IN what year did automaker start putting computers in cars.

I guess that depends what you mean by computer. 1981 was the first widespread use of processors in cars to control fuel mixtures and ignition control. But Cadillac had a fuel injection system in 1978.

VW was using them back in the 60s on the Type 3s but '81 was the year where it was pretty much across the board. I’ve got a '75 Cadillac DeVille engine sitting here and it’s carbureted but the '75 El Dorados with the 500 and the Sevilles with the Olds 350 were injected.

The early VWs used an additional set of dual contact breaker points in the distributor to fire the injectors. That set of points was fitted into the side of the distributor underneath the ignition breaker plate.
Somewhat cave-mannish compared to modern stuff… :slight_smile:

In what year was the first ECU used instead of the old points ignition system? When was the last new car with a pionts ignition system sold? BMW was using points in its motorcycles until what I think was the late 70s.

Weren’t those first fuel injected Caddies using mechanical fuel injection, like my '83 GTI’s K-Jetronic? Like @ok4450 said, the first electronic fuel injection was on the VW “Type 3” in 1968:
“In 1968, the Type 3 ‘E’ (Einspritzung) became the first German automobile in series production with electronic fuel injection (Bosch D-Jetronic) as standard equipment.”

I think the old Cadillacs had FI control units although they were very crude by comparison.
The VWs with mechanical injection also had engine control modules as did SAAB, Volvo, Benz, BMW, etc.

Datsun/Nissan was also using them back in the 70s.

Ignition points went out about 1975 but you didn’t need a computer to operate the system.

Chrysler began using its Lean Burn system in some of its cars in 1976, and that system utilized a computer.

Ahhhhhhhhh Crysler lean burn. Now I am going to have nightmares and flashbacks.

Considering that a differential is a mechanical analog computer, I’d say they go way back. Mechanical analog computers date back to at least as far as the Greeks.


Cars had crude microprocessor controlled fuel systems starting in 1981…An oxygen sensor and a “feedback” (mixture controlled) carburetor…This resulted in 1981 models being the worst cars ever built…'82, '83, all the way to 1989 when multi-port fuel injection became more or less standard and computer controls became somewhat standard …

My 71 Saab had a Bosch K jetronic electronic FI. Electronic carbs preceded FI on GM cars in the late 70’s.

Mustang, I believe your '71 Saab’s fuel injection was 100% mechanical…No electrical connections at all…


I’m not sure exactly what your 1971 Saab had, but the first K-Jetronic came out a few years later

My 71 Saab did indeed have electronic fuel injection. It was a 99E model with a 1709cc 4 cylinder engine with a Bosch Type L (not K, my mistake) Jetronic fuel injection. The engine came from British Leyland (much like a Triumph TR7 engine) and leaked oil like any Brit engine of the period.

Wikipedia reference; “The 99 E had the 1750 cc displacement Triumph engine giving 89 PS (65 kW; 87 hp) from Bosch Type-L Jetronic fuel injection instead of the Zenith-Stromberg carburetors.”

My first car with an ECU of any type.

Through most of the 70’s the most sophisticated electronics used in econobox cars was probably in the radios, especially if the radio contained a digital tuner. Most radio digital-tuners contain a type of small computer called an embedded processor. I’ve owned two vehicles from the 70’s, an early 70’s Ford truck and a late 70’s VW Rabbit. Other than the radios, the most sophisticated electronics in either of those was the integrated circuitry in the late 70’s Rabbit which controlled (and was contained in) the fuel pump relay. It’s job was to determine if the engine was spinning by monitoring the points opening and closing. It would only turn on the fuel pump if the engine was spinning first. (The circuitry used a 555 timer integrated circuit.)

Interesting enough, on my early 90’s Corolla, there’s a similar circuit that does the same thing, turning on the fuel pump only if the engine is spinning. Toyota calls it the “circuit opening relay” presumably for the above described function it performs, but it is really just the fuel pump relay.

Most SAABs back in the early 70s used the side draft Zenith carburetor. The upper end that used fuel injection had the D-Jetronic system and they did have electrically pulsed injectors and an engine control unit. Same for other makes including VW, Volvo, and so on.

When CIS rolled along SAAB, VW, and others were using ECMs and O2 sensors in the late 70s.

I had a couple of late 70s Chrysler vehicles with the “Electronic Spark Control” computer, also known as “Lean Burn”. These combined electronic ignition and spark advance in one electronic unit. They were reliable units–I never had one fail utterly, though they had a vacuum diaphragm to measure manifold pressure and I did have one of those fail. They were very easy to change, as they mounted on the side of the air cleaner. One thing they weren’t known for was blistering performance, but most of the vehicles of the time were severely detuned anyway for emissions.

I also had a 1981 Pontiac Firebird (worst car I’ve ever owned), which had a computer mounted under the center console. I looked at it up close and it used a 6502 microprocessor as I recall, same as many early 80s computers like the Apple ][ and the famous “Nintendo Entertainment System” video game console.