Salute, the Heathens — How Gearheads are Saving the Planet

(This is a Continuation of Industrial Reform (Part 2) and EPIC (Phase 1) — Our Path to an All-Electric Future. Because big-block driving, flame-spewing gearheads like us deserve the credit we’re due for helping to save the world. )

I’ve caught a lot of flak over the years for driving big, stupid, old V-8 musclecars. As in big-block, straight-pipe, spewing hate and tire smoke from rusty quarter panels muscle cars. First car, a 1980 Buick Grand National with 500 Caddy big block. Second, Ford Courier with turbo 2.3 first, and 393 Ford stroker later. I’ve owned old Jeep Wagoneers, a Hudson, an International pickup, couple Firebirds, a few Mustangs, a ’76 Pinto wagon, a ’71 Impala, ’65 Galaxie and an ’85 Cougar with another 500 Caddy big block. Briefly. Screwed that chassis like a Twizzler on the first launch.

Though my current daily driver is a matte black ’87 Toyota Supra (which gets embarrassingly good gas mileage) I take some pleasure in knowing that at least I cut the catalytic converter off. Still a man’s car, as ricers go. And the campaign truck I’m working on right now is a 7-ton war rig converted from previous motorhome duty. It gets 5 miles to the gallon. Downhill.

So, how the hell can I call myself an “environmentalist?”

The same way any hot-rodder can. Because we are the ultimate recyclers.

Because every old car is better than every new one.

And we’re about to prove it.


Section 1 — Build or Buy? Why New Cars Still Suck.
Section 2 — The Environmental Cost of Building New Cars
Section 3 — The Long View; How Old Cars Save the World
Section 4 — Now, Here’s the Thing…
Conclusion — Here’s to the Heathens


Section 1 — Build or Buy? Why New Cars Still Suck.

When I started building cars back in the day, it was for the same reasons as most people our age: I couldn’t afford the one I wanted, and new cars in the 90s were just awful.

But, things change. These days, I can afford most anything I want. And in terms of performance, equipment and design, the 21st Century truly is a second Golden Age for the automobile. New cars are faster, cleaner and more efficient than ever. They’re also much better looking. I defy anyone to find a sexier Camaro in the car’s history. Ever. Taking long-term value out of the equation, new cars are true masterpieces of design and engineering.

And I still don’t want that junk.

Few reasons.

  1. They’re Engineered to Break. Remember back in the 80s, when they told us this new age of computer-aided design would make cars better! Than! EVER! Well, it kind of did. But mostly, manufacturers just used computers to make them cheaper. And, of course, to break five minutes after the warranty expired. I’ve gone into this in other articles (Infracompetition — Why Cars Don’t Come with Hundred-Year Warranties), but the crux of it is: new cars are built to break. That shortens the product cycle, takes cars off the secondary market and keeps that sweet, sweet cash flowing into the corporate pocketbook.
  2. They’re Too Expensive to Fix. Again, covered in the other article. But manufacturers deliberately make parts and service more expensive than they need to be. Keeps the money flowing on replacements, and takes the car out of circulation faster so it can be melted down and turned into more overpriced junk.
  3. New Cars do More Damage to the Environment than Old Ones. On to the next section.

Section 2 — The Environmental Cost of Building New Cars

Nevermind power generation, farming or practically any other industry: Building new vehicles is probably the most environmentally destructive things human beings do.

It’s not just the energy requirements, which we’ll get into in a second. It’s the damage done getting to that energy expenditure in the first place. Think of open pit lithium mines, and the industrial waste produced by them. Think of the damage done by plastic production, metal recycling and refining. Think of all the crap that goes into the air from the manufacture of wiring, paint and catalytic converters. It’s impossible to even begin to get an estimate of the environmental damage done by each and every new car produced, considering all the materials and processes it takes to build them.

That’s before we get into the energy costs.

Section 3 — The Long View; How Old Cars Save the World

Warning…math ahoy.

It takes about 32,000 BTUs of energy per pound to build an average new car. About 100 million for a 3,200 pound economy car, double that for a decent sized SUV or pickup. In other words: 877 gallons of gas for the economy car, about 1,700 for a truck. That’s how much fuel you’d have to save to offset the vehicle’s carbon footprint.

Assume you bought a brand new Prius averaging 50 mpg, and drove 10,000 miles per year. Here’s how long it would take to offset the carbon footprint for different vehicles, by fuel savings alone:

  • 1998 Civic (40 mpg) — 17 years, 6 months
  • 1995 Firebird LT1 (25 mpg) — 3 years, 5 months
  • 1967 Chevelle SS (14 mpg) — 1 year, 10 months
  • 1980 Grand Nation w/ Caddy 500 (8 mpg) — 11 months

This assumes you’re using these vehicles for your daily driver, in lieu of a brand new Prius. If it’s a pickup or SUV, double those numbers.

Now, consider the average length of new vehicle ownership is 6.5 years. Because it is. Because new cars are garbage. And that’s not counting for 2 years leases. We’re only talking about new car purchases. How much more carbon would each of these cars emit over the new purchase lifespan of that Prius, used as daily drivers?

  • 1998 Civic (40 mpg) — 0.44 times
  • 1995 Firebird LT1 (25 mpg) — 1.4 times
  • 1967 Chevelle SS (14 mpg) — 3.6 times
  • 1980 Grand Nation w/ Caddy 500 (8 mpg) — 7.8 times

Yes, the 20 years old Civic has half the carbon footprint of a new Prius. And if you keep driving those cars for another 6.5 years?

  • 1998 Civic (40 mpg) — 0.22 times
  • 1995 Firebird LT1 (25 mpg) — 0.7 times
  • 1967 Chevelle SS (14 mpg) — 1.8 times
  • 1980 Grand Nation w/ Caddy 500 (8 mpg) — 3.9 times

Another 6.5 years?

  • 1998 Civic (40 mpg) — 0.14 times
  • 1995 Firebird LT1 (25 mpg) — 0.23 times
  • 1967 Chevelle SS (14 mpg) — 0.6 times
  • 1980 Grand Nation w/ Caddy 500 (8 mpg) — 2.5 times

Over the course of 20 years, when used as daily drivers, three out of four of these cars will have a lower carbon footprint than the three Prii you’d have to buy to replace them.

In fact, those three new hybrids will dump seven times more carbon into the atmosphere than the old Civic.

Yes, even the Buick (that fire-spewing, big-block monstrosity getting 8 miles to the gallon) will beat eventually the Prius’ carbon footprint. Specifically, after 52 years. Driving it every single day, 10,000 miles a year…eventually, let alone cost, even the freaking Buick beats Prius in terms of carbon output.

Every old car does.

Section 4 — Now, Here’s the Thing…

All of this is only true for old cars. Or current cars. Which will be old and outdated pretty soon. First, because they were always overpriced garbage. Because mostly because Industrial Reform and EPIC are going to completely change not just how we build new cars, but how we build everything.

Sad fact is, much as I love my hot rods and other such heathen stupidity, they’re only justifiable now because fossil fuels are still a thing, and the value proposition on new cars is so utterly dismal. The fact that cars are built to fall apart five minutes after their joke of a warranty expires, and then cost twelve million dollars to fix is part of what keeps dirty, old cars like ours in the game.

But, if all goes well, we gearheads will wind up victims of our own success.

Using broad-sweeping standardization and modularity initiatives, Industrial Reform will make new cars far cheaper, more reliable and much cheaper to fix over the long run. Which extends the value proposition out to basically infinity. Cars built under Industrial Reform could easily come with Hundred Year Warranties…which is a tad more than the 6.5 years you get now.

It’ll also move production power away from major corporations, preventing them from outsourcing our jobs to whatever third-world Hellhole’s offering the best tax breaks this week. IR gets us out of the Cheap Crap Game with China, and restores America to a true, broad-based Carriage Economy. One where small business competes toe-to-toe with major corporations, and everyone gets the opportunity all Americans deserve.

So, say goodbye to buying new cars every 6 years. And hello to having money to spare.

EPIC builds on Industrial Reform to standardize modular, interchangeable battery packs for electric cars. Which will massively accelerate their marketplace dominance by cutting the cost of electric vehicle by almost half, and eliminating the need for impossibly expensive fast-charging infrastructure all over the planet. EPIC puts electrics on the fast track toward almost immediate market takeover. So, say goodbye again to carbon-pumping fossil fuel engines.

Looks like we’re the top polluters again. Dammit.

Victims of our own success.

Conclusion — Here’s to the Heathens

But, all that’s off in the future. Near future, maybe. But it isn’t today. Because as of right now, 50-year-old musclecars are still more environmentally friendly than any hybrid built today.

Turns out, the cleanest car of all is the one you never have to build.

The fact is, everyone benefits when we get out of this idiotic cycle of consumerism, and build things to last. When the world learns from gearheads like us that the best things in life are those preserved…not the garbage we build to replace it. It’s conservation, value and repair-ability that saves mankind; not producing new overpriced crap to replace the old overpriced crap we never should have had to buy in the first place.

So, here’s to the heathens; to the gearheads and hot-rodders. Those big-block driving, old-car saving, flame-spewing miscreants; those making the world both cleaner and more awesome by doing what they love best. Waking the neighbors, burning tires, and not giving a damn what anybody has to say about it.

Mechanics will save the world.

Here’s to you.


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