Cash for Clunkers II…

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Cash for Clunkers “stimulated” demand for new cars in the manner of digging holes – and then filling them up again. It reduced the available supply of good used cars – by paying people to throw away perfectly good used cars.

Something similar is under way right now, but it’s subtler and so most people haven’t noticed it yet.

Unless they’ve begun shopping around for a used car. If they have, they will have noticed an uptick in used car prices; that certain makes/models – and years – are not holding their value but gaining it.

That is contrary to the usual – natural – course of things. Cars age, accrue miles – and depreciate (lose value). People replace them with new cars. But the latest crop of new cars has technology many people don’t want – and so they’re not buying new but looking for old.

Just old enough to not have the latest safety technologies, such as steering “assist” – which vies with you for control over the car. Or automated “emergency” braking that peremptorily slams on the brakes when there’s no emergency (hyper-caution is programmed into the system). Or drive-by-wire control over throttle and transmission – which means no mechanical control over the engine or the transmission. If the engine decides to floor itself, there’s not much you can do except hang on and hope for the best  – especially if the transmission (gear selector) is drive-by-wire, too and so there’s no mechanical way to force the transmission into Neutral in order to at least disconnect a run-away engine, if you can’t shut the damned thing down.

Almost all new cars also have electric parking brakes rather than manual (drive-controlled) emergency brakes and many people  – me among them – are not comfortable driving a car that can’t be manually stopped in the event of an emergency.

These technologies are being practically force-fed to the public by the combined efforts of the car industry – which has decided there’s gold in them thar hills, that it is better to join ‘em than to fight ‘em and so let’s make this stuff standard and thus make more money – and, of course, the “safety” apparat in Washington, which has every incentive to mandate whatever is possible and no incentive at all to leave it up to the buyers, since that places control in their hands rather than the apparat’s.

The result is that even entry-level and family-priced cars now commonly have some or even all of the features just described, which just two or three years ago were very rare and mostly found only in high-dollar cars.

Within another couple of years, it will probably be impossible to find a new car that doesn’t come standard with most of these features – as well as other features that are currently in development – including passive alcohol detectors and direct-link communication with “smart” roads for purposes of tax-by-mile programs (already being implemented) as well as other things, including giving the government the power to shut down your car at its whim for traffic infractions, not having paid fines, passed inspections and so on.

In addition to those things, there are also other things being resorted to by the car industry to maintain power/performance while at the same time reducing fuel consumption, in order to keep the government off their backs. The up-front costs are hidden or at least, made manageable, by stretching out the payments over six or seven years instead of the formerly usual four or five. But the tsunami that’s coming will hit shore when people find out what it costs to repair/replace the technology being resorted to in order to keep the government off the car industry’s back.  

Full-size trucks with turbocharged fours (2019 Chevy Silverado).

Family cars with ten-speed transmissions – three of those speeds being overdrive speeds – for highways with 70-75 MPH speed limits.

Direct and port fuel injection (the latter to deal with the carbon-fouling problems caused by direct injection).

Obnoxious stop-start systems that automatically shut off the engine every time the car isn’t actually moving – multiplying the load/wear and tear on the starter battery and starter as well as being obnoxious and annoying – in order that the car performs fractionally better on the EPA’s gas-mileage test loop.

When it breaks – after the warranty is long gone, when the vehicle is only worth a third of what you paid for it – look out!

Which is why the prices of used cars – particularly certain ones – are suddenly surging, much as they did after the Cash for Clunkers program did its evil business.

The models most in demand now – and soon more so, as the limited supply of them dwindles – includes V8 trucks and SUVs, family cars/crossovers with V6 engines rather than highly-strung turbocharged four cylinder engines and anything without a direct-injected engine or a transmission with more than six speeds.

Also vehicles still under your control – without  steering “assist” and automated emergency braking. With an engine that doesn’t shut off until you shut it off – and which (in a real emergency) still has some mechanical fail-safe means by which you can arrest its forward motion.

These vehicles are the cohort made – roughly – from the mid-late 1990s through the early 2000s, before technology became too insufferable and too cheap to prevent its being grafted, Locutus of Borg-style – into pretty much every new car.

Almost every car made since 2015 or so is a lost cause. The ones on deck will be much worse.

So, now’s the time to get in on the action. Before everyone else figures out that they’re not making any more new cars without the crap they don’t want – and the supply of those without that crap is not going to be increasing.

. . .

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

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59 COMMENTS

  1. My son just bought a 1966 Plymouth Fury II that has sat in a pasture near Gridley, CA, for THIRTY years, and it’s a basket case, of course. Has the Canadian-built “Poly Head” 318, a 3-speed column shift (“Three on the Tree”), dealer-installed A/C, and it’s a basket case…for NOW. But…it’s entirely EXEMPT from any smog check requirements?
    The Plan: clean up this junker and restore the body and interior to where’s it’s at least habitable, which it has been by “Gawd” knows how many different critters these few decades past. Put some decent tires on it (finding 75 series 14 inch tires isn’t all that easy, we will likely have to source two sets via Amazon). Find for now a B-block engine salvaged from an old motor home, mostly likely will be a 400 or 440 but if a decent 361 or 383 or 413 can be had, so be it. Rebuild that plant and drop it in. The issue is mostly with the gearbox input shaft; so swapping it with one from a junked box is likely the most straightforward solution. Once we get this beast running, drive it to Earl Schieb (it will be well-primered, the body is completely straight, no dents at all) and get it painted in a factory color. So..for about $6,000 all told, we’ll have a “cruiser” that will admittedly drink some gas, but can be upgraded at will with a modern accessory drive (serpentine belt), fuel injection (throttle-body kits are readily available for the B-block, or a decent Carter AFB or Thermo-Quad can be had, or blow the wad on an aftermarket Holley), and also use a performance distributor or even swap out to a distributor-less kit, which, again, can be had easily. Meanwhile, patiently rebuild that poly motor, which for modern ignition can use LA series parts. The old poly motor can take a stroker crank intended for the LA series motor and can be bored as much as .090 over, so it can be bumped up to 412 cubes, no problem, and be a torquey “screamer’, and the B-block be re-purposed for other projects.

    In the end, what we’d have would be a “boat”, but it’d be comfortable and would bomb down the highway at 85 mph with the engine loafing. Meanwhile, we’d be giving the California DMV and the Air Resources Board the “Finger”!

    • If you want the engine to just turn slowly at highway speed you’re going to need a more modern transmission with an overdrive gear. Otherwise its going to be turning pretty fast with a 1:1 3rd gear at 85mph with any reasonable for performance rear axle ratio. There’s probably a five speed out there you can use but you’ll have to go to a floor shifter.

      • The add-on electric OD is planned. First thing is to get the beast operational at all.

        I believe we have a 2.76 gear set in the “pumpkin”, so the rpms at highway speeds ought not to be all that bad. If the driveshaft is ok (the U-joints will be replaced anyway) then we’ll make do with the stock drive train for now; if not then getting a cheap replacement from a wrecking yard is the next option. Once the OD is sourced we’ll also go to a 3.55 gear set so this boat will get off the line quicker. Putting in an OD means both chopping the driveshaft and probably pounding out the “tunnel” to accommodate it. That will mean kicking in another $2,500 to $3,000 into the car, so some serious road trips had better be in the offing to justify it.

  2. A few years ago I bought a used 05 Dodge Caravan (model series 01-07) and it has: no electronic stability control system, no traction control, no emergency brake assist, no blind spot warning/lane change warning, no daytime running lights, no electronic throttle control (it has a cable), no steering assist, no TV screen on the dashboard – I can actually set the heater or stereo without taking my eyes off the road, no antitheft ignition, no keyless entry, no onstar, no wifi, no start/stop button (it has a real key which doubles as a kill switch should I ever need it but I never will due to the lack of electronic throttle), no electronic emergency braking.
    Unfortunately it does have ABS but I disabled that by removing the fuse. I also disabled the seatbelt chime by shorting the seatbelt sensor wire harness with a paperclip. I’ve got quite a bit of black tape over the dash warning lights.
    It’s got a 4 speed auto transmission, which is actually repairable when the time comes, and I have no want for any more speeds, it’s perfect just the way it is. It’s the pinnacle of perfection. So it’s more “new” than the new cars.
    I like it – it’s got power everything and every modern convenience anyone could ask for. It even has good visibility. And I get 25mpg average although I drive pretty slow.
    The only thing I hate is that it’s got a short hood so there’s very little crash protection, and now, I have to remove the airbag due to the Takata problem – so much for “safety”. I guess this is governments’ idea of “safety” – replace real crash protection (hood length) with airbags that shoot flying metal shards (called “bullets” by the gun industry).

    BTW, before buying my Caravan I considered buying a new Kia Soul, so a few years ago I drove a rental 2015 Kia Soul, with about 10,000 miles on it. The emergency brake override system was stuck on so everytime I hit the brakes it would brake too hard. The auto transmission would not let me coast, it would downshift even on flat roads, it slowed the car down so bad that I had to keep the gas on all the way up to stoplights/stop signs just to keep the car from stopping itself too soon, and on highways going downhill I had to put the transmission into neutral otherwise it would slow down going downhill. Egads, after all these years Kia/Hyundai STILL can’t make a working auto transmission. It was equipped with traction control but it let you turn it off, however you had to press the off button everytime you started the car – it should be a permanent on/off switch. The visibility out the back was very poor, the C pillars & small rear window block your rear view when backing up. My used 05 Caravan was much cheaper than buying a new one of these Kia’s, and much more practical/bigger, and much safer, and much more reliable.

  3. Disclaimer: I work for Mazda at a very low level, but I speak only for myself.

    Investment advisor Ric Edelman has predicted on his radio show that late-model cars will drop in value quickly because people will expect the new safety and technology features each new model year brings. He’s telling his listeners to lease, not buy, new vehicles for precisely this reason.

    I think in one sense he’s right, but in a more important sense he’s wrong. Some people will just have to have the latest and “best”, but no one is clamoring for a lot of these new features any more than anyone really wants self-driving cars. The recent cars will plummet in value because they aren’t the newest, but they have too much of the nannyish tech that annoys everyone. People will want either the newest—or vehicles old enough not to be encumbered with the drawbacks of today’s vehicles after they cease to be new. Few will want the castoff cars that will be just a year or two or three old.

    Even this phenomenon has its limits. Few want a brand-new electric car, for example. Would you? But some form of that mandate is coming, especially (in the US) in California—at least until the electric grid collapses.

    How is Ric wrong? Two points to note:

    1. We have been at or near all-time highs in car sales for the last few years. No one seems to be asking why new vehicles are selling so well. To me the answer is obvious. In fact, it’s the big elephant in the room. People are buying new now (1) before the tech gets even worse, (2) because the costs of new cars that meet all the pending safety, pollution, and fuel economy mandates go through the roof, and (3) because the shit is about to hit the fan on the national debt and the economy, so this could be their last opportunity to buy new.

    I’ll predict this, so mark my words: we are in the last years of the heyday of new car sales and the car culture. In 10 years we’ll be lucky to see 7 million annual sales, let alone 17 million.

    2. The average age of new cars was at an all-time high of 11.6 years in 2016. It’s expected to exceed 12 years this year if it hasn’t already. The website 24/7 Wall St. reported at the end of 2017: “The fastest growing segment of the ‘old car’ inventory is vehicles that are over 16 years old, according to IHS Markit. The number of these cars is expected to grow 30% from last year through 2021. That will put the number of units in this category at 81 million, against a U.S. driving population of 220 million.”

    Now look around and notice how many 30–, 40–, and even 50–year-old American pickups are still around in regular use. Price one. They ain’t cheap.

    Eric Peters is right: the value of older vehicles without the mandates will continue to climb. The question is how long the powers that be will allow the option of owning and driving them. Trump has, I fear, only delayed instead of preempted the probable outcome, since one day he’ll be out of office. Plenty of bureaucrats are chomping at the bit, festering to impose taxes, regulations, and bans on old iron. You’ve been warned.

  4. The more I see of new cars the more I lose interest.

    Depressing since I have been a car fiend since 10 years old.

    I will keep what I have and rebuild: 63 Valiant Signet 3 speed manual, unboosted steering and brakes, 86 Olds Calais Iron Duke and auto and a featured player on many “worst” lists, an 05 ION with less than 70,000 miles.

    The last, unfortunately has drive by wire and electronically boosted power steering [but it’s nice not having a pump or leaking fluids. But no OnStar, the answer to a question that no one ever asked.

    My own target is small, simple, base model cars with fuel efficient engines and transmissions that I keep forever.

    I have successfully dropped off the automotive, credit and mortgage debt wheel. [Though I am going to spend on getting the motor mounts, belts, AC drier and compressor done on the Valiant ].

    And now think the post 05 car market as well, should I have to replace a vehicle. [A 77 Sunbird coupe with an Iron Duke would be right up my dark dank twisted alley].

    Why Ford put a bloody DSC in it’s Focus and Fiesta is beyond me.

  5. Drove a rental a few weeks ago and I don’t know about the autostop nonsense but this Ford Escape had a thing where you couldn’t drive it over 75 mph, it had a message that the top speed was reached. Also it muted the radio until the seatbelt was plugged in. It was a feature called “my key”. Talk about a worthless piece of junk. I would never ever spend money on a car that could tell me how fast I can drive it. Absolutely ridiculous.

  6. My brother hit the jackpot this year. For months, he kept noticing a spotless mid-80s Olds Delta88 coupe in a carport next to an old house along a highway he frequents. He got up the nerve to knock on the door and inquire about it. Turns out the elderly owner couldn’t drive any more and was interested in selling, so he got it for a song. 30K on the clock, immaculate, everything works, and never touched by road salt (never drove in the winter). Thanks to its age, it’s exempt from Illinois smog and safety certs. Only trouble thus far is he discovered the passenger-side power window wouldn’t roll up. It needed a new motor — 150 bucks, simple to replace, no trouble getting the part. What a lucky dog!!

  7. Need I propose a new gadget that sure will make drivers even ‘happier” and fix our government debt problem…put a token device in the car, where you have to pay road infrastructure taxes per 10 miles increments before you can drive your own car…you get in the car and the computer asks you “how mny miles do you want to purchase today?…”. And you are charged, ahead of use, 10 cents per mile you drive on public roads…otherwise, your car won’t start.

  8. I’m planning on keeping my 2006 Land Rover LR3. After all, it’s only got 157,500 miles on the clock so it should be good for at least that many more. I’m looking in to picking up a cheap ($3K) Disco 2 as a backup/off-road “toy”, there are a couple at my mechanic’s shop in varying stages of rebuilds. They’re still reasonably inexpensive to fix (more so than the LR3).

    I had a rental 2017 Impala last week (the LR3 needed brakes). It had all the bells and whistles. The most annoying of those was the lane departure warning. I live in Taxachusetts — the breeding ground of potholes. The Impala would beep obnoxiously every time I attempted to avoid a pothole. It had worse all round visibility than the LR3. Not a car I’d want to spend money on

  9. I am encountering this exact problem now, in search for a replacement vehicle. My neural responses haven’t deteriorated to the point that I need those new-fangled automatic-assist systems integrated into the recent-model vehicles showing up at my local dealership. I’m even having trouble finding a Miata without a dang automatic transmission locally; they outnumber the manual transmission models 12-1 locally.

    Or maybe that’s a sign of what the marketplace doesn’t want: Sporty cars with auto transmissions.

  10. Yep, I’ve got a 2000 Saab 9-5 aero wagon. Blew the engine a few years ago. Just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it. Friends and family kept saying just junk it and get something new. Now I’m happy I didnt. It’s got everything I want, super comfortable seats, decent gas mileage (have seen up to 32 on the highway) awesome cargo space, decent looks even for 18+ yo and in the same vintage it’ll outrun a 911 turbo from 40 to 70 (some say 90, I have my doubts) 😈 and since it makes max torque at 1900rpm it doesn’t sound like a strangling hammered under the hood. Plus none of this modern crap, even no OnStar. I can even still work on it myself. Once I drop that 42k motor in this week she’ll be back on the road. 😁 Just recently looked at used Saab prices and they are going up. Guess Eric’s right!

    • Hi Johnny,

      I’m not letting go of my ’02 Nissan pickup for the same reason. Just two air bags (one can be turned off) and no traction/stability control, douchescreen, back-up buzzers or “connected” anything.

      • My dad got to old to drive so I bought his babied 2002 F250 7.3 turbo diesel. The truck is almost showroom new condition with just over 100,000 miles and will be the last truck I ever buy since it is pre emissions and not loaded with the crap that comes standard today. They will have to pry it from my cold dead hands.

        Too many people need to keep up with the Jones so they fall into the debt trap and get saddled with all the garbage that comes with these new vehicles when an older, simpler offering would be a better fit. He’ll, I could go back to driving my old ’71 Custom 10/Deluxe every day and be happy. I once worked for a man who was a multi millionaire and his almost daily driver was a 1954 Chevy truck that was a nice un-restored original. He had some expensive new SUVs but he loved driving the old truck.

  11. Great points Eric:
    It is quite sad. I went into automotive engineering 22 years ago because I used to like cars. I was a car guy back then. Now, I have no desire to own one of these things.

    I am ashamed of the industry I’m a part of today.

    Don’t get me wrong, there are some sweet cars out there. However, they are all far too expensive, far too fat, have far too much digital technology that will be obsolete in 5 years or less, and have far too little outward visibility.

    People point to things in cars today that are good. People have no idea how good cars could be in absence of the dictates of NHTSA, the EPA, and IIHS.

    These agencies are little more than jobs programs for otherwise unemployable wannabe dictators. Dictators who like to tell people smarter than them how to design cars. These people like to force arbitrarily created “targets” on every unwitting American car buyer just for a paycheck and a fat pension. Since the 3 way cat and EFI were about universal (30 years ago), the EPA has been busy splitting the last grain of sand that was previously the colossal beach of dangerous emissions.

    These things would have come even without the EPA if car companies actually wanted to compete with other car companies.

    NHTSA has been making actual crashes more likely by reducing outward visibility. Used to be if you were interested in primarily in safety, you bought a Volvo. Why is it that every car has to be a Volvo today? How is it that cars have gained 700-1000 pounds over what they were 30 years ago?

    Why is it that every person that buys a new car today has to carry the equivalent of 3 to 4 fat dudes with of heavy safety equipment everywhere they go, for 100-200 thousand miles?

    Now, IIHS doesn’t have goons with guns to enforce their “recommendations” – yet. However, they do have goons with guns that come ‘a knocking if you choose not to buy their product, so they are just as evil in my book.

    Here is what could be: Think of all the great things about new cars. Comfortable seats. Great stereo. Cool designs. Tight tolerances. Fantastic reliability (electrical connectors, for one, have come a long way in 30 years). Quiet interiors. Now remove everything you could give a crap about. What do have left?

    How about a sweet looking coupe that does a quarter mile in the 12 second range, has all the cool stuff mentioned above, and still manages to get 35-40 mpg on the expressway, all for less than $12,000.

    That is what could be.

    • Hi Blake,

      I was feeling depressed last night, so I took the Trans-Am out. The car is a drug. A tonic. A way to remind myself that things were actually once very different; that I did not imagine it.

      I have an idea for a book. If I ever get the time to write the damned thing.

      • I second the motion. Write that book.

        There is nothing like being directly connected to the powertrain put things in perspective.

        I think you’d be surprised how many people really do find it absurd that you can’t buy a car without 700 lbs. of safety equipment but you can:

        Skydive without a backup chute

        Free climb up rocks without a harness

        A thousand other things orders of magnitude more dangerous than driving without all the mandatory safety equipment. Like drive a model T. Or any motorcycle, even with a helmet.

        It is truly absurd.

        It has zero to do with safety or emissions. Zero. It has everything to do with control.

        Keep up the “eff you” to all the scared people who like to force this crap down our throats.

    • What’s wrong with you, Free Speech? Don’t you know that a police state is a small price to pay for living in the freest country on earth?
      Here’s another irony that seems to be lost on most people: In a few weeks, we will have Independence Day celebrations, wherein we commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. People will open those celebrations by reciting a pledge that refutes one of the fundamental principles of the Declaration, by swearing that this nation is indivisible. They will not even notice that they are solemnly reciting that notion in celebration of the document that says that when any government becomes destructive of liberty, it is the right and even the duty of the people to throw off such government; thus every nation is divisible.

      • Hi Jim,

        Amen, well-said.

        I cannot abide the Fourth; it depresses me tremendously. I plan to stay home or go for a hike in the woods; anything to avoid the ludicrous celebrations of “our freedoms.”

        • Hi, Eric.

          I might be over-reacting a bit, along the premise of this article, but I just bought a 1976 Lincoln Mark IV with low mileage, to replace my 99 DeVille, mainly for the reason of pestering electronics. What pushed me over the edge was the anti-theft system that would not allow me to start my car at all. I got it to the dealership, and they told me it could not be disabled, but was inherent to the ignition. They fixed the problem of the moment and charged me $496. I want a car that I can start without being told by a message on the dashboard to remove the key and wait 3 minutes. I looked for a slightly older car, but I found a beautiful ’76 that feels like I am sitting in my living room, but with a big motor attached. I paid $3,000, then spent $4,000 on some repairs, and I should have a near-new condition vehicle that is dependable (hopefully). I plan to keep it for the rest of my life, replacing whatever is needed as the problem arises. I told a patient about this today, and she said she is also looking for a 1975 vehicle of some sort, so I am not the only one.

          • I will also be doing my part by putting a bit more CO2 in the air to stimulate crop growth (see The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels).

          • had the same problem with the wifes 01 VW, I removed the computer and shipped it to a tuner, who removed the anti theft junk,
            which at $150 was cheaper than a new computer chip in the key at $550, for a $2000 car.

            my next vehicle will be a 92-96 Bronco or a 88-91 K5
            new enough to have reliable EFI and OD but no other computer crap

  12. The only modern safety feature that is worth having is the blind-spot monitoring radar. That’s because the roof pillars have become so thick that you can’t spot the small car or motorcycle that is hidden behind them in the other lane.

    The rest of them – auto parking, emergency braking, lane departure, etc. are annoying at best and dangerous at worst (a coworker had her Subaru Eye-Sight system think a nearby rock wall was a vehicle on a collision course and did an unwanted emergency stop on her).

    • that one modern safety feature “worth having” is ONLY existing because of stupid engineers/gummit hooh hahs that mandate the crazy cabin structure you mentioined. In other words its a stupid idea whose existence is “justified” because of an even stupider one.

      What was so wrong about letting the guys who PRODUCE the cars decide what they will produce, based upon their understanding (or lack thereof) of what we with the money burning holes in our money pokes want to spend that money for.
      I cannot think of one productioin car made since about 2005 that I could tolerate owning if the condition for ownning included driving the infernal thing.

  13. Not directly relevant to most on this forum, but the bastards here in the UK have figured out a way around this…. basically banning cars. Our Dear Leader of london, the mayor announced a new tax for any car basically more than 5 years old. A daily pollution charge or some shit…. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/london-ultra-low-emission-zone-sadiq-khan-air-pollution-plan-expansion-a8389076.html
    So basically if you want to go to even the far flung parts of London – you cant use a car unless you are in the government and probably don’t give a shit because someone else pays for it…
    (sorry couldn’t find anywhere else to rant about this – most of the UK is half clover, half commie so they like this kind of shit…)

      • Well – you guys in the US are pretty good with fending off this sort of nonsense….. here in the UK, you can do anything and say its for the “environment” and people happily accept it as they have no concept of even thinking against what the government tells them…. For example they have no realisation of the pollution caused by the mining, manufacturing and shipping process to make the millions of new cars to comply with this will be MUCH more pollution than from the tailpipe of these existing cars if they were driven for a couple more years till most of them die a natural death anyways…… And when people like me say it they look at me as if im nuts….. And the reality is that as Eric always says, most of these cars produced in the last few decades pollute so little that its immaterial.

        My personal example is my 11 year old diesel, whenever I take it for a government mandated emissions test (the MOT as we call it), so little comes out of the tailpipe, the machine always gives an error on the final report, and when I asked the guy told me its because the car is emitting so little, the machine is not picking anything up and thinks something is wrong with it.

        • I agree, Nasir. We are replacing oil-burning cars with cars that consume electricity. But where do we have to go to GET these miracle minerals?

          Lithium is the most widely touted metal needed for these cars. Chile will be happy to mine as much of it as they can; they have the largest lithium resources on the planet.

          Copper is going to be needed in the amount of 150 lbs/car, much more than the 50 lbs for a gasoline-powered car. And every time copper tops $3/lb, the wire-strippers come on the scene, pulling as much copper from the electric lights as they can find.

          Cobalt is next on the list. Any idea where that comes form? Try central Africa; namely, the Democratic Republic of Congo, which produces over 60% of all the cobalt on Earth. The world went through the last 100 years complaining about giving money to unsavory kings in the Middle East to get oil. Take a look at the people that control the Congo, and see if they are any better.

          So what is the result? We trade one gang of unsavory characters for another gang of unsavory characters. How’s THAT gonna work out for you?

    • Wouldn’t it be delightful if people simply stopped doing business in those sorts of places? Imagine if actual productive people no longer drove their cars or delivery trucks into London, or Brussels, or the DC Swamp. Better yet, build a wall around those cities and let ’em fend for themselves! (It’d be more feasible than that other wall that’s talked about).

      • Shhh – Quiet Bill…. dont give them ideas…. as it is “business” and “productive” are bad words here in the UK…..

        They could care less. They would simply survive by taxing someone else more and filling the place with even more bureaucrats and other government leeches……

  14. I had an 2016 M4 MANUAL with that silly start/stop. It was absurd, it would cause drivers to stall the motor myself included as it had a real CLUTCH!

    • Drove a rental 2018 1500 Silverado with 200 miles on it while my 13 was in the shop. It didn’t even have the engine stall on it, but it did stall out driving through our neighborhood doing 30 mph. Engine and power all died, even the radio. Had to manually brake as hard as I could to stop the vehicle. Real piece of chit.

  15. I dislike any car with pushbutton start. Who thought of that shit idea anyway? A salesman told me that it was great because you can keep your key in your pocket. The problem is, I don’t want the car keys in my pocket to chafe on my skin and pants. It’s a dumb idea. I don’t want to put the key in the cup holder or the change drawer either. It doesn’t belong there. If it did, it would be called a key drawer. I’d like to dump a gallon of coolant on the idiot who thought that key fobs and pushbutton start was a good idea.

    • When the key fob dies then you HAVE TO replace it because there is no other way to drive the car.

      We’ve been driving our 2006 with just the keys the past several years. Got better things to spend $300. It’s just a pain to lock it up so that the alarm doesn’t go off when you open it again.

      • My Landy has an electronic key, but you have to stick it in the ignition, where it recharges itself. I actually have 2 keys and swap them out from time to time to keep them both charged.

        How do these fobs that stay in your pocket recharge?

      • My key fob is $400.00 to replace, but the battery is only $20.00. The problem is I can’t get the damn thing open to replace it. So I have to manually pull the key out of the fob which it turns out is this awkward looking hard to grasp piece of crap etc.

        • Even if the manual has instructions, study the possible traps. I don’t have the latest-and-greatest-keep-it-in-your-pocket type of fob, just one of the earlier push-the-button-to-open-your-car type. But they didn’t warn you to take the key ring off of the fob first. Seems the plastic housing had half of the loop for the ring on each half of the fob. Pop it open, just like the manual shows, and one half or the other of the loop breaks off. You know how I know.

          Epoxy resin worked to put the pieces back together. But I shouldn’t have had to do that. Obviously, the guy who wrote the manual didn’t have the key on the fob.

          Companies should all use the Heathkit approach to writing manuals. Go to the grocery store and ask 15 women if they would like to earn a few bucks putting a kit together. Then watch them follow the instructions and fix whatever a total novice could not understand. Repeat until fool proof.

          • The fob I have has notches on the side to crack it open, but I know that if I crack it open, I’m going to have to purchase a new one because whatever electronic piece of technology is inside is going to go shooting off into space and land in innumerable pieces like a booster rocket raining down from a failed o ring. I haven’t had a single problem with this car, but this alone is enough of a nuisance to sell it. Every time I read one of Eric’s articles, I want to sell all my vehicles and just leave the country..

        • We replaced the batteries a bunch of times but now neither one works even with a new battery. At one point I was able to get one to work with parts from both original remote lock/unlockers, but now even that doesn’t work.

          To lock the car, you have to open the door and lock all the doors with the key still on, which makes the drivers door lock pop back up. Then you can turn off and pull the key and lock the drivers door with the key – otherwise the alarm goes off when you unlock your own damn car with your own damn key.

          • I might see if I can fabricate some sort of handle for the key itself, and just keep the fob in the key fob holder until I sell it. When I first got the car, the fob wasn’t necessary except to open the doors, but now I have to keep the fob in the key fob holder in order to start the car. So instead of simply inserting the key and turning like the good ol’ days, I have to insert the key fob into it’s slot, then push the ignition button.

  16. The Golden Age was 1988-1995, at least for Chevy/GMC pickups.

    Though I’d sure like to find a decent K-20 for a firewood truck.

    • Firewood truck my ass. I saw a pristine probably 90 model Chevy ext.cab yesterday and I was tempted to follow it till it was parked so I’d know where to steal it, then put a junked VIN plate on it and call it mine.

      I now see some of the higher end 3/4 and one ton ext cab and crewcab long beds going for 14-15K. Every day I see one that’s been turned back into a new one.

      A friend of mine, a GD Aggie, traded a perfectly good 93 Chevy ext cab pickup and another car in on 2 new Japanese vehicles, one an SUV.

      I told him I would buy it but he was going to get too much to turn down on those uber expensive things they bought…..probably already traded in for something worse but “new”.

      City people give me a PITA and he and his wife moved into the “country” a 12-15 years ago. He said “Oh, that old pickup was worn out. It got run up and down a washboarded dirt road all the time and the shocks needed to be changed.

      Oh hell, guess I’ve never been on a road like that…..on my bicycle or whatever it is I am driving. The road to my driveway is sand, chert and RR steel, mainly spikes. We spent 5 years driving it nearly every Sunday at slow speed with one or two in the back spotting spikes. We had big piles of spikes and finally began throwing them back into the pastures where the RR track had been. And even the chert left would blow tires. Once we’d replaced more than 50 tires I quit counting. Most were class E 16’s that back then didn’t have warranties and I’ve had very expensive sets I’ve replaced all four in as little as 2 months…..whoopeee!. But now you can make that 7 miles and rarely ruin one. A great deal of the reason for that is the wife and I and a friend or two never drove by a spike they saw and not stop and pick it up added to the Sat and Sun spike runs. Every time it was bladed it appeared a new crop had come up.
      I don’t try to convince anyone it’s any better than it was 30 years ago. About 25 years ago I left our driveway to find a counter strung across it. I went to the county barn and asked what was up(although it was obvious). They told me and I said “Shit”. What, they said, you don’t want it paved?

      It used to be part of the road that followed the RR track between two towns 30 miles apart. Paving it would be like living on the edge of the infamous Ranch Road 33 or I 20. I told them Hell no, I wish it were still deep sand and one track wide and then there’d be even less traffic….and no damn RR spikes. Aw well, give a minor bureaucrat a little rope and he’ll hang us all.

      • I don’t have much use for the ext cabs and crew cabs. Between that extra length and the IFS, they take almost as much room to turn around as a twin screw. It’s a pain in the woods, but out on the highway they are nice.

        I don’t want a paved road by my place, either. But it would be nice if the county didn’t grade all the gravel off into the ditches. Now it’s a bog every time it rains.

  17. Eric,

    What about the last of the VW Passat TDI’s, from 2011-2015? I know you’re quite fond of them and I can still find them quite easily in my neck of the woods. I want the manual though (no doubt more rare) and there’s a dealer near me with 3 of them and another with one available. They don’t seem to be going down in price any and this generation of Passat doesn’t seem to be gimped with a lot of the stuff you mentioned. But alas, I might have to go older yet like you mentioned, late 90’s/early ’00’s.

    • Check that, the one dealer has 18 TDI’s with the manual! Maybe they’re not so hard to find or this place specializes in them.

  18. Prices for used never went down after cash for clunkers round here (Chicago area). If you have less the five grand to spend, you don’t have much choice. Non small cars and SUV’s in the ten thousand range can have over 100k miles on them already. (At least more cars can go 200k now, otherwise it would be even worse). Plus you have smog tests here, so that car has to be able to do that too.

    If you have great credit, and can get the zero percent financing(if you’re looking at newish used cars), it may be cheaper to buy new in some cases (it was for my folks).

  19. Hi everyone. My name is Tor. The first digit of both me and my wife’s cars’ “true”* VIN numbers are J. I believe Eric’s favorite bike also begins with J. He’d have to check on the frame member of his motorcycle to verify.
    https://qph.fs.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-d58eed4d775a570cfa2784199b81a7a0-c

    If you want to participate in the Viñ (Voluñtarist identification ñumber) system you will be asked to provide at least the first number of a valid VIN, if you are willing to provide the other 16 digits, that is appreciated.
    https://qph.fs.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-7e687c4a041444c029be2796183e5c0e

    As you may know, there is quite a bit of info contained in a VIN. Make sure you understand the risks before you provide it. This is required for both practical and instructive purposes.**

    *[My family’s cars are Japanese in reality, regardless of which NAFTA nation they claim as their origin.]
    **[[Anyone who does not provide this number will be assigned a ?,!,@,#,$,%, or & as the first digit of their Viñ.]]
    *3 ||||World_manufacturer_identifier_components||||https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle_identification_number#Components

    (Por favor puede ver este mensaje en inglés arriba)

    Hola a todos. Mi nombre es Tor. El primer dígito de “verdadero” VIN de mi esposa y de mí es J. Creo que la bicicleta favorita de Eric también comienza con J. Tendría que verificar el miembro del bastidor de su motocicleta para verificar. !ver el enlace en inglés arriba!

    Si desea participar en el sistema Viñ (número de identificación volutanista), se le pedirá que proporcione al menos el primer número de un VIN válido, si está dispuesto a proporcionar los otros 16 dígitos, eso se agradece. !!ver el enlace en inglés arriba!!

    Como sabrá, hay bastante información contenida en un VIN. Asegúrese de comprender los riesgos antes de proporcionarlos. Esto es requerido tanto para propósitos prácticos como instructivos. **

    * [Los autos de mi familia son japoneses en realidad, independientemente de la nación NAFTA que reclaman como su origen].
    ** [[A cualquiera que no proporcione este número se le asignará un?,!, @, #, $,% O & como el primer dígito de su Viñ.]]
    * 3 |||| World_manufacturer_identifier_components |||| !!!ver el enlace en inglés arriba!!!

  20. My new fantasy juvenile delinquent activity: Filling the crankcase of all brand new vehicles with sodium silicate.

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