The Compliance Song . . .

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Back in ’76, it wasn’t just a cruise ship lounge song. It was Plymouth’s new “compact” car – which by today’s standards would have been considered a very large car, as the sedan version was 201.2 inches long. This was only about 6 inches behind a new BMW 7 Series sedan (207.4 inches), which is also a very exclusive sedan. The Volare – and its Dodge Aspen cousin – weren’t. And yet, they were also rear-wheel-drive and available with a V8 engine.

Like the current BMW 7 sedan.

Just a point of reference. A sign along the road, down which we’ve traveled many miles since then. With government backseat driving, all the way.

The Volare/Aspen were had a number of problems, including unlined front fenders that rusted even before the “clincher” 12 month/12,000 mile warranty ran out – because they were hashed together because of government. Which was beginning to really flex its new-found power to rule via regulations to alter the kinds of cars Americans were to be allowed to drive  . . . without any hassles about legalities. Congress never passed a law, for instance, that specifically stated Americans must no longer be allowed to buy big cars like the cars that preceded the Volare/Aspen and which millions of Americans had been driving, because that’s what they wanted to drive – and the market responded by providing what they wanted.

Instead, the federal regulatory apparat began issuing . . . regulations that had the force and effect of laws.

It wasn’t illegal, per se, to build a full-size car – which by the standards of the Volare/Aspen era were cars far larger than any new car most Americans can afford to buy today – all of them equipped with huge V8s as standard equipment. No engineer or car company CEO risked jail if such a car were built. The difficulty was selling them, especially to the people who used to be able to afford them.

The regulations – in this case, those pertaining to fuel efficiency, which the government somehow assumed the power to . . . regulate – imposed fines for what was (and continues to be) styled “non-compliance.” It works on the same general principle as the fines levied upon gyms and stores and restaurants that did not comply with the Face Diaper “mandates” issued by the regulatory apparat over the past going on three years now. A Face Diaper law was never passed. But businesses were obliged to foist the Diaper upon their patrons. If they didn’t do so, they risked being fined by the apparat. This made the cost of doing business with the unDiapered  too expensive and so they didn’t.

Unless they Diapered.

Similarly, regulations were issued mandating that each car company’s fleet of new cars achieve a certain arbitrarily mandated average miles-per-gallon. This was (and still is) styled Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE for short. If the car company’s fleet of cars does not collectively average whatever the figure is then fines are imposed that are specifically meant to increase the cost of the offending vehicles, so as to make them less affordable – so as to make them more difficult to sell, except to the ever-diminishing handful of people with the means to afford them.

This is why, today, a new car about the same size as the Volare/Aspen with a V8 engine is a car like the current (2022) Dodge Charger, which is considered “full-size” by the standards of our time. It also has a base price of $32,500. With the optional V8 (it won’t be optional for much longer) the sticker price is $40,500.

If you’d like something bigger, your next (big) step up would be something like the BMW 7 Series mentioned earlier, which stickers for $86,800 to start.

Back in ’76, a brand-new Volare sedan stickered for $3,359. It wasn’t much then – and it’s not much now, either. Adjusted for inflation – that is to say, adjusted for the devaluation of the dollar since then – a ’76 Volare would have listed for $17,369.

You can perhaps see the implications.

The government, via its regulations, has effectively doubled the price of a Volare/Aspen-sized car such that a Volare/Aspen-sized car is one a dwindling number of inflation-adjusted Americans can afford to buy, today.

Instead, for about the actual cost of a brand-new Volare/Aspen, they might just be able to afford something like a new Toyota Corolla, a compact-sized (by today’s standards) car that is only 182.3 inches long (almost two feet shorter than the Volare) and front-wheel-drive and four cylinder-powered.

It also costs $20,075 to start – so not quite as affordable as a new Volare was, back in ’76.

Certainly, the Corolla is a fine little car. Emphasis upon little. As mandated by the regulatory apparat, using fines to ensure compliance. It is the modern-day iteration of the Aspen/Volare, made smaller and less than what came before via regulations rather than laws, neither of them having a sound foundation in what was, once, the law of the land.

Nowhere in the Constitution will you find the power to regulate (or for that matter, legislate) how many miles-per-gallon the cars Americans may buy must deliver. It was once assumed that was between the car manufacturer and the car buyer, the latter under no duress to purchase a “gas hog” and the former under market duress to build what would sell.

Granted, there were no cars back in 1787 – when the Constitution was ratified. But neither is there anything in the document regarding the size and type of horse (or wagon) Americans may buy.

Somehow, between then and now, the government acquired this power. Which it continues to exercise, such that – in short order – even a little car with a little engine like the current Corolla will become as unaffordable as a Volare/Aspen-sized car already is.

. . .

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  1. ‘The Compliance Song . . .’

    I wasn’t sure where to post this comment, the title seemed
    somewhat relevant.

    While watching Patara today, I was reminded of Eric’s take on face diaper zombies. I think, the first part would make for a good song:

    “I looked around and I was like, “Sheeple Sheeple Sheeple people” […] there are a lot of people that have, they know things are going on but they don’t have an understanding as to why or how – um – they are total total hook line and sinker for – um – total BS in terms of things that are happening only because of one way and you know these people will naturally submit themselves to total chaos, total trauma, total failure in their life.

    I don’t want to be in that boat” …

    • Ahh, crap! I was too focused transcribing the closed caption I forgot the best part – as it seems – ‘closed captioning’ does not capture this word:

      Patara said: “Sheeple Sheeple Sheeple people.. Baa!”

      ‘Baa’ must be a cuss word now?

      Anyway, it totally reminded me of Eric when he sees people wearing the face diaper submission/compliance symbol.

      And, the way she said it, it seemed like a song.

  2. ‘The government, via its regulations, has effectively doubled the price of a Volare/Aspen-sized car such that a Volare/Aspen-sized car is one a dwindling number of inflation-adjusted Americans can afford to buy, today.’

    As predicted by Henry Ford II back in the early 70s.

    The price of a Pinto doubled from 1971 during the decade due to emissions and saaaaafety regulations.

    Weight rose, fuel economy suffered.

  3. Gee… I’m a hundred billion-dollar multi-national corporation with lobbying power rivaled only by the corn & sugar industry. Guess I better comply with some pissant bureaucrat’s commands. What power do I have?

    Said no motor company ever! They have something to profit from compliance, exactly what it is evades me. What I’m sure of is that the government doesn’t faze them and they could easily brush them off.

  4. “With the optional V8 (it won’t be optional for much longer)”

    Not if SEMA Action Network and the thousands of us supporting them have anything to say about it. Even if they fail, and I think they won’t, I’ll just keep rebuilding junk jalopies. I will never personally drive a vehicle with fewer than 8 cylinders and I will never buy a piece of junk “electric” vehicle. The wife can drive a 6 cylinder as long as it’s bigger than 3 liters.

  5. No mistake anywhere on the photo.

    Blame the devaluation of the dollar on Chrysler’s financial woes, not the company’s valiant effort to stem the devastating effects of dollar devaluation.

    Are we there yet?

    That’s a whole lot of body on top of a whole lot of auto body, who wouldn’t want that kind of body on the hood of their woody? Words can’t explain.

    A picture can be a sight to behold and not soon to be forgotten.

  6. I know the orange one pushed the milage on CAFE out further, but what I never got was why he didnt actually get rid of it altogether, given today we DO have cars which have milage unimaginable in the 70s when the rule came out (and will continue to have even if there is no regulation). Fuel is also not a problem as it was back then. Jackass could have easily just scrapped CAFE, instead of tweaking it a bit….

    • Hi Nasir,

      This is why Republicans fail. They never act decisively, for the sake of a principle. Instead they hem around the edges, offering a “better” version of the Left’s “plan.” And that’s why the Left wins.

  7. OT, but I just couldn’t resist, I just found this list of what each state gets paid for every death from “the stupid”. IMO it looks like they pay more to states that seem to have more people that wouldn’t fall for the con. Top two seem to be West VA $471,000 & Nebraska $379,000. I think that’s more than hitmen get. Must be nice to be able to just print all the free money you want. They print all the money they want, and we people don’t even get to vote on that. Well, this is what we all get for worshipping “representatives”, and “republics”.

  8. “Instead, the federal regulatory apparat began issuing . . . regulations that had the force and effect of laws.” This is the problem that has wrought us much suffering, from food to cars.

    “a ’76 Volare would have listed for $17,369”. This means we all have less money for other things that would make our lives better. Even counting for the standard amenities that you would not get for that price, competition for our dollars from new products would keep the price down.

    And when new cars cost 10s of thousands, you have to borrow. Now you are a debt slave. Just as easy to control as a chattel slave. That is the point. You have less and work harder to have less of it.

    Land of the free.

    • Hi Dan,

      I’ve advised people for years to avoid buying new cars unless they can afford them – and few can. Even the “affordable” ones cost in the low $20s and for most people that means debt – and paying for it for the next 5-6 years or longer. It was once just three years – and most people could afford that. But now most of them are in perpetual hock because they have signed up for payments they can’t pay off so they are unable to save and thereby accumulate capital. So as to not be as beholden to work- and thus, as readily controlled.

    • Technically it is debt peonage- a slave master at least has to care for his slaves to some extent lest he find his house burning around his slit throat some night. And caring for the slaves optimizes their productivity to the very limited extent that slaves are productive.

      The peon, on the other hand is truly powerless, can be used while useful or pleasing and discarded when no longer so. The only thing which they can do is assemble in groups large enough to revolt, usually being crushed, rarely being successful against the overwhelming logistics of the gentry and nobility.

  9. The Volare/Aspen twin cars replaced the Dart/Valiant/Duster in late 1975, but they should have been delayed by a year for further engineering. They were mechanical nightmares, especially those equipped with the emissions control system called “Lean Burn”. And, as mentioned, the rusted fender program cost Chrysler $100 million in recalls right when they were begging for loan guarantees. Their only salvation was the Volare “Road Runner” and Aspen “R/T” models which came with optional 360 V8s. While not really quick, those could actually smoke the rear tires at will and lay a pretty decent patch…something rare in 1976!

    • Hi Bill,

      One of the great things about cars of that period like the Aspen R/T and Volare Road Runner was that those 360 (and even 318) V8s had plenty of easily accessible potential in them. Replace the two barrel with a four barrel, add headers and duals and a power tune and those things would run quite respectably. Replace the stock cam and now you’re cooking!

  10. Though I applaud the article, Eric, it is missing the actual Compliance Song. Here is that addendum, done by the illustrious Snog:

    Anyone who hasn’t heard this song, or seen this video, should. It’s a few years old, but still quite relevant.

    Also, that was quite a new, American, “small car”, indeed.

      • While some voluptuous curves are very nice, there most certainly is such a thing as WAY too much cushion for the pushin…

        • A little bit of extra padding, especially if combined with a fine RACK, does wonders for an attractive women. But there are LIMITS.

          The Aspen/Volare were considered entry-level Mopars (yes, you could buy their “captive” import, the Dodge Colt, and, interestingly, you could get them in Canada as the Plymouth Cricket, but not in the US, if you wanted the “import fighter”), by then, you could still get them with “three on the tree”, but few did. Mopar by then offered a “featherweight” version with a Slant Six and a floor-shifted four speed, the A833, revised to have an overdrive fourth. Most of these ill-fated compacts came with the trusty Torqueflite, no problem there, and about half with V8s, mostly the 318 two-barrel. By then, it was getting “wheezy” (and I don’t mean the late Isabel Sanford!) with emissions, the 318 rated at 140 hp at 3800 RPM. There were a few “performance” packages, like the Volare “Roadrunner”, that had the 360 four-barrel, with a “whopping” 180 ponies!

          But poor quality control by a cash-strapped Chrysler doomed these cars…rusting, body rattles, and, with the beginning of the “Electronic Lean Burn”, which even few dealership mechanics understood, let alone the public, they had terrible problems with stalling and/or fuel economy. This could have been a great successor to the Darts and Valiants, but the Aspen/Volare F-bodies damned near put Chrysler out of business.

  11. What’s the deal with the blue-white-red tricolor in the lead photo … which appears to be the flag of the former Yugoslavia?

    We’re to understand the model is a socialist hottie? 🙂

  12. Some good memories here, I once owned a ‘77 Dodge Aspen wagon, was the perfect size and setup for a daily driver and also carrying lumber and such for my projects. Didn’t care much for the popup tailgate that would hit you in the face vs. the fold down tailgate – who ever thought that was a good idea? Had a 318 v8 with more plumbing than a water treatment plant but I managed to get it running ok by bypassing most of that and advancing the timing 6 degrees. Sure would love to have a wagon that size now.

  13. “Nowhere in the Constitution will you find the power to” delegate the powers of the legislature. Either the legislature, State and/or Federal, pass law or there was no such law. Period. Bureaucracy has evolved from a part of our government to the form of our government, which the US Constitution does not even mention, much less allow. Which means our current government, local and federal, are nothing more nor less than criminal enterprise. The largest organized crime syndicate in the history of the species.

  14. You’re spoooo selfish. If you’d just comply instead of complaining, you’d be happier. You don’t want grandma to die from climate change from our big gas hog engines do you?

    I welcome the total control state and its army of little dipshits narcing out the non compliant. We all just want gramma to live. Curse the v-8’s that cause her to struggle breathing.

    We can all just put on some VR goggles in our tesla’s to mimic the sound and feel of a v-8. Duh. Who needs a v-8 for reals?

    The sad thing is that no matter how ridiculous the above tripe sounds, there’s actually people that think along these lines–and worse. It would be funny if it weren’t so pathetically true.

  15. Would vehicles have become more efficient without help from Uncle? Those big V8s mated to 2 or 3 speed slush box transmissions weren’t known for their 0-60 times either. BMW’s 6, mated to a 4 speed manual in a 3 series of that era would blow the doors off the Aspen/Volare, with much better fuel economy. Different market for sure, but it existed, along with the Japanese econoboxes. Would Detroit see the light?

    Seems like back then CAFE was all about politicans getting out in front of a trend and taking credit. Now it seems like they’re ignoring science and expecting miracles. Or maybe they know 50 MPG in a 4000 lbs vehicle isn’t possible so the penalty just becomes another transportation tax.

    • Don’t forget about the part where Uncle successfully brainwashed at least several entire generations into thinking it was “helping.”

    • I knew a guy at the time who had an Aspen wagon with a slant six and a 3 speed overdrive. At the time I thought the floor shifter in a wagon was really cool! It definitely outperformed the automatic both in acceleration and in mileage. Nice car, too, at least at the time.

  16. “Nowhere in the Constitution will you find the power to regulate (or for that matter, legislate) how many miles-per-gallon the cars Americans may buy must deliver. It was once assumed that was between the car manufacturer and the car buyer, the latter under no duress to purchase a “gas hog” and the former under market duress to build what would sell.”

    This is true of pretty much everything that the federales touch. The deliberate misconstruction of the Commerce Clause set us down this very, very dangerous road.

    • Wickard v. Filburn in 1942, the SCOTUS case that determined a man growing grain on his own land, and feeding it to his own livestock was affecting interstate commerce, so he could have such act “regulated. Well guess what. Every damn thing you do has an “effect” on interstate commerce, right down to how many sheets of toilet paper you use, and what you eat for lunch. A decision which nullified the US Constitution almost entirely, if not so, since it left no restraint on the state at all. Thanks to an FDR stacked SCOTUS.

      • I trace the blame to Lincoln. He was the first socialist president.
        He laid the foundation for money manipulation, government confiscation of industry, and general federal lawlessness.

        Wilson (& Hoover) expanded it & FDR made it permanent.

        • As do I. Before Lincoln it was commonly assumed that States could secede. It was the major constitutional control over the federal government. “If you don’t play by the rules, we’re taking our marbles and going elshwere.” 650k dead Americans later, more than all other wars combined, no such control existed. Lincoln was also the first POTUS to openly defy the Constitution. The end of the republic. Finalized by Wilson, and locked in place by FDR.


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