Latest Reader Question (Oct. 16, 2017)

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply: 

G asks: We have become increasingly concerned about the usability, longevity, security (as in privacy) and serviceability of the newer model autos that all seem to rely on more and more on ECMs, ECUs, CPUs, GPUs, and the rest. Can you steer us to any new car that is analog enough to address these concerns? If not, what is the last auto manufactured that would, in your opinion, meet our wish list? BTW, we really look forward to your appearances on the Tom Woods podcasts.

My reply: i wish there were a more “analog” car available new; unfortunately, they all have at the least an ECU (this is the computer which controls pretty much everything) as well as “onboard diagnostics” (OBD, currently OBD II and – soon – OBD III) and many have some form of “connectivity” (e.g., GM’s OnStar and the similar “services” now offered by almost every major car maker). In addition, all cars built since – roughly – the early 2000s – also have EDRs – Event Data Recorders. These record operating parameters such as speed, brake application and seatbelt use, among other things.

If you want a car that hasn’t got all these features, you’ll need to shop for one built prior to the mid-1990s, when OBD II came online (and also EDRs). These will still have an ECU, but the Big Brothery aspects are much less an issue. The ECU mainly controls the air-fuel ratio and is actually a benefit, in terms of tuning and everyday drivability.

I personally consider vehicle made from – roughly – the late 1980s through the mid-late 1990s to be almost ideal in terms of being just modern enough but not too modern. As an example, an early ’90s Chevy 1500 pick-up  with a 5.0 or 5.7 liter small block V8 fed by a (relatively) simple Throttle Body (TBI) fuel injection system and with a five-speed manual transmission or four-speed automatic with overdrive is a damned near perfect truck.

I expect the value of vehicles such as this to soar in the very near future… .

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Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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