Older Vehicles vs. New Models


I agree that inflation adjusted, new cars are a much better value than in the old days. When I was in high school a 300hp car was really something. Now we have Camrys and Caravans with around 300hp. It would be interesting to see how a new Camry with a 300hp engine would handle in comparison to one of the first older cars with a 300hp engine. The Camry will of course get LOTS better mileage.

The one thing I don’t agree with are the touch screens and such. There are the electronic systems the integrate into everything. You can forget about replacing the stock factory radio without spending a fortune. The problem is you can’t upgrade it easily as the climate control and navigation is also integrated.

Modern rust proofing, machining, metallurgy, and better oils make cars last a lot longer. Sure we have duds every once in a while such as the Chrysler 2.7 or the Ford Split Port but most engines these days last a lot longer.

One thing I have noticed through the years is how you don’t get stuck behind a mosquito fogging oil burner like you used to. I don’t know if it is a combination of factors or not. Maybe engines are just made better. Maybe modern sensors and emissions controls will be fouled so quickly by such oil burning and the car will become essentially impossible to run. Maybe the law gets after people if they are leaving a smoke cloud even in areas where there isn’t emissions controls. Maybe modern lubricants contribute to better engine life even in those that have been neglected.

My dad grew up in the era of old cars and has no romantic memories of them. He views them as junk compared to what he drives today and wouldn’t want to go back.


In my demented mind, I believe the technology is actually pretty cheap and no reason to raise prices up much because of it. Once you have spent the money for development, how much does it cost to duplicate the software or add a couple extra computers, sensors or a display? I can’t believe it would be much more than a couple hundred dollars. Of course they’ll spread the development costs over the cars produced but I just wonder why I should have to pay a share of those costs when the reason they did it was to be competitive in the first place. They spent the money and want to get it back again to develop more software to lure me to pay more again. I must be missing something. I used to beat up everyone by charging for marginal cost rather than average cost. Better to charge a little over cost of production to keep everything busy than trying to get the sunk costs back and be idle. Always made money. Not everyone at Harvard agrees though.


My first car was a 1947 Pontiac Streamliner 2 door fastback. The rear window was more like a skylight. Visibility to the rear was terrible. The two piece v-shaped windshield didn’t offer great forward visibility either. Turning signals weren’t standard equipment, either. I bought a turning signal kit from the Montgomery Ward catalogue and installed it. I did equip the car with seat belts purchased from Western Auto.
The car was 15 years old when I bought it. The body was in great shape with no rust. After rubbing compound, polish and a coat of wax, the car looked like it came out of the showroom. The interior was in good condition. I did a thorough cleaning and I had a great looking car for the $75 purchase price. Unfortunately, the engine used a quart of oil every 250 miles and a worn cluster gear made a real howl when I started off in 1st gear. I would quickly shift into second.
That old Pontiac did have a great heating system. There was an underseat heater which many of my later cars didn’t have. The seats were much more comfortable than the Ford Maverick which came much later. Of course the vacuum operated wipers on the Pontiac left something to be desired. The flathead 6 cylinder engine was rather sluggish. The “silver streak” trim on the hood and trunk were rather gaudy.
I just got home from a 375 mile trip in our 2017 Sienna. I wouldn’t want to back to the old days. We averaged 28 mpg on the mostly interstate trip. The old Pontiac did about 16 mph on the highway at a much slower speed.


I looked up the specs on the 2017 Sienna and it is a 296 hp minivan. So we have another 300hp class family hauler. 300hp used to be the realm of real performance cars and not all that long ago. Now it is rather ordinary. You can also bet those older 300hp cars didn’t get 28mpg. I wouldn’t be surprised if these modern vans and Camrys also out handle the older cars as well.


@cwatkin. What happened to my other four horses? I wish I had those other 4 horses for better acceleration. I wonder how the acceleration of my Sienna would compare with a 1955 Chrysler 300 which had the highest horsepower of any production car in the U.S.


I can find no evidence that any 55 Chevy engine had a babbit engine. Chevy forums seem divided on whether standard shift 53 Chevy 6s had a babbit engine. Rock Auto sells oil pumps and con rod and main bearings for 55 6s and 8s. Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean they took the slingers off the rods the first year.

Are you talking about poured babbit, which is what I think of as a “babbit engine” or are you talking about inset bearing shells with a thicker layer of babbit that had to be line bored to finish unlike later cars with finished bearing halves.


Modern engine design , manufacturing and management are wonderful. I loathe touch screens, or anything else that diverts your attention from the road and I think that if cars were made to block cell phone signals from penetrating cars, our death rates would start heading back down. The biggest safety factor in a car is a driver that is paying attention to DRIVING.


I’ve got an old Motors repair book for the 50’s and it says that the 52-53 6 cyl, but not the V8, had the babbits molded into the rods and caps but except for the 53 with “PG”. I don’t know what “PG” referred to unless it was power glide. I didn’t see any other reference to babbits after that though. What a pain though, you adjust the clearance by filing or shims.


Yes, the PG was power Glide. Never worked on these, my only Chevy was a 72 Impala. First , last and only. Worst car I ever owned.


My first car was a brand-new '71 Dodge Charger SE, with the smallest V-8–the 318.
IIRC, it had a supposed output of 230 hp.
My typical gas mileage in “mixed” driving was 13 mpg, and the highest mpg that I ever achieved with that car was 16.5 mpg on a drive from NJ to Ohio.
By comparison, my 2011 Outback has a genuine output of 256 hp, and my typical mpg in mixed driving is 23-24 mpg. On long trips, I can wring 29 mpg from it.
And the Outback accelerates much more rapidly, is far safer, is much more comfortable, and has brakes that are so far beyond the pathetic brakes on that Charger that there is almost no way to compare them.


Did you also compare the curb weight and GVWR of that mini van? It needs all of that horsepower.


You’re right @oldtimer_11. Like my looks my memory is fading fast. Some where back in the good ole days I recall dodging rebuilding a 1955 Chevrolet because there was an issue with babbit rods(non insert) that was a real pain to deal with. But I found my old 1950s shop manual and obviously the original 265 Chevrolet/Corvette engine used inserts and full pressure oiling.


But oddly enough did not have an oil filter boss on the block! An add-on optional filter was available but generally not very good at its job. Maybe the fact that the engine went from drawing board to production in 4 months have something to do with it.

Not until the 283 was introduced in '57 did the blocks have the filter boss for a bolt-on replaceable element filter.


The small block Chevrolet V-8 has proven to be a great piece of work @Mustangman .None ever quite reached 400k on one in any of the fleets I worked on but 300k+ was expected and the 350 small block was a great engine in everything from the Corvette to school buses and dump trucks. The only common mechanical failure on a well maintained small block in commercial use was the timing chain that would usually pass 200k before jumping.


Amazing product give the short development time! And it remained so very close to the original over its life. Nice stuff like larger main bearings added in the 60’s, one piece rear main seals in '86 but most of the big parts still bolt right up.

The LS series just seemed to leverage the learning once they got it right. The first LS’s blew up faster than the mechanics at GM could change them. Then they added the vent holes across the main webs and the problems were solved.


The last Chevrolet engine, if my memory serves me correctly, that had Babbitt bearings and did not have full pressure lubrication was the 6 cylinder engine installed in the 1953 Chevrolets with manual transmissions. For Chevrolets with the PowerGlide automatic transmission, the 6 cylinder engine was reworked with insert bearings and full pressure lubrication. The manual transmission 6 cylinder engine in 1953 was rated at 108 hp and had a 216 cubic inch displacement while the PowerGlide engine was rated at 115 hp and had a 235 cubic inch displacement. In 1954, all the Chevrolet engines had insert bearings and full pressure lubrication and the engine displacement for both engines was 235 cu in. The manual transmission was rated at 115 hp and the automatic at 125 hp.
The 265 Chevrolet V-8 introduced in 1955 and the Pontiac’s new 287 cubic V-8 also introduced in 1955 offered the oil filter as optional equipment. Some stories were floated that the engineers believed that oil filters, particularly full flow oil filters might cause problems if a leak occurred. I once owned a 1948 Dodge which had a 230 cubic inch flathead 6 and came with a full flow oil filter as standard equipment. I never had a problem with oil leaks.
At any rate, by 1957, the Chevrolet V-8 had grown to 283 cubic inches and came equipped with an oil filter as standard equipment. The Pontiac V-8 engine had the displacement increased to 347 cubic inches and an oil filter was standard.
I had a 1955 Pontiac that didn’t come with an oil filter. I had constant problems with oil not getting to the rocker arms even though the engine had been overhauled just before I bought the car by the dealer’s service department.
I had the opportunity to trade the 1955 Pontiac for a 1957 Pontiac. I had had so much trouble with the 1955 Pontiac that I didn’t think I wanted the 1957. The 1955 I owned had a manual transmission. The column shifter was not smooth shifting and I had to have a new rear bearing in the transmission. I was still afraid of an automatic transmission back in 1963. It turned out that the Hydramatic was a very reliable transmission and by 1957 the Pontiac engine had the bugs worked out and was a great engine. My bias against progress caused me to pass up s good deal.


I think back then, transmission problems meant the death of a car more than engine or rust problems. Of course my memory is fading fast.


I have noticed that with modern vehicles, we’re getting more power and torque while gaining fuel mileage at the same time. My 2018 Mustang has about the same horsepower as an old Lamborghini Diablo, but at a starting price about 1/3 the cost. The Mustang gets 16/25 while the Diablo gets 8/13. Hell, my CX-7 is rated for 17/23.

[quote=“Mustangman, post:2, topic:131728”]
to the over designed Honda Civic R[/quote]
I just can’t wrap my head around the Type R, or even the Focus RS. A $35k Civic or a $41k Focus, and the only thing I see the RS having is that its AWD instead of FWD. To me, you’re still driving an econobox at the end of the day. If you want performance, the big 2.5 offers cars made to be performance from the start, not upgraded econoboxes.

The base ecoboost Mustang produces the same HP as the Type R, but starts out at $25k- same with the Camaro- and the RS is about 7 grand MORE than the GT or 1SS. The RS is about the same as the Challenger 392 package or the 2SS trim Camaro.


I’m not sure I completely agree with the notion that a vehicle isn’t broken in well at 100K nowadays

A lot depends on how old the car is by that time, if you live in an area where road salt is used extensively, how the car is used . . . private versus fleet . . . if you are a gentle driver, maintenance and many other factors

I generally agree with that. In fact, I can think of several iconic cars, where the first models were the best looking ones, in my opinion. The Thunderbird being a good example. Sadly, I think the image got severely watered down over the years

all that said . . . happy new year :fireworks::firecracker:


I am not certain that cars, even in the 1950s, were necessarily worn out at 100,000 miles. My dad purchased a 1954 Buick in 1955 from a family friend. The car had 24,000 miles at the time. I bought the car from him in 1963 and it had 120,000 miles on the odometer. I ran the car to 160,000 miles. In the entire time, the heads and pan had never been off the engine. The car was on the street two years after I sold it. In the time the car was in our family, it never used oil.
I think one thing that contributed to the durability of the engine was that it was a V-8 with a short stroke. Consumer Reports used to calculate a statistic in its reports on cars that gave the piston travel in feet per mile in high gear. A shorter piston stroke resulted in a lower feet per mile statistic and presumably longer engine life. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, the Borg-Warner overdrive coupled with a manual transmission was s popular option on many cars. While it did save gasoline, it reduced the piston travel in highway driving which boosted engine life. In fact, the Borg-Warner overdrive was standard on the Willys Jeep station wagons that came on the market after WW II. These 4 cylinder engines with their long stroke were screaming at 50 mph. The overdrive was standard to lengthen the life of the engine.
I guess metallurgy has improved so that piston travel is really not a concern.