Gallery C

Those Gas Guzzlers
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Behold: A 300 Miles Per Gallon Car!

By James Donahue

Back in 1979 when the Iranian revolution sparked one of the nation’s early oil scares and gasoline jumped to over a dollar a gallon, there were long lines as the gas pumps and President Jimmy Carter imposed a 50-mile-per hour speed limit in an effort to preserve the nation’s oil supply, we began the quest for fuel efficient cars.

It was a crazy time. I traded in our Plymouth station wagon that clocked about 26 miles to a gallon of gas for a new Chevrolet Chevette with a four cylinder engine. The car was a piece of junk. It only got 19 miles to the gallon, the car was too cramped for my family and the two front fenders rusted through after the first year of driving on Michigan’s salted winter roads. I realized too late that Americans were duped because of a crisis that did not yet exist.

Not only that, but we quickly realized that many of the old cars that we knew and loved were far superior to the junk cars that now began flooding the market. They were "fuel-efficient" cars loaded with strange hoses and devices that concealed the engines. They were equipped with catalytic converters that were supposed to capture carbon emissions. They were much more expensive than our older cars, they were designed so the home mechanic could no longer work on them, they chortled when we turned the engine off, and the performance on the road was terrible.

As the years passed, the price of oil and gasoline never dropped much. The prices waivered, but slowly and steadily rose to over $2 and then $3 and in some areas, to over $4 a gallon. And our cars never got much better mileage than before.

Thirty years have passed. I recently watched a televised commercial for a new fuel efficient Ford that was boasting 30 miles to the gallon. I laughed at this. My 14-year-old Ford gets about 25 miles to the gallon on the open highway. I owned a Plymouth Barracuda in the 1960s that got over 30 miles to the gallon on the open road. It had a slant six engine that performed beautifully. It was among the best cars I ever owned.

Somehow I think the American public has been brainwashed to believe that we have to go to tiny cars to enjoy gas mileage as good as my Barracuda got. And my old Ford is still performing so well I have no plans to trade it for anything else. All that will do is put me in debt for another seven years with car payments and high imposed auto insurance costs.
Now if I was in the market to buy a new car, I would have my eye on a new prototype Volkswagen XL1 that they say gets 300 miles per gallon. This car also offers an all-electric drive but the review I read said the car “does not need to be plugged in EVER to achieve 300 miles per gallon.”
While the car is being tested on a limited market in Europe, the fact that such cars as the XL1, the Nissan Leaf, the Tesla Model S, and the Chevrolet Spark exist is encouraging. Most of the above vehicles use electric and gasoline powered motors and boast over 100 miles to a gallon of gas.
Where do we get such cars? If we have enough money to pay for them, we can have one in our garage. What angers me, however, is that I believe fuel efficient cars have been possible for years. I mean really good ones that didn't need an electric motor to back them up. Back in the 1950s my brother in law bought a new pickup truck with a big V-8 engine that he thought was getting pretty good mileage. One day he tested his mileage and discovered it was getting over 50 miles to the gallon with just regular driving. 

He loved that truck and took super care of it. One day he said he took off the carburetor, and was cleaning it, when he broke some component. He had to replace it with a new carburetor. After that the truck only got about 12 miles to the gallon.
What was that original carburetor? He always thought it was something that accidentally got installed in his new truck. If they could build it for a truck, we must think they could have built the same carburetor for every vehicle then on the road.

It appears that we have all been bamboozled to pay a lot of money for vehicles that waste fuel and continue to spew carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Consequently, we have all contributed to the carbon build-up in our atmosphere that is changing our weather, affecting our health and threatening the future of civilization.

Now that the world is running out of cheap oil, the atmosphere is contaminated with a dangerous build-up of carbon dioxide coming from automobile and industrial exhaust pipes, and scientists are warning us to change our ways or else, suddenly the fuel efficient cars are becoming available.

If they had been doing this 50 years ago perhaps we wouldn't be in the mess we face today.