From the Past . . . About the Rip-Off of Today
By 2016, per
federal mandate, all new cars will be required to average
35.5 miles per gallon. This sounds like a big deal. It isnt
except in terms of how much well all be paying
for this grand achievement. Either directly in the form of
gas guzzler penalties tacked onto the MSRPs of new cars
that dont make the cut. Or indirectly in the form of
elaborate technologies such as automatic engine stop (like hybrids,
but for non-hybrid cars), smaller displacement engines fitted with
turbochargers, gas direct injection, etc. for those that
do make the cut.
The real big
deal is that its perfectly possible to build cars that achieve
an average of 35.5 MPG or more without federal
mandates, without elaborate technology, and without
the suffocating expense that comes with both. Hell, its already
More than 40
years ago, in fact.
ours own a 1970 Morris Minor, which I keep up for them. For those
not familiar with the Morris Minor, it was Britains answer
to the VW Beetle (original model). Though differently laid out (its
got a water-cooled and front-mounted engine vs. the Beetles
rear-mounted and air-cooled engine) it was very similar in concept.
It was designed to be simple, economical transportation. Thus, above
all else, it was light. The 1970 Morris sedan weighed just
under 1,700 lbs. which made it slightly heavier than the
Beetle. But both cars weighed about 600-800 pounds less than their
contemporary equivalents. A 2012 Mazda2 sedan, for instance, weighs
2,306 lbs. Even the tiny Fiat 500 which is nearly a foot
shorter overall than the Morris Minor tips the scales at
2,363 lbs. (It actually weighs more than the physically larger,
The point being,
theyre both beefy.
and the Beetle were not. As a result, they were capable
of posting gas mileage numbers almost as good as a current-era Prius
hybrid, but without all the folderol. And far better than non-hybrid
cars like the Mazda2 and Fiat 500.
some factory data about the Morris Minors fuel consumption:
At 60 MPH it
is capable of returning 40.1 MPG. Around town, at speeds below 40
MPH, the Morris is capable of 53-54 MPG.
Now, the Morris
was not a speedy car. About 75 MPH is as fast as it goes. So it
would not be the ticket for sustained highway driving today. However,
as a city car or commuter car, it or something like it
would certainly be viable. People already buy far less viable cars
like the (so-called) Smart car, for instance. It maxes out
at 38 MPG on the highway and 34 in city driving both
numbers lower than the Morris Minors. In the case of
the city-driving numbers, much lower. And the not-so-Smart car is
barely more viable on the highway than the Morris. Its top speed
of 90 MPH is only nominally higher than the Morris
and its extremely short wheelbase and tall profile make it much
more susceptible to being knocked around or off the road
the Morris is arguably more suitable as a city car. Its a
sedan, for openers so it can seat four people
vs. just two in the Smart. And by dint of having a back seat area
and a trunk it has more usable room to carry groceries
and so on than the not-so-Smart car.
point being: The 40-something-year-old Morris makes more sense
and costs a lot less than a modern micro-car like the Smart.
Which, by the way, also weighs more than 2,300 lbs.
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columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2012 Eric Peters
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