheels on standard everyday cars looks as ridiculous as it is. It’s almost like the mentality when I would see a nice factory 4 dr Plymouth Satellite with just a 6 or 318ci and the idiot owner has to put Cragers or oversized rims on it. But at least years ago it was just the occasional dimwit that you would see doing it. Now this mindset seems to have permeated throughout all the car designers today. I think your reasoning for it hits the nail on the head. As much as some automotive things used to annoy me back in the 80’s, compared to cars today, I’ll take them any day.

  3. I grew up in snow country and most of the time the primary use for 4WD was to get you to the scene of the accident. It got you out on the road in conditions where sane people stayed home, while doing nothing for braking or lateral control. The useful exception being the ability to pull away from an icy curb or slick patch at a stop sign in a timely fashion. ABS on the other hand is worth its weight in body bags.

    • Joe, in my job search I came across companies that wanted drivers with 2 years of tire chain experience. If they called me I told them I wasn’t qualified and it would be the day hell froze over I’d chain a big rig. Tx. doesn’t allow it and I won’t do it. If you can’t eat and stay home 2 or 3 days once a year, you’re needing to make a change. Snow and ice blow in and about the only thing I do workwise is get everything ready to build a fire under the engine so it doesn’t have to start in brutal conditions. My window faces the south. I’m almost half way to heaven. The snow is fallin but all I can see are fields of cotton smilin back at me.

  4. I bought four steel junkyard wheels for our HHR, switching from 215/50R17 to 205/65R15. The hundred bucks for the wheels was more than offset by the savings on just one set of tires. It rides much better and can actually get around a bit on something other than dry pavement. The gas mileage if anything is slightly better.

    Where we live, when the FWD car can’t get around, then you pretty much need to go with a real four wheel drive. Right now (late Feb) the car hasn’t been out of the yard since early December. So AWD might work for some people, but in my estimation it is just a way for a crappy little car to get crappy gas mileage.

  5. ‘ Once upon-a-saner-time, sport buckets (and center consoles in between) were to be found in . . . sports cars. And muscle cars. Just as you expected to find four-wheel-drive in a truck (but not a Corvette). Today, the interiors of trucks are Corvette-like, with “sporty” bucket seats and “sporty” center consoles with console-mounted floor shifters that waste space for the sake of image.’

    Crazy isn’t it?

    In fact, even bona fide muscle cars often had three across bench seats.

    Example: 68, 69 Plymouth Road Runner with a bench seat

    Nothing wrong with that at all! The four on the floor said “sporty” far better than bucket seats with paddle shifters on some late model “supercar”.

          • Right on! MGTOW is the only way to go. It hurts when the wife leaves you but only for a little while. It does not take long to realize your new found freedom is the best thing to ever happen to you.

            • Hi Skunk,

              I hear this from all my friends and family. And yet…
              She got me – and I thought I got her. We had our routines and enjoyed each other’s company.
              The crazy awful truth is if she extended a hand, I’d give her mine back.

              • I hear ya Eric. I do not know what it is but it seems like women reach a certain age and no matter how good they have it they just want to walk away from it.

                I do not know your particular situation but I will offer some heartfelt advice I learned from my own experience: whatever you do do not waste your heart by thinking or hoping for her to come back. She is not coming back. Accept the finality of it as quickly as you can. Only then can you quickly move on.

                • Thanks, Skunk… I get the same advice from friends/family… and I know you’re all right. I guess I’m just having trouble computing it. That’s the hardest part. It screws with your sense of what you thought you knew.

      • Do younger people even know what the term “riding bitch” means?

        First car was a 68 Nova, front and back bench seats, six of us teenagers cruising on a Saturday night. Days gone by…

        • Riding bitch, hadn’t heard it in a long time till watching No Country for Old Men. I only rode bitch with those guys a lot older and bigger than me. Those were the days I recall full size sedans often having 8 passengers. Seat belts? Oh yeah, we’d heard of them and some cars came with them which were promptly stuffed back under the seat never to be seen again unless you were doing a detail job.

    • bevin, look in the z 71 I bought and since it has a column shift you might get the idea all the front space isn’t taken up by bs console-like stuff but you’d be wrong. The rear a/c is run through all this crap so I guess it’s good in a way even though the ’93 had the old GM hurricane force a/c making it unnecessary to have air registers in the back and it’s my opinion those crotch level registers are mainly good for the crotch. Back when cars were made to be comfortable, GM had those small registers at the bottom of the dash right in front of the driver that you could shut or open and they blew right into your crotch, good for me at least if I was driving. But the ’93 had tons more room in it, was wider higher up and had enough room for me to get in with my hat on…..and keep it on.

    • In the world of Ford Mavericks and Mercury Comets one of the treasured parts to obtain is a ford factory center console. It’s small, rather ugly IMO and works with bench or bucket seats. But practically nobody ordered one back in the day. The only reasonable substitution is one from a Pinto which isn’t any less rare but more obtainable since the demand isn’t there.

      • It’s the same with the Chrysler A-bodies — Darts, Scamps, and Dusters. Center consoles are NOWHERE to be found, and if you do find one, it’s either yanked, costs a small fortune, or halfway destroyed.

    • And captains chairs used to be found only in BOATS!

      Best part aboutv the bench seat?: You could stretch your right arm out across the top of it as you drove.

  6. What did you mean by ” all-wheel-drive (another victory of marketing over common sense) “?

    Is it not as helpful as touted? Or that people want it where they don’t have snow?

    • Hi C_lover,

      My opinion: AWD is oversold; can’t blame the car companies – it makes them money. But oversold. People have been trained to think they are In Peril unless they have AWD (or 4WD) even if they live in an area that has significant snowfall maybe 15 days out of the entire year and usually just a third of that. So they buy a car based on 5-15 days when driving might be a little dicey, but even then, it’s probably not -unless the alternative is a rear-drive car. Most cars are FWD and most cars with FWD and good tires will handle 95 percent of those 5-15 days when it snows. And the 2-3 days when AWD would be the difference between getting there and not? If there’s that much snow still on the ground, it’s probably best to just stay home!

      Speaking of which, if it’s an AWD car, it will likely not have sufficient ground clearance to deal with deep snow – and it will probably have gnomesayin’ 18 inch “sport” tires, too.

      • eric, you hit the nail on the head. I can tell you every time 4WD on a pickup hasn’t been enough to get you around in the snow where I live. It began in Jan. 1984 and lasted about 4 days depending on where you were but burned off due to sub zero temps for the next month. Sure, we’ve had plenty snows and some that were fairly deep but nothing to stop a decent 4WD vehicle. Even the Wagoneer with it’s fancy transfer case could still plow through it fine, often at top speed(100mph) with Eagles on it. In my life there have been many days of 6″ or so snows and if you had a pickup you could go where you needed even if it involved throwing sacks of cake in the back for traction. If you owned a pickup and didn’t have fairly aggressive tires on the back at least, you weren’t serious about what a pickup is for to begin with.

        This pickup we have now is pushbutton 4WD, not nearly as reliable as manual shift IMO. Iit has a feature called Auto 4WD that sends the power to the rear but will send some to the front depending on what the sensors tell it(got this out of the manual). I’m guessing it doesn’t work since my ABS light is on all the time. It has a couple new sensors and may just need a couple more or the devil only knows what sorts of demons lurk in its electronic bowels. Whatever is wrong with it has a good chance of staying that way but the real 4WD works well. I don’t need a sensor to tell me the road is slick or icy. I don’t need one to tell me my tank is empty, especially when I have just started it after a fill-up or one to tell me it needs and oil change as I start it after changing the oil and filter. I suppose the low oil level sensor is a good thing for those who might hit something with the pan or just have their head inserted. I’d replace the sensor for that……if all this stuff didn’t change willy-nilly. I have found out the entire dash and gauge cluster on these pickups are famous for agly solder points. No doubt that’s a cheap fix if bought new. if you have a 2000 or newer pickup the thing to do is to buy one that’s been totaled and use it for partsd. it might seem expensive at the time but with a good drivetrain and dash it would pay for itself for those not into buying new every couple years. My ex-boss replaced his Dodge pickup that was a year old because of electronic bugaboos. Oh, he would rather drive a GM but says he can’t afford them. So now I mostly see him drive his dad’s old GM ranch pickups, all Chevy’s from the 90’s while the Dodge’s sit in the yard or under the carport or in the shop waiting for parts. Hot dog, noting like a vehicle so complicated that even when you send them to the shop they come back with every sensor and sending unit you can think of replaced. The speedo unit only costs something over $400 and never mind the speedo was about the only thing that worked correctly. Headed into the depths of the patch one morning the 5500 began to burn wiring under the hood. A quick douse with the fire extinguisher stopped it and the only thing that didn’t work correctly was the cruise control. That was the second time for it, the first time since it had spent two months in the at the stealership waiting to be repaired for the first time burning. To paraphrase Woody Harrelson in Zombieland “I WANT MY ’93 BACK GODDAMMIT”.

      • Thanks Eric! The only situation I’ve been in where awd could have helped was when I was parked on an inclined parking spot at my apartment. Roommate had to help push me out.

        • My pleasure, C_lover!

          I used to have two trucks, one with 4WD. It came in handy occasionally; was genuinely needful maybe five days out of the year.

          It occurred to me that I could probably get by with the 2WD truck, which got better mileage every day and cost less to drive every day.

          I have – and it has!

          • I have long believed that the really down to earth, practical truck is an entry level, standard cab, long bed 2WD truck with a bench seat and a manual transmission.

            A coworker at an architectural firm in Houston had one of those. It was third generation C-150, ’73 or ’74, with a straight 6 and a three on the tree.

            He and his wife set me up with her sister on a double date. All four of squeezed in on the bench seat. It was shall we say, “intimate”?


            In any event, I really think most people who need a truck, do not need anything more than that. I know I never did.

            • My dad always like that type of pickup truck — Small 2wd, long bed. Useful for doing light work and moving items that can not be carried easily (if at all) by a car. Fuel economy was not too bad either (mid 20’s to about 30 mpg) depending on work/speed.

              • I’ve noticed rural people tend to have a pickup that can carry the whole family and often don’t have a car at all, just another pickup or two, all family haulers. Even with just the wife and I, hauling two dogs was always a drag with a regular cab pickup. One of the main things I and lots of folks use an ext. cab for is the capability of carrying a lot of tools you don’t want in a toolbox such as meters of various sorts, transits, just anything that won’t fit a toolbox but has to be protected or guarded from theft.

                It’s not uncommon to see pickups dedicated to a single purpose with the entire bed taken up by toolboxes so other stuff is stuffed in the ext. cab or crewcab.

                To give you an idea of how rare regular cabs are in west Tx. I recently saw a vehicle traveling a dirt road near me. The outline was weird looking and since I happened to be looking for a wolf I’d seen a couple days earlier I had my nocs with me. Turns out it was a regular cab pickup.

                Cholley Jack is more than mildly flipped out by a regular cab pickup as was his predecessor. Both of them get paranoid when they can’t jump into the back seat. We had one dog who was nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs if he had to sit in the front and only seat. One day after about 30 minutes of riding he jumped out of a friends regular cab and ran around it, under it and back into it frantically trying to find the back seat while we laughed at him. He tried a couple times to find some room behind the seat from the only seat a couple times. He wasn’t scared of anything except a regular cab pickup. He’d never been in one and he was most ready to quit it too.

    • Hi Erik,

      Depends on your situation!

      I have friends with several kids – and those kids have friends. The parents often have to haul six (or more) around. So they buy a big, gas pig minivan or SmooooooVeeee.

      Meanwhile a sedan with a three-across bench could have handled them all in a much more space-efficient package.

      • It doesn’t help that kids are banned from the front seat now-a-days. It used to be a treat to ride in the front seat as a kid. My nephews today, have never been in the front seat. So that sedan loses two spots, the bucket seats took one, and the government took the other one.

  7. But it is a safety concern (sort of), the rotor size has to be pretty small for a 13″ wheel to go on. The ’16 Corolla has (as far as I can find) 11″ rotors and if I’m not mistaken a 15″ wheel is about the minimum size to fit over the disc and caliper.

  8. Tiny wheels, flat floors and bench seats………

    I guess you’d consider the Chrysler K-Car to be the pinnacle of automotive evolution. 😉

    • It was a great transportation appliance – and that’s fine for many people. Today. it’s overkill and inanity.

      I love performance and power; but it annoys me endlessly to get caught behind a Clover in a 260-plus hp Camry that’s potentially quicker and faster than a mid-’80s Corvette… driving at 39 in a 45, slowing for the cuuuuuuuurves.

      • That really does kill… I always wonder why they didn’t just buy their SE with a 4 cylinder. Although I actually think it’s ridiculous that Toyota sells a Camry SE with a 4 cylinder.

    • My first car, handing down from my brother, from our grandparents. People made fun of it, until we needed to get six (or more) somewhere.

  9. I like having 17s on my Scion tC, it’s wearing 235/45s and it loves the corners. The 22s on my Volvo XC60 are a bit much due to the crappy roads around here but it handles like its on rails in the mountains. AWD is also great, I wish more cars would have it as an option. I basically won’t buy anything that doesn’t have AWD anymore due to conditions in my area. Put a good set of Nokian WR G3s and you have a good year round solution with no tire swaps required. To get the same performance off the line on snow with FWD would require dedicated snow tires and even then they can’t quite match an AWD Volvo on WRs. I understand what you’re saying to an extent and normally I agree almost 100%, but not this time. AWD and big rims are great… For those who like performance. I’m not concerned with loosing a few MPGs.

    • My Subaru has about 90,000 miles on it. I’ve never worn out a tire on it, because certain members of my family have driven it on flat tires or cut the sidewall, always meaning that I have to replace all four tires because the new tire is ever so slightly bigger than the other three.

      I have about six percent of the purchase price of the car tied up in new tire swaps, and have yet to actually wear one out. I could see buying another AWD if the price were right (really right), but otherwise I’ll stick to 4wd for my bad weather vehicle.

  10. I kinda have to agree with BrentP on this’un. Some of them li’l 13″ers made for pretty bad road contact, even on a <2000 lb car. And if one drove such cars in places where big pot-holes littered the streets, or the roads were otherwise not pristine and smooth, they could make ya pretty vulnerable. But I think more than anything, it's about looks. Today's "high" bulbous cars would look really silly with 13"ers.

    I see some older Hyundai accents and such on CL- not sure what size wheels they have, but being in the 00's, they're probably even bigger than 13's, but even those li'l cars look like they have miniature wheels. They look silly and inept.

  11. It’s funny that yesterday I was going to leave a reply about how I had a 81 VW diesel rabbit that would easily meet and exceed(60 mpg highway) the mileage of the Chevy Cruze. I deemed it more of a rant than constructive and deleted it. Today you have a post about some of the same things. I think as you have written larger wheels are used to incorporate larger brake systems up to a point, a friend has a Ram pickup with 22″ wheels and there is 2 to 3 inches from the rotor and the alloy rim, these tires cost at least a third more and as they are rather low profile street tire it is simply for show. I have made my peace with front wheel drive, Uni-body chassis, electronic ignition, electronic fuel injection and even a couple of airbags, just not 20 of them. These newer cars are so built out with hardware and software they are more gadget than rugged car. If these cars are going obsolete in ten years why sink so much into the design, when they will be crushed anyway. I think design for cars has peaked and they as you say must dance to the tune the government calls, what they are left to work with is mostly fluff.

  12. There’s a point where a fair number of cars were sold with scary thin wheels and tires. For anything bigger than an old festiva I think 13″ is too small. I like 14×6 and 15×6 for basic cars. It’s a good balance of handling and braking and fuel economy.

    I think the 19″ wheels on my ’12 Mustang are overkill. The 17×8’s on the ’97 are just the right size. Again a good balance point that allowed me to put some big discs in front. I kept the same size wheel but had to change to a different spoke design (98 Mustang Cobra wheels) to clear the brembo calipers.

      • Very fair point. I’ll happily take larger wheels for any one of a dozen reasons that have nothing to do with aesthetics, but I’ll admit to being more than a bit mad about the death of the bench seat. I couldn’t find one locally in mid-level trim when I bought an F-150 a couple years back — they were all “captain’s” chairs with the stupid console in the middle. The only ones with bench seats were the bare bones XL trim.

        • I miss the bench too! I often wonder why no one makes a big car (“big” as in old Lincoln town car, Chevy Caprice, etc.) or full-size SUV or P/U with a bench seat, manual tranny, and just A/C P/W & P/W in the way of luxuries?

          What is this obsession the automakers have with luxury everything and gadgetry and gizmoes? I don’t need my truck to be more luxurious than my home (Ilive in a freaking trailer, C’mon!!!), and I’m not going into debt to pay for all of that fancy crap that I don’t want in the first place, and which is jjust something else to break.

          Surely I can’t be the only one who feels this way- or the only who feels this way and who doesn’t want to drive some little bitty econobox.

          • Come, dance to the tune the mass consumer chooses for us. Choice? It is to laugh. We had choice in the 1960s with air-cooled engines, rear engines, straight sixes, four-poppers, V-8s of every size, auto and manual transmissions, the superb side vent windows, and so forth.

            And now? Pretty much only the grilles on new cars distinguish one from another. Want bench seats? Tough cookies. Would you like a car that’s not abrim with gadgets, gizmos, gewgaws, all costing money and all costly to replace (you don’t actually repair anything on new cars)? Too bad, you out of step chump.

            The choices have been made for you. Get with the 21st century.

            • So glad that I actually got to experience a little of the 60’s and all of the 70’s, and all of them 60’s cars, ’cause just about everything automotive from the 80’s on up, sucks. What a wonderful world it used to be!

              And the colors! They weren’t just for hippies on drugs…but cars! Cars used to come in every color of the rainbow! (Not the fag/tranny/dyke rainbow).

              I’ll bet the bench seat went away because of a gov’t fartwar. You know, we all have to be strapped into position, with our heads aligned with the gigantic headrest so when we crash (it’s inevitable, with things like giant headrests blocking our view) we’ll be less likely to file a claim for Snidely Whiplash.

          • You’re not the only one who feels this way.

            I’ve always tried to buy bare bones utilitarian models myself.

            No radio or AC even.

            Hell, I’ve never owned a vehicle with power windows even.

            But it’s gotten impossible with the passage of time.

            • bevin, you preferred a car with no a/c in Houston? Many times in Houston I’ve crawled out of a non-a/c truck and my clothes looked like I had crawled out of the duck pond. When you finally get under a/c they are stained with salt and mighty stiff.

              I grew up with no a/c in my pickup but my dad’s cars always had a/c from ’54 on.

              • I know.
                It sounds crazy.
                But believe it or not, I managed somehow for years without AC in 90% plus humidity Houston.
                Later, when I moved to LA, it was a lot easier. SoCal is basically a desert.
                It’s hot.
                But as Hudson in “Aliens” noted.

                Private Frost: Hot as hell in here.
                Private Hudson: Yeah man, but it’s a dry heat!

                • I did without A/C (in house and car) for most of my life, but I’m spoiled now- That, and the PW & PL.

                  In a saner world, I’d still be happy to do without such things in a car, but the thing is, today: You stop at Wally World- roll up your windurs and lock your doors. You come out and get in the car and it’s baking from being closed up, and in the tree-less desert of the parking lot….then you have to roll all of the windurs down… You hop on over to TSC, and repeat the same process all over again…then Lowes…..

                  I’ve always been of the belief that we should just experience the warmth in the summer, and who needs PW’s, ’cause turning a crank isn’t exactly a hardship. But in practice, as I described above, the routine becomes unnaturally hot and ridiculously tedious without those luxuries.

                  But I’d much rather go back in time, when you could just leave your car unlocked and the windurs rolled down. Then, screw A/C and P/W & P/L. Enjoy the breeze and feel the warmth!

          • Big passenger cars were essentially made illegal to offer on the market. Sure they could be but then the automaker’s CAFE score would take a hit. The car would also likely end up with gas guzzler penalties as well. Ford made the greatest effort but these conditions precluded designing a new platform. As such the Panther platform cars still sold. For 35 years or so. Then fedgov notched up the safety requirements and the Panther had to be replaced to meet them. But Ford would never see its money back because it would have to drop the car for CAFE in the future. That axe was always looming which is why it was kept going for so long. Small changes were manageable but there was no benefit to a major redesign.

            • You’re right, Brent. But even if they did make ’em, they’d no doubt make them for the “upscale market”. For some reason, they assume that more frugal people want to drive tiny anemic cars. And conversely, that people who want big vehicles are obsessed with luxury and gadgetry.

              Another thing that kills me: Virtually all cars today have carpeting! Even most pick-ups and SUVs! What is the point of this? People just cover the carpeting up, anyway, with rubber mats!!!!!

        • When I bought my first truck in ’06 (F150 XLT Supercrew) I told the wife, “if we’re gonna get something that big it’s gonna have to seat 6”. Told the dealer what I wanted and he found it. At the time, July ’06, the talk was gas would be $5/gal by Thanksgiving and I wanted the 5.4…I think the salesman offered me coffee and a concubine at that point.

          I miss my ’81 diesel Rabbit…

          • “Coffee and a concubine”-LOL!

            Shoulda gone for the V-10. They get slightly better mileage, and are AWESOME! (I used to like the 5.4 in my F250 -but now that I also have a V-10 Excursion, the 5.4 seems anemic. And the Exc weighs more but gets better MPGs, even though it’s geared ridiculously low. If it were geared the same as the 250, it’s probably get 14-15MPG)

            But I think you did well to avoid these modern Rube Goldberg diesels. Gas trucks are hard to come by on the used market. I’ll bet it won’t be long before the gas jobs are going for a premium, while the diesels lose value.


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