The Cars We Could Have Bought…

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The cars you’re allowed to buy today are the cars government allows to be manufactured.  But what kinds of cars might we be able to buy if the government (which, always keep in mind, is just a relative handful of other people who have somehow acquired the power to tell you what you’re allowed to buy) got out of the car business and left the designing of cars to the car manufacturers and the buying of cars to customers  . . . who could buy what they wanted and not buy what they didn’t want to buy?

There would certainly be more variety – including very basic cars priced around $8,000 or even less that would be marketed at teens/first-time buyers or the frugal of all ages. Because there is a market for inexpensive cars – currently being filled, artificially, by used cars. Because new cars are too expensive for teens/first-time buyers – and of little interest to the frugal.

The average price paid for a new car is over $35,000 – and that’s not counting the taxes and insurance that go with the car. Which is why many people buy used cars instead.

But imagine being able to buy a brand-new car with no miles on the engine, no worries about bald tires or bad brakes or rust – the whole thing under warranty – for around $8,000 or so.

Which would also cost you a fourth the taxes and insurance.

This is not speculative. It is actual – just not in the United States, where the government forbids the sale of such cars by making them impossible to sell because they cannot comply with the various regulations – most of them having to do with things that are properly none of the government’s business in a free country, such as “safety.”

Unless you believe in government-as-your-parent. And the parent of everyone else, too. (This affliction manifesting in the Face Diapering of the country; the Diaper Wearers are not content to wear their Diaper; they insist everyone wear a Diaper.)

Such cars could be made – are being made (and sold) in other countries where it is still allowed to make and sell new cars without six air bags and the physical structure necessary to “comply” with government impact-resistance fatwas. They are not primitive cars, either. Most come with AC and a stereo; powers windows, too.

For example, the Datsun Redi-Go. It’s a Cadillac compared with a ’70s-era VW Beetle but it costs less than a ’70s-era Beetle cost when it was new. About $8,000. You get AC, power windows and a 67 horsepower three cylinder engine – plus heat!

For some other example of the cars you’re not allowed to buy that are for sale elsewhere, have a look here.

Or have a look at the Mahindra Roxor – which you can buy here but aren’t allowed to drive on the roads. It’s a Jeep like Jeep used to make, i.e., affordable and simple. Unlike current Jeeps, which are neither.

In France, teens can buy low-speed microcars that cost half as much as those cars – and not even need a license to use them to get around. This gives them personal mobility at low cost American teens are denied.

There would also be extremely fuel-efficient cars – because it would be feasible to build extremely light cars. Which cars aren’t allowed to be built (here) because saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety.

Which isn’t even about that, actually.

A light car isn’t unsafe – i.e., prone to crash, unstable. It is merely less able to withstand impact forces if there is a crash. The distinction is important. Millions of people drove old VW Beetles and other such cars without receiving a scratch because they did not crash. Motorcycles are just as “safe” as an S-Class Benz, if you don’t crash.

People used to be free to choose a light, very efficient car (and can still choose to ride a motorcycle) that is desirable for those reasons, at the theoretical cost of increased risk of injury in the event of a serious crash that will probably never happen.

Imagine what a 50 MPG-capable diesel engine in a 3,400 car could deliver in a car that weighed 1,000 lbs. less. Volkswagen was working on such a car – the XL1. It was an ultra-light diesel-hybrid powered commuter car capable of averaging more than 200 MPG. Which in addition to being almost twice as efficient as any car you’re allowed to buy here would also have been extremely low emissions – by dint of being so efficient. The less fuel burned, the less gas emitted.

VW intended to offer it for sale around $20,000.

Such a car would have made electric cars even more absurd than they already are – which is why VW was curb stomped and the XL1 project kiboshed.

There would also be less homogeneity.

Designers would be able to experiment and see whether people liked what they came up with. They could offer up weird and strange and beautiful designs – as they once did but no longer can. It is currently not possible – because it is illegal – to manufacture and offer for sale car like a ’59 Cadillac or a Lotus 7.

There are no Subaru Brats, no topless short-wheelbase Broncos, Amphicars or cab-forward Corvair vans. No more T-tops. No more rear-facing seats. And no what might-have-been, had designers been free to let their imaginations run wild – and let the market decide.

Instead, there is government-decreed sameness, from plastic-covered bumper to plastic-covered bumper.

And they all look just the same.

. . .

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

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  1. Eric,

    I’ve been asking “why?” regarding this very thing for so long! Because I KNOW you can build a simple, inexpensive car and still make a profit, but it doesn’t happen. New cars are always an abyss of debt and/or indentured servitude.

    Same thing with land in the city, I’ve been thinking lately. What about selling 2000 ft^2 lots complete with tiny houses and a wall for privacy, for around $16-20k? Not to live there permanently, unless you really like it, but to buy and live there when you’re young, or perhaps in dire straits? One could make a profit doing so, and people living there could pay off their land in a couple years, then not suffer debt while they save for better living conditions. Then, they could sell to the next nascent home buyer.

    Instead, it seems they build 2000 ft^2 houses on 2005 ft^2 of land, and sell them for $200k, and living there is MISERABLE. Not sure it’s even greatly more profitable, but it is more risky, should the housing market fold.

    I just don’t know, Eric.

  2. Its not just the cars we’re missing out on due to licensing and regulation. Think of all the small business thats snuffed out because of the cost of compliance. No local old dude selling and repairing guns in his retirement because F team needs to get involved. No street food or other vendors peddling their wares like other countries. No kids lemonade stands. Lifesaving drugs and procedures off limits. Just about every occupation walled off and made expensive on both ends by licensing requirements. Certified expensive building materials required for construction. Catalytic converters and particulate traps that require the burning of extra fuel at your expense. Permit requirements and inspections to modify and build on your own property. The list of what we’re not allowed to do in a “free” country is staggering. I can only hope this “reset” bullshit is the straw that breaks the camels back. The tree needs watering so we can get back to living without all these engorged ticks sucking us dry.

    • What about Internet service? Why can’t I get together with a few of my neighbors and trench fiber cable into the right of way? Once there, why can’t we put out bids for providers to sell us a circuit?

      What about water? Why can’t I install a cistern in the crawlspace and have it filled once a month? Why can’t I install a septic system or composting toilets?

      What about electricity? While it’s true that I can “choose” a provider in some situations, in reality there’s one distributor. There is some flexibility in that I can install solar and battery backup, but why can’t I just have a natural gas powered generator? I know a few people who have wells on their property, and in addition to a check they also get free gas from the well. I tell every one of them they should have a generator producing their electricity. Even with the up-front cost of the generator it should pay for itself fairly quickly.

      • I have two wells, two septic systems for various buildings on the property. Plenty of solar to feed everything plus feed back to the grid for profit. A thousand-gallon propane tank and generator that fills the gaps. It’s all possible now. You just need space and money.

        If the grid were to go down for an extended period, I would have no problem procuring used data center batteries to go completely off-grid, powered by solar. And I live in New England. It would be even easier farther south.

        No need to worry. Just prepare. And prioritize now, before the collapse.

  3. My dream car would be a ‘57 T-bird body with a modern suspension/brakes and a Toyota engine like the one in my Corolla. Still kicking myself that I didn’t by a deLorean when there were a few of them available around here at a good price after the company went bankrupt.

    • Had a chance to wedge myself into the drivers seat of a ’57 T-bird earlier this year. At just over 6 feet, I didn’t fit. Seat wouldn’t go far enough back, and the top of my head was crunched against the headliner. Scratch that one off the wish list.

      But yes — a slightly enlarged early T-bird, with modern underpinnings, a bulletproof Toyota engine, and a competitive price, would be the killer app of automotive technology. If only it were legal.

      Revology makes ‘new classic’ Mustangs with modern engine/suspensions. But their $200K price tag is out of reach for ordinary buyers and daily driver use. It doesn’t have to be that way.

  4. Concept cars usually give us a glimpse of what modern cars can look like sans government fatwas. Many concept sedans over the last 20 or so years were pillarless. They also had beautiful, deathbag-less steering wheels. Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz even built a 4-door convertible many years ago with much fanfare. Lots of hearts were broken.

  5. Imagine all the variety that there could be if it wasn’t for the uncles of the world. Not just the cheap cars, but all the different things that would be profitable for the automakers to produce. There would be high tech cars and there would be cars not much different from what was once built in the 1960’s.

    Plus there would be many more automakers too. There would be makers that would probably only make a couple models or so, or be a speciality producer. Probably would be more choices even with electric vehicles even, though there probably would never be a mainstream or high volume model.

    There wouldn’t be the pressure to all merge into big corporations too.

    • Hi rich,

      “Probably would be more choices even with electric vehicles, though there probably would never be a mainstream or high volume model.”

      I suspect that, if a small, inexpensive EV that had a reliable range of 60 miles or so, and could be fully charged overnight with standard equipment, were produced, it would become a high volume model. Such a vehicle, for many people, is ideal for suburban (not city or rural) environments. Sixty miles is way more than the average commute, many suburban residents have access to a covered garage or carport, with electricity and would value the convenience of home charging.


  6. There are ways to get a non-complying car into the US but I will certainly not get into how to do it unless I am speaking with someone I trust face to face. From 1991 to 2003 I had a 1988 Trabant 601 and in 2004 I had a 2003 Audi S3 (first generation). I know of a few other peope with non-complying cars but, like me, they are discreet about it.

  7. ‘it may be a function of the religious nature of politics these days’ — EP

    Which brings up an interesting point about saaaaaaaaaaaaafety. Big Gov uses its control over the roads to dictate what vehicles can be licensed to travel on them. Among those vehicles, in some states, are Amish buggies.

    Objectively, it’s dangerous for horse-drawn buggies to share the road with faster-moving motorized vehicles. Tragic accidents happen despite slow-vehicle placards and flashing lights on the buggies. But the Amish insist on their right to travel by animal power, based on their religious beliefs, and gov accommodates them.

    For us, the exhaust produced by an internal combustion engine can be likened to the ceremonial burning of sage in a sweat lodge. We, the Lo-Teks, are a tribe who revere the mysterious internal fire of the IC engine. Using its potent magic to propel ourselves over the land is our form and discipline of worship.

    Hands off, Big Gov. Respect our tribe’s freedom of religion.

    • The big irony of course is that they force us to drive cars with those known defective air bags. If anything, they should be the ones mandating that they be shut off until repaired. But it’s the opposite, basically not allowing anyone to shut them off.

  8. Joe Biden must wake up at night wondering if his mask is on or off, wondering if he is afoot or horseback.

    AOC must wake up at night wondering if her donkey teeth smile will turn into horse teeth laughter. Kind of a Treasure Island experience for her.

    Had an American Motors Lark, an American Motors station wagon, a Rambler Rebel, a Ford station wagon land yacht, a Chevy Bel Air, a 65 Ford four door hardtop, a Chevy station wagon, a Ford Crown Victoria with a cold-blooded 302 I wish I had never bought, two Chevy half-ton pickup trucks, a Suburban, a great vehicle, wore it out. Multiply that times 150 million.

    It’s a great life, no matter what the maha rieshis say.

    It could be worse, it’s gonna be with the whatever they are crowd in office.

    Look on the bright side.



    It would take more than a year for the earth to fall into the sun when falling at a speed of 10,000 miles per hour.

    Plenty of time to prepare for doom. har

    If the moon weren’t acting as a giant swing arm to balance and stabilize the movement, the revolving, the earth would probably indeed fall into the sun.

    Thank your lucky stars.

    Another hard day on the planet, things are tough all over on earth

    Gettin’ harder to understand it, what is it all worth?

    Loudon Wainwright III

    I wear a mask when I visit the grocery store to hide the booze breath. Works great.

    If your aren’t drinkin’, you ain’t thinkin’.

    • The Lark was a Studebaker, a company that did some amazing things with a development budget basically consisting of pocket change found in waiting room couches.

      • Thanks for the correction, here I always thought the Lark was an AMC car.

        It was a fleet car for a railroad, a basic model. Drove it to college and work for a while.

      • One of my college professors drove a Studebaker Avanti back in the ‘60’s. Was the first and only one I’ve ever seen but I remember it’s design was very cool.

  9. How can anyone not notice the freakin’ OBVIOUS?! I’m not the smartest person around, but Obama’s hypocrisy is elementary; to me, it’s like knowing that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west…

  10. Eric,

    It’s a CRIME we can’t get those cars here! Though I love my Focus, I don’t need to be lugging 3-4 extra seats around, as I usually travel alone. The most luggage I carry is an overnight bag or backpack. I carry a few bags of groceries during the week. When it’s time for kitty to go to the vet, I have the carrier in the car. I’d LOVE to be able to buy one of these cars or the VW LX-1; they’d be perfect for me!

    I checked out the mileage on the Renault Kwid, since they furnished it; when converting from metric, it checks in at 56.7 mpg-wow! The VW LX-1 has what, 200 mpg? I’d never have to fuel it! I drive about 9K-10K miles a year now. That would equate to 50 gallons of fuel-for the whole YEAR! Even if diesel were $4.00/gallon, that would be $200 for the whole year! WTF can’t I buy the VW?

      • In any case, it’s a CRIME that we can’t buy these efficient, affordable cars! I’m not frugal, but I’m not a spendthrift, either. I’m more or less retired, so I’m careful with money. I wish I could buy a car that would allow me to be more careful with the $. Besides, I don’t need to lug all those seats around, because I travel alone 99% of the time.

        I imagine that, even though these cars aren’t designed for it, they’re fun to drive. I remember my mom’s old ’78 Toyota Corolla was fun in the curves, because it was light and fairly low to the ground. I remember test driving an early Hyundai Accent with a stick, and it was a fun little car. What could be better than fun and frugality?

      • Eric, that VW would have destroyed the green agenda which we are all hostage to. That is why it has been banned by our democratic governments.
        The rear facing seats with seat belt would be the safest seat in a frontal collision. The seat back would absorb the most force of an impact from the front.

      • That proves that Obama doesn’t BELIEVE in climate change, rising sea levels, etc. If he did, he wouldn’t have bought a mansion in Martha’s Vineyard! Try telling his supporters that though; they can’t SEE the incongruity, let alone the hypocrisy.

        Even when I tell them my story about buying a smaller, more expensive house on higher ground, they can’t see it. I could’ve bought a bigger, nicer house along the river in town here. I didn’t because I was concerned about flooding. That road has flooded out multiple times (at least 20) since I’ve lived here. The house is on a little hill, so it has never flooded out; the road has though. That being the case, I spent more for a place on higher ground. Even when I EXPLAIN this to those who buy in to man made climate change, they can’t see it.

        If I were going to live near the coast, I wouldn’t buy a place ON the ocean-not after the damage Hurricane Sandy caused! I don’t want the hassle of having my house flooded out. I’d buy close, like a 20-30 minute drive from the coast, but I wouldn’t live ON it. I like to avoid foreseeable trouble if I can.

        Anyway, Barack Obama doesn’t BELIEVE in climate change; if he did, he wouldn’t have bought a place near the ocean! Ah, but the lefty libtards can’t see that…

          • How can anyone not notice the freakin’ OBVIOUS?! I’m not the smartest person around, but Obama’s hypocrisy is elementary; to me, it’s like knowing that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west…

            BTW, I’ve been echoing your Parleys. Are you getting extra traffic to the site?

            • Hi Mark,

              It’s bizarre, eh? Though it may be a function of the religious nature of politics these days. People simply believe – as opposed to think.

              On Parler: I appreciate the assist; so far, the room seems pretty empty, though.

            • Hi MM,

              People don’t want to recognize the obvious, because that would mean they would have to question the legitimacy of everything around them. To them it is easier to be stupid then to research, study, and question what is going on around us. Well, because that takes time….and effort. When one turns on the MSM if you can take more than three minutes of their BS you aren’t reading enough.

              I was watching Bloomberg yesterday (only for the stock analysis) and they were interviewing some moron from Eaton Vance (an investment company) and the idiot was explaining how the Build Back Better slogan that Biden used was in reference to his name. What?!? This imbecile actually believed that BBB was thought up by the Biden Administration and not the New World Order lingo! I swear most people have their head in the sand….or up their asses.

              I know some very smart, very wealthy people that have lost their freaking minds. I look at these people and think “you can run a multimillionaire company, but you are terrified to leave your home over a virus with a recovery rate of 99%”

              I have people tell me that everybody should wear a mask, because the virus will then go away. My question is where is the virus going? Doctors urge patients to get flu vaccines each year and still the flu comes back….well except this year, of course. Since COVID is now in control flu has decided he can now take the family on that long awaited vacation. Four hundred and forty years showing up every winter between October through March is too much for any virus to have to endure.

              I miss sanity and logic and practicality.

              • RG, – “People don’t want to recognize the obvious, because that would mean they would have to question the legitimacy of everything around them”

                I think this is the issue – people at times find it impossible to question the legitimacy of whats around them – be it the trusted media sources, or certain order they have grown accustomed to. Ive realised this over a number of years, specifically around say the Brexit debate here in the UK – I would make my case around why I preferred it – and people could never challenge the facts Id bring up, but would just not in the end be convinced. Or say around Trump, and why I find him the less bad… Or global warming. Or that the mainstream media is controlled and extremely biased….The debate is the same, you can make as objective a case as you want to certain people – who will just not accept somehow…..

                I think either they are afraid everything they believe will be shaken, or they are more accustomed to accepting propaganda in the form of from a dude in a suite/pretty bimbo on the TV who’s been given the status of an “analyst” of some form or the other. They will believe these sources more than their own eyes…. which is quite worrying at times..

        • He/they probably do believe in manmade climate change. But if they keep all the resources for themselves by killing off all the peasants who so rudely tell them to go f@ck themselves, then it is somehow not important enough to matter. It’s OK for me to fly a 737 to Davos so long as 250 million peasants aren’t wasting my fuel and polluting my air.

          Tar and feathers would be too kind.

    • Never mind that Obama himself drove a Chrysler 300 before becoming chief decider……….guessing it wasn’t the V6 model either.

  11. It’s funny, your article yesterday on the Chevy Blazer and now this made me think of the Mahindra Roxor. It’s what the US Jeep should still be, but SAFETY!!!!!!!!!!!! seemed to kill that brand and make it dull.
    I see the 4-door Wranglers and I’m forced to shake my head, remembering a friend’s CJ7 that had roadsigns for a floor, because it had rusted out, no top, no doors except in the winter and then, hang on because it was so light that even with 4-wheel drive on, it slid all over the place. It was fun.


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