When Cars Were Crap

Photo by cmt2779
(pictured: 1975 Trabant)

There are two different viewpoints on the green front when it comes to new and old vehicles. Some people believe that newer vehicles are a waste of money, while others see them as more technologically advanced (better fuel economy, less emissions, etc.). Some people would rather have nothing to do any gas vehicles, while others don't mind unless it is an overly polluting gas hog.

Despite which side of the fence you reside, there are certainly some vehicles that were better than others throughout history. Sadly, many vehicles from the 70's and 80's were basically crap when it came to fuel efficiency and emission output. These were the years of trial and error as far as vehicle emissions systems went and quite frankly, it took them awhile to get it right.
1975 Trabant-
Even if we take a walk on the small engined cars, we still find some rather embarrassing examples of bad vehicles, such as the 1975 Trabant. The East German built Trabant featured a 20 horsepower two-stroke engine, which we all know is like practically lighting a fire to a backyard oil refinery every time you start it up and rev it once.

We have to give the Trabant credit for making an effort to recycle by using a mixture of cotton and wood fibers to create a sort of fiberglass resin for its body panels. But truth be told, the hollow death trap left little to be desired in both form and function.

1978 Mustang King Cobra-
1978 was a time in history when an American made vehicle needed a 300-plus cubic inch engine just to make somewhat over 100 horsepower. Case in point, the 1978 Mustang King Cobra, which cleared just over 125 horsepower using its gas guzzling 5.0 liter V-8.

The King Cobra was equipped with a 2-barrel carburetor, EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) valve, PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) valve, and single catalytic converter to help improve on its new fuel economy under the new CAFE standards. But even with all this, 17 mpg is about the best you could expect for your 100 ponies under the hood.

And who could forget the late 70's AMC Pacer, Gremlin, Ford Pinto, and Maverick... you would be much better off walking than owning one of these, folks!

1982 Camaro/Firebird Iron Duke-
In the midst of gas guzzling V-8's in the early 80's (160 to 175 horsepower), we had the introduction to what was supposed to become a revelation to the economy market. The Iron Duke equipped 2.5 liter 4-cylinder Camaro and Firebird. It indeed receive 24 mpg in the city, but it achieved this with an incredibly hard to live with 90 horsepower for such a heavy vehicle.

By most owner accounts the 0-60 on this car was about 20 seconds (with a strong tail wind, mind you). While this car may have its place in a museum or collectors garage, there are far better examples of fuel efficient vehicles to be found today.

This was not intended to poke fun at anyone's current vehicle, but rather to take a moment to remember just how far we have come in the automotive world. Yes, it is true that it is a shame that we never transferred to an alternative fuel years ago, but things could certainly be worse.

All hail the 50 mpg hybrid... and pray for the (hopefully) soon to be available 120 mpg electric. Progress folks... it's all about progress!

More on fuel economy
Calculate Your Fuel Economy
Do It Yourself Vehicle Care: Spark Plugs vs. Fuel Economy, Part 1
We Want Fuel Economy Feedback in All Cars

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