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Best "mechanical" car?

Prius owners are chapped en masse for economy numbers less than the window sticker claims while my friend’s 1960 Morris Minor continues to get 40 MPG with an engine shared with my long ago MG Midget.

Pretty much every function of any modest car is now performed via computer chips and servos. There must be cars out there that have resisted this movement for purposes other than a lower sticker price.

If this set is a number greater than one, do you have any feelings about which is the best “mechanical” car out there? I would love to find the 2010 equivalent of a 1978 Alfa Romeo GTV that did not have the ballast of 700 pounds of electric motors.

No such critter. Impossible to meet safety/pollution/economy/power requirements without lots of electronics.

Go to India and buy a brand new Tata.


Even the Nano has electronic fuel injection…

You might have luck finding a fully restored 78 AR GTV out there somewhere. Just be aware parts will be hard to find and very expensive to buy.

…but be aware that you will not be able to bring that Tata (bodacious though it may be in your eyes) back to the US because…it does not have the electronic equipment necessary to pass any Western nation’s emissions tests. It also does not have the ability to accelerate fast enough to get out of harm’s way.

Additionally, it will collapse like Enron upon the slightest impact, and since it has no modern passenger protection built into it, you and your passengers will likely die or be horribly maimed if the impact is anything more than superficial.

But–it is almost entirely free of the electronic devices that you fear!

Interesting you chose a 1960 Morris Minor. 1960 was really the very start of pollution control regulations. That Minor probably put out more pollutants (HC and CO, the bad stuff) than 100 modern cars. Ahhh, the good old days…

Doesn’t that Morris Minor have Lucas electrical components?
You know, the ones made by The Prince of Darkness.

The advent of pollution controls made the computer controls necessary to get good mpg, good performance, good driveability, and reliable too. The late 70’s and cars of the 80’s were full of mechanical things to control pollutants but they were also loaded with numerous vacuum lines, tubes, air pumps, and ran lousy in many cases.

If you want simple get a basic Honda Civic with as few gadgets as possible. Or similar car by the mfg’r of your choice.

None. Nada. Cannot exist under our present EPA and D.O.T. mandates.

Besides, electronic fuel injection really is much more reliable, and the systems allow the engine to run much cleaner extending its longevity, than those ol’ carbs did. And the airbag systems, steel door beams, unibody construction with energy absorbing “crush zones” built in, add weight but save lives. If your Morris Minor or your Midget got in a crash with any modern car guess who’d win?

The best you can do today for a basic mechanical platform is probably something like a stripped down Toyota Tacoma. There’re no “bells and whistles”, just a basic RWD platform with as basic a 4-banger as is available today. I was looking at the brochure yesterday evening and the basic truck doesn’t even have the AC automatically turned on with the defroster.

There are NONE. I don’t think you can get an ICE powered lawn mower or weedeater without emissions controls … many electronic.

Most autos went to at least pneumatic (vaccum) analog computing and control certainly before the 1980s probably earlier than the 1970s. By the end of the 1980s these vaccum controller were amazingly complex [trouble shooting can be VERY difficult without substantual knowledge]. Vaccum advance was the earliest and simplest of these system.

When Large Scale Semiconductor Integration (LSI, with increased logic power and internal memory) prices declined in the 1980s … OEMs started replacing vaccum systems with electronics … all of which you probably already know.

MANY of the things Fiat Power Train is doing with their advanced MultiJet and MultiAir technologies could NOT be done by any mechanical system that I can think of.

So … if mechanical is what you MUST have … try to find a PRE-1992 Honda Civic or Accord. Not earlier than 1987. There are still quite a few of these on the road in my area today.

A friend was telling me about 3 weeks ago that his 90 Accord getting a measured 40+ mpg highway until the timing belt broke. Now he is trying to figure out what is different since the repair that cost him about 8 mpg.

You can search for fuel economies by make/model back to 1984 using

If you want to search by mpg [simultaniously city/combined/highway, number of cylinders, transmission, Market Class] back to 1994, use

Decide what you want and start the “HUNT”.

Hope this helps.

Agree; there is no such thing as a purely mechanical car anymore.

Your best bet is to buy the simplest vehicle with the least options that sells in large volume. The volume is necessary so you can cannibalize parts off wrecks when the car gets to be 10 years old.

Currently, the Hyundai Accent, Toyota Yaris are still available in very basic versions.

As stated, no purely mechanical car could meet the current Safety and Environmental regs. And you would not want to own one.

A cost engineer told me that all the add-on gear on today’s engines costs more than the basic long block engine itself. Quite believable.

If this set is a number greater than one, do you have any feelings about which is the best “mechanical” car out there? I would love to find the 2010 equivalent of a 1978 Alfa Romeo GTV that did not have the ballast of 700 pounds of electric motors.

Funny that you mentioned the GTV. It had one of the most complicated mechanical fuel injection systems known to man, SPICA.

Kind of like comparing a mechanical watch to a quartz watch. Sure, you can work on the mechanical watch, but it ain’t easy!

I wouldn’t be surprised if you could still get a mechanical Lada, but you’d have to go to Russia to buy one.

On the other hand, an expert CAN work on a mechanical watch. If a quartz watch dies (not a dead battery) it’s kaput.

Even the Lada now has electronic ignition and a lot of other stuff. It probably does not have evaporative control systems, air bags, engine management computer and electronically conrolled transmission.

Electric motors are MORE dependable than the mechanical components they replace…a good basic Corolla w/o options will do you. Electronics are less repairable but more reliable than any comparable mechanical component. Alfa Romeo is more reliable than a Corolla ? NOT !

In my 46 years of driving, I’ve had 42 years of driving and racing cars with Lucas electrics, plus years of driving several cars with Denso, Bosch, Magneti Marelli, and Delco electrics. By far the most reliable cars I’ve owned, from an electrical systems’ reliability standpoint, have been the Lucas-equipped cars.

But can he find the parts and which would be more expensive to repair vs replace ? A $15 watch made of electronics or a mechanical Rolex with a broken mainspring ? IMO, it’s the same issue with cars.