Gearing Matters

Weight – and gearing – have a yuge effect on fuel economy. Even to the extent of almost eliminating 40 years of “advanced” technology, including computer-controlled electronic fuel injection. To make the case, I offer the following comparison:

I own one relatively modern vehicle – a 2002 Nissan Frontier pickup – and one extremely not-modern vehicle – my infamous 1976 Pontiac Trans-Am, aka the Orange Barchetta (or Great Pumpkin).

These two are very different – and very similar.

One is a truck and has a fuel-injected, computer-controlled four-cylinder engine. The other is muscle car with a huge V8, fed by a carburetor controlled by my right foot.

The V8 in the TA displaces 455 cubic inches, which amounts to 7.5 liters in today’s anodyne, metrosexualized metric-speak (how that took over is fodder for a future rant).

The Nissan’s four is a mere 2.4 liters, less than one-third the displacement. Amazon.com Gift Card i... Buy New $15.00 (as of 09:15 EDT - Details)

Yet both vehicles get about the same gas mileage.

Part of the reason for the Nissan’s dismal mileage – 20 city, 23 highway, according to the EPA and less according to me, its owner, who has direct real-world experience of its actual mileage – is because the thing is heavy (about 3,300 lbs.) and underpowered (just 143 hp to pull all that around).

Plus one other reason, which we’ll get to presently.

The TA is even heavier – about 3,700 lbs. – and that big V8 makes more than twice the horsepower.

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