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Old 07-10-2008, 12:04 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Scanning the EM Garage... and reminiscing about the 74 gas crisis

Does anyone else do this? I find myself scanning up and down in the EM Garage regularly, looking at people's comment sections, noting how drivers of the same car get wildly different mileage... rumaging for idiosyncrasies of the database.

I'm slightly obsessed this way -- because of getting a new-to-me fuel miser car, discovering this site, stirring up the realities of growing up in the oh-so-wonderful 1970's, and fond memories of my dad... who helped us deal with it.

I got my driver's license and learned to drive in 1974 -- at the height of the "gas crisis." My dad would take me and my brother along on his work trips and get us to spot for the best gas prices, fill the tank when we refueled, and keep his log book: which meant learning to calculate mileage.

My dad showed us as he drove what to do and what not to do: coasting, gently accelerating, scanning ahead. As a chemical engineer, he was a big fan of conservation and environmental consciousness -- emphasizing how much less we stressed the world around us... and the car itself, by driving gently. He demystified a great deal of what was happening... it was all strangely satisfying.

He was not a fan of coasting with the transmission in neutral or with the engine off -- but, oddly, he was intrigued with drafting. Those were in the heady days of the CB radio, and he'd talk with the truckers and try to get permission to draft. Sometimes he succeeded.

For many years he drove a succession of VW Beetle's -- and we were excited when we got near 30 mpg. Seriously.

During the height of the crisis he had to make a trip from Va Beach, VA down to Bennettsville, SC to pick up my grandmother for Thanksgiving. He wasn't sure he could go that far on a tank, and he wasn't sure he'd be able to get gas en route... such was the situation. He added another gas tank under the front hood of his white-with-red-interior 1970 Beetle, locating the slender extra tank over the existing tank, with all the necessary plumbing and venting. He made the trip without having to refuel and I remember his annoyance with my grandmother's plumbing requirements.

I've had some pretty plush cars since then, but my current ride, a 1998 Metro, reminds me of those VW Beetles -- in its elemental quality -- though vastly safer if not current in safety features.

In the meantime, I've always kept track of my mileage.

My dad passed away three weeks before my wife and I got married, 22 years ago -- in 1986. He'd have been comfortable in the sobering light of $4.00 gasoline. He'd be dazzled with my 42.4 average mpg. And more than likely, he too would have rumaged through this site... and the EM garage.

Here's to you dad.

The 1970 VW Beetle, with its blazing 57hp:


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Old 07-10-2008, 12:13 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I do that too, looking thru the EM Garage and see what others have to say to see what I can do myself. I wasn't born in that crisis and I'm still pretty new to modding and hypermiling but its something I'm glad I stumbled into.

Your dad sounded pretty cool.
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Old 07-10-2008, 12:30 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I look through the garage and see others with the same car but better mileage and I say "what can I do to tack on another X MPG?"
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Old 07-10-2008, 09:09 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I graduated from high school in '73. Right afterwards the OPEC embargo hit. There were lines. This was back in the days when gas was pumped for you. The trick the pumpsters would pull would be to fill one car and then start filling the next one to pull up without cancelling the pump.

My father and I would drive to Arkansas to scuba dive in the lakes there (Lake Norfolk). We both worked second shift and would take off at 12:30 at night. I remember driving from St. Louis to North Arkansas and not see an open gas station.
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Old 07-10-2008, 09:59 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Yeah, I remember the gas crisis in the 70s. I was just a kid though. My dad added a second gas tank to our van. We drove from Seattle to Pittsburgh to visit relatives. We drove through Canada, because it was easier to find gas up there. Yeah prices are getting higher now, but at least you can get the gas. Back then so many gas stations simply had no gas to sell.
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Old 07-10-2008, 10:23 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I also remember the fuel crisis although I was young. My dad always used a vacuum gauge and tracked his fuel economy even though he usually drove very large cars like Station Wagons. Out of the 3 wagons he had, he removed the roofrack on all of them and was also a very light-footed driver. He was also very conservative with electricity, and other things. I think I got my habits from my father.
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Old 07-10-2008, 10:58 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Thanks for the trip down memory lane... seems we had one in '78 as well. I added a second tank to the trunk of my Dodge Coronet back then, didn't strap it down or anyting <yikes!>, but it was a short term deal that came and went (crisis and the $60 Dodge).

Starting in 1980, I commuted in VW's. I have driven about 300k miles in various air-cooled VW's over the years, I always kept the commuter vw's stock. I tweaked and tuned my old '63 sunroof, and was able to get a consistant yet almost unheard of 27mpg out of the little 40hp 1200cc as I recall (careful jetting, raised the compression slightly, I restricted the acceleator pump shot and recurved the timing advance).

I once added a 4 gallon rototiller fuel tank to a '67 bug, just behind the dash. SF Bay Area to Los Angles on one fuel load was the goal. But the tank had a vented cap, and stunk up the cabin, I sold it shortly after that for other reasons.

great post!
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Old 07-11-2008, 09:43 AM   #8 (permalink)
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In retrospect I had assumed my father had been somewhat iconoclastic in adding an extra gas tank to his Beetle.

Clearly, this was more common than I had imagined.

The time around the 1973 oil crisis was a fairly stunning time to be learning to drive... cars were changing rapidly both from legislative requirements and the market forces that came with fuel price volitility.

Oh and how the cars suffered...

As kids we all knew what lay under the hood of the car we drove... I had a girlfriend who could swiftly lift the hood of her intersection-stalled car, then swiftly remove the air filter and finally jab the carb's butterfly valve with the thrust of a screwdriver... that she was never without.

My best friend knew that the sound his mother's coveted Ford Country Squire made when you tried to start it... like it was trying to ingest a squirrel... was the bendex failing. This big vinyl-covered station wagon arrived with an interesting twist to it's 'three-way' tailgate... it had a 'fourth' way: once falling completely off while they were driving. His mother loved that car, but it was way more Country Squirrel than Country Squire.

The quality of each succeeding VW my dad bought was worse than the one before. Where once the Beetle had a vinyl interior of legendary quality -- by the seventies the vinyl piping of one of my dad's brand new Beetle's driver's seat separated the night he drove it home from the dealer. The safety and emissions laws became obtuse: that Beetle had a tiny spotlight under the dashboard to illuminate the between-the-seats heating control levers (!) to meet "illuminated control" legislation... along with seatbelt interlocks and massively barbaric contraptions to meet all-new emissions controls. You simply did not want to look at an engine compartment it had become so incoherant.

If you did not live in through the seventies, and drive a seventies car, you honestly have no idea how crappy a car can be.

I hear comments today about certain cars being crappy -- a disparagement routinely targeted, for example, at the Aveo.

My bad, but I look at the Aveo and see a fairly well-equipped, well-designed, decent -- if modest -- car!
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Old 07-11-2008, 01:53 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I Remember the 74 Gas Crisis

It was a three-part disaster.

Before the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, environmental regs ruined car performance. Without question, 1973 & 1974 cars were the worst ever built.

After the war Saudi Arabia played the oil card and prices went up 200%. From 27 cents a gallon to 80 cents.

Then Nixon imposed price controls. Shortages as gas lines appeared overnight.

I was a junior in college and didn't drive much so it didn't much affect me. My father tried some goofy little fan thingy under the carb of his 65 Chevy. It didn't help mileage but the car ran nicely until my brother floored it and the enguine sucked the thingy into the cylinder head. I remember how easy it was to pull a head off those simple old cars.

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