The interest in tiny homes – and off-grid living – reflects a growing weariness with being carried along, unwillingly, by the rip-tide of “technology” as it makes life superficially easier but also alienating.
Cars are a good example. You can start the engine without a key, but when the engine won’t start, what do you do? Most people tap their phone – to call a tow truck.
Like modern phones – which are only that incidentally, since most people use them as computers – modern cars are also computers that incidentally serve as transportation. The driver is being systematically transformed into a passenger, even if he is sitting behind the wheel. The car pre-empts his driving constantly, braking and steering when it thinks either is warranted.
Many people weary of this, too.
Some are looking at older cars made before computers took over cars as way to continue driving without being pre-empted and also just because the older stuff made before computers took over the control of cars is more appealing on an emotional level, precisely because they’re not computers that function incidentally as vehicles.
But many years have elapsed since the last non-computer-controlled cars were made. There is no definitive line along the lines of the KT boundary – below which you will find the bones (so to speak) and above which you won’t. But – in general – if you want a car that didn’t come with a computer you’ll need to go back about 40 years, to the early ’80s at the very latest.
This means – if you’re not well over 40, yourself – you probably have very little experience with the cars of 40-something years ago as these cars were already getting old when you were very young. If you were even here at all.
There are things to know about such cars before you buy one – for the same reason that it’s a good idea to have some idea about what you’re doing if you decide to pursue an off-grid lifestyle before you actually go off-grid:
This means you control them. It also means you adjust them. They are not – as the saying goes – “plug and play.” There is no plug. There are screws that turn in and out. Cables and points and such that need to be set just right, sometimes by feel. Belts you tension. Chokes you set.
You will need to learn how to do this – and how much.
It’s an art that requires practice to become proficient.
Pre-computer-era cars have special needs –
Forty years ago, gasoline was gasoline. Not ten percent ethanol alcohol, as it is today.
Cars made before gas was adulterated with ethanol do not run as well on ethanol-adulterated “gas.” Their carburetors – the mechanical fuel-air mixing devices that pre-computer-era cars came equipped with – will have to be re-calibrated to compensate for the ethanol in modern “gas.” You will also want to be sure the carburetor, itself, has been rebuilt with ethanol-compatible parts – else you will have a mess on your hands when the ethanol dissolves the plastic and rubber parts from 40 years ago that weren’t made to withstand the corrosive properties of alcohol.
This also applies to all fuel lines coming from the gas tank to the carburetor – and the gas tank, itself. Forty years ago, gas tanks were generally made of steel – not stainless. Steel tanks rust fast – from the inside out – when you fill them with ethanol-laced “gas.” You will want to consider replacing the tank with a stainless steel one; the lines as well.
Pre-computer-era engines often need special oil –
Most people already know about ethanol. Many have no idea about oil – and how it’s changed over the past 40 years. It hasn’t been adulterated so much as altered. Most store-bought oil hasn’t got the additives (zinc and manganese) that oil always had 40 years ago – back when cars were made with engines that needed those additives. Since then, engines were designed to not need these additives – beginning in the mid-’80s – and thus they were removed from most readily available/store-bought oils.
f you use modern oil without those additives in an old car’s engine that does need them, you may end up with a damaged engine. Since most stores do not carry the specialty oil – or additives that can be added to store-bought oil, to make up for their absence in most store-bought oil – you’ll want to find and stock up on the oil your old car’s engine needs. Or the additives which can be added to store-bought oil.
Pre-computer-era cars operate without a net –
Most people who are under 40 today have never driven a car without anti-lock brakes and traction/stability control. If that’s you, it’s a good idea to be careful at first when you drive such a car for the first time. The wheels will lock up if you apply the brakes full force – and the car will skid uncontrollably into whatever it’s pointed at if you do not learn to ease off the brakes and recover control of the car.
Similarly, if you enter a curve at a speed fast enough to break traction, the car will slide and it will be up to you to keep it from sliding out of control.
These are skills that have been replaced by electronics and will need to be re-learned by those who are tired of electronics.
But just as it’s empowering to learn how to grow your own food and be independent of the grid, so also learning how to control – and repair – your car, yourself.
And that’s probably why more and more people are going old – and forsaking the new.
. . .
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