The Rationing of Speed

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Speed, it was once said, is a question of money. How fast do you want to go?

The truth is, it doesn’t take all that much money to go fast  . . . provided you’re not talking about electric cars.

Let’s say you’ve got about $35k to spend on a new car – which is about what most people who bought a new car last year spent on one. That sum will buy you any of several very speedy cars, including a new Mustang GT (460 horsepower, V8 zero to 60 in just over 4 seconds) or a Dodge Challenger R/T (372 horsepower V8 zero to 60 in 4.8 seconds). It will also buy you a V6-powered family sedan like the Toyota Camry, which can get to 60 in just over 5 seconds.

Much less will still buy a good deal of speed – and fun – in the form of cars like the Mazda Miata ($26,830) or Subaru WRX ($27,495).

About the same sum will buy you a new Nissan Leaf (7.4 seconds to 60 and a lot less fun – not to mention range). Or a Chevy Bolt (about 6 seconds to 60 and a bit more range – with the same extended wait, which isn’t much fun).

If you want electrified speed, you’ll have to spend a lot more to get it.

A Tesla S stickers for about $80k to start; a Model 3 is about $50k to start. The electric Hummer begins at $79k.

The new VW ID.4 (is that a name or a serial number?) lists for about $41k.

There isn’t a single new EV that’s available for less than $50k that’s quicker to 60 than the $35k cars mentioned above – and the ones you can buy for about the same $35k are about as quick as the average $30k non-electric car.

six-to-seven seconds or so to 60 being pretty much “par” for new cars, generally.

Speed is, indeed, a question of money. A lot more of it  . . . when it comes to electric cars. It takes about $15k more to buy an EV that can equal (or beat) the speed of the $35k non-electric high-performance cars like the Mustang and Challenger mentioned above.

About $10k more to match the speed of sporty $26-28k cars like the Miata or WRX – both of which are also more practical cars, having a range of more than 400 miles, a refill timeof less than five minutes and a probable useful service life of 15-20 years or more.

This raises an interesting point about electric cars.

Or rather, a question – about the way they’re being sold to people. Which isn’t on the basis of their lower price /total ownership costs or greater practicality. Which is as silly an idea as suggesting McDonald’s to someone trying to lose weight.

Indeed, it is precisely because they are expensive and impractical that their supposedly “ludicrous” speed is so loudly touted. So as to quiet any hand-raising regarding the oddity of the proposition that people be made to pay twice as much for cars that don’t go half as far (under best-case conditions) that take at least five times as long to get going, again (also under the best conditions) and which won’t last half as long due to the built-in shorter life of the battery packs that are the heart of all electric cars.

So, sell them speed.

It’s an idea that has always sold well – from the days of the Mercer Raceabout and Stutz Bearcat (now those are proper car names, as opposed to Model 3 and ID.4) to the muscle car era of the ’60s right down to our day, today.

No one likes going slow. Well, almost no one.

There are Prius People.

But they’re paying for that. It’s what they don’t want. The Prius driver wants great gas mileage – and 700-plus miles of range. And to not be tethered to an electrical cord. The Prius delivers. Efficiency and practicality – at an affordable price point.

It wasn’t – it isn’t – a speedy car and so it doesn’t get a lot of eye-batting media coverage, as electric cars do.

But it’s read-the-fine-print-at-super-fast-voice-over-speed coverage.

Isn’t it ludicrous . . . if you can’t afford that speed?

Back in the ’50s, there was the Vincent Black Shadow. It was the speediest motorcycle you could buy . . . if you could afford to buy it. Few could, which made its speed irrelevant to most. It took another couple of decades for Honda and Kawasaki to make speed accessible with their CB750 and Z1900 bikes, respectively. These also touted their superior reliability and durability relative to for-the-rich-only bikes like the Vincent – which never made the ludicrous claim that they were saving the planet. 

Speed on four wheels also got a lot more accessible around the same time – in the mid-late ’60s – when all the major American car companies began to offer modern, lightweight and high-output V8 engines in cars almost anyone could afford. And even if you couldn’t – yet – the beauty of that time was that speed was still accessible, since the standard-issue cars of that time often came with V8s that were closely related to the high-performance variants and could be easily upgraded to that status via swapping in a few bolt-’em-on parts, one from the other.

Speed was a question of much less money – once.

Electrification is upending that. Reversing course to the time when high-performance machinery, whether on two or four wheels, was a perk of affluence. With a difference. The government didn’t subsidize the purchase of Mercer Raceabouts and Vincent Black Shadows. Nor did it stand in the way of those who would subsequently bring such speed –   within reach of the average Joe, as it is doing, now.

Much of what is going on now may well be motivated by an ancient human failing – envy.

Empowered by government.

It is not enough for some people to have wealth and the perks thereof. Others must be denied those perks.

When only those who can afford to spend $50,000 and up can experience “ludicrous” speed, such speed will once again become not merely a perk of affluence but a way to poke those who lack it.

. . .

Got a question about cars, bikes, or Sickness Psychosis? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in! Or email me at [email protected] if the @!** “ask Eric” button doesn’t work!

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  1. Speaking of “speeding” especially by “heroes”. In my home county this story is coming out (reported first by non-mainstream news source of course).

    “Lake County (Indiana) Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr was indicted by a Lake County Grand Jury Thursday.”

    For what you may ask? Speeding and not stopping for other heroes. Crown Point police try stopping him when he is driving 95 mph.

    Of course driving a taxpayer supplied vehicle. Which in this case is a brand new Jeep Trackhawk. Our broke a** county still managed to buy 9 copies of this high powered and expensive vehicle. And naturally assigned it to the sheriff of course.

    The blue discount is still in force as he will not have to do the perp walk.

    (Note that Sheriff Martinez is now the THIRD head cop in Lake county to be indicted for something in office. The last two are serving sentence for various crimes)

  2. Speaking of EV’s, I wonder if any of those people stuck in the snow and freezing cold on I95 for the past day are driving EV’s. See how many frozen bodies the road crews find when they finally clear that jam.

    • Saw a Tesla 3 sitting on the side of I-70 West outside of Rifle yesterday. No indication of any accident or other problem, just parked in the breakdown lane about two miles from the exit. My guess is the driver overestimated the remaining battery capacity as the temperature plummeted on the back side of the storm. Not only is -5 F hard on the heater, it’s just bad for battery packs too. I flew one of my drones on Sunday, in 25º F air temp a battery sitting for 5 minutes in cold during preflight lost about 10 minutes of flight time capacity. For a normally 30 minute flight that’s a massive drop of 33%. Sure the Tesla battery pack is more intelligent than my little drone, but physics is physics.

          • Morning Eight!

            It’s late, for sure. Whether it’s too late remains to be seen. I hold out hope until there is none. We aren’t there yet – until we’re in the camps or dead. The fact that I can still type this – and you’re still able to reply – proves it’s not over, yet. I know it’s hard. Many have shared with me their stories. It is likely to get much harder. But that is our opportunity to make it better. I am not saying it will be so for all of us. But for some of us – and for the future. I think that’s worth fighting for, as long as we still can.

            PS: It’s great to have you back!!

  3. I’ve had Prius’ as a rental car several times over the years. I liked them but not enough to buy for personal use.

    OT: MY SIL manifested covid the day after our Christmas wingding. Everyone was together with the requiste Southern hugs, pecks on the cheek, etc. And out of a family ranging from 3 years old to 85 years old, no one else even got the sniffles much less covid after a week of concern. Jus’ sayin’…

  4. Just my personal observation, in the rare instances when I brave death and get on the interstate, Prius drivers are going much faster than the rest of traffic. I’ve always assumed it is their attempt to compensate for driving a Prius in the first place.

  5. I predict there is going to be an ever growing market to keep the existing ICVs running. Especially those capable of some high performance. Cost of repair may become a non-factor in a decision to repair or replace.

  6. Japan makes it impractical to own an older car by regulation. Here we are going to it by regulation also. If you can’t buy an ICE car it doesn’t matter how long it would last. Of course I drive an old well maintained car and would rather put in a rebuilt engine or tranny to keep her going.

    PS- You can lose weight by eating at Mickey Dees:

  7. You mentioned a “Stutz”! It so happens that I was friends with the son of *the* “Mr Gasket” when I (and they) lived in Rancho Mirage, CA — they had a Stutz! Several cars in fact that they parked at their multi-garage $4M mansion (1970s). Even his wife at the time was famous for having drag raced. Joey Hrudka Jr (my friend at the time) had several “mini-cars” that we raced around with endlessly.

    Anyway, I decided to look up Mr Gasket and see what the internet has to say:

    “Using his own ’57 Chevy as a rolling test bed, drag racer Joe Hrudka launched the most famous gasket company in the world more than half a century ago (started in 1964). Building a name for himself and his company competing at Cleveland-area tracks Norwalk and Dragway 42, Hrudka quickly established Mr. Gasket as the go-to gasket source for racers with a line of head gaskets, exhaust gaskets, oil pan gaskets, and fasteners that sealed perfectly every time and withstood the punishing temperatures and pressures of racing. Now an important part of Holley Performance, Mr. Gasket continues to expand application coverage with more and more new products for race cars and muscle cars alike. Beyond the gaskets that made the Mr. Gasket brand what it is today is an endless variety of high-performance parts, including carburetor and fuel system components, chrome-plated accessories to dress up your engine bay, fuel additives, shifter accessories, cooling-system accessories, specialty tools, and a wide array of heavy-duty suspension and driveline components.”

  8. It’s not enough to have more than everyone else. They want to also take away what little everyone else does have. Never thought about it from the perspective of speed before.

  9. ‘Back in the ’50s, there was the Vincent Black Shadow.’ — eric

    Said James, “In my opinion, there’s nothing in this world
    Beats a ’52 Vincent and a redheaded girl
    Now Nortons and Indians and Greavses won’t do
    Oh, they don’t have a soul like a Vincent ’52

    Well he reached for her hand and he slipped her the keys
    He said, I’ve got no further use for these
    I see Angels on Ariels in leather and chrome
    Swoopin’ down from heaven to carry me home

    And he gave her one last kiss and died
    And he gave her his Vincent
    To ride

    — Richard Thompson, 1952 Vincent Black Lightning

    Live acoustic performance:

  10. For whatever reason I saw more Teslas over the holidays than I’ve ever seen. Man, do they ever fail to impress. That anyone would spend big money for one utterly befuddles me.

    • Am I the only one that is reminded of a Corvair when looking at the front of a Tesla? And I’d rather drive a Corvair than a Tesla…

    • Their owners buy them to virtue-signal their “wokeness” and supposed technical superiority. It must be nice to have sufficient disposal income to thus indulge one’s ego.

    • They look as bland, boring, & “unique” as all the Saturns were. They all claim they will “revolutionize” transportation, Lumina, Saturn, Prius, Tesla. They just set new standards for mass conformity, to the point hat everything looks like a “sominex” pill on 4 wheelzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

    • Got a ride in a former employee’s Tesla model Y last week. He is still a Fanboy, but interestingly is no longer employed by Tesla. Interesting machine- a featureless dash with a huge touchscreen, definitely maintains control on greasy ice under hard acceleration.

      But honestly, the only thing that really impressed me was the absolute, eerie quiet in it while driving. That is no small thing when you’re in your upper 50’s and have severe hearing loss- but I just don’t see it making up for the waste and inefficiency of a rechargeable car.

      I’ll stick with my old stuff- I can make it quiet enough.


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