Bug Out Buggies

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If things get bad, you will probably want to stay put – if where you are when things go bad is a relatively safe area. But what if you need to bug out? And how about staying mobile in a S hitting the F scenario? Here are some thoughts – from the perspective of a guy who’s been test-driving new cars for more than 20 years – and fiddling with old cars for a lot longer than that:

* Hybrids -

This might strike you as a strange choice, but consider: Hybrids have tremendous range – as much as 600 miles on about 12 gallons of gas (the current Prius). If you’re bugging out, you don’t want to have to stop for anything – much less gas, which might not be available. Hybrids are also stealthy. Most can operate in EV – electric vehicle – mode, which means they can be driven on just the batteries and motors. Silent running. Some (the plug-in version of the Prius, the Ford Fusion and – yup – the Chevy Volt) can be driven for a dozen or more miles – and at fairly high road speeds (as much as 100 MPH in the case of the Volt; close to 70 in the case of the plug-in Prius).In EV mode, these cars are whisper quiet – a potential life-saver in a situation where being noticed could be a life-ender.

Hybrids are also portable generators – literally. The onboard gas engine, in addition to providing motive power, also generates electrical power to charge the batteries. This could be tapped for other purposes. And hybrids with plug-in capability can be recharged using off-the-grid solar or wind or water generated electricity. Even if there’s no gas to be had, if there’s juice, you’ll be mobile.

While new hybrids are pretty pricey, used ones can be purchased for reasonable money. Keep in mind that the Prius has been in mass production for more than a decade. There are lots of them out there. You could probably buy an older model in good shape for less than $10,000. And the Prius isn’t the only hybrid, either. Honda has been making hybrid versions of the Civic for many years now -  and there are hybrid versions of many popular cars (and trucks, too). Just be sure to confirm that the battery pack is in good order. Then, park it under a tarp – or in the garage – for just-in-case.

* Mid-’90s GM (or Ford) “Boat” -

Do you remember the Shamu the Whale Caprice GM made from circa 1990-1996? The same-era (and through 2011, the final model year) Ford Crown Victoria (and its sister car, the Mercury Marquis)? These big sleds were – and continue to be – hugely popular with cops and taxi drivers, which is a strong endorsement of their merits as S hitting the F mobiles. They are basically trucks that look like cars – built on heavy steel frames and featuring rugged suspensions (solid axle rear ends, coil spring front ends, beefy stamped steel control arms, etc.). They can run over a concrete center divider at 60 MPH and not break. They have simple, durable, easy to keep going almost forever V-8s under their flight deck hoods that can (and do) routinely go for 300,000-plus miles – and unlike the latest multi-turbo’d, direct-injected, variable cam-timed and cylinder deactivated engines, can be economically rebuilt by a home mechanic to go another 300k. They have room enough inside  – and in the trunk – to carry several people and a large quantity of essential supplies, including a few 5 gallon cans to make up for the V-8′s thirst.

The best part, though, may be the price you can expect to pay. Which is not much. The NADA “blue book” value for a ’96 Caprice in excellent condition is under $1,800 (see here). GM also offered a station wagon version of the Caprice (also sold as the Buick Roadmaster) that’s even roomier – and has all the S hitting the F virtues of the sedan.

PS: Older “boats” from the ’80s (and ’70s) are a good choice too, but I plug these ’90s-era GM and Ford boats in particular because they are modern enough (courtesy of electronic fuel injection and overdrive transmissions, chiefly) to be extremely durable, reliable, fairly fuel-efficient everyday drivers that require very little in the way of elaborate or expensive maintenance  . . . but not too modern, unlike current-era cars – which can be crippled and rendered so much redneck lawn sculpture by relatively minor electrical/computer glitches that might be tough to fix (or get fixed) if the S hits F.

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