A Look Back at When They Fought Back

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There was a time when the car companies pushed back against government regulations, because in those days, the car companies were still reflexively in the habit of thinking of the preferences of their customers – rather than “compliance” – first.

This was before the car companies got Too Big To Fail – and wound up becoming, for all intents and purposes, adjuncts of the government so enmeshed with it that pushing back against it has become as unthinkable as CNN’s “reporters” asking impertinent questions about Pfizer, which “sponsors” its own favorable coverage.

It was different, once.

It is worth remembering – before everyone forgets.

One such memory is of pushback by the car companies against the governmental decree that all new cars have speedometers that registered no higher than 85 MPH – the government’s idea being that if speedometers didn’t register any higher, people would not drive any faster. At the time, the National Maximum Speed Limit – as it was styled – limited how fast anyone could legally drive to just 55 miles-per-hour. Thus, 85 MPH became what  55 MPH probably felt like to people who were driving Model Ts back in the 1920s.

With the difference being they were driving cars made half a century later as if it were the 1920s.

The government’s National Maximum Speedometer decree went into effect in late 1979 – and after that (for a couple of years) most cars had speedometers that registered no higher than 85 MPH, a thing few, if any customers had asked for.

So at least two car companies didn’t give it to them.

One was Ferrari – which flipped the government the bird by installing a 140 MPH speedometer in cars like the ’79 308. It merely lacked numbers and hashtags after 85 MPH. Instead, a “redline” began from there – kind of like a tachometer’s – except you didn’t risk blowing the engine up if you ran the car past it. It continued around the clock – so to speak – until it ended where “140” would have been.

And still was.

Ford did something similar. The Mustang SVO’s speedometer also stopped at 85 MPH – but kept going all the way to what was obviously 140 MPH, just without the actual numbers along the way.

It was pushback such as this – including mass pushback against the 55 MPH National Maximum Speed Limit, via mass defiance of it – that led, in time to the end of both the 85 MPH speedometer and the 55 MPH speed limit.

Imagine if there was pushback today.

If, instead of pretending to agree it had done something wrong – in the moral sense – VW had defended itself, with regard to the government’s shrieking about “cheating” on its meaningless emissions certification tests. VW did no such thing, in the first place. It simply designed its cars to pass the meaningless tests. Which were – and are – meaningless, because they measure angels-dancing-on-the-heads-of-pins differences that mean nothing, in terms of any harms caused.

The point is, the VW passed the tests. If they had not passed them, the government would never have “certified” the VW diesels that it later excoriated for “cheating” on those very tests.

VW did at least try to pushback – by building the diesel engines people wanted and designing them to pass the tests and meet the regs so that the government would let them sell what customers wanted.

Pontiac pushed back similarly back in the early 1970s, when it was still building cars rather than badge-engineering them. Customers wanted the hot engines the government was trying to prevent them from being able to buy, via the same regulatory strangulation techniques subsequently applied to VW’s diesel engines. Pontiac engineers had designed a very hot new engine, the Super Duty 455. They got it past the regulations – and into production – because it was the same size and type as the standard 455s Pontiac had been building, that were already government-approved. In other words, it passed the test as a technicality.

When the government eventually found out that Pontiac had “cheated,” it did not approve. Pontiac was forced, first to detune the very healthy SD-455 and then – after just two brief years of availability – to withdraw it from the market altogether, for the sake of the government.

But at least they tried.

VW was the last to do that. What was done to VW no doubt has much to do with that. The excoriation and punishment meted out for not having caused provable harm to even a single person was beyond anything that had preceded it, including instances of actual harm caused, as for example the consequences – for Ford – for having sold Pintos that sometimes caught fire when rear-ended. And far more so than what hasn’t happened as a result of the harms caused by electric vehicles that have burned people to death – which the government knows are prone to doing exactly that.

It’s a shame there’s been no pushback – so far – against that.

. . .

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  1. Herhttps://www.breitbart.com/environment/2023/02/18/pinkerton-the-greens-arent-just-coming-for-your-gas-powered-car-theyre-coming-for-all-cars/ Here’s another article that shows just what the environmental wackos have in mind for us.

  2. I’d just like to point out an obvious (to me) fact: everything we’re talking here about came about because people VOTED for representatives to this fiction called “government.” It doesn’t matter which rep you voted for or against. If you vote, you sanction all this.

    Withdraw consent. Just don’t vote.

    Don’t even grant the process legitimacy by discussing as if it were an option in a sane world, because it is not.

    • All government is founded upon its usurpation of authority to kill you if you don’t obey. They cannot function without that usurpation. Ergo they do NOT attract sane people to their ranks. Every time you vote you put your stamp of approval on their insanity.

  3. This reminded me of “Top Gear” season 19, episode 2. I guess the Top Gear cast had gotten in a lot of trouble with some US government busybodies during their previous trip to the US, showing their speedometers seriously violating quite a few speed limits. So when the cast came back to the US for a western US road trip, all shots of their dashboards showed an obviously fake speedometer reading of “55 MPH”, regardless of what the tach was doing or how fast the scenery was zipping by.

  4. You know whats worse – once upon a time people themselves would have stood up and saluted and supported the company who did something like what you describe above. Today however in the mindset of most sheep the VW executives WERE criminal and they destroyed the planet and whatever else the tv accused them of….. not a single person applauded them on making a car more efficient than the rules allowed by being so intelligent it would detect when it was being “tested” and change its behaviour to pass the test !! Not a single one of these idiots also realised that the “green” mandates were causing them to consume MORE fuel !!

    i guess not surprising that a decade later they all line up to take a “safe and effective” jab for a cold….

  5. We’re gonna tell you what you can drive and you have no other choice. You’re a dumbass, just to let you know. We’re right all of the time, dot gov rules.

    You can lead car drivers to an EV, but you can’t make them buy an EV. It is your fault if you don’t buy one, you’re to blame for not being a passenger and the gov is the driver.

    It ain’t the car, it’s the driver.

    If governments can fill rocket fuel into a warhead missile, launch it at a target, kill people, cause suffering and misery, it’s time for some changes.

    As long as it is ethical, moral, and justified, it is legal.

    Kind of challenges the ethics, the gov has none, it’s a mockery of travesty of a sham. Psychologically diffused, psychopathic.

    Madeline Notsobright will need an air conditioner running for eternity, won’t do much good.

    Strains credibility.

    Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t done to yourself.

    The didactic.

  6. How many individuals pushed back against face diapers or lockdowns or plexiglass? How many companies big and small pushed back against clot shot mandates that literally threatened their workforce or customer base? The whole of this country is fully controlled. And so the screws will tighten until it all breaks.

    • Hi BAC,

      It appears the only REAL pushback against mask & vaxx mandates was in the form of lawsuits from individuals and nonprofit organizations. If it hadn’t been for a lawsuit against the Biden Thing’s vaxx mandates for employers with at least 100+ employees, MILLIONS of working class Americans would have been required to get jabbed or undergo weekly testing under threat of LOSS of job if they didn’t comply.

      There was another lawsuit against the Thing’s mask mandate for domestic air travel, which resulted in that mandate being lifted and video of numerous airline passengers cheering the lifting of that mandate, though the Thing has been trying to REIMPOSE it.

      There are also unelected bureaucrats who are arrogant to the point they think they can do whatever they want regardless of what the masses say. For example, Oregon’s “Health Authority” implemented a PERMANENT indoor mask mandate last year despite MASSIVE opposition to that in public comments. It was suspended after a few months but never outright REPEALED, so they could theoretically reimpose it anytime they want, say for a regular cold & flu season.

      Why, there was also ANOTHER study recently showing that face diapers are INEFFECTIVE against the dreaded ‘Rona, and when CDC Director Rochelle Walensky was asked about it, she once again INSISTED that people “Mask up” if they’re in “Areas of high risk for COVID”.

  7. VW did actually “cheat”. Their ECU detected that it was running on a test dyno and it changed its behavior to pass the test. When it wasn’t in dyno mode, it was overall a more efficient car, but not compliant with the fatwas.

    While I salute their cleverness, what happened as a result of such explicit cheating is that they’ve enraged the enforcers, and now it’s far harder for others to be passive aggressive in compliance, as those awesome 80’s tricks that you mention. They didn’t loophole the rules.

    The government has become far more authoritarian since the 1980’s, and unless a car company CEO has kissed enough rings in Congress, they will absolutely block sales. They’d probably not have delivered on that bluff in 1980.

    • VW designed their diesels to pass the test. Not their fault EPA wasn’t smart enough to design a test they couldn’t pass the way they did. The only “cheating” VW did was being smarter than the EPA. Not a sin in my book.

  8. I was really disappointed that VW didn’t fight back against the govco persecution, they could have hired some Big Law firm to push back against the ridiculous fines, etc. If that failed then they should have given govco the finger and pulled out of the USSA entirely.

  9. Eric, I think the manuf. really starting to obey was during/after the GM bailout. I owned all GM’s up till then, and it was so very obvious that their ‘tuning’, even 6.2L engines was changed drastically for mpg. Then I think Ford was next, and Dodge held out the longest.
    No question they are all beholden to the fed now.
    But, I wonder what the next step is. Will the true free market, if it even exists anymore, find a way around this stuff like we used too? Like the new craze of retro mods, where we take an old car and add the awesome drivetrains, but uncorked.
    I know in at least my deep blue state, my brothers cobra kit car, it has a modern ford drivetrain and the state won’t let it pass the state inspection. He drives it anyway. So far, he’s been pulled over a few times with no inspection sticker and no cop has given him a ticket over it.

    • I am very familiar with car control systems, it’s part of my job and hobbies. What is different now is that it’s impossible to get away with cheating. The ECU’s are designed to prevent modifications, and even if someone manages to defeat that, there’s an audit process during emissions or annual inspections which will catch it.

      Put in a free lowing air filter, or open up your exhaust, or make any kind of improvement, and this leaves traces in the ECU adaptive maps for Air/Fuel ratio. These adaptive maps produce something called a “checksum” and all states now check these checksums and report to their DMV’s. Some states, like CA and other idiots adopting its CARB rules, will enforce based on the checksums. You also can’t re-flash the ECU because there’s a hardware code checksum system which will make that evident.

      You can cheat by putting in an intercept module which “pretends” to be your ECU to the emissions test, and this is highly illegal, it’s a federal crime, but possible, though not for much longer. Pretty soon, ECU emissions checks will have end-to-end encryption, and that’s not defeatable without learning the manufacturers encryption keys.

      The days of most cheats are simply over. Technology has made it impossible, sadly.

      • there’s little helper electronics for bikes. been around for a while.
        Even bikes w/efi have been tuned so lean, that you have to find a way.
        Even carb bikes have been tuned lean for a long time, but they are easier to fix.
        For efi bikes, the aftermarket has responded.
        Some little tricks I’ve seen, is a ‘dongle’ for lack of a better word, is plugged in-line to your air-temp sensor, so the little diod? tricks the computer into thinking it actually colder than it actually is, in essence richening the fuel map.
        I’ve seen it work and not work. Not that I have done it, just seen it.

  10. I’ve been on many cross country road trips. West of the Mississippi, I can’t imagine anyone obeyed the 55mph limit. Strait roads mostly, no traffic. Unfortunately, I grew up in the age of 55mpg in the east metro areas, and most didn’t stray, but radar detectors helped a lot.
    Did anyone here live in the West during that time? Did anyone, including the cops obey the 55mph? I can’t imagine so.
    Worth mentioning was pickups back then did not do well over 65-70, very unstable. Not now of course.

    • The year before the 55 mph speed limit was enacted, the average speed for all rural interstates was 65 mph. In late 1973 to 1974, the average dropped to 57 mph. That would put the 85th percentile around 65-68 mph. So, yes, people technically drove a lot slower after the 55 mph limit was imposed.

      Over the ensuing years, speeds changed maybe one or two mph. Western states drover slightly faster and southern states were the slowest. East Texas was slow as well. I lived in Texas during the last three years before the speed limit was upped to 65 mph in 1987. There, the overall interstate highway average was round 62 mph. 85th percentile was around 71 mph by then.

      In 1979, the government began mandating stricter 55 mph compliance requirements. The government required that 50 percent of the public comply with the 55 mph speed limit. They couldn’t really achieve that target, of course. The closest they came was in 1980 when compliance (afer a huge amount of adjustments) went to 51 percent or so. Driving on an interstate between 1979 and 1986 was painfully slow and stressful if you wanted to go 70, the legal speed in most states before 74. I heard anecdotal stories of people getting pulled for 57 mph in Lousiana. I don’t know how those tickets would hold up in court since a speedometer were rarely accurate to 1 or two mph.

      That gives rise to the question of the 60 mph motorist, as brought up by “55 mph: a decade of experience” The 60 mph motorist was said to be complying with spirit of the law. But was he? It could be that he was probably trying to drive 65, but was only going 60 because of speedometer error. He may have had no such intent.

      In Texas, where I was during the last part of the 80s, enforcement was strict. It was rough driving back then. Same with the rest of the south. Going through Tenessee, Virginia, west virginia was painfully slow. A good number of drivers were actually going under 55 mph in my late1982 trip. Some were going 63 or so. Very rarely would you see a car driving over 70.

  11. This is what I’m asking, too!

    Again, I will advocate for “vehicular sanctuary states”.

    Also, car companies should, at least, take the gov’t to court and make them prove that any of these regulations are sensible. Make them prove that a few extra ppm of nitrogen oxides emitted causes some increase in health issues. Hell, make ’em prove that people need to be saved from themselves by being denied the ability to purchase anything that isn’t a crossover. Fight, for fuck’s sake!

  12. Maybe I’ve got it wrong but it seems to me that, at some point, auto manufacturers discovered that they could use government to hold down their competition while taking a lead by having lobbyists write safety regulations.

    Rather than just make cars that customers wanted, and compete on a market-driven basis, where they might fail, they took to inventing safety features for which nobody had asked.

    “Here’s this brilliant new safety feature, that we invented, that nobody else has, that will clearly SAVE LIVES and therefore must be forced upon the industry.”

    Oh yeah? Well two rent-seeking manufacturers can play that game! Here’s our new whizbang safety feature that nobody else has and must become law!

    First safety, then “economy”, then save the planet. Whatever guilt-laden, nobody-could-say-no against feature that is so good it must be enforced at gun point was put in place, one after another. And here we are.

    The manufacturers did this to themselves out of greed to our detriment. Sure, there’s always busy-body bureaucrats wanting more laws, and more liberals wanting more power, but the apparatus was just the means to the manufacturers end.

    How the hell do you blame law-writing on people that no longer write the laws?! The industry and the circular-door captured regulators write the “laws”! That aren’t even laws. Nobody gets a vote on them, not even our “representatives”.

    Our government sucks specifically because (but not limited to) the fact that they allow this to happen so that they can increase political power. They don’t care one iota about safety or the planet or the health of the sheep.

    Manufacturers did this and they all deserve absolute and total failure. They quit being honest right about the time that this article discusses at best.

    • “Maybe I’ve got it wrong but it seems to me that, at some point, auto manufacturers discovered that they could use government to hold down their competition while taking a lead by having lobbyists write safety regulation.”


      • It’s the only reason why no Chinese auto makers have entered the US market yet. They want to very badly, but have no chance at being merely allowed at this point. Some are at the point where they could compete very well against the established players.

        It’s also the reason why there hasn’t been a “successful” auto startup since the Chrysler Corp was organized. No, Tesla doesn’t count as a successful startup, because it will go out of business shortly after it’s rent seeking goes away. Neither do any of the other electric “car” companies.

  13. The US is a fascist economy, which always benefits the major players. Industry leaders set policy just as much as the government, but they don’t all get what they want all the time. What they all do is work for their own power and control and not the interests of the customer or citizen.

    330 million people are just too many to be ruled over by a few thousand politicians and bureaucrats in D.C. But try they will, all the way until they have you using digital money that will restrict your bad choices, citizen.

  14. With what the Biden Thing has been pushing the past 2+ years, unless one is an absolute BOOT LICKER for the regime, we’re effectively ALL criminals. Although they’ll continue sending billions of taxpayer dollars to a corrupt country like Ukraine, the corrupt military-industrial complex, AND the pharmaceutical industry, and those who object are labeled “Putin lovers”, “Not supportive of the military”, “Antivaxxer”, etc.

    • Big pharma is probably the biggest business on earth the MIC next…they are a combined entity now….hence the weaponization of allopathic medicine….poisonous injections and drugs….a perfect fit….

  15. And if they don’t survive, even with continous subsidies, they’ll get to merge with someone else. The deal will be written as a stock and cash merger to make sure the shareholders get theirs on the back end, the C suite will be made whole and the new corporation will be even too bigger to fail. Consumers, well, they’re going to be just fine. All the brand names will still be there, and that’s what counts, right? Doesn’t matter what’s under the hood anyway, people buy paint and logos (on T-shirts).

  16. ‘This was before the car companies got Too Big To Fail.’ — eric

    Several events occurred in rapid succession about 15 years ago:

    1. EeeVee subsidies, started in Commiefornia in 2007 and copied by the US fedgov in 2009.
    2. Launch of Tesla’s roadster in 2008. By 2012, deliveries totaled 2,450.
    3. Bankruptcy of GM in 2009, then its bailout by the US fedgov.

    Probably EeeVee Mary was in the room for The Talk, when the fedgov laid down the conditions of its bailout: (1) maintaining UAW employment; and (2) total compliance with the fedgov’s ’emissions’ obsession.

    Fifteen subsidized years later, Eeeeeelon became the richest lifeform on the planet, to the immense envy of corporate drudges like Jim Faaaaarley and EeeVee Mary, whose production levels dwarfed Tesla, yet were not rewarded by Wall Street with astronomical earnings multiples.

    With the Biden Thing’s signing of the egregious Inflation Protection Act in August 2022, the US fedgov has tripled down with massive subsidies for EeeVees, battery plants, and charging networks.

    As Ludwig von Mises would explain it, this groupthink EeeVee bubble will prove to be a pharaonic, value-subtracting malinvestment. Blind to market demand, the fedgov’s Soviet-style central planners simply mandate production, and assume that the resulting EeeVee widgets can be shoved down the public’s throat like Ladas and Trabants.

    I beg to differ. Nobody’s gonna make me buy a GD EeeVee. Like plenty of others here, I will ‘go Cuban,’ driving my vintage ICEs till their wheels fall off. And if full EeeVee-only dystopia is imposed, we’ll go Ned Ludd on ’em. Shouldn’t be that difficult to design a small electromechanical device to puncture EeeVee batteries from underneath, and set ’em alight.

    “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The feds can’t hit what their eyes can’t see.” — Muhammad Ali

  17. Auto makers are just as delusional as the FedGov if they think they can survive without pushing back. VW’s sin was being smarter than the EPA. Passing it’s test without compromising the serviceability of its diesel cars. A case where regulation is deemed the same as law, where the “intent” of the regulation overrides the letter of the regulation, the latter which VW complied with.

    • The sad part that it was some dumbass “college students” who “spilled the beans” on Volkswagen’s emission testing processes.
      The same goes for CO2 which IS NOT a pollutant, but is necessary for life.
      If I had my way, all liberal arts programs in colleges would be abolished. Even in STEM programs, a liberal anti-human bias is there.
      The communist “march through the institutions” is well on its way and is almost complete.
      Look at the caliber of individuals getting through college.

      • The brick and mortar colleges are not economically feasible any more. Hence all the student loan debt defaults. Their last bastion was the hands on STEM programs, and as you say, they have become institutions of wokeness as well.


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