Non-Computer aided Cars

What was the last year that Detroit made a purely mechanical car without computer chips?

And what was the best of these purely mechanical cars?

I think that would have to be sometime in the 70s. My opinion is that none of those were that good. I’ll take fuel injection over carburetors any day.

I agree that you would likely have to go back to the '70s in order to locate a car without much electronic equipment.

However, the '70s were also the era of a whole lot of cars that did not run very well, due to the emergence of pollution controls that really strangled the engines and resulted in lowered power output and bad overall operation of the engine. I had a '71 Charger that was both reliable and durable, but if it had been made 4 or 5 years later, it probably would have been a real dog.

Yes, and by “none of those”, I did mean the mid 70’s cars. The OP asked for the last year, not the best year.

The earliest use of computers (very primative functions and nothing like today’s computerized control systems) was in electronic ignitions and electric fuel injection systems. Most of these systems were improvements over “mechanic” systems they replaced. Electronic ignitions replace points and condensors which required replacing every 10 to 15K miles and resetting the timing every time they were replaced. Carbs worked OK but were big polluters hence their demise.

I guess there may have been an American car without any “computer” chips in the early '80’s, but what make and or model?

As for the best American car completely devoid of computer chips? Just about any muscle car from the 50’s, 60’s, and much of the 70’s could be on the list. I had a '67 Mustang that would be candidate, but I couldn’t fight someone who said an early Pontiac GTO was the best, or an Old’s 442 Convertible with a Hurst shifter, or a Plymouth Road Runner with a hemi, or …

My friend had a 1972 Impala. No electronics whatsoever and only one vacuum line under the hood. Two I guess if you count the brake booster. Chevy 350 motor. It ran like a top, rode great, and was as smooth and responsive as any Lexus or any other luxury brand today. (It did leave us stranded once when the points failed) It got about 15 MPG city.

No problem starting in the cold, but it did suffer from fuel line freeze up if you didn’t keep some alcohol in the tank.

Nice old car… I’d have to agree that fuel injection is a big step forward though.

The last year should be about 1980; exluding various electronic ignition and timing control modules. Nineteen eighty-one meant O2 sensors for everybody.

As to best, I don’t think there is a answer to that question. Even the Edsel, which has probably had more jokes dumped on it than anything, was not that bad a car mechanically.
The problem with Edsel is that is was simply another Ford built vehicle (as a monument to a family member) that duplicated others in the lineup.

A 1980 Chevy would tend to have more problems than a 1970 Chevy simply because the cars were loaded down with more gadgets in an effort to conform with what the Feds were saying had to happen. This is also true of European and Asian cars, although the Europeans had a jump on the fuel injection part of this.

One problem with many vehicles of this era is that many people working on them didn’t really understand how it all came together. This usually led to guessing, throwing parts, and making a problem seem far worse than it actually was.

My last “no computer car” was a 1971 Mercury Comet 6 with very poor driveability. It did not have a catalytic converter either.

My 1976 Granada V8 had a computer running the ignition; it still had poor driveability.

So, be glad that the emission and CAFE requirements forced the rapid development of computerized cars and spelled the death of carburetors.

Early computers, such as in the Volkswagen 412, and the early Chrysler models were very primitive and troublesome as well.

SWGaelic - so what do you think? Are you wanting to find something reliable? Or was this more of a history question?

My '72 Vega had no computers. I don’t believe my '76 Corolla did either.

The “best” of the purely mechanical cars is open to interpretation. From a musclecar standpoint, I’ve always liked the early '70s Camaro Z28s and Trans Ams. The two cars that had the most impact on the automotive world would have to be the Model T and the VW Beetle. The Model T made cars available to the working masses and established the stardardized-parts production line model, replacing the horse. The VW Beetle again made cars available to the working class as a cheap, basic mode of transportation.

I always liked the MGT series. They started the sports car segment here in the U.S. when countless G.I.s brought them home from Europe at the end of WWII, but they could certainly not be considered reliable or advanced.

You didn’t ask for this but a VW diesel to 1992 runs w/o computer chips. The glow plug control uses electronics for timing for cold or hot starts but this can easily be done manually if you want to wire the electronics out. That leaves the radio, alternator diodes and voltage regulator built into the alternator and LED lamps on the speedo cluster.

Older VW diesels are not difficult to keep going, just a little different than a gasoline engine vehicle.

VWs were made in Pennsylvania from 1978 to 1988 with Wikipedia having the exact dates. These could be called American cars with many parts from Canada, the US, Mexico and Brazil, all American countries and of course, Germany.

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Nineteen eighty-one meant O2 sensors for everybody.

No so! I had a 1990 Toyota Pickup with the 2-bbl carb. No O2 sensor. It did have electronic ignition and an electronic module that controlled the air injection system. The air valve controller box went bad, and I disconnected that system. I still passed emissions due to proper and meticulous maintenance.

Maybe you overlooked it.|GRPEMISAMS_614209389___

In 1981, most cars became computer controlled…Those car were all junk… In 1975, most cars were equipped with catalytic converters. Trucks managed to evade controls for a few more years…1974 and older is what you are looking for. But so are a lot of other people who are tired of being told they need a $1200 ECM or a $800 Cat…

A 1964-1974 car with the electronic ignition out of a '75-'80 model and you have the best of both worlds…Cheap, low maintenance, simple and cheap to fix.

Yeah, I thought those were electronic feedback (or computer adjusted) carburetors.

Exactly. That maze of hoses from the carburetor were usually routed to a series of a vacuum solenoids. These solenoids would bleed air into various parts of the carburetor based on instructions from the ECM which made this decision based on what the O2 was telling it.

Ford, GM, Subaru, Nissan, Honda, etc; they were all in on it.

Is this another “One Second After” inspired post?

Define “computer-aided”: does electronic ignition count? If so, got to go back to points-style ignition. (Though, in fairness, I doubt all “solid-state” iginition used chips–some may have used transistors.)

If, however, a mere bridge rectifier or voltage regulator meets one’s definition of “computer-aided”…have to go back further than I’d be able to venture a guess!

I loved my 1969 Dodge Dart. It would get my vote as one of the best.

I’m pretty sure my 1983 Mustang GT 5.0 HO (175 hp) only had electronic ignition and no computer. It had a Holley 4 barrel (600-650 cfm?) and was a right bear to drive until it warmed up. The 5.0 with the auto transmission version had either TBI or a feedback carb and was only rated with 150 HP. I’ll see if I can find the shop manuals in the garage.

Ed B.

Both my 1965 Dodge Dart and 1966 Chevelle Malibu were “no computer” cars with iginiton points, an carburetors. They were both very reliable and had good driveability. The only need was for a “tuneup” every year.