Modularity

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It’s easy enough to make fun of the performance-plucked cars of the mid-late ’70s, some of which – including this writer’s ’76 Pontiac Trans-Am – came with huge V8 engines that, when new, made about the same or even less power than many modern four cylinder engines do  . . . while using twice as much gas.

But it was also easy to double the horsepower.

This was a function of what you might call modularity – which was a function of commonality. The engine that Pontiac installed in my car when it was new wasn’t much – but it was closely related to engines that were. Specifically, to engines that had been made before. Prior to the gimping of engines by the government. The first real efforts toward that end having begun in the early 1970s – under a “conservative” Republican president, it is well worth recalling. It was not “liberal” Democrat Lyndon Johnson who signed the EPA into existence, endowing a federal bureaucracy with unprecedented power to regulate how cars – how engines in cars – would be made henceforth.

It was Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon, who more than earned his names, as he was both.

Anyhow, the EPA got down to business quickly. Before the Dick was out of the House, the writing was on the wall – because the regulations had been committed to paper. By 1974, only a small handful of American performance cars remained and by 1975 – the first year almost all new cars came with a single catalytic converter, in order to comply with EPA regulations – they were all gone, in fact if not in form.

This includes my ’76 Trans-Am.

Though it came standard with a V8 that was bigger than any modern V8, it also came with embarrassingly little power. Its top powerplant – if that’s the right word – was a 7.5 liter (in modern metric-speak) V8 that managed all of 200 horsepower. And that was a big number back in 1976, thanks to Nixon and his EPA. The same-year Corvette offered a truly pathetic (for a 5.7 liter V8) 180 horsepower. You had to pay extra to get more and even then, all you got was 210. The Camaro Z28 had been cancelled after 1974, mercifully, to avoid embarrassing itself. The Ford Mustang limped along with a gelded, 134 horsepower 5.0 (302 cubic inch) V8 that did just that.

But – and the italics are important – all of these engines shared ancestry with pre-Nixon engines and could easily be updated to pre-Nixon condition by replacing some of the new with some of the older. For example, the fuel systems – which in those days were purely mechanical (consisting of an intake manifold and carburetor) without any computer controlling anything – could be easily swapped. The Mustang II’s V8 was throttled, in part, by its two barrel carburetor – which restricted how much fuel could flow into the engine. My ’76 Trans-Am was corked up – as most cars of the time were – by an extremely restrictive single exhaust system that piped into one catalytic converter.

Both easily wrench-remedied.

The Mustang’s factory two-barrel intake and carbed could be removed in about an hour and replaced in another hour with an earlier Mustang’s four barrel intake manifold and carburetor – which doubled the airflow (and fuel flow) capacity.

A few turns of the wrench excised the cast iron exhaust manifolds that the factory fitted to my Trans-Am’s V8. Tubular headers opened things up. Dual exhausts – one pipe for each bank of the V8’s cylinders – and sans the cats – let the engine breathe again.

Almost any part that physically fit an older car of the same general type would work. This included entire engines. Entire drivetrains. For example, a 302 from a 1966 Mustang – that made twice the ’76 Mustang’s 134 horsepower – would bolt right up in a ’76 Mustang and everything would work perfectly because there was no issue with compatibility – since there was no computer that paired the engine to the car.

You could retrofit a manual transmission from an older to a newer car – or the reverse, as I did to my ’76 Trans-Am a few years back.

One of the things about the non-performance cars – as they came – of the mid-late ’70s was that they still had the same or even worse thirst for gas as the pre-Nixon performance cars they were related to, because they still (many of them) came with big engines. But because these engines didn’t make big power (as they came) you had to work them to get any performance out of them. They also still came with three and four speed transmissions without overdrive gears.

This, too, could be easily wrench-remedied. I replaced my Trans-Am’s original transmission with one made for a much newer car made in the ’80s, by which time overdrive transmissions were common. It physically fit – and so it works. No worries about electronic compatibility, because my car hasn’t got a computer.

The Modularity Era ended when new cars became computers. This happened gradually, over a period of about 20 years – beginning in the early 1980s and fully completed by the early 2000s. After which time, cars were no longer modular. They are now integrated systems, with every part specific to that particular car and wired to the whole. It is no longer possible to replace a new part with an old part – much less a different part – even if it physically fits – because it won’t not work.

The computer doesn’t recognize it. The software will not allow it.

The upside is that modern performance cars come with more performance than the highest-performance cars of the performance-plucked ’70s. The downside is they are largely unaffordable if you’re young and the used examples the young can perhaps afford are not wrenchable. No doubt this at least partially accounts for the waning interest among the young for performance cars, which they either cannot afford or cannot work on.

What kept the fire alive for so many years after Nixon was gone was that they could. An old Trans-Am like mine, bought when I was young in the ’90s, was easily made into a performance car. There were legions of such old cars still available – and still very affordable – in the ’80s and ’90s.

Now, of course, they’re not.

And the new stuff isn’t, either.

That’s why it’s mostly incipient geezers like me who are still into performance cars, whether old or new. The youf tap dey sail fawns.

Sic gloria transit, modularity – and all that it made possible.

. . .

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37 COMMENTS

  1. The humble old (HO) 455 and the SD 455 could both be made to breath fire with only 2 mods: The cam GM designed for it in the first place- the “041 cam” which was designed to be in a streetable 12 second car. The other ingredient which was a must with the 041 cam was compression- and lots of it. GM engineers thought 11.5:1 was ideal for the engine’s design.

    All the other stuff the SD had – Ram Air 4 heads with tweeks, webbed block, dry sump capability was all for actual road racing and basically unnecessary on a street motor that would only see a blip of high RPM use- really a total of under 3 seconds at redline in 3 of it’s 4 gears before the tires and aerodynamics shut it down.

    I’m of the impression that the one-worlders at GM purposely killed the American market share in exchange for a place at the one world table.

    Basically like everything else these types do it’s Fu*k All to the producing class, and his favorite things (like cool cars) while they gain unlimited power and wealth for themselves at our expense. Watching us injured- wounded actually, is fun for them.

    Does anybody think the abortions Detroit gave us in the 70s and 80s were in OUR best interests? I knew engineers in Detroit in those days- they were almost universally disgusted with the s*it they were told to design and produce.

    GM going from almost 80% US market share to under 30% in under 2 decades was on purpose- and it was done with malice aforethought.

    “They” hate us- with a white hot passion.

    • Well-said Zora,

      Heck, even the standard D port 400s and 455s can be made into very respectable performers with a few light mods. I have a 455 in my ’76 that has a RA III type cam, the factory cast iron headers, a tuned Q-Jet and ignition and otherwise stock 2 bolt block and 6X heads (with 7.6:1 CR). It’s enough to impress most people I take for a ride. With earlier/aftermarket alloy heads and 10.5 or so CR, I could probably get another 30 horsepower out of it but it’s nice being able to run 87 octane regular!

      • I agree with the luxury of running moose piss for fuel. I have a 10.5:1 motor that needs 104 octane (due to old head design) and what happens is it doesn’t get driven much and it’s a pain in the arse to buy 5 gallon cans racing fuel. No road trips for me 🙁 On the flip side it’s a roudy as heck always fun daredevil ride!

        The new heads with very round smooth combustion chambers and better flame distribution don’t need all that octane. I’m just reluctant to drop $3,000 on a set of AFR heads and springs/rockers. Funny how the O’Biden miracle has emptied my pockets.

        • Same here, Sam –

          Those alloy heads you can get now for the D port Pontiac V8 are the duck’s guts. Not only can you run higher CR and get away with it (somewhat) due to the superior heat dissipation of the aluminum, but you also get 50-plus pounds of weight off the car’s nose!

  2. I love the inserted picture of High Performance Cars magazine with the Car Of The Year for 1973 that wasn’t – the Super Duty 455 Pontiac GTO! As a perfect example of US gov’t overreach, auto journalist Joe Oldham raved to his boss, Marty Schorr that it should be the award winner after testing a pre-production press car. The GTO was named COTY in the April ’73 issue which went on sale March 1st. But before that could happen, in a mgmt. shakeup at GM, a new boss, Martin Caserio, took over Pontiac division. He instantly dismissed the Super Duty because, as he put it, “Gentlemen, at this time, General Motors needs products with better fuel economy and greater safety, not higher performance. The days of the high performance car are over. We have to move on – and I mean right now! The Super Duty engine program is cancelled immediately.” No SD-455 GTOs for anyone thanks to gov’t (and corporate) pressure and a massive humiliation for Joe Oldham, Marty Schorr, and High Performance Cars magazine. Under duress, Caserio eventually did relent and allowed the SD-455 engine in 252 Pontiac Trans Ams and 43 Firebird Formulas. But the magazine was already in print. Had the 1973 SD-455 GTO been produced, it probably would have smoked just about everything else out there.

    • Hi Bill,

      My pleasure! I’m hip to that whole story – and know Marty. He’s a great guy and a real car guy, too. I never met Oldham – way before my time – but I loved the magazine as a kid and it probably influenced me to become a car jockey-scribe, myself!

  3. I started seriously wenching at about 18. I was beginning to get the hang of it when I met my first wife then I had to take a break………shit, you are talking about wrenching. ..I totally misread that. 🙂

  4. One of the most horrid examples of castrating a 1970s engine to meet federal requirements was the Ford 255 V-8, an absolute turd putting out 119 hp that replaced the 302 for 1980-81.

    It really didn’t get much better gas mileage that the 302, just made a lot less power. Thankfully the 302 was resurrected after only two years of the 255. I suppose if you had a running one today it would be something of a collector’s item, but not much good for anything other than a conversation piece.

    https://www.mustangspecs.com/1980-mustang-engine-255-v8/

  5. When every new part becomes model specific fixing a problem becomes more expensive. I’m used to doing my own repairs and when even a turn signal socket has a specific additional pigtail for it and older parts don’t retrofit it can get irritating.

  6. Don’t forget that one could turn “family” cars into real performers with some judicious wrenching, because the power trains and underpinnings were the same as the performance machines.

    That’s what I did with my ‘68 Oldsmobile Delta 88. I ditched the anemic 2 barrel for a rebuilt Q-Jet meant for a Toronado and an Edelbrock intake, traded the single breaker distributor for an HEI, did a mild cam swap, put a shift kit in the TH400, and put on dual pipes. A few weekends of work and a G-note later, that 455 Rocket went from struggling to clear the launch pad to putting me in orbit.
    The fun part was that you’d never know what lurked under the hood just by looking at the car.
    Someday I’ll do the same thing with a 98 Regency…a real rocket propelled living room!

    • Hi Bryce,

      Absolutely!

      As it happens, my parents had a 98 Regency when I was a kid. One of the very first automotive experiences I ever had was flipping the air cleaner lid and hearing the QJet’s secondaries moan…

      • Would have loved to see that.

        I still wonder why Olds had 2 barrels as the base standard on their 455s in the 88 series in 1968. All I can think of is that it was to appeal to customers that wanted some power (hence the 455) but not TOO much power and some semblance of economy (hence the 2 barrel). Or maybe it enabled the 88 series to cover a wider price range (e.g., Olds can offer the El Strippo Special 88 for $2999 so that they can say they start out at less than $3000).

      • That’s true. I suppose Nixon could’ve vetoed the NEPA, but I don’t know if the Dems had enough of a majority to override the veto. But yeah, he went along with it.

      • And what did Nixon get for it?

        Impeached (technically he resigned first).

        What did Trump get for it?

        Impeached, twice.

        There’s a lesson in here somewhere. I think it’s “you might as well be bold and go big, because if you’re gonna go down anyway you might as well make it count. And whatever you do, don’t give an inch.”

        • The problem arises when the CIA shows up in the oval office and runs the complete Zapruder film, without any comment.

  7. Wish I had the old Rambler Rebel, my wife wrecked it one night, drove it right into a handicapped sign post. Had a Dodge Monaco, wish I still had that. Had a AMC station wagon.
    Wish I still had that. Had a 1962 Biscayne, willingly sold it, a 1959 Studebaker Lark, there it was, gone. Had a 1963 Ford 4-door, a 1967 Ford 2-door hardtop, no post. Foolishly sold them for a song. Oh well, life goes on. The junkyards made the money on the parts, not all is lost.

    If only there could be modularity in government. Remove Nancy’s brain and insert a new brain, she needs one in the worst way. Klaus and George both need new faces, transplants or some serious plastic surgery, might help some, doubtful.

    Biden the Terrible needs a new intestinal tract, he has no guts whatsoever. He needs a new brain, they tried some years back, but it didn’t work out too well. He never has used the one he has had all of his useless life, no difference there.

    Hillary needs a new bottle of booze, fall down and go boom again.

    There is such a thing as karma and the karmic effect will take hold one day, someday.

    Dr. Fauci has created a monster with his intentional miscommunications. You can actually see his mean and cruel demeanor as he speaks. His wishes ill upon the human race. He has no conscience.

    Ship him to Ukraine and drop him off just outside Mariupol. Have to somewhat kindhearted. Karma, still the same. Deliver us from the evil Fauci, help us, Lord.

    Smiling faces, sometimes, they don’t tell the truth. Rochelle Walensky is one of those faces.

    She needs a new brain just like all of the rest of them.

    Mitch needs a new face that matches the one he has.

  8. I’m torn on the subject of catalytic convertors. Yeah they suck the life out of an engine, but, in my neck of Dixie it’s not uncommon to get stuck behind an old truck without a cat. It smells awful & takes your breath away…it makes one appreciate the effectiveness of the cat in scrubbing the exhaust. How do I reconcile this with a) the fedgov should has no authority to regulate cats (or much of anything else) and b) I like clean air? I dunno if it can be reconciled.

    • If you run a properly tuned modern injection system without cats you wouldn’t notice that. The awful unburned hydrocarbon smell is from a badly neglected carburetor and/or excessive oil burning. Cats really don’t do as much on a new car. Also if you properly design the exhaust system including cats it is nowhere near the problem we had in the 70’s and 80’s where a free breathing V8 had both exhausts plumbed into one cheap restrictive cat.

  9. The VW’s used to be called adult Lego, you could swap engines, transaxles etc., from one generation to the next. To get more power in a Mk1 GTI you could swap in a later generation (Mk2, Mk3 or Mk4 engine). The newer Mk5 and up generations have more computers and are harder to work on.

    Here is an example of a 1st generation Mk1 GTI with a modified 2nd generation engine and AWD.

    VW Golf MK1 4Motion 1152HP 53 lb. boost
    100-200 test on street 2015
    100 to 200 kph 3.28 seconds

    Top 100-200 kph
    Best 100-200 kph ever recorded by FastestLaps.com users.

    # User Date Vehicle Time
    1. oshoemaker 03.07.2020 Modified VW Golf R (Mk VII) 3.7 s
    2. AnonymousGPS 25.10.2020 unknown car 3.7 s
    3. bradrichards 29.01.2022 Porsche 911 GT3 RS 3.8 s
    4. ctacir 16.11.2021 Modified Porsche 911 Turbo S 4.2 s
    5. QuinnJosepj 05.07.2021 Porsche Cayman GT4 4.2 s
    6. UnpluggedTesla 29.07.2021 Modified Tesla Model S Plaid 4.4 s
    7. parakoopawing 31.07.2021 RC F Track Edition 4.5 s
    8. Jayrayment 13.07.2021 Modified Lotus Exige (Mk I) 4.7 s
    9. AnonymousGPS 07.07.2021 Modified BMW M3 (E90) 4.9 s
    10. Billj747 09.02.2021 McLaren 720S 5.2 s
    11. Porschespeed 15.02.2020 Modified Porsche 911 Turbo 5.3 s
    12. teamwwr 10.06.2021 McLaren 765LT 5.5 s
    13. Goins2754 06.02.2021 Challenger SRT Hell.. 5.8 s
    14. rayray 19.12.2021 McLaren MP4-12C 5.8 s
    15. Climat 03.11.2019 Porsche 911 GT2 RS 5.8 s
    16. mharvey 17.07.2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S 6.0 s
    17. teamwwr 15.11.2020 Modified Nissan GT-R 6.0 s
    18. komotec 15.06.2020 Modified Lotus Exige Cup 430 6.1 s
    19. nikkoritter 25.04.2021 Modified Audi TT RS Coupe 6.1 s
    20. Billj747 09.02.2021 McLaren 600LT 6.2 s
    21. teamwwr 12.04.2021 McLaren P1 6.2 s
    22. Billj747 09.02.2021 McLaren Senna (P15) 6.3 s
    23. rayray 28.03.2021 McLaren 570S 6.5 s
    24. RobertNichols 20.06.2021 unknown car 6.6 s
    25. Billj747 02.12.2013 McLaren MP4-12C 6.7 s
    26. CR41GUZ 18.08.2021 Porsche 911 GT3 RS 6.9 s
    27. tommyrau2000 14.09.2020 Porsche 911 GT3 RS 7.1 s
    28. esantos 23.10.2021 911 Carrera 4S 7.1 s
    29. teamwwr 12.04.2021 McLaren 620R 7.1 s
    30. meredith 30.10.2021 AMG GT R 7.2 s
    31. Weaver27 21.11.2021 911 Carrera S 7.2 s
    32. teamwwr 14.11.2020 McLaren Senna (P15) 7.3 s
    33. Candiyar 08.01.2021 Porsche 911 GT3 RS 7.3 s
    34. vatoturbo 13.12.2020 Modified 911 Carrera S 7.3 s
    35. teamwwr 02.04.2021 Porsche 911 GT2 RS 7.4 s
    36. htoudiee 21.11.2016 Nissan GT-R 7.6 s
    37. teamwwr 09.01.2021 Porsche 911 GT3 RS 7.7 s
    38. htoudiee 15.10.2017 Porsche 911 Turbo 7.8 s
    39. JimHall 21.11.2021 Modified Porsche 911 GT3 8.0 s
    40. teamwwr 25.04.2021 Modified Porsche 911 GT3 8.1 s
    41. Danny100 10.01.2021 911 Carrera GTS 8.3 s
    42. SamHeaton 28.03.2021 unknown car 8.3 s
    43. oshoemaker 22.08.2020 unknown car 8.5 s
    44. JustinDodge79 08.06.2021 Porsche 911 GT3 RS 8.7 s
    45. AtomicDad 22.06.2021 Ariel Atom 3.5 8.8 s
    46. ivanfiestas101 28.11.2020 Modified KTM X-Bow 8.9 s
    47. pnwgt350r 11.04.2021 Shelby Mustang GT35.. 9.2 s
    48. Robbie1LE 29.09.2020 Camaro SS 1LE Packa.. 9.3 s
    49. skay7777 20.07.2020 Porsche 911 GT3 9.3 s
    50. Billj747 13.03.2020 unknown car 9.4 s
    51. Goins2754 30.01.2022 Corvette Z06 9.8 s
    52. garybuckland 26.04.2018 Modified Lotus Exige V6 Cup 10.3 s
    53. AnonymousGPS 27.10.2019 Porsche Cayman GTS 10.5 s
    54. Cp111 10.04.2021 unknown car 10.5 s
    55. b2point0h 27.02.2021 Modified Honda Civic Type R 10.5 s
    56. AnonymousGPS 28.06.2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 10.6 s
    57. moegigo 20.10.2018 Audi RS3 10.9 s
    58. method 12.09.2021 Porsche Cayman S 11.3 s
    59. chrisflint 10.11.2019 Modified BMW M3 (E36) 11.5 s
    60. ArunD 29.03.2021 Modified Lotus Exige V6 Cup 11.6 s
    61. Goins2754 22.05.2020 Modified Challenger SRT-8 11.6 s
    62. OliHicklin 25.07.2021 Modified VW Golf GTI TCR 11.7 s
    63. alexk 20.03.2016 Modified BMW M3 CSL (E46) 11.9 s
    64. CraigCoker 23.05.2021 Modified Model 3 Performance 12.1 s
    65. 6d7770 03.10.2021 Porsche 718 Boxster 12.2 s
    66. teejer 01.10.2021 Modified Porsche Cayman S 12.4 s
    67. Philipp 18.10.2021 Porsche Cayman GT4 12.6 s
    68. tifqureshi 02.06.2021 Porsche Cayman GT4 12.6 s
    69. Jordanmoyle55 18.05.2021 Modified Megane RS 250 Cup 14.0 s
    70. Bacmonoroy 13.04.2021 BAC Mono 2.5 14.7 s
    71. stacykirk 18.09.2021 Modified BMW M3 (E92) 15.8 s
    72. lance 05.07.2021 BMW M5 Competition 16.0 s
    73. RobSands 04.06.2020 Modified BMW M3 (E92) 16.9 s
    74. Blacksheep74 08.10.2017 Modified Porsche Cayman S 17.0 s
    75. antonschiavello 21.04.2021 Modified Audi S4 (B5) 20.5 s
    76. ivork 25.12.2021 Modified Westfield Megablade 22.1 s

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yV37c8AS5RY

    • That little Mk1 GTI makes the tesla plaid and the supercars/hypercars look slow, the reason why is the weight, 2300 lb., in stock form it is 1900 lb.

      This can’t be done with multiple electric motors and a 1000 lb. battery, the end result would be very heavy, so no 3.28 sec. 100 to 200 kph possible. ice engines are better then electric motors.

  10. There is no doubt that plugging up the exhaust and severely dropping the static compression ratio did bad things to American V8’s in the 70’s. However, another big chunk of the horsepower “loss” came from rating the engines “net” vs “gross” HP. Net is done installed in the car, with all accessories running and attached, on a chassis dyno with the losses in the transmission and rear end included. Gross is done with the engine bare of any parasitic drag, not so much as a fan belt to yield a nice, high, bragging rights number for how well your engine performs.

    So as I recall the cars of the 70’s were nowhere as good running as those of the 60’s, the losses are also not as bad as they looked. I remember smoking the tires on a 73 Nova with 350 for a good block, (3 speed manual car!) in 1981. And friends late 70’s Camaros with 350 were still fun.

    However, the cars themselves just weren’t that fast, so while we had gearhead boys like myself street racing, cutting donuts, burning tires, etc, we could feel when we were exceeding our capabilities and thus I believe were actually safer than the modern kid in a camry capable of 120 without much sensation of how fast that actually is.

    My buddy had a 69 Camaro, very rare RS-SS-Z28 (yes!) which he finally swallowed a valve in the 302 (missed a shift on his big bucks Doug Nash 5 speed), and we bolted in a L88 454 with a solid lifter cam (bought cheap from a circle track racer). That car was a suicide machine- would bring the front wheels off the ground, but wouldn’t stop for anything. I drove it once and scared myself.

  11. I think the last cars you could work on were 90s cars. My EK Honda Civic hatchback (which I sold for my Mk. IV Supra) was in production from 1996 to 2000 had a high degree of modularity with other Hondas and Acuras. We subbed out the relatively gutless but thrifty B16C1 for the high-revving B18C1 that was formerly in an Acura Integra GS-R with a few junkyard parts (pre-EBay) and that car ran like a top, going from 106 horsepower to a very punchy 170 horsepower (even though you had to rev the guts out of it to get it into its powerband, which was FUN!)

    You could mix and match with the Hondas. I can’t speak for other makes, but I know Hondas of that time were very easy to wrench and didn’t require a lot of crazy mods to make them appreciably faster. I’ve been considering finding an older Prelude and restoring it to its 90s glory. That’d be a fun project.

    The Supra was similar since the mighty 2JZ inline 6 had been used in a ton of Toyota products. Knew a guy who had a Lexus SC300 that he turned into a Supra with a bigger back seat and a very nice tune good for about 600 horsepower. The Lexus GS also used the 2JZ.

    Like the Hondas, everything in the Supra’s engine bay was relatively easy to reach and mods were easy to do since the aftermarket for them was so strong. After the Fast and Furious abomination of a movie came out, everyone wanted a Mk. IV Supra and prices skyrocketed, not only for cars but mods as well.

    I feel the Gen Xers will be the last to wrench on their cars. OBDII was the beginning of the end for modifications. Today’s Supra is extremely powerful (in fact, underpowered) but the engine’s tune is already maxed out from the BMW factory. There’s not much you can do inexpensively to add power and doing so could jeopardize your daily driver.

  12. I think we and a small renaissance in the 90’s when computers became great tools of mankind and we improved both reduced emissions and greater horsepower in automobiles. A truly unbelievable achievement it what use to be countering inputs became an achievable reality.

    Then in 2007 the smart phone was invented which change or lives for the worse. This coincides with the severe reduction in school test scores and a devolvement of our culture into a social media network and peer pressure control of our kids and political views. Then computers to cars became fully connected to the internet and trackable. 5G will make it possible you will be tracked wherever where you go. Your phone- your (new) car is now your enemy. This will eventually destroy our country.

    Ironic: atomic energy was created as a war weapon then used for peaceful purposes; energy, medicine, etc. Smart phones were created for peaceful purposes of greater user interface but will be used for evil by governments to surveil upon the people.

    • ‘Smart phones will be used for evil.’ — Hans Gruber

      Concur.

      Two of the most destructive technological ‘achievements’ of the past century:

      1. TeeVee
      2. Cell phones

      Number three probably is being cued up now: direct chipping of humans; AI takeover; digital-only currency; or something along those lines.

      Your food purchase has been denied, comrade. Please self-extinguish.

  13. ‘The computer doesn’t recognize it. The software will not allow it.’ — eric

    An odd thing, that. Cars have a CAN bus standard to allow microcontrollers and devices to communicate with each other.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CAN_bus

    On PC’s and laptops, bus standards allow easy plug-in upgrades of RAM and drives.

    One might think that automotive engines, transmissions and the like would be similarly plug and play. But the level of proprietary control seems to be more exclusive.

    Evidently, that’s the way Big Auto and Big Gov like it.

    • I have a Mk3 VW GTI with a 1.8 lt. 20vt engine swap from a 2002 Audi with stage 2 tune, to work on it you need computer software to scan, change settings, I bought a laptop, Vagcom software and a proprietary cable to be able to work on it. These manufacturers use their own software so you have to go back to them for service, or buy expensive electronic equipment.

  14. Yep, your timeline is about right. I turned 18 in 1980, the prime age for getting into wrenching cars. And I did do a little wrenching on my first car, when I had the time (I was in the military and a young married father, so time to wrench was a luxury). A few years later, cars became more complex – engines turned sideways under the hood, computers of course, even changing the oil was a struggle as you had to take off this cover and that one and somehow get your hand under it to get the oil filter off. That’s when I gave it up and quit wrenching. Sure, I can change a flat tire (a skill all men should have – I’m disgusted whenever I see an able-bodied man call a tow truck for a flat tire). I could probably change the oil in my current car (it’s not built as badly as my mid-80’s car was), but apart from simpler things and emergency fixes to keep me from being stranded, I don’t have an interest in wrenching anymore.

  15. US car and truck performance took an immediate nose dive when catalytic convertors became required. Less power, and less mpg. Sales dropped. Quality suffered. Chrysler died, while just a few years previous it had owned the track, both NASCAR and NHRA. Uncle Sam to their rescue, and here we are.

  16. A thing that made the junk yard a going concern. Since many of the parts they offered would work on cars made in several different years. Blew up your Chevy 283? No problem, the junk yard has a used 327 that will drop right in. Spanning SEVERAL years. I once bought a used ’66 Chevy pickup. There was a ’65 sitting right next to it, and damned if I could find a difference in them.

  17. To be fair, I think Johnson or a Hubert Humphrey would have signed the EPA Clean Air act into law as well. Nixon, was awful, however. No doubt about it.

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