Flimsy construction used to be one of the defining attributes of a cheap car – along with the absence of even basic amenities like air conditioning, which was a defining attribute of a luxury car not all that long ago.
Modern cars – even luxury cars – are all cheaply built.
If you’ve raised the hood of one, you will know all about it. The metal is so light it can be held up by a flimsy little metal rod – and the metal is so thin, you can see it flex and (if so inclined) could bend it with your bare hands. It’s often not much more substantial than a piece of cardboard; a cat walking across it might leave more than just paw prints.
Fenders are the same – and new cars don’t even have bumpers anymore. Something even the Chevettes and Pintos as Yugos did have. You could, therefore, bump into something and not damage the car.
Or at least, damage it less.
Today’s cars sustain expensive damage if bumped at all – sometimes thousands of dollars’ worth – in part because there is literally nothing to protect the expensive plastic and thin metal panels from being damaged.
The occupants are protected.
Which is why rest of the car is so light – and flimsy. The papier mache exterior panels make up for the bulk underneath.
The result is a very safe – and very fragile – car. Even luxury cars, which have flimsier exterior body panels than Chevettes, Pintos and Yugos had. They are far more easily damaged – and much more expensive to fix.
But they do keep you “safe.”
If this seems odd, it’s because you may not know about the conflict between two irreconcilable federal fatwas.
I mock the first – because a car isn’t unsafe unless it’s defective in some way. For example, a steering wheel that comes off the column while you’re driving . . . or a car that steers itself into the path of another car, in the manner of “Autopiloted” electric cars. (The government is oddly unconcerned about the “safety” of these cars.)
If car A doesn’t hold up as well as car B if crashed into a fixed object like a tree at 50 MPH, it is less crashworthy – a different thing.
The government may have legitimate business adjudicating tort cases of unsafe cars crashing. But it has no more legitimate business decreeing how crashworthy a car must be than it has decreeing how many layers of clothes an adult must wear in the wintertime.
Of course, the government – meaning, the busybody officeholders who imagine themselves our caretakers, at gunpoint – does decree how crashworthy new cars must be.
And crashworthiness comes at a cost.
The crashworthiness of a car is established by crashing it into fixed objects or crashing things into the car. “Stars” – the vehicular Soviet equivalent of Orders of Lenin – are awarded based on how well (or not) the car absorbs the impact.
But this has nothing to do with whether the car is likely to crash. And if it doesn’t crash – perhaps because it is agile and maneuverable and the driver enjoys excellent visibility, enabling him to avoid crashing – then it is very safe, indeed – no matter how many “stars” it has.
And because it is heavy, the crashworthy car is also flimsy – in order to “achieve compliance” with the other busybody-at-gunpoint fatwa regarding the gas mileage all new cars must deliver, else their owners get their pockets picked by the government, in the form of “gas guzzler” taxes – as punishment for choosing to spend more of their own money on gas.
The weight added to achieve compliance with the crashworthiness fatwa is subtracted from exterior body panels, in order to comply with the mileage fatwa..
The panels get flimsier with each new fatwa uptick.
Some aren’t even made of steel anymore.
Aluminum is being used to shave off even more weight. A number of new cars – and even trucks – which used to be tough – are made entirely of aluminum, as far as their exterior body panels. These panels are even more vulnerable to damage – and much more expensive to fix.
Plastic bumpers – and plastic grills – are de rigueur today because chromed steel bumpers, which would protect the car – and definitely the truck – from being expensively damaged by minor impacts that don’t threaten the “safety” of the car’s occupants in the slightest – are much too heavy.
Well, too superfluously heavy . . . in terms of complying with the MPG fatwa.
And so, they’ve been eliminated.
The only way to get a car to average 35-plus MPG (the current mandatory MPG minimum) and achieve compliance with the crashworthiness fatwa is to make it heavy on the inside and light on the outside.
It didn’t used to be this way – mainly because it used to be up to us, the people buying cars, to decide the appropriate balance between how much a hit a car could take and how many MPGs it got.
The busybodies, being unable to abide other people deciding such things – any things – for themselves – interposed themselves and imposed the consequences on the rest of us.
It’s a very odd thing, assuming one actually believes in the verities about the “freedom” we’re supposed to enjoy but don’t.
My ’76 Trans-Am’s hood is a massive slab of metal that weighs probably about 75 pounds and is held up by two heavy stamped-steel hinges with springs. A cheesy little prop rod (as most modern cars have) won’t cut it. The fenders are probably three times as thick as a modern car’s fenders.
It would never pass modern crash tests – but it can take a hit without being totaled.
Is it “unsafe”? It hasn’t crashed in 44 years, so it seems to be quite safe. It is also – ironically – very light.
At least, comparatively.
Despite having a stamped steel hood you can’t bend by hand – that weighs probably 75 pounds and requires two heavy steel hinges with big springs to hold it up (as opposed to a cheesy little prop rod, as most new cars have) and a huge cast iron V8, the Orange Barchetta weighs a mere 3,750 pounds.
A new Ford Mustang GT – with an aluminum engine weighs 3,825 pounds. It has papier mache panels – including a hood you could bend with your bare hands, held up by a flimsy prop rod.
It’s definitely more crashworthy, of course.
. . .
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