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Thread: Another thing missing from new cars

  1. #1
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    Another thing missing from new cars

    Much has been said here about things we no longer see in today's vehicles. Manual windows, column mounted shifters in passenger cars, cassette players, 8 tracks, floor mounted dimmer switches, leaded gasoline, carburetors, three on the tree transmissions, and even oil cans made of cardboard have been mentioned. Those things were relics of a lost era, one that we will never see the likes of again.

    From about 1959 to 1990, many domestically manufactured cars came with a vast dashboard with a fuel gauge, turn indicators, a few "idiot" lights, maybe a temp gauge, and a huge horizontal speedometer. During the 1960's to the early 1970's, the speedometer usually read 120 mph. On a few high performance Chrysler products, it read 150 mph. On some specially equipped police models, it read 140 mph. That last number is what us kids used to compare the top speed of our dad's cars, until about 1974, the year we got stuck with the 55 mph speed limit. Those estimates of top speed may have been more accurate than the speedometers themselves. When the car was more than a couple of years old, you would see the needle bounce around by about 10 mph regardless of the speed. A bouncing needle usually could be corrected by replacing the speedometer cable, but most people didn't bother.

    The death of the horizontal speedometer began in the middle 1970's. Following the oil embargo of 1973-74, automakers reduced the maximum speed reading of their units to 100 mph. General Motors, in an attempt to be creative, slipped a 95 mph in between the 90 and 100 mph divisions. Ford did the same in its full sized cars for 1975. In 1977, GM and Ford both began manufacturing speedometers that read only 80 mph for some of their vehicles. By the early 1980's a few horizontal units could be found on GM's A-body cars, but that was the exception rather than the rule.

    As cars were downsized and interiors reworked, there was little room for an indulgence like the horizontal speedometer. It was replaced with the standard water temp, fuel gauge, tach and speedo setup virtually standard on every vehicle manufactured today. (Automakers attempted to replace the large speedo with LCD or LED clusters, but that attempt largely failed.) Today, speedometers read anywhere from 100 to 200 mph with 130-140 being the most common maximum reading. Just like yesterday, the top reading does not correlate any more than the old units did with top speed. Unlike yesterday, today's kids are not interested in talking about that top number.

    I don't particularly miss it, but the horizontal speedometer was an institution in many American cars. Its passing should also be noted.

    Here's a look at some of them:

    http://www.examiner.com/x-6699-Pitts...l-speedometers
    Last edited by swamprat; 01-07-2010 at 09:38 PM.

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    Eric with all that stuff they plan on putting in the dashboard won't it distract drivers to the point of more accidents? Perhaps the government should put something in the roads so cars can space themselves out better and eliminate accidents? Will that be the future of driving?

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    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Remember the long horizontal speedos that changed colors? I learned to drive on a 1960 oldsmobile wagon that started out green, as you sped up it turned yellow and when you went faster, it turned red. The speedo was a good 12 inches wide. The neatest speedometer I remember was on the 1960 Chryslers. It was a dome sticking out from the dash with little gauges poking up from the floor of it. Really cool 3-D effect.
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    Quote Originally Posted by grouch View Post
    Remember the long horizontal speedos that changed colors? I learned to drive on a 1960 oldsmobile wagon that started out green, as you sped up it turned yellow and when you went faster, it turned red. The speedo was a good 12 inches wide. The neatest speedometer I remember was on the 1960 Chryslers. It was a dome sticking out from the dash with little gauges poking up from the floor of it. Really cool 3-D effect.
    That's pretty cool. I don't remember that one. I remember an circa 1970-72 Javelin which had a round speedo that had colored lines on it. From 0-70 there was no color. From 70-100 it was orange. From 100-150, it was colored red.

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adam View Post
    Eric with all that stuff they plan on putting in the dashboard won't it distract drivers to the point of more accidents? Perhaps the government should put something in the roads so cars can space themselves out better and eliminate accidents? Will that be the future of driving?
    My opinion - a qualified yes.

    Take an already not-so-great driver and present him or her with a Battlestar Galactica-like array of buttons, switches, displays and so on - and you end up with an even worse driver.

    Many of the new cars I test drive are frustratingly "over-teched"- too much stuff, often operated by overly complicated controls (such as computer-like "mice").

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    The big Oldsmobiles I grew up with in the '70s had those wide speedos; I remember them well!

    Also: The 1970-1974 Firebirds had 160 mph speedos...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    The big Oldsmobiles I grew up with in the '70s had those wide speedos; I remember them well!

    Also: The 1970-1974 Firebirds had 160 mph speedos...
    Oops, I remember that. I couldn't believe that they spent money on giving us 100 mph speedos in the mid 1970's, before the regulations kicked in. FMVSS 127 didn't take effect until the 1980 model year. Reagan got rid of the regulation by October 1981. 1982 was the last official year for the 85 mph speedometer, although American car companies did not start ditching them until the late 1980s.
    Last edited by swamprat; 01-08-2010 at 08:18 AM.

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by swamprat View Post
    Oops, I remember that. I couldn't believe that they spent money on giving us 100 mph speedos in the mid 1970's, before the regulations kicked in. FMVSS didn't take effect until the 1980 model year. Reagan got rid of the regulation by October 1981. 1982 was the last official year for the 85 mph speedometer, although American car companies did not start ditching them until the late 1980s.
    The 100 mph speedos made the car feel faster!

    In a few of the almost-fast cars of the mid-late '70s, it made for some small amusement as it was easy to twist the needle completely around the clock and back to the 5-10 mph mark!

    That little pleasure is much harder to do today, with 150 (and even 200 mph) speedos!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    The 100 mph speedos made the car feel faster!

    In a few of the almost-fast cars of the mid-late '70s, it made for some small amusement as it was easy to twist the needle completely around the clock and back to the 5-10 mph mark!

    That little pleasure is much harder to do today, with 150 (and even 200 mph) speedos!

    Yeah, it is all but impossible to do that today. For example, my Saturn has a 130 mph unit, but the top speed is limited to shy of 115 mph.

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by swamprat View Post
    Yeah, it is all but impossible to do that today. For example, my Saturn has a 130 mph unit, but the top speed is limited to shy of 115 mph.
    One thing most people don't realize is that, even if you have a very powerful car that's capable of exceeding 150 mph, it is very hard (in most populated parts of the country) to get going that fast. Even if there aren't Maggots everywhere (and in most areas, there are) you need room and time. Getting to 140 or so is pretty easy, if the car has around 400 hp. But unless the car has a lot more power than that (500-plus) you almost always run out of road/time before you can clear 160. I've driven almost every car there is - literally - and I can vouch for this, firsthand. The fastest I have managed on the street is just shy of 170 in a Z06 and that was dicey.

    At those speeds, things happen very, very rapidly. Even minor steering inputs can cause significant deviations from your line. If the road is less than glass smooth/straight, it can be a sphincter-clenching experience.

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    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    The 100 mph speedos made the car feel faster!

    In a few of the almost-fast cars of the mid-late '70s, it made for some small amusement as it was easy to twist the needle completely around the clock and back to the 5-10 mph mark!

    That little pleasure is much harder to do today, with 150 (and even 200 mph) speedos!

    Back in the 70's, I was still living with my father who had a 70 something Chevy Nova with the 350 V-8. I..uh...worked on it a bit when it had a miss and it ran much better. I remember driving it to work one day and decided to see what it would do. It had the infamous 84 mph speedo. I don't know how fast it went but the needle went around and was at the PRNDL marker before I ran out of room.

    A few years later, when I became a volunteer police officer, we still had a V-8 Nova with the 400 in it. Two large officers looked like they were fooling around as it was pretty tight. However, that puppy would really fly. I pulled out behind a car once to make a parts run on maintenance day at the garage. The guy was going to the same parts place I was. I hadn't thought about it but he was freaking out. All of a sudden, a police car with light bar and all popped up behind him. That was the car that got rear ended by an older woman who drove around my car, drove over 100 yards of flares and plowed into the back of my chiefs car with the light bar lit. When I got up there, she swore she didn't see any of the lights or cars.
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    Senior Member J. ZIMM's Avatar
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    My '57 Merc Turnpike had a 120 speedo in it. It would go there and then some. On the other hand, my '54 Buick also had a 120 in it too, but the Valves floated at 115. A '67 Plymouth GTX was very capable of wrapping its speedo. I have had some cars that could scare the crap out of you at 90, and some that felt real good at 130+. But it does make the difference whether the road is flat and smooth, which now days is a real challenge.

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J. ZIMM View Post
    My '57 Merc Turnpike had a 120 speedo in it. It would go there and then some. On the other hand, my '54 Buick also had a 120 in it too, but the Valves floated at 115. A '67 Plymouth GTX was very capable of wrapping its speedo. I have had some cars that could scare the crap out of you at 90, and some that felt real good at 130+. But it does make the difference whether the road is flat and smooth, which now days is a real challenge.
    I had a late-70s Camaro with a 130 mph speedometer and I managed to peg it, which I considered impressive at the time and still do!

    Nowadays, it's much more challenging. Most economy-type cars have at least 120 mph speedos and most sport/luxury sedans/coupes have 140-plus mph speedos. Several 2010 models have 170-plus speedos.

    I posted earlier that it's no easy thing to get much above 150 mph east of the Mississippi even in a very powerful car. You need room (a flat, straight stretch of road with good sight lines that's at least 2-3 miles long) and time (unless you're packing more than 500 hp, once you get to 150, building more speed takes a surprisingly long time).

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