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Fuel economy / efficiency

Why are these newer cars supposedly more efficient when the fuel economy is equal to or less than some of the old cars I have owned? One example is a 66 Ford Fairlane 500 that I owned. It had a 289 with a cruise-o-matic and 3.00 gears in the rear. This car got 28 to 30 MPG unless I got on the hwy and ran 65 to 70 MPH, then I got 32 to 34 MPG, and I could put 6 people in this car in relative comfort. So my question is that if that car did more work and used less fuel wouldn’t it have been more efficient, and therefore better for the environment?

What kind of creature comforts did your Fairlane offer compared to the average car today? How safe was you Fairlane compared to the cars today? Would your Fairlane come even close to passing today’s emissions standards?

No disrespect, but I have a hard time believing a full sized car with no overdrive and a carbureted V8 would get more than 30 MPG on the highway.

Times change. New cars are required to have multiple “safety” features that increase weight.

Did you really get 32 mpg from a 289? That’s fantastic!

People never believe me when I tell them my Sunbeam Imp got 75 mpg on a trip from PA to the Jersey shore, but no matter how I do the math it comes out the same.

Those days are gone forever.

Would I want to drive a Sunbeam Imp every day? No.

But it would make a nice hobby car, yes. Same as your '66 Fairlane.

more efficient in terms of people per gallon, yes. Better for the environment? No. The Fairlane was built before they decided the air we breathe was kind of important and didn’t include emissions reducing equipment such as a catalytic converter or measured fuel metering.
If you look a few posts down called “Why are modern cars so expensive?” it should link to another article about fuel efficient vehicles with the Insight and Prius being first and second place, and the old Chevy Sprint and later Geo Metro with the 1L 3cyl engine being third place. The only problem is that that car was a tin can compared to modern cars. Hell, the Fairlane is a tin can compared to modern cars in terms of safety.
If you don’t believe me, watch this video:

I am on madmans side here, I have an older suv that gets 23 mpg on the highway, I have the option of towing a boat or camper etc, and the newer pissy cars can only get 27 hwy mpg and cant even tow anything.

Efficient engines are not necessarily clean engines and vice versa.

I had a '67 Mustang with a 289 2bbl carb and 3 spd manual trans. It got around 30 mpg on the highway and was running just about 2,000 rpm at 65 mph. That car, like your Fairlane, was efficient. It was also fast, and fun to drive. However it needed tune ups about every 10 to 15K miles and was a horrible polluter compared to modern cars.

If we went backwards and all of today’s cars were built still using mid '60’s technology we would be choking on all the smog. Rant all you want but cars today get fuel efficiency and pollute much less. Technology of the '60’s couldn’t do both.

The cat. converted has done much to bring cars “back” to performance levels of the past, and more. Remember too that the 66 Fairlane didn’t have to power all those accessories and was a “death trap” by todays standards. It may have been capable of going fast (but not in corners), but the freeway system back then and secondary roads did little to support that speed in safety. “Relative comfort” ?..Cars seemed to bounce and wallow for any kind of comfort, and seating positions, design and padding were terrible.

What I miss about the cars of the 1960’s era and before is that many of the cars could carry 6 passengers in relative comfort. The 1949 Nash 600 derived its model name, 600, because it could go 600 miles on a 20 gallon tank of gas. Nash called its new body style for 1949 the Airflyte. This body was designed to have as little wind resistance as possible and extensive experimentation was done in a wind tunnel. The result was that these Nash automobiles had half the wind resistance of most other cars on the road at the time. These cars were also truly 6 passenger cars.

The 1949 Nash 600 had a flathead 6 which displaced 172 cubic inches. I often wonder what kind of mileage this car would have gotten had it had a more efficient overhead valve engine.

I think today’s automobiles are more efficient and are certainly safer. However, I don’t like the seating position in most cars made today, so I drive a minivan where I can sit upright.

Lets see…

The base 289 V-8 back in '66 made ~195 hp at the crank, in the old world hp rating system.

My '07 Nissan Altima, with its 4 cylinder 2.5 engine makes 175 hp, in today’s ratings, with all its accessories running.

My Altima gets the same gas mileage as you claim your gets.

My Altima most likely does the following:

It out accelerates your Fairlane.
It out brakes your Fairlane.
It out handles your Fairlane.
Performs better in an emergency maneuver.
Better skid pad numbers.
Puts out considerably less emissions in every department.
Goes longer between tuneups.
Requires less parts to be changed during a tuneup.
Is quieter in the cabin.
Comes with an air filtration system.
Standard air conditioning, ABS, power windows, seat belts, airbags, and power disc brakes at all 4 corners.
Mine is safer in the snow even if both cars are equipped with 4 snow tires.
Plus lots of other things I can’t think of at this time.

Oh, and I’m most likely going to survive a crash at 30 mph, along with all of my passengers.

So, I think my car has yours beat in a lot of categories.

The only category yours wins in is you can carry that 6th passenger.


I understand your question as being not whether todays’ cars have more to offer, but rather if the Fairlane did more work and got better mileage doing it, was it not by definition more efficient? Yes, I agree that it was.

And, in theory, it would also have had to be using more of the energy contained in the gas molecules, which could only have been acomplished with more complete combustion, meaning less emissions.

A fair emissions comparison could only be done by comparing the exhaust from you car’s engine directly with exhaust from a modern engine foreward of the cat converter. But an efficiency comparison…your theory is valid.

2011 Chevy Cruze Eco

42mpg to the gallon using a “specially optimized 6 speed manual”, amongst other things such as thinner sheet metal. They can easily build a efficient car, but they don’t think many of us want it.

They are correct, I certainly don’t want one.

I have to agree with you on that point, efficiency is not necessarily cleanliness. Look at NASCAR, 8 to 12 MPG and 700 HP. Efficient, not really clean.

At less than $17,000 MSRP they just may do well with this one.

The price, I think, has been the bane of the high mileage cars. Finally, one appears reasonably priced.

I’d buy one if it comes in a wagon form. The only other compact wagon getting this kind of gas mileage is the Jetta Sportswagen TDI, and that thing costs about $24,000.

A more interesting point is that MT gas mileage potential is generally suppressed unless someone slaps a “Eco” batch on it. I thought the point of having an MT is to give the driver make the ultimate decision of performance versus efficient driving, without a team of engineers designing the thing make the compromise for the driver.

“I thought the point of having an MT is to give the driver make the ultimate decision of performance versus efficient driving…”

People who buy manual transmissions tend to want sporty performance over economy. And automatic transmissions do a good job of providing efficient and therefor economical performance.

I like manual transmissions because I want economy and NEED performance. I live in Pittsburgh, and cars that don’t go uphill can be pretty annoying to drive around here. Some of the newer cars with 5-speed autos are good, but the old 3 and 4-speed autos STINK when combined with less than 2 liters of engine.

actually it’s closer to 850ish HP and 3-5 MPG (in race conditions). :slight_smile: