Into Buying A Compact Car
alarm of a world oil shortage struck the United States in 1973 after members of organizations of Arab petroleum exporting
countries, including OPEC, established an oil embargo because the U.S. supported the Israeli military in the Yom Kippur war
against Egypt and Syria.
was the year Americans became aware of just how dependent we had become to imported oil products from the Middle East. There
was a shortage of gasoline, the price of gas went through the roof, we had news photos of cars lined up at service stations
trying to buy gasoline that was in short supply, and there was a sudden call for the nation to fix the problem we found ourselves
interesting things happened. Strange machines moved through our farming area, thumping the ground with strange machines, apparently
searching for new sources of crude oil Wildcat well drillers began buying up drilling rights everywhere and drilling rigs
actually started drilling exploratory wells in hopes of finding a new source of crude. Car makers quickly shifted production
from the big luxury sedans with eight cylinder engines to compact cars with four cylinder motors. Chevrolet was among the
first to produce a small car. The company chopped one end off of its successful “Iron Duke” six-cylinder engine
to make a four-cylinder version to fit in its new sub-compact.
thing that happened was that President Gerald Ford issued an executive order setting the national speed limit at 50 miles
per hour. That is a very slow speed, especially for long distance travelers, especially when we still had those big luxury
cars and were traveling the new Interstate highways designed for cars moving at speeds of 70 miles an hour or higher. It was
a virtual nightmare for travelers, although the speed limit did cut national gas consumption and the number of lives lost
in highway wrecks.
media jumped on the bandwagon and promoted the idea of a national effort to preserve fuel and cut America’s dependence
on foreign oil. While caught up in this frenzy, I was persuaded to trade in our fine Plymouth station wagon that got 25 miles
on a gallon of gas, for a compact Chevrolet that was so small we had a hard time getting the family packed into it.
I walked into the Chevrolet dealership to get our new car, I vividly remember one of the service men from the back room asking
why I would do such a thing as trade my wagon in for the car I was buying. He said he thought I was nuts. I quickly learned
why he said that. I had fallen prey to a big industry ploy to get us to buy small cars. And I had been ripped off.
Chevrolet was a terrible car. It only got 19 miles to the gallon. I went to various mechanics, and even tried a carburetor
vapor-injection device invented by a man in Croswell that he claimed would increase my gas mileage. It raised my mileage up
to 21 miles to a gallon. I had been better off with my station wagon.
the first winter, the salt on the Michigan roads rusted the car’s fenders so badly I took the car back to the dealer
to complain. They gave me new fenders and told me I had to find a body mechanic to install them. I was so mad I drove the
car directly back to the Plymouth dealer and traded it in for another new car. This dealer also sold Fords and Mercury brands.
I bought a Mercury which I really liked. It was a full sized car, got very good gas mileage, and everybody in the family fit
into it nicely.
from all of this: Don’t trust the hucksters. Rely on your personal instincts and never fall prey to artificially generated
fear systems. That oil crisis passed within the year, the embargo was lifted, and America went right back to buying all the
crude oil it wanted from the Middle East.
1973 crisis was a shot across the bow. We should have started preparing for the mess we find ourselves in today. How quickly
we fell back into our materialistic ways once the storm clouds passed.