First They Came for the V8s…

First, they came for the V8s.

They were common, once. Most cars – ordinary family cars – usually had one under the hood. High school kids drove V8-powered used cars. Anyone Gen X or older will remember.

And then they were gone.

Well, not entirely.

V8s are still around –  but they’re no longer common. They are found under the hoods of expensive luxury cars, mostly.

GM’s Chevrolet division – which once included or at least offered a V8 in almost every car it sold – today offers one in just three models, all of them specialty high-performance cars and only one of them (the Chevy SS sedan) having four doors and the ability to carry more than two people.

The SS stickers for $46,575 to start.

High school kids won’t be driving one anytime soon. Neither will most of their parents.

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Even Cadillac – GM’s luxury line – which was once defined by its big V8s (bigger than anything you could get in a mere Chevy or Buick) now sells just one passenger car with a V8, the $85k CTS-V.

Now comes the next cleaving.

Just as V8s were purged from the engine compartments of the family sedans and (and station wagons) Gen Xers like me grew up in, so also the V6-powered family cars Millennials grew up riding in are quietly doing the fade-away.

You may have noticed.

Mazda doesn’t even offer a six in its mid-sized family sedan (the Mazda6) or for that matter in any passenger car, it currently sells. Most of Hyundai’s current car lineup is four-cylinder-only, including its mid-sized family sedan, the Sonata.

V6s are still available in a small (and dwindling) handful of family sedans like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, but they are optional – and expensive. While a four-cylinder-powered Camry can be bought for $23,070 – to get one with a V6, the starting price climbs to $31,370. A V6-equipped Honda Accord is slightly more accessible – base price $30,895 (vs. $22,355 for the base Accord with a four-cylinder engine).

But $30k in today’s Fed Funny Money has the same buying power as $5k did back in 1970. And back in 1970, five grand was almost enough cash to buy a brand-new Corvette (MSRP $5,192) which was Chevy’s most expensive car at the time – and almost enough to buy two brand-new Chevy Impala full-size family sedans (MSRP $3,021) with V8s in each of them.

Every car Cadillac sold back in 1970 came standard with a V8 – and they did not cost $85k in 1970 dollars, either. The base price of a 1970 Calais sedan, for example, was$5,813 – about $800 less, in today’s worthless dollars, to about what you’d pay to get your hands on a V6-powered Accord ($4,973 in 1970 dollars).

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