It Might Be Time to Stock Up…

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On a good used car.

Because the new ones – the ones coming online now and on deck for next year (and the years after that) – are going to be budget-busters as well as ball-busters. We are approaching the event horizon of reasonableness when it comes to car design. Because of the unreasonableness of the demands spewing forth from Washington. These demands have existed for decades, but  as in so many other areas, a kind of quickening is occurring. It’s no longer a little regulation here, a new law there. It is one epic demand after the next –  the epicness being necessary to garner attention (for the lawmakers making the demands) in a political-social environment that’s come unmoored from moderation and – yes – reasonableness.

The 35.5 MPG fuel efficiency fatwa, for example. It was announced with great fanfare – and much cheering by masses who have much more understanding of the latest fantasy football rankings than of engineering realities – that all new vehicles shall average 35.5 MPG by model year 2016. This will be almost doubled again come 2020 – which isn’t all that far away, incidentally.

I’ve written already about the Chicxulub Effect (see here) this has had on V-8 and even V-6 engines. Though not as immediately observable as a large rocking dropping out of the sky, the results are similar. Mass extinction. Even Jaguar – Jaguar! – pulled the formerly standard-equipment V-8 out of the XF sedan, replacing it with a four-cylinder literally less than half its size (and power). If Jaguar can”t afford to build (or sell) V-8 luxury cars because they can’t meet the 35.5 MPG bar, imagine the effect this legislation will have on the bread-and-butter brands.

But wait. Why imagine when you can know?

As a car journalist, I get to test drive the latest/newest stuff before most people. And the latest/newest stuff I’ve had recently features some amazing – but alarming – technology. Technology clearly motivated by the pending 35.5 MPG fatwa’s coming-into-force.

For example, the 2013 Chevy Malibu I recently test drove (see here for that). It features auto-stop. That is, the engine cuts itself off whenever the car comes to a stop – in order to save a few drops of gas and (Chevy hopes) improve the car’s CAFE score.  Several other new/2013 cars I’ve had recently also have this feature – and the word is, it’s going to be as commonplace within a year or three as keyless ignition already is.

This freaks me out a little. Because I wrench on cars. I also have a good friend who is an ASE Master Tech and runs his own repair shop. We like to talk about working on cars, as well as actually work on them. The other day, we got to talking about auto-stop. About what it takes to build a starter capable of repeatedly re-starting an auto-stopped engine. Over and over and over and over again. In a stop-and-go traffic situation, the starter motor in an auto-stop-equipped car will be subjected to some extreme duty cycles. How long will it survive? And more to the point – what will it cost to replace when it croaks?

You can perhaps see where this is headed… .

New cars are going to be a lot more expensive to buy (the “Eco” Malibu referenced above carries a $3k price premium) as well as to fix when they break. And technologies such as auto-stop are just for starters.

The pressure to make new cars ever-more-fuel-efficient will inevitably mean smaller, lighter cars. But smaller, lighter cars are going to have a tougher time measuring up to Uncle’s “safety” fatwas. So, how will it be done? For a look-see into the near future, check out the Scion iQ. This tiny car (just slightly bigger than the Not-so-Smart Car) has eleven air bags.  Front-side airbags; front knee air bags; front seat cushion air bags; rear window air bags. Air bags abound! Because it’s the only way this fragile little car can meet minimum muster. Now, if each of these air bags (and its associated sensors and triggers) adds just $200 to the iQ’s MSRP, then the air bags alone have added $2,200 to the price tag of the car. And if the iQ is ever in a wreck and three or four (or six or eight) of these bags deploy… well, it’ll be time to say sayonara.

You should perhaps also ponder the effect this will have on insurance costs… . Rest assured the insurance mafia has pondered it.

But at least you’ll still be alive. That’s the good news. The bad news, of course, is that you’ll be broke. Rendered so by the unsupportable cost of owning a 35.5 MPG car.

That’s why I advise buying an old one – now, before everyone else realize what’s coming and joins the stampede. There is still time to get your hands on a car that might not deliver 35.5 MPG, but won’t tie an albatross of debt around your neck. One with a starter that just starts the engine once (until you shut it off) and which will probably last the life of the car and won’t cost you $1,500 to replace, either.

Throw it in the Woods?

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eric

Author of "Automotive Atrocities" and "Road Hogs" (MBI). Currently living amongst the Edentulites in rural SW Virginia. 

  111 comments for “It Might Be Time to Stock Up…

  1. Bill K.
    October 18, 2012 at 12:30 am

    I currently drive a 2008 Honda Civic hybrid, with autostop, currently at 82,000 miles. Though your engineering sense seems sound to me, Eric, I am comforted that Honda seems to have found an engineering solution that extends the mean time before failure out a fair distance. Admittedly, this is only anecdote on 1 car, but I have hope, even as a libertarian, that as bad as the bureaucrats add whole tsunamis of regulations, the engineers, good folks all, will do their best to minimize the damage.

    I’m definitely not a greenie, just a miser. So I drive only 50 mph even on midwestern interstates (wouldn’t dare do this in California), and average 56 mpg. Not for saving the planet, just my paycheck…

    • October 18, 2012 at 9:23 am

      Hi Bill,

      One should take into account the increased “up front” costs – as well as the cost of repairing/replacing components/systems that are more complex (and so, usually more expensive). It’s a two-fer. Your hybrid, for instance, carried a price premium of several thousand dollars relative to an otherwise comparable non-hybrid vehicle. And down the road, repairs/maintenance will probably also be more expensive by dint of the fact that the car has more complex systems and more components (and so, more stuff that will eventually wear out) than a regular car does. The same applies to cars with equipment such as auto-stop. Nothing’s free. Certainly not 35.5 MPG!

  2. EricB
    October 15, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    This article revives a previous post of mine – is the usa world police SAFETY!! standard applied to global production of the vehicle, thus making it in reality a global standard that isn’t avoidable by simply purchasing your car in say, Mexico, and having it sent over here?

    Or, is it that the US market is biggie-sized compared to the others, so a decline in sales here due to not complying with these fantasy-land edicts results in a non-profit for the car in question when the global sales are tallied? I’m curious, as it’s nice to know the facts of such matters are these, so if anyone knows, please chime in!

    • October 16, 2012 at 9:40 am

      The US and Euro markets are the major markets (with China emerging). Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety is as much a fetish over in Europe as it is here; arguably, more so.

      There are synergies at work, but anyone over 40 will remember it was Volvo that was the first automaker to tout saaaaaaaaaaaaaafety as its main selling point. The curious thing is that Volvo was initially mocked for this by the general public. “Volvo driver” was synonymous with “geek.” Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety just wasn’t the be-all end-all thing it is now.

      I remember a shift beginning in the 1980s, when the “baby on board” thing began. It was the rising of Mom Culture into full blossom – and with it, saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety became the driver of everything. Not just car design.

      • EricB
        October 16, 2012 at 3:29 pm

        Thanks for your insight Eric – so apparently there’s only one version (from a safety-standards standpoint) of each model that’s sold, regardless of where it’s sold?

        Perhaps an unintended consequence of these dc-demands will be a change in that. If so, it’ll be quite amusing to observe boobus/clover driving (if they aren’t driven for them at that point, something in one of your previous articles) cars that are essentially padded rooms on wheels, unable to go faster than 10 mph (SAFETY!) with an airbag for each bone in their body while residents of less tyrannical countries cruise it up in style, laughing all the way from the border… sheesh.

      • BrentP
        October 16, 2012 at 3:43 pm

        But in the olden times brands sold safety in the free market. They often still do. The problem as pointed out here many times is people who demand everyone else make the same choices as them.

        Automotive safety ‘discussions’ with clovers are bizarre. The clovers will always insist that without their precious government mandating things there would be no airbags, seatbelts, whatever. Yet every automotive safety feature, device, etc I can think of was created in the market before government mandated it. It was the clover ilk that made it a requirement, often with complete ignorance or worse misconception of the cost-risk-reward associated with it.

        Then there is the idea that people are too stupid to choose for themselves. We could have easily ended up in the same spot without a single government regulation but only lawsuits against automakers. XYZ car had airbags but ZYX car did not. Joe Blow got hit by a train in a ZYX and got killed and it didn’t have airbags so the automaker has to pay. Soon every car has airbags.

        The socializing of risk to irritates me to no end.

  3. Danny-T
    October 15, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    So I’ve been aware of what Eric has been saying since the start of the year and I buckled down and put something in my driveway that will ensure I’m not without a solid V8 for the next 10 years – at least.

    Start: Need a basic truck body with LARGE cargo room space. Was looking for either a Bronco, Suburban, Expedition, Excursion or F150/F250 whose body could be retooled.

    Got super lucky at county auction and landed a 1997 Ford Expedition former fire dept truck w/ body and seats in perfect shape – and it was the Eddie Bauer version so I got the leather seats.

    Two huge pluses: No front center console because it was a state agency service vehicle. Also, it came equipped with the SSV suspensions that give me another 2 inches of clearance and also make me eligible for the mass produced lifter kits in case I’m not happy with 14 inches of ground clearance and need to get it up to 18.

    1. Replaced entire engine, entire front end, entire engine electrical system. Heavier duty axles on the front end, more powerful 4.7 liter MFI V8 from aftermarket specialty shop. Also put in 1000amp bettery, 130amp alternator, 60kV ignition coils, larger airbox and ridiculous size air filter.

    2. Put heavy duty mud tires on it.

    3. Put a leather jump seat (+ included seatbelt) from an junkyard 2011 F150 in the front row for third seat… now have six legal seats + 6 legal seat belts.

    4. Added Hella lights with the 120w halogens on the front brush guard (that already came with the truck).

    I’ve taken this thing offroading at 9000ft in Wyoming and also racing along the beach on the outer banks in North Carolina. Never got stuck once. I thought I would miss the lack of the PosiTrac locking differentials the F250 offers, but I do not… those old limited slip differentials work like magic, even with only two wheels still on the ground… and they are REAL LIMITED SLIP DIFFERENTIALS… not that computer assisted braking-simulated limited slip that robs all your power. (NOT available in the current batch of Suburbans or Expedition ELs)

    Got a 5000lb curb weight instead of the 9000lb curb weight that would have come w/ the Excursion or the F250. This makes it scamper across beach & dunes… doesn’t bury itself in it. This also lets it climb a 16% double track in the WY backcountry with only a 270hp gasoline V8 (255 ft-lb torque).

    …and best of all, that top of the line engineered MFI V8 still gives me 17mpg on the highway in 2-wheel mode.

    Plain jane basic V8 truck. I expect to get 100K+ miles from it. It will be an antique before I start looking for another truck. I had to get myself over the mental hurdle of ‘not a diesel’ but the access to a lightweight frame and a super high tech small V8 compensated for it (went down 4000lb in weight for it).

    In three years’ time there will be NOTHING like this jewel on the road. The current Expedition EL Kings being sold have 3 inches LESS of ground clearance than this thing and there is NO ONE out there that makes a stock lifter kit for them OR for the current batch of Suburbans. (I’m still toying with the idea of the lifter kit but haven’t yet found the boulder big enough to push me over the edge and do it – the SSV suspension pack on the pre-2002 Expeditions is ridiculous all by itself!)

    The entire emission system consists of an O2 sensor. That’s it, there’s nothing else. The ignition block only reads that O2 sensor to light the light the Service Engine light dashboard. The ignition computer doesn’t even look at it… it uses a set of sensors this speciality company added to the heads and the exhaust manifolds for those calculations.

    The computer is ODB II compliant… which means basic telemetry only and no cutouts on ‘dangerous conditions’.

    The whole truck only has two airbags… which you can disable by pulling one fuse from the block the moment you go off road and enable by sticking the fuse back in… and there isn’t even a light on the dashboard to tell you the airbags are not enabled… unless someone does an actual airbag test (thereby setting them off!) no one would ever know they’re disabled!

    Finally added a Garmin StreetPilot 7500 GPS to the center top of the dashboard… I am good to go! Oh yeah, the Eddie Bauer edition came with the top of the line 6-speaker HiFi killer 25 watt sound system that included a cassette player!! Hello iPhone cassette dock! No special workarounds needed!

    • October 15, 2012 at 11:41 pm

      I put one of these in my 97 z recently when I was doing all the work to it. It’s a pretty nice system that does everything I could possibly want. Almost makes me feel like I’m driving a newer car than I am with all the nav/camera/bluetooth/etc all integrated into one unit. Stereos have certainly come a long way. I remember my first cassette deck didn’t even have rewind. If you wanted to rewind, flip the tape and press the FF button.

      http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002MAPSU8/ref=oh_details_o03_s00_i00

      • Danny-T
        October 16, 2012 at 2:48 am

        Wow! Thanks! I’m gonna take the measurements and see if it fits the Ford dashboard.

        You haven’t by any chance figured out how to mount and wire up an iPad to a Ford dashboard have you? That would be the ultimate killer nav/sound system/email system all in one. Almost makes running over that hedgehog in the road because you were reading your email worth it.

        • BrentP
          October 16, 2012 at 4:11 am

          There are kits for mustangs. I vaguely remember one for mounting an Ipad in the dash but I can’t find it now.

          There are also various aftermarket systems with dash kits.

          I assume there are kits out there for all the popular models.

  4. mikehell
    October 15, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Are any of y’all old enough to remember the promo that Kool cigs ran in the late 70’s and early 80’s where they raffled off a 928? You had to cut out a little submission form and send it in to some place in northern Illinois or some such where they probably flushed your submission down the drain. I was an early teenager and would swoon at the 928. I think I got my mom to fill out about 15 of those little things but I never found out if she ever really sent them in. Parents….can’t trust ‘em.

    Here’s the ad. It also promo’d a Blauplunkt stereo that the driver could operate with a wired remote that was fixed on a flexible arm.

    Man were those the days…..

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/1983-Kool-Cigarettes-Ad-Win-a-Porsche-928S-Car-/130463581185?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item1e603c4401

  5. MoT
    October 15, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Why in the hell did they pick 35.5mpg? Could just as easily pull a number out of my rear. Why not 37.2 or 31.9 ? This just goes to show there is no “science” or forethought involved at all. Just plain brute totalitarian diktats is what it is.

    • October 15, 2012 at 5:40 pm

      Of course!

      And: Why should it (government) be involved in any ay at all? Government’s only plausibly legitimate function is maintenance of civil order. That is, peace-keeping. Period. The notion that it is Uncle’s job to dictate cars design is an utterly totalitarian notion. If I want to build a 2 MPG car and offer it for sale, I should be able to do so free from any constraint beyond the willingness of anyone to buy it.

      • Selym
        October 16, 2012 at 8:14 pm

        Amen! With the exception of a few “Clovers”, you’re preaching to the choir. Shame your voice isn’t heard on something “louder” than a blog.

        Keep up the good work! Reading this blog is a simple pleasure that I look forward to.

        Myles

        • October 16, 2012 at 8:35 pm

          It’s a start!

          Who knows? Maybe we’ll reach a few people. Ideas are potent. You never can tell what you might set in motion…

    • Tre Deuce
      October 15, 2012 at 9:31 pm

      ‘Mot’
      Reg; ‘35.5’ It is the average between the corporate average for Trucks(30 MPG) and Cars(39 MPG).

      To be fair it was Republican controlled congress under a Republican President in 2007 that created, passed, and signed the mandate. President Obama just moved it up 4 years, which the manufacturers are okay with, and quite pleased that it is a fifty state law.

      When I have time, I will let EP readers know how they arrived at 30/39 MPG.

      • MoT
        October 15, 2012 at 11:30 pm

        Thanks for the update. I have no doubt that it’s the usual Rep/Dem criminal cabal at work.

  6. Bill Jones
    October 15, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Well, Eric, you’ve set yourself up for the next article.

    “How to keep a car in long-term storage.”

  7. scottindallas
    October 15, 2012 at 10:42 am

    Eric’s ideology again blinds his reason. Used cars were down 4.5% in July, and are down 2.5% in Sept. The trend seems to be growing. The Auto manufacturers were selling 16 million cars/yr before the recession. After that, they produced 10-13 million for a few years. This, rather than the 100k cars scrapped thanks to “Cash for Clunkers” created this market. The pent up demand for new cars is being satisfied, the used car supply is increasing. Don’t rush, the used car prices seem to be normalizing. Eric’s advice is like those idiots who’ve been telling you to buy gold in a depreciating market. How are those returns going? You’d be better off selling your gold, and buying dividend paying stocks. And, if you can wait a year or two, wait to buy a used car.Clover

    • October 15, 2012 at 11:34 am

      Scott,

      Without even getting into your objection, you miss the article’s point completely. Which was: The new technologies automakers are resorting to in order to meet federal mandates (such as 35.5 MPG average fuel economy by 2016) will drive up the cost of new car ownership (buying the car as well as maintaining the car) which, in turn, will push more and more people out of the new car market. Which, in turn, will push up the prices of older cars, as more and more people forgo new in favor of used. Ergo, it makes sense to buy a used car before the prices inevitably go up.

      PS: In re your claims about declining used vehicle prices –

      Almost three years ago, I bought a 2002 Nissan Frontier pick-up with 59k for $7,000. Today – three years later – a similar truck would cost me at least $10,000. Even though it is now three years older (and typically, with considerably more mileage on the odometer). Don’t believe me? Go search Auto Trader or Craigs or any other sources you like and see for yourself.

      • October 15, 2012 at 9:48 pm

        I can believe your Nissan Frontier has increased in value. But the true amount of appreciation is not as dramatic as it first appears. A significant amount of that higher price is simply due to inflation.

    • BrentP
      October 15, 2012 at 4:29 pm

      While used car prices are falling this moment we are sitting a threshold with new cars. Once over that threshold certain things will no longer be made. They won’t be available new. This is going to change the market landscape.

      The change has begun, just barely started. When it is over things will be very different. If you want a new car with a V8 and you don’t have NFL player money, forget about it sort of change is what we may see.

      Cash for clunkers is a model for what happens when the government artificially removes supply. It reduced the supply of used cars. We are going to see the prices of new cars increase and what’s even available change. What people need and their incomes are not going to change to match.

      What the result will be is anyone’s guess. Eric has his idea which isn’t too far from mine. I think rebuilders are going to see new markets open up as the price of rebuild/restore falls relative to the cost to buy new, if new is even available.

  8. October 15, 2012 at 8:25 am

    I figure I’ve bought the most modern car I’ll ever own already – a 2007 Mustang GT. Had I known it had that infernal tire pressure monitoring system, I’d have gotten an ’06 instead, but it is what it is and it’s still quite fixable, all things considered. As long as the basic unibody structure stays straight and rust-free, I can build everything else out of catalogs and salvage yards. With a special tune I put together on my programmer, I can get just over 30mpg highway cruising at around 75. This tune is impractical for city driving, but it really stretches the legs on long trips. Two different intakes, a half-dozen different tunes, and two sets of wheels & tires – I’m set, more or less. It’s not uncomfortable on long trips, easy to see out of (unlike the new Camaro), quick enough to get out of bad situations if necessary and with upgraded brakes to hopefully not get into bad situations in the first place. It is what Mustangs have always been – decent, cheap power and easy to work with.

    That being said, I drove an ’85 928 automatic some years ago, and even with worn out suspension, it was still one of the top handling cars I’ve ever encountered.

    • October 15, 2012 at 9:47 am

      Both great cars, Eclipt –

      And, you’ll find several 928 fans here!

  9. mary
    October 15, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Sorry if this is mentioned by someone else, but what about all the wear and tear on the engine itself with this idiotic auto-stop. Our shop teacher told us that 90% of the wear in the engine occurs at start up. Between this and the totally uneconomic ethanol bs, the writing is on the wall. Tptb don’t want the masses to own cars at all.

  10. October 15, 2012 at 7:32 am

    What’s really ridiculous, which deserves mention, is how the U.S. government’s own regulations make it difficult to meet this MPG target. I live in Slovakia and drive a Škoda Octavia station wagon with a TDI engine that’s 12 years old and gets 40MPG on a bad day. Even our Alfa Romeo “Sport Wagon”, with a gas engine never drops below 30mpg average consumption. (And this is U.S. MPG I’m quoting– 6l/100km and 7l/100km respectively.) What’s missing from these cars is the huge catalytic converter found on U.S. cars. In the U.S. I would be thrilled when my ’92 Honda Accord with 4 cylinder engine would get 25MPG.

    • October 15, 2012 at 9:54 am

      Hi Andrew,

      Absolutely. I’ve written about this previously. Both “safety” and “emissions” regs. have made it very tough if not impossible (economically) to build very fuel-efficient cars without resorting to hybrid technology (and so on).

      “Safety” regs. have imposed both weight and design restrictions – the result being that even the lightest new cars are well over 2,000 lbs. and the typical car weighs around 3,400 lbs.

      “Emissions” regs. – including the pursuit of diminishing returns – have added excessive complexity to engine design an also made it very hard to mass-market diesels in the US.

      If you put say a three cylinder, 1-liter or so diesel engine in a car that weighed 1,600 lbs. you’d have yourself a 60 MPG vehicle without the need of hybrid equipment and so, it could be built and sold at a profit for probably around $15,000 if not less than that.

  11. Ross Nelson
    October 15, 2012 at 6:27 am

    I live in an area that has bitterly cold winters. Going past the absurdity of starters that will have to function tens of thousands of times without fail, how will engines stand up to repeated startups while never warming all the way up?

    • BrentP
      October 15, 2012 at 1:38 pm

      I suspect that the stop-start doesn’t activate until the engine is warmed up. It’s just software, maybe as little as one line of code to say if engine temp < X skip stop-start.

  12. October 13, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    I’m thinking that 2004-2009 might represent a “golden era” for car technology. Engines sophisticated enough to offer almost contemporary power. No ethanol issues. If automatic transmissions desired, most of them offered 5 speeds, which is pretty decent. Although Eric probably chops the seat belts out of his cars to save 5 pounds ;-) many cars from the era I mention offered front, side and curtain airbags, for those who appreciate them.

    Almost current levels of the technology we like…..without undesirable mpg compromises, or current levels of government tracking/intervention.

    Also, they are nearing, or past that 50% depreciation point. Relatively low mileage examples from builders like Toyota, Nissan or Honda should have a lot of sweet, low cost life left in them.

  13. clark
    October 12, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    After reading about the new fuel blends on the other articles, shouldn’t that be: buy something no older than ~1994?
    The older ones won’t work, or at least for long, with the new fuel blends?

    • October 13, 2012 at 10:11 am

      Good – and bad – news on that:

      The good news is the really old (pre-1980s) stuff is probably going to be easier/cheaper to keep running – to keep alive – on high ethanol-content fuels. For example, I “updated” my old (1976) Pontiac with the following:

      Stainless steel fuel lines and “modern” (ethanol compatible) rubber lines.
      Stainless steel fuel tank.
      Ethanol-compatible fuel pump.
      Ethanol-compatible gaskets/seals (engine).
      Carb rebuilt with ethanol-compatible float, power piston, etc.

      The rest is just tuning (re-jetting).

      But a car modern enough to have FI (and a computer) will involve more parts, more work – more money.

      A rebuild kit for a Rochester Quadrajet, for example, is about $70. I doubt you could swap all the o-rings, gaskets, seals and so on in a PFI system for $70. And of course, with a carb, assuming your castings are ok, there’s not much else to repair/replace except the wear items contained in the $70 rebuild kit. But an FI system has multiple injectors (assuming it’s not TBI) plus multiple sensors and other related components to worry about. Even leaving aside the ethanol issue, any car over 20 years old is going to be approaching the point at which these parts are approaching (or already reached) the end of their useful service life. They become money pits, real quick.

      My choice would therefore be either buy a new-ish car with low enough miles that you can expect to get another 150k-200k out of it…. or buy a much older vehicle and update it to deal with modern fuels. The second choice is probably the better long-haul choice for the reason mentioned previously: Leaving aside rust, you can keep an older car going almost forever without throwing tons of money at it.

      Example: I had a friend who owned a ’73 Maverick. He bought it from the proverbial little old lady. Absolutely stock, unmolested car in very good shape. V-8, too. It was a fine “driver” as is. But, if you updated the drivetrain to deal with ethanol, then updated the engine with a TBI unit and backed it up with an OD transmission, you’d have a very modern-driving car (immediate starts, no stalling, excellent mileage) without all the modern nonsense (air bags, ABS, traction control, etc.).

      Once I have a little money available for it, I plan to snap up a late ’70s/early ’80s full-size GM coupe – something like an Olds 98 or Caddy deVille. These are supremely comfortable rides and have other merits to recommend them, too. Then I plan to update them as per above. The result will be a fun, affordable – and classic – way to get around.

      Assuming, of course, the government doesn’t outlaw it…

      • Pecos
        October 13, 2012 at 6:23 pm

        hi eric, I’m from Italy and I really like your blog. I think that the U.S. will just become more like Europe: we already have small cars and unbearable gas prices. My family owned a 1997 Nissan Terrano II diesel (don’t know if it was marketed in the States), but we had to sell it: id didn’t meet the required pollution standards and couldn’t be driven in our city. It was a great car and I really miss it, since we bought a small SUV which I dislike for its car-sourced drivetrain.
        Anyway, I just suppose hard times will come for car guys, but cheer up, here is so much worse!

      • Tre Deuce
        October 14, 2012 at 4:36 am

        Love those old late seventies and early eighties coupes. Bought a new Coupe De Ville in 78′ after I realized it was only a few hundred dollars more then a similarly equipped Impala.

        Tomorrow I’m going to look at a low mileage 75′ Lincoln MK-IV. Those Continentals and the 6th gen T-birds they were based on, are like the Duesenberg’s of the Thirties. With their over the top personal luxury and 460″ engines. They could eat up some interstate and women loved the interiors.

        My wing-man in the mid seventies to early eighties had a custom 76′ Bird which we took to the bars on weekends. Women just loved that car.

        My Caddy didn’t impress the Ladies nearly as much with its plainer interior, but it sure drove a lot better around corners with a better wheel feel, and didn’t have the Ford/Lincoln float and corner mush. The 4-wheel disc, anti-skid braking on the Bird/Lincolns was phenomenal for the times.

        Grab one while their still cheap, eric.

        http://medford.craigslist.org/cto/3284883443.html

        • October 14, 2012 at 9:27 am

          Yup!

          I suppose I have a soft spot for them because I grew up with them. My parents had a succession of Olds 98s when I was a kid, the last one an ’83 coupe in chocolate metallic brown with the 307 under the hood. Not a “rocket” by any means, but an excellent cruise-mobile. There is nothing comparable today. Today, “luxury” cannot be had without “sport.” And no one makes large, genuinely four-seat coupes anymore.

          • BrentP
            October 15, 2012 at 3:15 am

            My grandfather had oldsmobiles. His last one (early 80s delta 88, 307) in need of rebuilding and belonging to my brother sits in my garage.

            I got get that thing back on the road. Maybe I should take a couple years off of working.

            • October 15, 2012 at 10:03 am

              Lucky dog!

              You should revive that Olds… ever drive one? They have a feel – an experience – so different from the cars of today. In a good way.

              Plush, in a way that few if any new cars are. The seats are like sofas. The absence of electronic crap is rapturous. To see a steering wheel without an air blob in the center. You sit up – not down in a bathtub for saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety.

              There is no tach – no gauges at all, really. Just a wide sweep of a speedometer, which is all this car really needs anyhow. It’s not quick or fast but it is smooth – and if you want some cheap thrills, pop that flat hood and flip over the air cleaner lid. Now you’ll hear the Q-jet’s secondaries open up when you floor it!

              I gotsta git me one!

          • BrentP
            October 15, 2012 at 2:14 pm

            I drove the ’82 a few times, rode in it many times both under my grandfather’s ownership and my brother’s.

            Drove the ’76 once (rode in it many times throughout my childhood). The ’76 delta 88 pillarless 4 door sedan… cloud on wheels. Wish we had that one too.

            The ’82 has a computer controlled Q-Jet. There is an O2 sensor and mixture control. It actually makes working on the car more simple. (I rebuilt that carb so I know)

  14. October 12, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    While I was in between jobs a couple of years ago, I’d buy and sell cars on craigslist. I’d look for the mid-late 90’s with bad transmission or check engine lights on…where people were basically looking at a $2k repair estimate from the mechanic on a $2000 car. I’d get them between $400-900 depending on condition/problem, order the parts cheap online, spend a day fixing it, then turn around and sell it and make a grand on it. I also had the good fortune to find a guy selling an 01 boxster that was smoking really bad. He was letting it go for $5k because he thought the engine was bad and none of the mechanics in town know anything about working on those cars. But I do. Turned out it was the AOS had gone bad and oil was getting sucked back into the intake system. I paid $140 for the part and lost some skin on my arm working my way up through that rear transaxle opening, but 4 hours later I had a perfectly running car that is worth more than twice what I paid for it. I did the same kind of deal on my 97 z3 too where I bought it with some issues at a firesale price, spent a couple of weekends and about $1500 fixing it up and now I’ve got a sweet commuter car that will go for at least another 100k before I have to worry about doing anything else.

    I highly encourage everyone to develop your mechanical skills. Also if you have the space and an extra $1500, I highly recommend getting one of those 4 post car lifts. Being able to raise things up to your working level rather than sliding around on a creeper makes all the difference in the world.

    • Scott
      October 12, 2012 at 11:07 pm

      Turd, I wouldn’t trust a $1500 four post unless you don’t need the space under it. I recommend the ProPark. It has a 9000 lb. lift capacity and puts the car sic and a half feet over your head; I can park a ’95 K3500 Duramax Crew Cab Duely underneath it. I got one for $2200 but I had to build it myself.

      You’ll need an engine hoist. You might need to rent a forklift if the delivery truck can’t get close to your garage. I really like this thing, it’s THE best tool I ever bought. Since the price of steel has gone up considerably since I installed mine in 2009 you can expect to pay around $3000 for one fully dressed. I made the mistake of not buying the jack when I bought the lift and it cost me an extra $200 in shipping; my advice is to buy the jack when you buy the lift.

      Check out Greg Smith Equipment on the web ( http://www.gregsmithequipment.com/Direct-Lift-Pro-Park-9-PLUS )

      I know this is a blatant ad for ProPark. I don’t sell their equipment and I don’t hold stock in their company. I just have a really great lift.

      • Scott
        October 12, 2012 at 11:08 pm

        six. Should be “puts the car six and a half…”

      • Scott
        October 12, 2012 at 11:19 pm

        And BTW, just to stay on topic, I just used my lift to replace the timing belt on my ’85 Porsche 928. Now, just to make sure everyone understand, the 928 is a 32 valve 8 cylinder 5 liter aluminum block engine that makes around 300 horses stock. It weighs in at around 2800 lbs. soaking wet because it has an aluminum body (doesn’t rust) you can buy one for scrap on eBay for about $1500, they’re between $12,000 and $25,000 restored.

        They blow the doors off 1970’s TA’s on a regular basis if you have any turns on the course :) TA’s are good at running fast in a straight line…

        • dom
          October 12, 2012 at 11:25 pm

          Wow, it really shows how much I know. I thought these things were dogs. Top speed of 146mph stock!

          Holy smokes!

          Porsche 928

          • Scott
            October 13, 2012 at 12:07 am

            Hey Dom. According to Porsche literature the car will do 198 mph stock. I can’t vouch for this since I’ve never taken mine above 130. If you were on a straight course you could probably crank it to 198. I opened mine up while I was testing a suspension change on CA Hwy 1 in 1987 and I made 130 before I got a menacing shimmy in the front end and backed off. Turned out to be a bent A arm on the passenger side, which I replaced.

            The only problem with the 928 is parts cost. I solved that by buying a junker out of Florida from eBay, then shipping the car cheap. The wheels alone where worth $2000 so you can really save some money that way.

          • dom
            October 13, 2012 at 12:55 am

            What rpm are you sitting at doing 130 in top gear, and what is the red line?

            I can’t believe I never knew these cars haul ass.

            • October 13, 2012 at 10:16 am

              Off topic a little, but you should check out the current Corvette for long legs….

              In sixth, the engine is barely turning 1,800 RPM at 75. At 145 at the top of fourth, the thing is just warming up….

          • October 13, 2012 at 9:52 am

            It’s the 924 (early models) that’s the dog!

          • Scott
            October 14, 2012 at 6:31 am

            Hey Dom. I was in 3rd at 130, redline is 7200 I think and I was keeping it around 4000 as I recall (it was 25 years ago). Mine’s a 4 speed auto with overdrive.

            The 928S type is best driven with an automatic transmission in my opinion. This mostly violates my concept of a true sports car, but then the 929 is a GT. I’ve heard Porsche designed the car for the automatic but some purists prefer the manual. From a numbers point of view, the automatic is faster 0-60. I shift the transmission manually when I’m paying attention to the road (for example, on roads other than freeways), from my experience the only difference is I don’t have a clutch and the pattern is really simple.

            • October 14, 2012 at 9:24 am

              Automatics work great with torque-heavy V-8s!

          • Scott
            October 14, 2012 at 11:30 pm

            Dom, I got the redline wrong, it isn’t 7200. That’s when the rev limiter kicks in and starts shutting down ignition. According to the tach it redlines at 6000.

          • dom
            October 15, 2012 at 2:53 am

            Sounds like one hell of a car. 130mph in third is amazing!

        • October 12, 2012 at 11:47 pm

          I love the 928’s. I have 2 of them. A 79 that is running well. I did the timing belt myself as well. Replaced the gears with htd when I did it because that’s a much better design. If yours is 85 you’ve already got htd. Then the 78 I got for $1k with the engine in pieces. I’ve got the engine back in the car, but still need to put the intake, fuel injection, and accessories back on.

          • October 12, 2012 at 11:58 pm

            Here’s mine. The black one is the runner. It’s not the quickest on the 0-60, but it will do every bit of 140 when you get on it.

            Runner

            • October 13, 2012 at 9:49 am

              These are my favorite Porsches – for the obvious reason…!

              Look like you’ve got some meats on that thing… and only 140? I thought these cars were good for around 150, stock?

          • Scott
            October 13, 2012 at 1:09 am

            Turd! You keep the ramps on your lift when it’s off the ground! I’ve been thinking about that myself, never had the guts to try it :)

            I’ll go down and try to shoot a picture of my twins. Both are black (I like the Guards Red you have on the left) but I have them in different bays. Maybe tomorrow I’ll charge the battery on my parts car and try to get an over under shot.

          • Scott
            October 14, 2012 at 6:49 am

            Couldn’t figure out how to post a picture here so I didn’t. Oh well…

          • Scott
            October 27, 2012 at 10:24 am

            As promised, here’s a shot of the Batmobile (and Robin) on the lift:

            http://i1286.photobucket.com/albums/a601/badgerBrush/928Twinssmall_zps29792369.jpg

        • October 13, 2012 at 9:55 am

          The 928 is one of my favorite exotics, right up there with the Pantera and (wait for it, now) Jensen Interceptor. All, of course, have V-8s.

          Of the three, I’ve only driven one – a Pantera. It’s a crazy car. 351 Cleveland V-8 sucking air right behind your head!

          • MoT
            October 14, 2012 at 2:17 am

            Pantera with Cleveland? Boy! That brings back memories. How about the Mangusta? Of course I fell in love with the early Lamborghini Miura and Islero. Sigh! There are just too many wonderful rides out there. And Jensen? I read where they’re releasing a new one. Will wonders never cease?

            • October 14, 2012 at 9:44 am

              Those cars – and that era – were top-drawer in my book. They may not have been as quick/fast as the new stuff in stock condition. But they could very easily be made extremely quick and fast. And unlike the current stuff, they were minimally nannied. Imagine: No ABS, traction control or air bags. You want to fry the tires? Then fry the tires!

              Of course they were more “dangerous” – in the hands of idiots. But that situation sorted itself out naturally, by process of elimination. The rest of us were left free to have fun.

          • Scott
            October 27, 2012 at 10:45 am

            Sometimes I imagine a series of pictures like the evolution drawings starting with Australopithecus and finishing with Homo Sap, but with an AMC Gremlin followed by a Jensen Interceptor and finishing with a Porsche 928.

        • Tre Deuce
          October 14, 2012 at 3:56 am

          928’s are still one of the worlds greatest cars…ever.

          I have a complete engine(DOHC-4 valve) from one, under glass for a coffee table in my Gear Head lounge/cave at the shop. Top Gear has the block of one in their studio.

          From about 85′ on, the 928’s could easily attain speeds in excess of 160 MPH. The later DOHC models, could hit 185 Plus.

          I recently picked one up for $800.00 and it now runs and drives. The one before that cost all of $1,200, and had been sitting in a garage for 13 years. Owner parked it after the tranny started acting up and the engine light came on. Fix…dirty/plugged filter screen and oil pressure sender switch.

          But it still needed a lot of soft parts and seals, consumables, etc. after sitting for so long. Total cost to bring it up to snuff totaled nearly $4,000, plus time. But at 64,000 miles, it is nearly perfect. It now resides at a friends in St. Pete and is shown at local meets with a few best of show trophy’s/plagues, a credit to its pristine original condition.

          928’s are only for the dedicated handy with some cash or those with deep pockets, no matter if you get one free. But the reward is a sublime GT experience. Did I mention the exhaust sound with Borla performance exhaust..Pricless!

          Old cars are fun. Get one today.

          http://www.928intl.com/

        • paul
          October 15, 2012 at 2:25 pm

          See movie “Risky Business” for great 928 scenes..at one point Tom Cruise (re his fathers car) remarks ” Porsche..there is no substitute”

      • October 12, 2012 at 11:42 pm

        The one I’ve got is a Danmar with 9000 lb capacity and 85″ max lift height. It’s the extra long one so I can put my suburban on it with no problem. I do wish though that I’d spent the extra $400 and gotten the sliding jack to go along with it so I could have wheels up too. I’ll probably just wait to find someone selling a used 2 post. An extra lift is always a good thing to have.

      • October 13, 2012 at 10:21 am

        I need one of these… badly… I am sick of crawling around on the floor…. getting too old to be crawling around on the damn floor!

        • Boothe
          October 14, 2012 at 1:12 pm

          I know what you mean Eric. I’ve got a big shop building, floor jacks, engine hoist, engine stands and even a transmission jack (which also doubles as a pretty good motorcycle jack), but no lift. I’m 53 and an afternoon of “quality time” spent under a vehicle takes it’s toll on my back for a couple days now. I see a lift in my near future.

          • dom
            October 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm

            I’m 35 and have thrown my back out too many times to count (pulling engines out by hand, construction work, and other labor work didn’t help). I have a motorcycle lift, but this thread has me seriously considering how I’d be able to get a building and lift erected. I’m not sure of the county ordinances, but think the garage can’t be higher than the house. I have some research to do.

      • Scott
        October 16, 2012 at 1:56 am

        Turd? How did you manage to post that picture of your stable? I’d like to return the favor but I have to admit I can’t figure it out on my own.

        I just spent another day trying to figure out what’s wrong with my driver. It started having cold start problems a few years ago, nothing serious (I thought at the time) but it started to be annoying so I did a 60K service on it starting last March. New plugs, new distributors, new rotors, new timing and accessory belts. After I was all done she started right up, reved to around 1500, sputtered and died. Pretty much the same thing she was doing before the service. If I sit in the car and finesse the throttle until she warms up she runs fine.

        I traced all the plug wires twice, no joy. Yesterday I went through all the grounds and cleaned them up, didn’t help. Today I pulled the Temperature II sensor and tested in in ice water and my hot tub (104F)– it checked out perfectly.

        I’m almost at my wits end. I ordered a new lambda sensor, which should be here in a few days, along with some stuff that’s supposed to clean the MAF sensor (Mass Air Flow).

        Any suggestions would be appreciated. I’m really beat…

        • dom
          October 16, 2012 at 2:01 am

          Post the link/s and I’ll take care of it for you. I usually comb the site a few times a day and clean things up.

          • Scott
            October 16, 2012 at 2:42 am

            So upload the pics to something like Photobucket and post the link?

            Cool. I can do that :)

    • October 13, 2012 at 10:26 am

      Turd,

      Love it! (And what a great score you made on the Boxster!)

      I’ve turned over the idea of doing something like you did, but with older bikes. Similar situation, but with a twist: Many dealers won’t touch old bikes – and/or they have no clue how to work on them. Typically, the owner is frustrated because the bike won’t start, or it will idle but that’s all, or it surges badly… or gas is leaching out of the bowls… all usually easy fixes if you know how to tear down a carburetor, clean it, tune it, etc.

      You can find bikes like this – mechanically sound, usually still decent looking – for $1,000 or less ob Craigs and so on. Buy ‘em, repair ‘em and sell ‘em for a tidy profit!

      • Boothe
        October 15, 2012 at 2:00 pm

        Right on Eric! I warned my wife about a month ago that I intend to do the same thing. I just picked up an ’05 Kaw Z1000 for $2200 with only 4500 miles on it. Even with some TLC that it needs, I’ll bet I can make an easy grand on that bike next spring (probably more) and in the mean time, I’ll get to ride a really cool street fighter. As gas prices continue to take two steps forward and only one step back, motorcycle and scooter use in the country will increase exponentially. Even my non-motorcycling spouse is taking notice of increased two wheeler traffic. We’re becoming Europe.

        I frequently see older bikes sitting around in people’s yards in various stages of disassembly. Unfinished projects like those can often be had for a song. Since I know how to work on vintage bikes (and how to correctly rebuild carburetors), have more than enough shop space and tools, along with a passion for motorcycles in general, it would be just as good a fit for me as it is for you. Great minds do indeed think alike! :D

  15. October 12, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    I fully agree, just picked up an excellent running 95 Tercel with 130k miles for well under a grand. I had to completly redo the interior due to vandalism that happened before I bought it. It averages 36 mpg commuting and I have not even started modifying it for better mileage yet. The money in gas & repairs I save by leaving my Chevy Van (90K miles sloppyy steering with random stuff breaking now and then) in the barn except to haul bikes around on the weekend, will pay for it including the cost of the new seats in a year. There are good deals to be had but don’t wait, if you have the cash go get one now. Just try not to pay more than you could re-sell it for as junk, in case what you buy turns out to be a dog.

  16. October 12, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    speaking of stocking up on used cars. I recently got the itch to look at jeep wranglers. i saw a ’97 for sale locally for a decent price. i only ever rode/drove in a few offroad wranglers of friends and they were all late 80’s versions with aggressive lift kits and tire packages and never thought they were my kind of vehicle (i stuck with japanese performance cars).
    but this 97 was just so much simpler than my truck and more bare bones, it only had the essentials. it was a 4.0L with a 5 speed and no lift kit.
    I am a complete noob in terms of 4WD/offroading and jeeps in general but wanted to pick peoples’ brains on the subject here bc I knew there likely would be some expertise on whether it is even a good idea and what to look for and look out for.
    thanks all

    • GW
      October 12, 2012 at 5:56 pm

      IF I recall… the 4.0L engine had the best reputation of the engine options offered around that time. One of the big knocks on jeep according to my B-I-L who runs a shop was that the brake system on the jeep was a weak point and was the primary reason for jeeps in his shop at the time.

      • Tre Deuce
        October 14, 2012 at 3:09 am

        Yes! ‘GW’,

        Don’t buy an old Cherokee with the Ford supplied ‘Anti-skid’. Not fixable or rebuild-able. This also applies to any Ford product of the same era with anti-skid.

        The 4.0 L6 is a rocket. Put one in my old 76′ Hornet ‘Sportabout’. Flat flew, and managed nearly the same MPG as the old 232″.

        http://www.stationwagon.com/gallery/1976_AMC_Hornet_Sportabout.html

    • October 12, 2012 at 6:39 pm

      Avoid the Wranglers with square headlights and leaf springs on all 4 corners, get the one with coil springs,

      the difference in ride and handling is very noticeable.

      • dom
        October 12, 2012 at 10:56 pm

        Yes it is! My mom purchased the first year they came with the coils all the way around. I think it was 1998. What an awesome jeep that was. I’d love to get another!

    • Boothe
      October 12, 2012 at 8:18 pm

      Harry p., I’ve written about Wranglers on this site before. I own a ’93 which is in the YJ series (rectangular headlights) and use it topless and door-less for summer time fun and it becomes my primary commuter when the weather turns cold and snowy. It has the multi-port fuel injected 4.0L inline six with minor mods (full Borla stainless exhaust, AFE cold air intake, mildly upgraded injectors from Five-o Motorsports) in front of a three speed automatic. I would equate the performance to a stock small block V8; it’s no hotrod, but it’s no slouch either. The YJs have a solid front axle with leaf springs all four corners. The ’97 you’re looking at is in the TJ series (round headlights). It has coil spring suspension and a much more civilized interior (among other things). I suspect it has airbags; mine does not. My son has a 97 TJ and I can tell you that it handles a bit better on the highway and (with the 5 speed) gets better gas mileage than mine. But it’s still a Jeep and most folks would consider it a Spartan vehicle.

      I rented a new 4.0 TJ Wrangler and drove it all over North Carolina (from the coast to the hills) doing field service work back around ’04. I was able to average about 17 MPG with stock tires and a 4 speed OD automatic. My 93 running on LT245/75R16 Pitbull Growlers (best snow tire I’ve ever run BTW) gets around 14 -15 MPG. Remember, the Wrangler (or anything based on the old military jeep) has the aerodynamics of a brick so economical they are not. I have a hard top on mine and it’s a noisy ride. Soft tops are worse. It has various (normal for a Jeep) leaks in the cab so the air conditioning almost works; it works fine mechanically, it just can’t quite keep up, what with the black fiberglass top and air leaks at peak summer heat (but the top’s usually off so that point is moot). However, the heat does work well enough to keep you comfortable in the winter (after it warms up, you don’t need a jacket down to single digits). Did I mention that it’s noisy and the cab leaks air?

      Wranglers aren’t “unsafe” as some have claimed in the past (i.e. they aren’t prone to flip under normal driving conditions). However if you’re into good handling, consider a Miata not a Wrangler. If you’re into comfort and need 4WD or AWD then maybe a used Explorer would suit you (I picked up a ‘96 Eddie Bauer edition with a 5.0, all the amenities including AWD at only $4600 with 85K on it in 2008). It has a real ignition key and I can work on it with minimal specialty tools (mainly you need a good code scanner). I can work on the Wrangler with virtually no specialty tools . . . on the side of the road.

      So, if you want a simple, rugged vehicle that you can take the top and doors off of in the summer and you’d fit in with of a fraternity of rugged individualistic outdoorsy types, the Wrangler is probably for you. If you buy sun screen in bulk, have a hard time changing a tire and don’t like to touch raw meat with your bare hands, not so much.

      • jay
        October 16, 2012 at 12:08 am

        I just put a reman’ engine in my 89 Wrangler(blew an oil seal at 240K miles, figured now is the time).

        I’m 63, I may never buy another car.

        • Slave
          October 16, 2012 at 1:47 pm

          Just throwing this in here: But how can they put auto-stop in a manual transmission car?

          And if you had an auto (an odd concept) but could you prevent the auto-stop from engaging by just creeping up slowly to the red light in front of you? and never actually stop?

          • BrentP
            October 16, 2012 at 4:54 pm

            For an MT the the detect switch already in the clutch pedal assembly (thanks 60 minutes*!) and an additional detect switch to see if the trans is in neutral. From there it’s software:

            If clutch pedal not depressed or trans in neutral then do not start.

            *they appeared after the audi acceleration nonsense, may or may not be related.

  17. mikehell
    October 12, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    I’ve mentioned this business idea before but I’ll post it here again. If any one out there is good with a wrench and has some money sense (or knows a trustworthy person who does), then there is a niche market for rebuilding and refreshening 90’s era small Japanese pickups. I know this because in the spring I was on the market for such a truck and couldn’t believe how tight the market is, especially for trucks in good working shape. I finally found a ’94 toyota that the owner had started to restore but lost interest in so he put it on the market. Everywhere I go I get compliments on how sweet the truck is. I also notice a wistful look in people’s eyes when they contemplate the demise of affordable trucks that get decent gas mileage. And let’s face it, very few truck owners need much more cargo space than what a micro-truck can carry so what’s the point in buying a huge vehicle that can barely eke out 17 mpg on the highway? Moreover, with the CAFE standards that Eric mentions it is not clear what is going to happen to even the cheapest of new small trucks. Most new micros only get about 25 mpg so they could be set for the chopping block. This is a sad state of affairs but where there is uncertainty there is also opportunity. If I had mechanical skills I might pursue this myself, but I don’t so I’m hoping someone else might run with it. Contact me here if you’d like to talk about it more.

    • October 12, 2012 at 4:06 pm

      i agree and have talked about a similar idea with friends, we all have wrenching experience on hondas, toyotas and subarus.
      but the problem as I see it (alteast wehre we live) is the business licenses and requirements of selling enough redone vehicles to make it worth it is ridiculous.
      you are required to have a showroom, when parked they must be positioned so that the doors can be opened without moving any of the cars just to name a few.
      It is just mindnumbingly stupid. another case of regulations killing the entrepeneurs ideas…

      • liberranter
        October 14, 2012 at 12:25 am

        he problem as I see it (alteast wehre we live) is the business licenses and requirements of selling enough redone vehicles to make it worth it is ridiculous.
        you are required to have a showroom, when parked they must be positioned so that the doors can be opened without moving any of the cars just to name a few.
        It is just mindnumbingly stupid. another case of regulations killing the entrepeneurs ideas…

        This is why anyone who would play by the rules and start a new business “above ground” is a fool. The key to your and Mike’s business idea is to figure out a way to do it “underground.” It won’t be easy, but I’m sure someone out there will come up with a way to make it work.

    • BrentP
      October 12, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      The problem in my area is rust. Toyota trucks rust out. They are essentially gone.

      Wonder if road salt is part of the conspiracy :)

      • October 12, 2012 at 9:58 pm

        Wouldn’t surprise me one bit on that conspiracy theory. I live in a state that doesn’t get much snow and ice, but when we do the dot puts down a layer of gravel and sand which seems to provide pretty good traction.

    • mikehell
      October 12, 2012 at 6:14 pm

      Hey! Are you Ameri-cans or Ameri-can’ts? :) Where there’s a reg there’s a loophole; where there’s rust there’s stronger demand (and oxygen and water).

      Seriously, there are workarounds for most problems. Start a small shop and sell by word of mouth at first. If you’re quiet about it, the govmt goons won’t find you until after you’re established and have enough capital built-up to afford their stupid regs. And to make any money you’d have to buy trucks and parts from outside the rust zone anyway so the rust issue is not fatal.

      • BrentP
        October 12, 2012 at 9:37 pm

        The problem is the cost side of obtaining the raw materials. Demand isn’t good enough to overcome it either.

        It’s an extra $500+ a truck to bring them in from other areas or lots more than $500 fixing the rust. The beds and frames rust on them. Very serious work and very serious liability issues.

        There just isn’t enough money to be made for the work involved in those particular trucks around here.

        However, it is IMO, and I have written it before, that auto rebuilding, restomoding, is going to be a viable business in the future. It is only a matter of time. Then it will become illegal. To save the erf.

      • liberranter
        October 14, 2012 at 12:27 am

        EXACTLY, Mike.

    • Tre Deuce
      October 14, 2012 at 2:54 am

      Yup! There is ‘Mikehell’,

      Actually the 80’s seem to be more popular with the ‘720’ Nissans and early to mid eighties Toyo’s highly sought after around here.

      Had a couple thirteen year old’s ride up my Dad’s drive because they saw my old 84′ Nissan parked outside his shop. They knew what year it was and the model ‘720’ designation and even some of the options. Even knew that it had a dual plug engine.
      Though, disappointed it wasn’t for sale, they checked her out, thoroughly, anyway…col! Who said, kids weren’t interested in cars these days.

      There seems to be be a lot more interest in mid to late seventies and eighties cars/pick-ups these days. The high price of 73′ and older cars, is moving the interest to the later years. Nice ones and refreshed ones, bring some pretty good bucks these days.

      The boys that hang around the shop are trying to talk me into buying older cars and fluffing them for resale like Counts Cars, Fast & Loud, Texas Car Wars, do. Never even knew those shows existed until 2-weeks ago, I don’t have much time for TV, so I’m culturally deprived. But it sounds like to much frustrating work, and I’m to old to deal with a bunch of employees again. Then again…?

      I am contemplating an old idea of buying up old Miata’s/RX-7’s, E-30’s/E36’s/Z-3’s, Porsche 928’s/944’s, Merc’s, C4 Corvettes/Gen-2 & Gen-3 Camaro’s, and warehousing them in a new vertical stack storage facility. Maybe I should include certain old pick-ups?

      Licensing here in Southern Oregon for parting and selling cars is quite reasonable and with some consideration for DEQ and zoning.

      No licensing is required for wrenching…give them time and even that will require a tax license. Jesus couldn’t even ply his carpentry skills with out a ‘bond and license’ in today’s America. And due to the meddling of the ‘AIA’, Frank Lloyd Wright couldn’t legally call himself and Architect.

      And so it goes…That is why building Phantoms, Hot Rods, and Bobber’s is so relaxing… That and not turning on the corporate noise machines…Faux’s Noise, Etc.

  18. BrentP
    October 12, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    I would assume that the way the starter engages and disengages the ring gear has been altered. That’s the weak point, not the electric motor itself. The ability to make an electric motor that runs for decades on end goes back probably to the 1950s if not further.

    A magnetic clutch to connect the motor to the pinion rather than a solenoid to push the pinion into the ring gear should solve the durability issues. At least that’s what 30 seconds of engineering thought comes up with. There are probably other ways. Magnetic clutches can cycle and cycle and cycle. They are used on automotive AC compressors.

    What I would worry about more is GM quality. Engineering the system to last is no problem. Engineering it and manufacturing it for GM’s cost targets is another.

    • October 12, 2012 at 2:29 pm

      Yup – and GM’s Harrison AC compressor clutches are typically good for about 70k!

    • dc.sunsets
      October 15, 2012 at 12:39 pm

      Engines that stop frequently/randomly is built-in to Toyota hybrids, and presumably has worked okay since the Prius debuted in 2000. That’s 12 years to prove or fail.

      Eric, you think the engine cutting out at a light is weird? Try a Camry hybrid where it happens anytime you’re coasting on a warm engine. The engine may stop/start >20 times on a 3 mile trip.

      I do, however, concur with your worries. The hybrid I bought is a whole step more complex than a “regular” car, and while recapturing otherwise lost braking (or coasting) energy via the electric system so it can be used at low speed or to add power on acceleration seems wise, I fear it weds me to Toyota Brand Service and involves unknown (higher) maintenance costs or early retirement (earlier than the 15-20 years I like to run a car).

      I often wonder if I should find a ’67 Ford 1/2 ton pickup and put it into storage for the coming Mad Max beyond Obamadome.

      • October 15, 2012 at 12:49 pm

        Hi DC,

        Yup – that’s the nut of it.

        No doubt, the system can work reliably – and for a long time. But when it does malfunction – and it will, eventually – expect the repair costs to be high. And of course, there’s the “up front” costs to take into account as well. The Prius, for example, costs several thousand dollars more, all else being equal, than a comparable non-hybrid car. This is true for any hybrid, relative to a non-hybrid equivalent.

        No free lunch is the bottom line.

        It is certainly doable, from a technical point of view, to make cars more fuel efficient. But given the constraints imposed by the need to also make them “safe” (as defined by Uncle) this will be neither easy nor inexpensive.

        • dc.sunsets
          October 15, 2012 at 2:43 pm

          Hi Eric. For me, the Prius is way too expensive for what you get. The hybrid Camry was closer to a good value, and (at least for the moment) resale is better than comparable cars, important to me in the event I need to convert the car back to cash prematurely (should my employment condition worsen).

          No doubt that at some point the political demands will put one too many straws on the proverbial camel, and transportation as we know it will undergo a visible paradigm shift. I doubt any of us will appreciate that shift’s direction.

          As it is, they’re precipitously shrinking the market value of our money while acting to make things more expensive in real terms. One wonders how long human ingenuity and initiative can keep pace with collective human stupidity.

      • BrentP
        October 15, 2012 at 5:14 pm

        I know it can be done. The question is doing it at a mass market price point while paying UAW labor rates.

        The hybrids so far have the price supports to be able to do it the right way. A hybrid can also do it in different ways depending on the sort of hybrid it is. If the gas engine can mechanically drive the car the gas engine can be started using the main line electric motors via the transmission. If it doesn’t directly drive the car it can be done in a variety of stationary engine ways too.

        The question becomes what it always is with government interference, maintain the customer’s desired price point or maintain the customer’s desired durability/reliability requirements or what it takes to do both. The further government pushes ‘both’ becomes less and less likely.

  19. Eric_G
    October 12, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Last night I heard a sound bite from an Obama campaign rally. He was speaking of his accomplishments, one of which was “your car will get 50MPG because of me!”

    This got me thinking about physics and the fuel mileage I got on my recent trip back east. As you know, large areas of the west have 75MPH speed limits on the highways, and a few 80 or more. My diesel averages about 38MPG here in Colorado, with a mix of 75MPH and high altitude driving. When I was in Pennsylvania, I saw a much higher 45MPG, but I was lower in altitude, and more importantly, was traveling much slower since the max speed limit was 65.

    So the question is, who will lower the speed limit first? Will we go back to the bad old days of 55 on the highway, or will the car makers put a governor on your engine to prevent jack rabbit starts, quick acceleration and max you out at 60? Because that’s the only way I see hitting the targets set even with smaller engines. You can’t fight physics.

    • BrentP
      October 12, 2012 at 2:04 pm

      “your car will get 50MPG becuase of me!”

      That’s one of the things I really dislike about human society. That the bulk of it thinks that ‘management’ some guy who pens some edict is one who did it. Engineers? who are they? It’s magic and the magic man said it so it shall be!

      Want a 50mpg car? Go buy one. If enough people buy them there will be more of them. No edict of a magic man required.

      • Eric_G
        October 13, 2012 at 12:39 am

        The real crime is the history class where technological advancement is downplayed in order to prop up political leaders. Why did Britain rule the seas? Because they had access to cheap lumber and the Harrison chronometer? NO, because Queen Victoria said so!

        Why did the south lose the Civil War? Logistics, communications and access to foundries? NO! It was because God was on the side of the north (or some such nonsense).

        John Kennedy makes a magic speech and next thing you know we’re landing men on the moon.

        • BrentP
          October 13, 2012 at 1:20 am

          It’s not just history class. It’s the culture and what it rewards.

          Even when it gets closer it worships Steve Jobs instead of Woz.

          What society values is so imbalanced that the outcome of the political process can also only be imbalanced.

          • jason
            October 15, 2012 at 9:27 pm

            People do not value production, instead they believe in imagination. They imagine a world that does not use petroleum products, and they believe by shear force of will that it will happen. Ideology over science and hard fought idea’s. Truly we are headed for the 2nd dark age.

        • Tor Munkov
          October 13, 2012 at 11:47 pm

          That should be the first principle of libertarianism. It is important in situations where it impacts human action and social cooperation, but always less than productive action and the finding of new solutions or technology.
          Building Libertarianism into a massive edifice that rivals Keynesianism or christian self-sacrificing altruism is not a necessary principle of the movement.
          Libertarianism should be political and self-serving only as much as needed to free individuals and their private property.
          Talk is cheap, a libertarian mind and way of action can be valuable if it is used to create value.
          We should tear down totem poles and tribal taboos, not put Ron Paul on Mt Rushmore or make clover driving illegal.

          • Ed
            October 15, 2012 at 11:04 am

            “Building Libertarianism into a massive edifice that rivals Keynesianism or christian self-sacrificing altruism is not a necessary principle of the movement.”

            True, that. Mt eyes glaze over when a debate starts over what should be the “correct Libertarian position” on which way the toilet paper is loaded into the holder. One of the idolized icons of Libertarian thought, Dr. Walter Block, just bores me to tears while some seem to just dote on his every word.

            Thanks for mentioning this.

      • liberranter
        October 14, 2012 at 12:22 am

        By the way, and of a piece with what you say here, in the last 24 hours I’ve been asked by no fewer than 10 people, half of them random strangers, whether or not I watched the vice presidential candidate “debate.” People actually looked at me in disbelief when I told them that I’d sooner watch my just-washed clothes dry, which I felt was a much more productive use of my time. What kind of absolutely brainless society do we live in when supposedly adult men and women with few precious life-minutes to spare waste time listening to and hanging their every second of attention on something that two second-rate political hacks have to say, nonsense that said supposed adults know damned well are hot air and lies?

        • Tor Munkov
          October 14, 2012 at 12:44 am

          Maybe its a type of game, like chess? If so, I think IBM could crush the humans with a supercomputer and a cyber debater done in CGI. I would watch them try to match wits with “Deep Brown”
          Deep Brown, powered by George Lucas, silicon valley, and every comedian, orator, and internet smartass offering dialog realtime would be unbeatable.

    • Hot Rod
      October 16, 2012 at 2:12 am

      Hi Eric,

      Great advice. I’m stocked up on old cars and I suspect this will end like the low flush toilets. With old style thrones to be worshiped, and stinky government sewers that don’t flush because city residents don’t flush the sewers with enough volume water to move solids downstream. Old cars like old style toilets with their oversized water resevoirs will fetch a premium. I’d imagine that the idea of the government purchase and destruction of old cars a few years ago probably had something to do with the next stage you are predicting/warning to be coming.

      • October 16, 2012 at 9:30 am

        Thanks, HR –

        And, yeah – that’s my sense of things. As others have observed, mere stupidity would occasionally work in our favor. But these “mistakes” all tend in the same direction. I see a concerted. deliberate effort to make personal transportation more and more expensive, which will limit personal transportation more and more. The elites don’t want to “save the planet.” They want the planet all for themselves.

        • BrentP
          October 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm

          I don’t know if it is by conditioning or by nature but very few people can see trends. Fewer yet can see trends and follow if-then-else logic. Maybe I’m strange because I started programming computers at 11 years old so it conditioned me to follow logic and visualize systems or perhaps it was just my nature to see if-this-then-that.

          When I learned statistical process control, statistical tolerance analysis on top of all the basic engineering data taking and analysis (fits, trends, etc) only reinforced things. I visualize it in my head. I take data in my head. I know exactly what minimum rate of acceleration I need on green from light A to catch the green on light B. However less than 1 out of every 20 other drivers does. And since the vast majority of people I see on the road drive the same roads at the same times day in and day out…. It also doesn’t matter what they are driving. At times that one of out of 20 driver is piloting a UPS truck or something of equally low performance.

          Then there is the news, politics and world events. Trend it. It becomes clear that the coincidence theory is complete and utter crap. If coincidence theory were correct, for every new controlling piece of legislation there would be one that freed things up. For every lone nut that did something benefiting the power structure there would be a lone nut that hurt it. But lone nuts never seem to hurt the power structure, only conveniently solving problems for it.

          Sure there are sometimes some random events in both directions, but it’s like noise sprinkled on the data. There’s a very clear trend. Clear for anyone to see who wants to see it.

          So this is why “conspiracy theory” is socially looked down upon. Conspiracy theory, good conspiracy theory, comes from data. Even the worst conspiracy theory comes from data, just bad data. But it always draws from points. Coincidence theory is just the dismissal of data without analysis. It’s action-reaction. No higher thought put in. Anything beyond random events is what someone else in authority told them.

          I don’t have much hope for humanity when most of its members see traffic lights as random events. I’ve seen better if-then-else logic and predictive ability through data displayed by some dogs than I see by most americans I encounter.

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