Whatever Happened to The Ricers?

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The ‘90s/early 2000s was the last time messing with cars was a common thing among teens and 20s. These were the “ricers” and “tuners” – kids who worked on mostly Japanese stuff, especially Honda Civics and their higher-brow Acura cousins, which came with the hotter engines  . . . from the factory.

Italicized for reasons that will become clearer below.

The signature Ricer mod was a loud exhaust with a disproportionately huge muffler. Some put whistles in the pipe to mimic the sound of a turbo spooling up. This was Gen Y’s version of Gen X’s flipping the air cleaner lid over so that you could hear the four barrel moan when the secondaries opened.

But you don’t hear the buzzsaw sound of a tweaked out Civic or Integra much anymore.

The ricers have . . . retired. And no one has taken their place.

Yes, there are still some kids who mess with cars. But it’s not common anymore. Most gatherings of the car cognoscenti are populated by those long out of high school – and often well into middle age.

Why?

Several reasons come to mind.

The main one is – probably – lack of suitable raw material. Gen Y (which was in high school and college, the prime car-centric years, during the ’90s) was the last generation that had abundant, easy access to viable used cars.

Cars they could afford to buy on a teenager’s budget – and cars they could wrench on, without master mechanic skills and tools.

These have largely disappeared, because new cars have become orders of magnitude more complex since the early 2000s, with systems beyond the ken (and finances) of most current high school/college-aged kids. Drive-by-wire, direct injection . . . more app than automobile.

When these cars hit the used car market – or by the time they are teenager affordable – they are usually in an advanced state of deterioration. But that is not the real problem.

Thirty or 40 years go, a basket case car could be rehabbed, upgraded or at least made driveable with cheap used parts from the junkyard – but junkyards have become scarce and most cars built since the turn of the century have proprietary/integrated systems specific to that particular make/model/year that can’t be mixed and matched and made to work. Late model cars often require catastrophically expensive factory parts and hugely expensive diagnostic equipment – just to decrypt what might be ailing them.

The used Hondas of the ’80s and ’90s favored by the Ricers were favored for the same reason the used Chevys, Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles, Fords and Mopars of the ’60s and ’70s were favored by the Gen Xers who preceded them.

They were easily tunable. Parts interchanged.

One could swap out a junkyard ’98 Integra’s high-revving VTEC four and slip it into a serviceable Civic’s body as easily – just about – as a Gen X’er back in ’86 could drop a cammed-out and stroked 383 small block Chevy into a ’78 Camaro.

That’s much harder to do today – and not just because it’s harder to do.

It is also harder to get away with doing it.

For one thing, areas that didn’t used to have smog check now do. And they check more than just the emissions. They plug the car into a computer- and that computer is plugged into Uncle’s computer – and that computer knows everything about the car. If the OBD system emits an unorthodox code, especially one indicating “tampering,” such as putting a different year engine in the car, the car not only fails, it is blacklisted. No registration, new or renewed – until the “tampering” is undone, regardless of cost.

The car becomes useless, even if it runs.

And they know if you’re running it regardless.

The DMV is everywhere – and so are ALPRs – automated license plate readers. Pass by one and the eye of Sauron is upon you. It probably won’t be long before they automatically send the Hut! Hut! Hutters! to your home for so much as a seatbelt “violation.”

And there’s insurance. It is both confiscatory (even for non-hot-rodded cars) and very hard to get away with not having – even if you never so much as splash mud on another car.

Computers, again.

And, complexity.

The late ’80s/early-mid ’90s Civics and Integras (and others) had no air bags, or maybe two. Didn’t have ultra fragile (because ultra-thin) body panels, as late-model cars do. These are extremely vulnerable to expensive damage. The air bags – cars built since the early 2000s have at least four, usually – are literally time bombs built into the car, physically as well as financially. 

If two go off in a ten-year-old car, the odds are it’s a goner – totaled rather than fixed. Even if it runs just fine. You’re not allowed to drive it with any federally required saaaaaaaaaaafety system not operating.

So even serviceable older cars get thrown away after mechanically fixable wrecks, because fixing the air bags costs more than the car is worth.

This, in turn has caused insurance costs to skyrocket to ludicrous extremes.

Teens have always paid more but now it’s at the point that they can’t pay at all.

The average monthly premium for al 16-year-old who has never wrecked anything or received a single jaywalking ticket is $250/month. Work that out. Assuming a minimum wage gig ($7.25/hour federal) that’s about 35 hours of work – almost a full week of full-time work –  just to pay the insurance. Most high school kids work part-time, and few kids want to work at all if almost everything they earn goes to the insurance mafia.

Even if they are willing, it doesn’t leave much for custom exhaust, whees and tires, etc. If the kid gets a single speeding ticket, his premium will likely go to $300 or more a month. Even if he wanted to keep on driving, he couldn’t afford to.

But perhaps the biggest reason for the crash of car culture is that the system keeps the rising generation out of cars until they are practically adults, by which time they view cars not as freedom machines but as debt albatrosses and appliances.

In most states, there’s an agonizing series of bureaucratic hurdles which must be traversed (none having anything to do with learning how to drive; rather, they involve water torture browbeating about saaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety – which has become synonymous with Mindlessly Obey All Rules and Never Exercise Independent Judgment) before the larval driver may even get a license to drive.

And then it is hugely restricted until the kid is 18. For example he may not drive with other teens in the car, especially after dark. This is like going to the beach to look at the water.

So the kids game and text. They are ready for the automated electric car of The Future.

And the Ricers are no more.

. . .

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

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89 COMMENTS

  1. HA!!!! I grew up in the you-pull-it yards. Only way I could afford to keep my cars running. I once fixed a friend’s car with used parts that probably would have killed her in a month or two for $75 in parts. Her dad was outraged because it would have cost $1000. I reckon he figured I was trying to get some action when I just couldn’t conscious seeing her die in that POS. She told friends I was doing it for free when she was supposed to pay for parts. Since she was Asian I let it slide not to embarrass her. Hey $75 eh? Then again maybe I was just a sucker. I loved that yard though, you’d go in and they’d print off a sheet with all the interchangeable parts. They had this sign on the wall behind the desk I loved, it said “All parts are used parts once they’re used” Now it seems they can’t care less for the individual picker anymore. Crazy prices and bad customer service. Seems the days of picking and fixing or picking and hoping up are over.

  2. Old Ricer here!
    We are not gone, but due to the many barriers Eric mentioned we have adapted our skills to handle more types of vehicle modifications.
    The term for todays aged ricer is a Modder. (Suspension modder, Engine modder, etc)
    Modders work on the concept that current cars are based on platforms. There are many parts which can be used across models with the same platform.
    One thing that can be modded on any car is the suspension, brakes, and tires.
    There are also things like headlights, horns, battery relocation, and the disabling of safety devices which we love to work on.
    Intake systems can also be modded depending on the engine.
    Many turbo-charged cars can have the ECU tune modified.

    So, the Ricers never went away they just became older, more wise, and learned to find new ways to tweak and tune their vehicles. With the internet, this information can be shared with groups with similar interests and bring new modders into existence.

  3. Hi Eric, thank you for the reply earlier in the thread. When you said

    “Part of the reason for the reluctance to sell such cars here is CAFE, the fuel economy rigamarole that has become an “emissions” rigamarole about to strangle the making of any car that isn’t electric.”

    I guess our regulations are different here in Australia, we move up Euro level gradations, I think Euro6 is the next one, and that has killed off some car variants or forced re-engineering of others. No company wide target Down Under?

    Given the recent ‘Yellow Vest’ riots in France (initially protesting diesel tax hikes as the French Gov tried to follow its climate change promises) – and now Macron backing down somewhat – are we seeing a Libertarian, working/middle class uprising against all this top-down legislation for the climate which adds cost and creates poverty? Are the US CAFE laws so written in stone that they can’t be changed? One thing I loved about being in North America was the pickup trucks (we are stuck with those smaller Thai built dual cabs with no tray space) – surely those US pickups consume as much fuel as a RWD sedan from Oz? Some of them had 7 litre motors!

    Btw I think Holden did an electric Commodore concept in about 2000/2001 – water under the bridge…

    Anyway, electric can be pretty fast too! And fewer moving parts. If I can rebuild my electric planer, I can do an auto electric motor. The electric cars could be closer to true automotive freedom (solar power off individual people’s roofs powering them) – but it seems to be bundled with a Big Brother style of connectivity and surveillance. Pity about that. And has anyone bothered to look up Lithium to see if it is a ‘fossil’ resource? – that is, is it infinite, or just like Oil is there a limited amount of it? We looked at it and concluded that it was ‘fossil’ in its reserve sizes.

    Of all automakers, Mazda is pushing in a different path with the Skyactiv-X ICE motors, almost a hybrid between diesel and petrol, but running off the latter – they argue wheel-to-well emissions see ICE still competitive. (back on topic:) Perhaps we could see Mazda ricers well into the future!

    Cheers for the site and I’ll slowly be collecting old Aussie Falcons to keep life good…

    • Hi Jack,

      I’m not opposed to electrically-driven cars, per se. The problem – which I seem to be pretty much the only car journalist willing to say so openly – is that they aren’t competitive on the merits with internal combustion cars; too expensive to be economical and too functionally limited to be practical. Hence, the need to mandate and subsidize them.

      Then I ask the worst question of all: Why?

      Why are EVs being so aggressively pushed on us? There isn’t much organic market demand for them. It is a weird combine of the government and corporations practically cramming them down our throats. Yet gas is cheap and abundant. Emissions from standard cars are practically nil. Internal combustion cars are simply better as cars.

      So, why?

      I am certain it is because governments and corporations – which have become effectively synonymous – want to use the EV as the vehicle to increase their control over mobility; to restrict it and make it cost us more.

      Nothing else makes sense/explains the weird phenomenon we’re witnessing right now.

    • Electric vehicles would be great – just as soon as we get that Mr. Fusion generator that runs on stale beer and banana peels.

  4. its still easy
    you just use an older car.
    my 20 yr old kid , who is a gear head and pretty good mechanic, has a 76 chevy pickup,
    he has done an LS swap, and a 5 speed transmission, and Ac, mostly by himself
    he can repair residential hvac , is a certified welder, etc
    bagged two deer already this season also.

    • Hi Justin,

      Yes, it’s doable – if the kid has the guidance you’ve provided yours. Most, however, have no familiarity with the old stuff, which is ancient stuff to their generation. That ’76 is (like my ’76) getting on 50 years old. It is akin to me having a Model A Ford when I was in high school back in the ’80s.

      I foresee a time, not far distant, when pre-computer cars will be forced off the road – for saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety or because they constitute a “danger” to “the environment.” This will occur the moment large numbers of people begin using them as daily transportation rather than sign up for a new electric car.

      • That’s a good point. I think that might have something to do with why I’m not all that into the “retro” look of the Mustang and Camaro. The throwback look for vehicles that were introduced before I was born. It’s like hearing classic rock every where I go too.

        Nothing “iconic” about it. Just lazy design backed up by lazy marketing. Maybe the boomers will live forever (they’re working on it), but so far no one seems to have survived life (except maybe that one guy).

  5. Well, with this depressing article in mind, I need some advice. I have sons growing up. Oldest is seven. I bought a ’98 Lexus and a salvage Lexus of the next model year (for parts) to try and teach myself how to work on cars and teach my sons how to do the same. The hope is to teach them to be a little more self sufficient. Is it still possible? Should I junk the Lexus and go a different direction?

    • Nothing wrong with choosing the Lexus. There will be the usual painful Honda jobs but most anything FWD or Japanese or both will have those. You’ve got one car to practice on so it probably won’t be so bad. That was always the thing about the self serve salvage yard, getting the part itself was practice for the worst part of the job in most cases.

  6. Many good points today. Although re: insurance yes most places now require mandatory driver liability insurance but that doesn’t have to cover your own vehicle property damage. So it is cheaper than what most people buy (liability only is cheaper). If younger people drive anything at all they have to have that. So there isn’t any incremental cost to owning a fixer upper, ricer, etc.
    Among other problems, homes with garages are scarcer and those garages are smaller, not easy to have tools and room to work. You need more expensive and different tools, as Eric notes. Street racing still goes on (in my locale) but with many caused deaths it isn’t tolerated much. Middle class kids have Dads who didn’t work on cars because they instead were on college degree tracks. Lots of reasons.

    • How many young men were raised in single-adult household (re: by their MOTHERS), with Dad either out of the picture completely, or, assuming he’s got anything left after copious alimony and child support payments, takes ’em to Disneyland when he’s got ’em every other weekend. Not exactly a scenario for a lad to learn by helping Dad out (‘hold the goddamn flashlight, son!”).

      • I don’t think it’s so much the father not being there as an example and more of mothers doing ‘safety’ patrol or perhaps the father not there to override it.

        • BrentP December 3, 2018 at 4:49 pm

          I don’t think it’s so much the father not being there as an example and more of mothers doing ‘safety’ patrol or perhaps the father not there to override it.

          I think you have it right. When my son was little he would talk about doing something and I would let him do it after telling hjm the possible hazards. The wife would just say No. There were a few things that I deemed too dangerous, but most things it was just bumps, bruises, and scrapes. Good life lessons.

    • My 23 year old son pays $275/month for basic liability insurance only on a 1997 Maxima. He has no tickets on his record and 1 single car accident that was his fault (slid his ’97 RWD lincoln town car in to a guard rail on an icy road- 1 ER visit to check out his neck/back was all the insurance company had to pay).

      So I’m not sure the $250 quoted in the article is for full coverage. Insurance for me (no accidents or tickets for 30 years) has more than doubled in the last 7 years. Insurance has gotten ridiculous.

  7. Just remembered something

    My old friends kid brother is currently rebuilding an ’95 civic, original D block instead of swapping for a B18. Kids gonna be 20 in 7 days, and he’s been using his pay to manage it (Also has a JK Jeep)

    Not all hope is lost actually, just gotta know where to look (FB/IG/Forums/etc)

  8. My first car was a ’67 VW I bought in ’76 with money from a part-time job. Though no master mechanic, I was able to keep it running. Parts for a beetle were easy to come by then. I kept my bicycles in proper working order as well. Today I have a bicycle that cost more than my first few cars did, and I don’t even work on that.

    • You sold your SOUL, fellow Doug, if all you do is play with the toys and NOT maintain them. Even IF, somehow, your time is SO valuable that you bring in, in the time it would take to twist a wrench yourself, which I doubt (can’t miss those “reality” shows on Nut-work TV, right?), you’re losing an essential part of the EXPERIENCE.

  9. Ricers were the people who made the cars LOOK fast, tuners actually made them fast

    Such a shame, got a list of cars I wanna own as long as my arm and I’m afraid by the time I can own them, Uncle might make it illegal

    Hopefully, someday my work will inspire a new generation, already have the artwork for it:

    https://www.instagram.com/mikef_comics/

    Just hope it works out.

    Also need an alternative to Fast and furious, they’re really cop movies with cars, save Tokyo Drift

  10. I have owned both old-school (‘68 Olds 88) and ricer (‘02 Subaru WRX) cars, and enjoyed them both.

    I agree: No matter how you roll, it’s getting not only super expensive, but super inconvenient to drive, let alone soup up, any car these days.

    I second what everyone else says here, and have this to add: I don’t know about the ladies, but the guys I knew were keen on getting a car to not only get more freedom and stand out from the rest of the guys, but get girls: I kid you not: my parents set 16 as my age to date because, in their words, “it’s really awkward when your parents have to drive you around on a date.”

    Today’s guys don’t need a car of any kind to get lucky with girls, or impress other guys. They have smartphones that serve that purpose. In fact, driving can even turn some girls off, because cars are dangerous and they pollute, too.

    I’d even go so far to say that there are a lot of guys out there who don’t even bother with dating, because they have access to online pleasures that seem to satisfy just fine.

    That’s my 2¢.

  11. Eric – hope you don’t mind me posting these lyrics. I never thought it would happen – but Rush was a fan of Ayn Rand – I thought the lyrics far out then.

    RED BARCHETTA
    Music: Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson
    Lyrics: Neil Peart

    My uncle has a country place, that no-one knows about
    He says it used to be a farm, before the Motor Law
    Sundays I elude the ‘Eyes’, and hop the Turbine Freight
    To far outside the Wire, where my white-haired uncle waits

    Jump to the ground
    As the Turbo slows to cross the borderline
    Run like the wind
    As excitement shivers up and down my spine
    Down in his barn
    My uncle preserved for me an old machine –
    For fifty-odd years
    To keep it as new has been his dearest dream
    I strip away the old debris, that hides a shining car
    A brilliant red Barchetta, from a better, vanished time
    Fire up the willing engine, responding with a roar!
    Tires spitting gravel, I commit my weekly crime…

    Wind in my hair –
    Shifting and drifting –
    Mechanical music
    Adrenalin surge –

    Well-weathered leather
    Hot metal and oil
    The scented country air
    Sunlight on chrome
    The blur of the landscape
    Every nerve aware
    Suddenly ahead of me, across the mountainside
    A gleaming alloy air-car shoots towards me, two lanes wide
    I spin around with shrieking tires, to run the deadly race
    Go screaming through the valley as another joins the chase

    Drive like the wind
    Straining the limits of machine and man
    Laughing out loud
    With fear and hope, I’ve got a desperate plan
    At the one-lane bridge
    I leave the giants stranded
    At the riverside
    Race back to the farm
    To dream with my uncle
    At the fireside…

    • One of my favorites from my youth.

      Sadly, no nieces or nephews (well, cousins kids) care to visit this uncle. Apparently the tractor, buggy and hunting truck are no fun compared to the digital world.

      Back when I was a wee teen, I would have sold my soul to be able to be able to play with a tractor, rail buggy or big 4×4 on an uncles acreage. Now, these kids just complain (without looking up from their glass cage) that my wi-fi is not fast enough and that they want to get home so they can play some digital off road game.

  12. The new car scenes is “stancing” out a car where you lower it and get crazy camber to get the car even lower. Drifting has caught on as well with a focus in rwd cars instead of fwd. Honda has gained a lot of “hate” from the new generation because of the past 90’s and 2000’s tuner scene. Civics are more sound than performance and that idea has stuck unfortunately.

    Eric i really do think that its the insurance premiums that killed the love for car as well. You end up paying 4x as much for a car just to insure. How can you possible modify. tune, and street race. I’m blessed to have been under my parents insurance and not worry about it especially since my dad was a car guy and always had 7 different vehicles around the house to pick from.

    • You’re telling me

      We need a reboot of car culture somehow, and sadly, other than Tokyo Drift, they weren’t really car movies but Cop movies disguised as one

  13. As I read your article Eric I kept thinking to myself “But we’ve got freedom! And the troops! And don’t forget all that freedom we’ve got!”

    As a child of the 70’s I used to look down on the ricers and their fart cans, poor kids don’t know the sound of a real engine such as a Chevy small block with headers and glass packs. Looking back I should have cut them some slack, they did very well with what they had to work with.

    • Hi Fred,

      Amen. Me also.

      Like you, I snickered. Because like you, I was fortunate enough to have been born in time to be able to own and play with V8/RWD cars as a teenager and 20-something. When I was in high school and college (’80s) it was easy for almost any kid to buy a used Trans-Am or Camaro from the ’70s; even a Chevelle or Mustang from the ’60s. Almost all my friends had such cars and so did I.

      Then the ’90s came and our younger brothers got into the FWD/import stuff and became Ricers. We – the older cohort – laughed at them. What did they know?

      And now we all know.

      • That seems to be the norm these days. I’m such a nerd that I have a ham radio license. Decades ago when I got my license I was the youngest guy in the room. Now that I’m 50 I’m still the youngest guy in the room. Nerd kids are still playing with radios, but they don’t bother to get their ham license and just stick to the ISM bands.

        Somewhere along the way we quit mentoring the kids. Not just in cars, but in just about everything. As usual, Uncle is probably to blame. The first 12-16 years of our lives are spent being sorted by age. That seems to have a powerful effect on one’s psyche, and marketing/fashion trends purposefully changing every few years doesn’t help either.

        • I remember Art Bell talking about the decline of ham radio and he specifically mentioned the licensing the morse code requirement and so on as needing to go away. However a lot of old timers wouldn’t let it go. And that’s what people do. They have their club and they create barriers to entry. Then many years down the line wonder why their club is dying out.

          Sorting people by age thing is deliberate. Again I refer to John Taylor Gatto’s work uncovering why it was done. In short it better allows for the conditioning of children and keeping people as children of the state once they become adults.

          • They did away with the CW (Morse) requirement for even General Class some time ago in an effort to bolster membership. I don’t believe it worked. There’s some pretty exciting digital work on HF bands these days, but participants are low. Why bother with tuners and towers and hard-wiring when you can just open your laptop? Why bother with Chicken Band when you have a sail fawn?

            I think the whole DIY aspect of Ham, of cars, of just about everything only appeals to a relatively small segment of the populace. Probably always has.

            • Oh for sure the ham radio crowd wasn’t going to fill a football stadium, but one would think there’d be a little more activity considering the whole telecommunications infrastructure is going wireless, at least from the customer perspective.

              Dropping the CW requirement just allowed everyone who didn’t want to bother with code to upgrade to HF. Didn’t do jack s*** for getting more membership. The larger issue is the horrible self-regulating non-commercial purists, along with the blatant hatred of smartphones and computers. There are a lot of grey areas that might not be commercial but use commercial services that should be just fine on the ham bands (and for sure the FCC isn’t going to care), but the self-appointed “regulators” are quick to put a stop to anything they deem verboten. And of course there’s the ARRL’s ceaseless promotion of contesting Über alles

              (Sorry for going off topic)

              • Ready,

                The whole notion of getting another license is what turns me off.

                I already have one from the 70s that “allowed” me to communicate with other planes and air traffic CONTROLLERS.

                The entire Congress shall pass no law EXCEPT (fill in the blank) is garbage.

                As far as autos go, why NOT require a Driving Plan? At least for interstate travel. All the precedents are in place under the DOT.

                We would all be safer if we had to get permission to stop for gas or a bathroom break. The Road Traffic Controllers could deny departure clearance when interstate traffic was deemed to be too congested. Or redirect us to our approved alternate destinations.

                Somebody needs to get Charlie Schumer on the line to get this great idea put into play.

                The TSA will come to your driveway to tickle your testiculars, search you car, and make sure you have the correct maps for your journey.

                I’m feeling safer already.

      • Millenial chiming in. I too used to make fun of the ricers and their what I thought then crappy cars. Today, I am one of them. I daily drive a 11′ Xterra and the guys/gals at thenewx.org have kept me up to speed with do it yourself repairs and mods. I installed an intake manifold spacer which added instant throttle response and a loud ass AFE cat back exhaust system that roars under acceleration and growls while cruising and I am addicted to its sound. (it only adds a meager 5 hp though). My best man from my wedding is a vietnamese friend who dropped $50k on a subaru brz last year and he and I are trying to keep pace of another on mods and upgrades. He is single and living with his parents in a house he owns as they are older and ill so he gets to blow money on it faster, but it is a nice ride. I am planning on removing the cats on the X and putting headers in and eventually doing a tune job, it is a serious fun vehicle to drive. The seats are uncomfortable but the throttle response is awesome for an SUV

        • Hi Brazos,

          I have an ’02 Frontier – so I gnoe what you bee sayin’!

          Mine has the four cylinder engine and is bone stock. I have thought about putting a header on it, plus a “performance” exhaust. I know I wont get blazing speed out of it, but I like the idea of it sounding right.

          What it really needs, though, is a six speed (with deep overdrive gearing on top) and a 4.11 in the rear, to get the gimpy thing going!

    • Hi Jack,

      Amen. I remember. GM, too, had the RWD Holdens. Chevy briefly sold a RWD “Chevy SS” but few even knew it was available because of no marketing; they didn’t even have one in the NE Regional press fleet, which serves most of the east coast of the U.S. – which tells you something, or should.

      Part of the reason for the reluctance to sell such cars here is CAFE, the fuel economy rigamarole that has become an “emissions” rigamarole about to strangle the making of any car that isn’t electric.

      But the other reason is they just don’t give a damn about cars anymore. They are corporate tools – the people in charge – and are concerned with virtue signaling while lining their pockets to bursting before heading off to the next gig, or a very comfortable retirement.

      • GM had internal battles over the Holden platform car in the USA. Those who wanted it managed to get it but those who didn’t want it made sure it died on the sales floor. It seems like that is the story about most GM products that are anything decent for the last 30 some odd years. Some internal battle that often turns the product to garbage or otherwise makes sure it fails. Then there is probably dozens of vehicles we never even see or learn about that get killed early on.

  14. Hi from Australia Eric,

    In many ways, our version of car culture has continued right up until recently. Australia had the RWD Holden Commodore (ceased 2017) and RWD Australian Ford Falcon (ceased 2016) and many of these cars at present are between near-new in dealers yards and old and tired in the classifieds – cheap – and parts are plentiful and cheap too. If you do nothing else, do a bit of research on the Australian Ford 4.0 Inline 6 and it’s turbo variant. A vast majority of these cars had simple drivelines that just keep going on, 500,000km can be expected from the Ford 6 with ease. RWD muscle continued unique and alone Down Under, much like our marsupial animals.

    Thus, myself, Gen X, spinning the spanner on 1971 HQ Holdens and 1970 XW Falcons; my Gen Z children learning on manual 1994 ED XR8 sedan (fitted with American ’93 Mustang Cobra SVO 302 motor in a 4 door family sedan, the Australian way… we were never big enough market to have dedicated coupes for long); and now one of the kids with a 2011 Ford FG Falcon XR6 4.0 NA inline 6 and ZF 6 speed auto.

    The Falcons were fully Australian from the 1971 XA model, with Cleveland V8s being built in Geelong until 1982. Later, the Windsor V8 returned, before being relplaced by the 5.4, and then going out with an Australian developed 5.0 ‘Miami’ motor with Harrop supercharger. Beast.

    Ford also developed the AWD Territory SUV off the Falcon platform and even equipped one variant with full time AWD Turbo inline 6.

    Holdens in the meantime had great manual V8’s built into the Commodore, with it being a fully Australian platform by the 2006 VE. They used the indigenous 308 until 2000 or so when the LS motors replaced them as bolt ins. Great handling cars.

    In this time, they both developed coupe utilites (utes) of these platforms, as well as station wagons, panel vans and occasionally a coupe. Most of the cars are still on the roads at present, so the good ‘ol days are here still in Australia for young people to have cheap cars to tune, drive and enjoy.

    But it’s all over now – I look at what replaces the Aussie cars and the closest spec you get to the RWD with the powerful drive line is in Euro cars that are far more complicated, cost 2-3 times the price new. Otherwise you are left with bland FWD or FWD based SUVs. It was good while it lasted.

  15. I’m afraid I’ve warped all of my kids. They all had to learn to drive stick shifts and then use one for their drivers’ tests. Now they strongly prefer standard transmissions. Though they are still young, I exposed them to old cars and V8s and non-computerized (other than ignitions) cars, not to mention my VHS collection and my manual typewriter, which I use daily. They have a view of the past and liberty many of their peers do not.

    In a way I’ve made for them a tough row to hoe. They’ll always act and see things a little differently from others of their generation. They might be my most lasting rebellion against the world as it is.

  16. Eric,
    You say the kids game and text. That is a big part of it. When I young and lived in a rural area you had to drive to have any sort of social life. Everyone wanted to get their license the first moment they turned 16! Now the kids get together on line. I have a nephew who lives in a rural area but he is online constantly. He is turning 16 next year and has no desire to get his license. His mom carts him around.

      • Man that’s crazy, I didn’t even have a parent around like that anymore at 17. The car was in her name and she helped with the insurance on it
        but a girlfriend took me to get my adult license, I lived in too remote an area not to have it by then. And then I cruised around on my own, working part time and making sure to take it for regular oil changes so I could keep skirting curfew and not have to ask adults for favors. Life would’ve been absolute hell without it.

  17. Insurance was not a big deal for me when I got my license in ’86. We all just put our cars in our parents name and went on their insurance. Which, if in good standing, was not expensive. And it did not even go up much for tickets. I know many young people drive a car in their parents name well into their twenties, hence all the out of state plates in Hipstervilles. If there is an accident they say they just briefly were borrowing the car. Does that still work?

    • It was a huge difference for me. I got my license in 1970 but lived in a canecutter-infested barrio in NJ. You could buy a beater for 100 bucks, but insurance for a teen was $1000 a year minimum, primarily because the goyas didn’t carry insurance. They just hit and ran, o law-abiding people had to ultimately pay for them.

      With the minimum wage of $1.60 an hour at the time, I wasn’t about to spend every waking hour either studying or working. I finally got a car after I graduated college.

      Mess transit was no picnic either. You took your life in your hands every time you used it.

  18. Flipping the air cleaner lid was SOP in the 60s and probably earlier up to the point where vehicles only had oil bath air cleaners.

    Lots of things I used to like about GM was parts interchangeability. I robbed the alternator off a wrecked T/A to go on a 454 pickup. I’ve robbed all sorts of parts off totally different vehicles.

    When a starter started going bad I’d get one off any GM big block, put the nosepiece off the small block on the big block starter I’d stick new bearings, brushes and drive in the big block and never look back.

    Even brake shoes were often close enough to use. Even in the 90s there was still a great deal of parts interchangeability.

    • GM used the same truck clutch disks for something like 40 years, maybe more?

      Then there was IH. Everything was outsourced, so even the same model year might have three different versions of the same part. “Is that an early, mid, or late 1957?”

      • Cornbinders? Don’t EVER go parts shopping witout a coy of the “line card” which was often pasted to the inside of the huge breadpan steel door of the monkeybox. I had a 64 pickup, that same model truck could have had ay one of FOUR front axles, and thus brake sets. Line card line card line card. the truck did not exist without that.

        As to cadging bits from GM products…… one time a friend’s MotoGuzzi had one hole dead. It had a Bosch electronic ignition system, everything doubled, one of each for each cylinder. I know the Bosch systems pretty well, we had NO specs available but I took my ohm meter and checked resistance on the crank sensors. Good, both. Wiring intact. Coils had logical resistance, pri and sec curcuits. Wires had continuity. One thing left… the spark ignitioin module, No way to check resistance, but hey, ony two cyiinders, swap them and see if the dead hole shifts. I did and so did it. Module time. Wrote down the Bosch part number, called my parts gues at the Bosch WD I deal with, they looked… looked….. Uhm, WHAT does that fit? I have no such number. Told him. He said that is a proprietary part, not available except through Guzzi dealers. Found the nearest one.. San Francisco, at that time of day a four hour trip, return. called. Yes, we have two. Price, for resale? $475. uH, you don’t mean four dollars six bits, do you? Nope, that;s five hundred dollar bills..OK, thanks, I’ll check with the customer. OUCHHH!!!! Crazy talk!!!
        Thinking cap goes on.. well, we have pickup coil terminals, the ignition coil terminals….. what if…… asked my friend the Guzziowner “do you have a spare distributor for the small blick Chev, an HIV type? Yeah… get it. Figured outwhich wire went where in THT distributor, removed the module from the base plate, made some spade connector leads to connect the GM module to the Beemer’s loom…. kicked the bike and it ran like a Guzzi on boty cylinders. He took it our for a blast, came back bugs in teeth.

        I doubt any modern GM part could ever be adapted to any current build Guzzi….. they just don’t DO things that way any more. And I’ll bet today’s version of that system would need a grand to buy the tiny replacement. When friend sold the Guzzi a couple years later, he waited until AFTER the test ride and deal were dealt with.. then he told the guy what had happened. He did not care. Far as we know, the bike still runs that way.

    • Ran a foreign car shop in Californa years back.. around the time the Bureau of Automotive Repair scam started. Chap came in with a SPrite, 1098 cc, had bacly burned valves, I happened to have on hand a very strong used engine. He paid me well to do the swap, and for the engine, left his scrap iron lying on my shop floor. I had recently heard a fatal big-end bearing knock in my ancient weary old Morris Minor, 850 CC engine, single 1 1/8 inch SU carburetter. Gutless pig, but it DID ruun and I had paid all of six bits for the car, running. I had had the head off and valves done. Top end strong, bottom end, southbound. It was “resting”.
      SO… one weekend out of boredom I yanked the dead 850 out of the Morris, removed the head, bolted that on to the now-removed head on the 1098 Sprite engine, settled the whole mess down into the maw of the Morris…. put the tiny single carb back on it, all I had just then. That car was about twice as fast ias it used to be. It would hit about 80 mph on the flat, and not take that long to get there. Dusty cedar green colour, pretty straight car, NOT cop bait like a Sprite would have been. It would hold above 70 mph and still gt 45 mpg on cheap regular. Seated four in relative comfoft, and was a real hardtop sedan car… no rag top to leak and flap in the wind. Real wind up side lights, too!!!

      Most of the Brit stuff from mid 1950’s right into the mid or late 70’s had stuff that would fit and work. But alas, no more this game can be played.

    • You wan to talk about part interchange, Nissan at least kept that alive with the last series of Xterra, Frontier, Armada, Titan releases that ended in 2016. Frontier and Xterra were identical under the hood and swapped parts easily. They even had the space and engine mount to drop in the VK56 from the big boys and even axle swap in the front

  19. your right eric…. sad but true…. the more I think about it, the more I feel the car will go the way of the horse…… a hobby for the posh rich kids….

  20. My nephews aren’t yet old enough to drive. They have bicycles but they’re sitting in the garage. My sister and her husband shuttle them all over the place. Before I could drive my bike was out every day. It’s how I learned about mechanical things like gear ratios and the importance of routine maintenance. It’s how I learned the rules of the road. And kept me fit. But most importantly it’s how I started to explore my world. And the day I rode it to the mall to meet a girlfriend was a day that changed my life forever (and not because of the girlfriend). The neighborhood seemed pretty small after that day and it is smaller every time I go back for a visit. When I got my license I spent hours driving around town just exploring the countryside. And suddenly the town got a lot smaller too.

    I used to love flying. But flying commercially is a terrible way to travel, and not only for the Uncle reasons. It’s because there’s nothing to see, no exploration. We give up an enjoyable trip for speed. I still dream of getting my private pilot certifications, and maybe now that I’m almost able to afford it I might. Even being a private pilot means you have flight plans and a thick book of rules, at least if you’re going through controlled airspace. You can’t just take a detour because something interesting caught your eye (for good reason, since you have to juggle fuel consumption and getting to your destination). Automobiles slightly predate the Progressive era so they have far fewer restrictions, but Uncle’s been trying to close that loophole for the better part of a century. He’s very close now, and now the masses are actually demanding it. My nephews don’t seem to notice or care. Culture evolves I guess.

    “Life’s a journey, not a destination” seems to be forgotten. Everyone is stuck on the destination and ignoring the journey. Because the journey has become artificially frustrating.

  21. No plate readers in NH, or red light and speed cameras either. They’re illegal here. No insurance requirement too.

    That said, you used to be able to drive with someone 25 or older once you turned 15, with no learner’s permit required. And you could go test for your license at 16, no Driver’s Ed required. And the were no restrictions on that license.

    But around 2000, NH moved to a graduated license system for under 18, which I believe is now under 21. It’s easier to have your license suspended now if you’re under 21, and Driver’s Ed is now required under 18. You can still practice without a permit.

    It was 70s and 80s muscle cars and trucks that were the vehicle of choice in my high school days, along with big sound systems. Trunks full of subwoofers.

      • Possibly. But NH is forgoing highway money by increasing interstate speed limits above 65 in some areas.

        NH tends to fo back and south between GOP and DNC control of the state government, so I suspect that it was during a DNC controlled session that it was passed.

        NH was a Real ID holdout until the last time the Dems had control. They were able to push though an option to get a compliant ID, although you can still choose a non compliant license.

  22. I’ve often imagined telling my nephews about my various automotive misadventures from half a life ago.

    Things they likely won’t believe easily because they grew up in a world of Time Outs, Play Dates, Safety First, Ubiquitous Cameras and No Automotive Enthusiasts.

    My first car, the one with the illegal V8 swap – well, illegal in the sense of using a V6-VIN’d chassis to dodge the prohibitive insurance rate.

    The car I refused to get inspected out of sheer principle and had to drive around after dark to avoid tickets.

    The game of Let’s See If This Speedometer Is Honest I played with every shop truck I ever drove at every garage and supply company I ever worked at.

    Multiple instances of driving from Florida to Pennsylvania and only stopping for gas, occasionally waking up closing fast on some truck’s rear bumper and having to pull some bullshit emergency move.

    The old Crown Vic cop car I did a 5-speed swap on and drove around for a year with a dead speedometer and no inspection stickers.

    It was a better world if you liked having questionable fun.

  23. Amazing observations, Eric. Hadn’t really given it much thought, but everything you state is true. I remember the tuner era – musclecar devotees used to make fun of them (myself included), but they were just as hardcore about the hobby as we were. These trends don’t bode well for our automotive future. If the majority of young people have no interest in cars (let alone the car hobby), they will be more than happy to submit to the automated/EV eventuality. Glad I grew up in an era where gear heads abounded. Thankfully, there are a few kids around who do like cars – the older generation needs to encourage that interest.

    • Thanks, Keith… unfortunately…

      I wish it were not so, but here we are. I have to give a nod to the anti-car/anti-driving zealots. They have been relentless – and effective. The left is much more strategically minded than any other form of authoritarian collectivism. It goes back to Lenin.

      I, too, am glad I was able to wet my beak before the well went dry.

  24. It’s very sad, but you’re right.

    Everything is being regulated for kids, not just cars. When I was a kid, I made explosives from Sears chemistry sets and blew up my legos – today, all that’s allowed is color changing liquids. I used Radio Shack electronics kits to build radios and transmitters – today, it’s against FCC rules. I built and flew model airplanes and rockets, today you need an FAA license to buy the engines that I used for rockets, and it’s illegal to fly the airplanes in any park, and official sites are expensive and require insurance. Skateboard in a park? Nope. Walk to school yourself? Illegal here in CA until you’re 11. Ride a bike without a helmet? Crime. It’s no wonder that XBox is so popular, and anti-depressants are as common as tic-tacs.

    The regulators are messing everything up, for our own good, apparently.

    • I used to fly model rockets before as well. Hard to hell to chase down unless you had a huge area to work with. Two stage ones as well. All built from kits. Quite sad if thats not available anymore.

      • If you want an idea of how dismally things have changed, I grew up in NYC and bad as it was, it was better than most places today. I too flew model rockets, but I often did so in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow, only a couple hundred yards from shooty Fifth Avenue!

        I’ll never forget one moment, an Estes scale V2 rocket I’d launched became entangled in a tree. A NYC cop car cruised through the field and the officer driving swung by. I explained my dilemma and he helpfully positioned his car under the tree so I could use it as a stepladder to retrieve my model rocket. True he muttered some pro forma advice like “you know you’re really not supposed to fly these here, just keep that in mind,” then I thanked him and he drove off.

        These days I’d probably get drone-striked or nuked if I dared enjoy the hobby there. Worse, any onlookers would probably cheer on my immolation…once they emerged from whatever cover they were hiding behind, cowering like scared little bunnies until some Authority gave the all-clear.

    • What an excellent comment. Sad, yes, but right on spot. It’s fashionable to badmouth lawyers, but they really have done incalculable damage to our nation and culture. And of dourse all three branches of government are occupied by lawyers, Pres. Trump being a refreshing (if temporary) exception.

  25. And the junkyards are dumbed down as well. They have no idea of interchangeable parts, even when they exist.

    Years ago, I wanted a factory Q-jet for a 350 to replace the Holley that the p/u came with used. No, they didn’t have a comparable pickup, but there was an old Chevy van down there with a 350. A few minutes of wrenching and $20 or so and I was on my way.

    Now, you have to do your own research and then argue up, down, and sideways with the junkyard guys (or gals – even Worse!) and still often draw a blank. “A 15″ steel wheel with 5×110 bolt pattern? What’s it for? No, they never came with that wheel. Can’t help you, sorry.” If you’re really really really lucky, you can get them to look up a such and such or another which had the same bolt pattern and they might have them. All their fancy computer databases apparently don’t have the cross references between makes/models that all self-respecting junk men used to have in their heads.

    // end of old man rant for now

    • I’ve never known a junk yard to do interchange or be able to look something up beyond the basics. That goes back to the early 1990s. You-pull self yards where you’re totally on your own and full serve which just checks if they have the part for the make-model-year you tell them.

      The demon known as corrosion kill my ’97 Mustang’s cruise control module. No V8s in the junkyard. Lots of V6s. I ask the counter guy if he can look up the parts. Nope. I go home without it. Spend the night researching the interwebs to figure it out. Dealer only part discontinued. Hard to figure out. Eventually I determine they are same. Return the next day, new admission fee ($2). Get the part. It was worth the return as I spotted a couple other things I missed to add to my parts collection.

      • Well, my junkyard experience goes back way before the early 1990s!

        It’s long gone now, because the little stuffed shirt city shut him and his sons down, but back then you could just wander in, find what you wanted, and then haul it up to the shop to get a price and pay for it. Mostly I was looking for non-automotive stuff back then: pieces of scrap metal and hydraulic stuff. I got a brand new looking hydraulic pump for $5 and cylinders for almost nothing that only needed seals, and also a like-new transmission PTO for maybe $20 IIRC. He never did figure out that when I brought a 5 gal bucket of little pieces up to the shop to pay, that I was buying nice round holes to weld onto stuff!

        Of course, most EVERYTHING more or less interchanged back then, or you could make it do so if you had to.

      • Back in the day, any junkyard that was more than a couple of old Camaros on blocks in front of some hillbilly’s trailer, used to have Hollander manuals- a multivolume set of humongous books that showed what interchanged with what, across models, makes, and even manufacturers.

        I thought surely that if such was the case in the days of paper and ink, surely now with the convenience of computers and the instant access and constant update-ability they provide; and the reduced cost of having the data available online instead of in huge printed volumes, surely things would be even better today…..

        I’m assuming Hollander probably priced themselves out of the market for all but the biggest yards, now.

        Seens there’s not a day that goes by lately, that I’m not forced to say “Damn, what we’ve lost!”.

        • Looks like you beat me to it by a few minutes, Nunzio! I checked and Hollander is still around. It looks like their prices at least for the “classic” interchange manuals are pretty reasonable.

          Newer vehicles are more of a problem. I’ve even read that some electronic parts are keyed to the car’s VIN (provided by a “body computer”) and will refuse to work if installed in another vehicle even if otherwise still serviceable.

          • An ex had a brother who bought a VW in 2001. He had a nightmare swapping the stereo unit as apparently the car required the factory unit to run. Or some convoluted reprogramming that would allow him to change HIS stereo in HIS car. Apparently VW linked everything to everything to prevent theft. I suspect more likely, to prevent DIY fixing.

            There is lots of other ‘different just to be different’ as well. Look at how may offsets and bolt patterns there are for car rims today. Especially GM. It’s like they come up with a new one for every model and trim.

            • Late ’70’s I had my own shop in British Columbias Lower Mainland. I made heavy use of the largest import car parts house in Canada, and got to be good friends with one of the managers. One day I was lamenting the fact that on some Volksvagen car or other, same year and model, something (brake master cylinder?) was different between the two. I was miffed because I had a good used on in my own boneyard, but it would not fit.
              He then explained to me how VW, in the first four years of production of the Rabbit line of cars, had TWENTY SEVEN DIFFERENT part numbers for brake master cylinders. These guys managed to figure out what fit what, and reduce their stock to only sixteen different part numbers. They made their own interchange reference system.

              He told me it was a deliberate plot by VW to quash the aftermarket suppliers. Most smaller ones could not afford, either for cost or space issues, to stock all 27 M CYls for Rabbits first four years. In the Typ 1 and 2 linetup, the same M Cyl fit all cars for five years running. Part of why I hated VW cars!!!But, they put a lot of money into my pocket over the years…….

            • Disabling the car because of the radio doesn’t prevent theft. Thieves are morons. They’ll steal the stereo and then the owner is left with a brick of a car. Nice.

          • Yeah, Jason- with a lot of these electronic parts (and other parts that have electronic components built in) they are specifice down to trim level, options and date of manufacture….. add to that the fact that electronics don’t age well- especially outdoors in the heat/cold/dampness/dust, and used parts are getting to be a thing of the past.

            Most of the yards these days that deal in modern stuff, essentially just exist to sell crash repair parts.

    • Junkyards could be real assholes in their own right.

      These are actual quotes I’ve heard over the years:

      “Can’t let you in the yard. Insurance.”
      “Can’t let you take that intake duct. You have to buy the whole engine.”
      “We don’t sell cars. Getting the title’s a pain in the ass.”
      “Can’t let you in the lot – I don’t remember where all the dogs are.”
      “That taillight lens is $50 because that’s what eBay charges for that exact same part.”
      “We don’t sell parts here, we only scrap ’em.”
      “You gotta let us look in your toolbox.”

      If I didn’t love scrounging, I’d never put up with it.

      • I wonder if that’s the tragedy of owning a business far too long. Because people tend to remember the bad events of their lives more than the day-in day-out unevents, they start to pile on the rules. Or maybe a good business that was passed on to the next generation, but to someone who doesn’t bother to know how the business works? So instead of letting people out in the yard, or pull the intake manifold (leaving the blown engine the junkyard owner doesn’t want to deal with) they just follow the rules. Better to lose a small time customer than deal with the small time transactions. They probably even realize they’re cutting their own throats, but maybe they don’t really care. Enough business comes in to keep the lights on so that’s good enough. Or they don’t see that all their customers have grey hair.

        • Had a couple great boneyards locally which I used for years. they had the full Hollnaders books on the counter, he’d look it up or let me. Most stuff he knew in his head. Many years of relationship building made for grreat serivce. One of them, the owner (Bob) got to know the sorts of project cars I wanted. More than once he’d be out picking uy a huilk car, and drop by my place to see if I wanted that one. He’d quote me a lowball price, roll it off his wrecker into my yeard, hand me the keys, and tell me to come by the yard tomorrow. He’d have the signed title ready for me… from the owner who sold it to him!!!! He trusted (after the first few when I brought the state papers to show him I’d transferred it to my name) me to just go do it. Another time a really nice looking van rolled off the flatbed as I was puling the bits I wanted. I took a quick look around it, seemed intact, good tyres, straight body, under 100K miles…. tags four years old. I went in to the counter, asked him the story, he told me. I said HOW MUCH!! He quited a ridiculous bargain basement price, I pulled out my checkbook and we were finishing up the deal, he handing me the signed title from the seller… two guys walked in and asied if they couldn’t try and start that ven. He said No, HE’s just bought it. WHAAAAT!!!! I said yup. I checked it out, came inside, and hauled out myc checkbook while they were busy fine tooth coming the thing.

          I cleared the rotten fuel from the Quadrajet, put a battery into it. startd it, and drove it for a few years. Rotten fuel had prevented it strarting, the guy decided it was an ugly yard decoration (hint from his Wife, I gather) and called Bob. My gain, and the two bargain hunters were miffed….. He COULD have gotten into serious trouble if the STate ever found out he was selling whole cars without going through the whole junk title scam they’ve got going. It was just as if the former owner had sold it directly to me…… saved a TON of money and three tonnes of hassle with instepctions, itemised bills for everything on the stupid thing….

          The story of how Bob came by owning the place is also a time warm tale, but not for tonight. That could NEVER happen again.

    • Whatever happened to the Hollander interchange manual? Used to be the bible that just about all junkyards kept on hand so they could tell you a clutch pressure plate from the ’52 Bulgemobile they had in the yard would fit your ’59 Finster Fireburner.

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