Historical engine power


#1

I drove a VW bug with 40HP for 18 years. When I had to keep up with serious traffic or had a hill to climb my petal was to the metal and 40HP would do the job OK. How many times a week do YOU have your accelerator to the floor in your (overpowered) modern car?


#2

On the weekends; frequently.


#3

Only when I pass. Or get on the freeway. Or feel like having fun. Gas isn’t expensive enough for me to not have fun. And I like it when 180 Chevy V6 horses go to the pavement.


#4

Your implication is correct, current cars have more power than is necessary for daily use. My wife’s '83 240D has about 70 HP in a 3500 pound car, and it is fully capable of driving in normal traffic (even at 6000 feet above sea level). A low powered car will not win any drag races, but they are certainly adequate for daily driving. I like horsepower as much as anyone, but it’s not necessary for most drivers. I could drive a 40 HP bug anyplace that I drive my current cars.


#5

Often. But, in today’s traffic my car isn’t really overpowered.


#6

I often drive in rural areas and frequently have to pass farm vehicles or slow construction equipment on a two-lane road with few passing zones… and these zones are always too short. Give me power! My 136-hp 4-banger is perfectly adequate. BTW, these slow commercial vehicles are sometimes trailed by 40-hp VW bugs that have no choice but stay in line the whole length of the highway, until one or the other must turn off.


#7

Except on a couple of occasions when I succumbed to the immature urge to drag race with someone at a stop light, I have never pushed my gas pedal to the floor (nor have I pushed any petals for that matter). However, that does not mean that my car is overpowered. It simply means that it has a very comfortable reserve of power to use in case of emergency situations–which, unfortunately, the 40 hp bug did not have.

When I used to drive my brother’s bug, back in the 60s, I can recall quite a few agonizing moments, wondering whether I would actually be able to pass slow-moving trucks on a 2 lane highway. That type of situation translates into a genuine safety issue–along with the other issues related to the safety of modern cars vs. the old bug.

Normally I drive my current car quite sedately and I manage to get ~25 mpg, which is not bad for a vehicle with 212 hp. If I recall correctly, my brother’s bug did not get much better than 28-29 mpg, so I feel that this is a good trade-off in terms of power vs. economy.

You may differ in opinion, and that is one of the nice things about living in a democracy!


#8

Did you really need 40 horsepower? Many VW drivers got along fine with 36 horsepower.


#9

I live o asmall island with 4 million people on it, and in the morning half of them are in front of me and the other half are behind me honking their horns. Don’t have much of a chance to push the pedal to the metal, although at times it is temping to push somebody out of the way.


#10

In my Lincoln Mark, never.


#11

That’s the beauty of having an overpowered car, it never has to go to the floor!!

Some of my older muscle cars have the binary gas pedal option.


#12

My first car was a 1961 Beetle. I seem to remember wondering whether I would actually be able to pass a fast moving bicyclist!


#13

OK, I’ll bite. What is the binary gas pedal option?


#14

Which is probably about 10 HP more than a bug really needs.

Americans won’t be happy until they are all driving 8000 pound tanks (to be bigger than everyone else) with 600 HP engines (just in case they “have” to pass someone on a two lane road) with 47 air-bags (just in case they run into another idiot) and ABS/traction control (because they don’t know how to drive in the first place). Then they complain about the price of fuel. It’s truly amazing that one group of spoiled people can be so obsessed with removing every little bit of risk and inconvenience from their lives regardless of the cost. Our grandparents would be embarrassed that we have become such wimps; some days I want to move to europe, pretend to be canadian, and laugh at the ugly americans (but I guess I can just do it here).


#15

After graduation, I took the summer off and toured Europe with a class mate. We rented a local VW beetle with a 30? HP engine and sliding canvass roof.

We drove through Holland, Belgium, France, Monaco, England, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Switserland and Spain all summer long, and put on 10,000 miles.

we got used to constantly shifting gears to keep up with traffic, the good thing was that there were also Fiat 500s, and Renault Dauphines, and similar gutless cars around us. Going up the passes in the Alps, we basically stayed in 2nd gear with the gas on the floor around the hairpin turns. Our top speed on the Autobahn was about 120 km/hr.

Gas mileage, however, was excellent, in spite of the low compression and octane.


#16

Progressive linkage???


#17

Doesn’t Manhattan have public transportation? Unless you are a cab driver, why are you on the roads? OK, maybe it’s Long Island, but there is still the LIRR.


#18

On or Off. But that means two toes through the floor boards.


#19

I’m guessing he means a binary switch, 0 is off no gas. and 1 is on, peddle to the floor full power.


#20

Truck transportation has seen big power increases too. About a decade ago I read an article in the paper about a company (family-sized) that delivered their product with rebuilt, relatively ancient, semis. The business was, IIRC, fence gates. They doubled the power of the engines in the original chassis and were still way below what any new truck would have, but they got lots better fuel economy. It took them a little longer to get up the grades in the Rockies.

Priorities have changed. My dad says that, when climbing steep grades in first gear, truck drivers used to get out of their cabs and walk alongside the moving trucks to thump the tires. Now, it is all about just in time delivery and how fast you can get the product there. If fuel prices keep increasing, we may see a partial reversal. We might also see the resurgence of rail transport.