Older Vehicles vs. New Models

Those engines were easy and cheap to rebuild. Air-cooled. Very light. If a cylinder was scared you just remove it and pop in a new one.

The VW’s were more reliable then many other manufacturers during that period. But they were no where near reliable as the vehicles today are. Not even close.

There’s no car that will help you in a significant EMP event. Even if the car is driveable afterward, the EMP has fried the gas pumps, the traffic lights, police radios, etc, and so there’s gonna be mass gridlock until everyone runs out of gas.

It’s one of those things that there’s just no point worrying about it because if it happens, the rest of the world is going to be in such a deep mess that you won’t need your car anymore.

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When videos of rebellions in the 3d World are seen on TV there always seems to be several bare bones Toyota Hilux pickups with various armament attached and I get the impression that those are the current leaders in the worldwide reliability race but of course Americans don’t seem to want them.

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But I would never have guessed this has happened

My memory of the results is a little fuzzy but the gov did a test to determine how cars would fair in an EMP attack. Most kept running. Some stalled but started again. I think the grid is more susceptible than cars are. I’m not gonna turn my garage into a faraday cage but I think the power companies could do a little more to harden the grid.

Yes, exactly. There was a flare back in the 1800’s that knocked the telegraph system out, and even set fire to pieces of paper. But it wasn’t a huge deal because the telegraph was about as far as our technological grid went. If that flare were to hit today the power grid would be offline for a long time, delicate electronics would be disabled, etc. Your home computer might survive because the metal case might shield it, but it wouldn’t matter because there’d be no power to run it with, etc.

So, basically, when the world is a chaotic mess, and the streets are clogged with wrecks because traffic controls don’t work and everyone’s panicking, whether or not your car runs is of minimal concern, because you probably want to hunker down in your house at least for awhile, and hope no one breaks in.

My niece’s husband wrote a book of fiction on that theme. First of a trilogy. I don’t necessarily agree with him but we shouldn’t be stupid anyway. I’m more worried about flu bugs than EMPs but I keep my generator in order anyway.

I’m not worried about EMP either. I’m more worried about the piss-poor system security most of the power companies have in place. They are years behind most of us.

There’s a whole genre of fiction about that stuff. It’s called “Prepper porn,” after the explosion of the Prepper movement when people thought the digital world was going to end with the Y2K bug and started building survival bunkers loaded with years worth of food and water.

I read a couple out of curiosity, and mostly found it amusing. EMP pulse happens, disables everything with a circuit board and all the power lines, and then some dude loads up his miraculously-still-running Jeep with guns and sets off for some remote fortress he’s built just in case an EMP were to happen. It then always devolves into holing up in the fortress and shooting anyone who gets near.

Kinda makes me roll my eyes, because the genre assumes that the general population will be dangerous due to its survival motivation - i.e. gangs of survivalists invading your prepper palace, etc, but fails to recognize that people are for the most part incapable of independent survival. We are, after all, a society which thinks a class-C motorhome equipped with a Sleep Number bed, an oven, a shower, and a toilet is “roughing it.”

What would really happen in such a breakdown is that most of society would die within 2 weeks because Whole Foods wouldn’t be open anymore, and the rest would die shortly thereafter when they drink contaminated water because city utilities collapsed, so there wouldn’t be anyone to shoot. :wink:

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@Rodknox. I am one of those simple people who want reliability. What is interesting to me, however, is that the VW did require more maintenance than many other cars of that time period. I think there was a required valve adjustment at 3000 miles.
The VW, however, was easy to service and repair. The engine could practically be rebuilt with kitchen utensils.
I used to do a lot of my own maintenance and repair. Changing spark plugs and replacing distributor points was no problem. I replaced fuel pumps, water pumps, generator or alternators, etc. Now I don’t feel comfortable to do any of that. It gives the sense of losing control. The same is true about things in our house.
On the other hand, cars require a lot less maintenance and repair. The same is true with household appliances. I remember my dad lifting the top cover off our refrigerator and oiling the motor. When the refrigerator was 10 years old, the motor burned out. My dad took the motor to a motor repair shop and had it rewound. Now refrigerators have sealed units. My present refrigerator is 24 years old. All I do is vacuum the coils with my shop vacuum twice a year. It has never had or needed any repair. Today’s cars and household equipment are reliable, but are difficult or impossible to repair.

Heh heh heh. Yeah that about sums it up. Of course an EMP attack, which I think we should take a little seriously as a matter of national defense, would I believe be limited range and not nation-wide or world wide. So society would not collapse, although systems would be strained. Thing is that can be reasonably cheaply prevented. More worrisome to me is a new strain of disease, either by accident or attack, that could kill millions in a short time and over-run our medical support systems. Alas though, our purported political leaders, media, and schools seem more interested in social engineering than public safety and we will hear little about the true threats. I’m still waiting for the Tribune to carry anything about the new untreatable TB strain that was discovered and by chance isolated before it could spread. Sweat on forehead. There are real threats out there. Remember the 50’s and polio.

Back to cars. Not a bad idea to keep your tank filled anyway and a couple weeks worth of groceries on the shelf.

As for semi-modern cars that are easy to work on, you cannot beat the Geo Metro/Suzuki Swift. I have changed out engines in my driveway, no hoist required. Just place a block of wood and jack under the oil pan, support the transmission, unbolt the motor mounts and transmission bell housing, jack up the engine as high as it will go, and lift it out! The same holds true for the transmission but you have to remove the axles which involves a few extra steps as well as draining the fluid. These are really about the most simple little cars to work on.

Break a timing belt? I have changed one of those on the side of the road in about an hour. The Geo Metro has tons of room under its tiny hood. It was the VW Bug of its time and they will run forever if treated right. As with any economy car, people treat them poorly and neglect maintenance so often end up as a throwaway. Their biggest inherent weakness was lousy rust proofing. The things will literally fall apart from rust.

The Geo Metro is the most simple and easy to work on no frills car in the past 20 years if you ask me.

As for EMP attack and such, I agree that EVERYTHING would be a mess. There would be no more clean drinking water for many, no more sewage treatment, no more food distribution, no more fuel distribution, and no police/fire services. Food would rot in refrigerated warehouses with no refrigeration, trucks couldn’t transport food or fuel, pipelines wouldn’t work, water and sanitation systems would have no power, and the police would be protecting their own families, etc. It would be a real mess.

In the event of a solar flare similar to the 1859 Carrington Event, there would possibly be time to disconnect electric power systems and protect components from being fried. There would be blackouts extending for a considerable time but it wouldn’t be an all out catastrophe if utilities acted in time. Yes, it would be a huge
and costly inconvenience but not the collapse of modern civilization. We had a close call with a large solar flare just a few years ago. https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2014/23jul_superstorm A solar flare would likely leave our sensitive microelectronics intact. Cars wouldn’t be disabled directly but wouldn’t run if you couldn’t get gas and such.

A surprise EMP attack by an enemy would come without warning and fry the power grid. This is the stuff that will fry the sensitive microelectronics in pretty much every device we own these days unless in a Faraday cage. EVerything within a several hundred to thousand mile radius will be impacted. Research the Starfish Prime nuclear test if you want to understand how this all works. Telstar 1, the first major US communications satellite, was fried by radiation from atmospheric nuclear tests. An atmospheric nuclear test by anyone these days might as well be an act of war as it is going to fry at least some satellites, creating global impacts.

Remember, I work in IT for a living. Lax security is the reason for over 50% of my work. Yes, it keeps me busy and pays my bills but is also frightening. I see how so much information is compromised and how people just basically leave their doors wide open for the bad guys to steal information and trash their networks with ransomware, etc. All of the big hacks that made the news were 100% preventable. Notpetya is one such attack that could have really impacted the world economy had Maersk not escaped the complete loss of all their shipping information by a simple stroke of luck. https://www.wired.com/story/notpetya-cyberattack-ukraine-russia-code-crashed-the-world/ Yeah, a cyber attack is probably likely to be the thing that crashes the world when you get right down to it. I deal with it on a daily basis. I tell my customers that hacking likely impacted the US Presidential election and can make or break your business as well.

As for cars, take a look at this article. Yeah, this was fixed years ago now and it took a certain combination of factors to make it work but is a proof of concept of how vulnerable modern cars are to hacking. https://www.wired.com/2015/07/hackers-remotely-kill-jeep-highway/ I almost think I would want any means of my modern vehicle communicating with the outside world disabled. IF not in software, I would remove the radio transmitters or disable them by cutting the wires at a hardware level. Of course this might set off some sort of limp mode and basically ruin the car for all practical purposes.

Then we have all these smart devices which are capable of getting hacked in odd ways. You may get hacked via that $6 smart LED lightbulb these days or that remote thermostat. Here is how a smart fishtank allowed hackers to get into a casino network. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2017/07/21/how-a-fish-tank-helped-hack-a-casino/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.1b251c135ce0

I don’t use Alexa at my house!

I’ll disagree with some of your thoughts but I’m glad I didn’t buy the wifi version of the garage door opener anyway. I just can’t control what the wife uses but I do seem to get ads for stuff she talks about or searches for on my computer. How’s that work? We talk about something and it shows up on my computer. Big brother, but it’s the tech guys not the gov this time.

I was not a fan of the air cooled VW, I had a 71 Bus, bought new. It came with no fuel filter, a fact the dealer didn’t disclose to me until I came back 3000 miles later and had to pay him $100 for carb cleaning because dirt in the cab isn’t covered by warranty, He then tried to sell me a “Super Micronite” fuel filter for $129. I stopped at a parts store and bought an inline filter for $1.

It also had no oil filter, just a screen that was so coarse that BBs would pass through it. The air cooling created more problems than it solved, ridiculously poor heat and defrost to the point of being dangerous to drive in the winter. At 4 years old the heater boxes rotted out as did the exhaust pipes filling the cabin with fumes and the valves kept recessing themselves into the head necessitating valve adjustment every 3000 miles.

I got so I could change the oil and adjust the valves in one trip under the bus. The thing still had a huge, oil bath air cleaner that you had to disassemble to check the battery which the owners manual suggested you do ONCE A WEEK

Fond memories, my foot!


Some old cars seem to be remembered for all the wrong reasons. They certainly don’t make them like the used to… and that is a GOOD THING! Rust proofing didn’t really exist back in the day. 4 years before rust out might not have been that bad depending on where you live. One of my buddies owned a Jeep Cherokee that had been through many Chicago winters. IT was so rusted that it couldn’t even drive straight and was wearing out tires like clockwork. He pretty much knew it was done for and just drove it until it came up to have the tags renewed. He didn’t even bother to take it in for the required inspection as he knew it would fail and the cost to make it pass would far exceed its value. IT seems that some vehicles had OK paint on the parts you could see but would rust from the inside out as the undersides were bare metal.

The owner of this Pinto certainly got his money’s worth from a crappy car in the first place. https://jalopnik.com/5924130/how-was-anyone-driving-this-ridiculously-unsafe-car-on-the-highway/ THey don’t make 'em like they used to!

Yes, like the pleasure of replacing a timing belt on the side of the road or replacing an engine in your driveway.

Late 1920s my dad’s father and uncle headed from the farm over to another a few miles away to look at some livestock. Dad, still a young boy, went along. Hot Oklahoma summer day on a rocky dirt road. Eight flats in about two miles. By the time they stopped and patched tires eight times the afternoon was spent so they turned around.

Around the same time, one night my grandparents with all four kids in the Model T were driving up a long hill. Because the “headlights” worked off a magneto (or so my dad said when telling the story) they put out little light under such heavy load. My grandfather suggested he needed to light a match to find the headlights. :grin:

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My appreciation for Volkswagens comes from owners I have known, I have never owned one long enough to get it tagged and the air cooled models were out of production when I went into the auto repair business. There were several excellent shops that specialized in the old VWs here at one time and one may still be in business. Over the years since about 1960 it has been obvious that VW owners who were methodical in the maintenance and drove to suit the cars abilities were happy with them while those of the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” school cursed ever buying one.

When properly cared for there was rarely an unexpected failure leaving the owner stranded. Tune ups, oil changes including adjusting the valves, adjusting the clutch, greasing the chassis and adjusting the brakes gave the owner or mechanic a lot of insight into what was approaching being worn out and when regularly checking the oil inspecting THE belt, fuel pump vent, etc., often previewed an approaching problem which the methodical owners immediately took care of.

Those heat exchangers were just adequate in mild winter weather but I rarely saw them fail until the cars had many miles and years on them. Maybe salted roads were a problem on the exhausts up in the Klondike north of Memphis but who would ever spend a second winter up there, anyway? Maybe that snow plow driver in the old VW ad.
But there are those extremes in the chronicles of automobile care; (1) If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and(2) read and adhere religiously to the recommendations in the owners manual adding any other possibly beneficial care. Definitely happy air cooled VW owners belonged to the former and Ford Galaxies to the latter.

I occasionally see one of several locally owned Model 181s on the road in nice weather and would seriously consider buying one in good working order but they have a cult following that keeps the price out of line with reality. They seem to offer a safe and comfortable ride in fair weather on city streets where I would be driving and they appear to handle jumping curbs and making tight turns while appearing to be easy to jump in and out with the doors off and who needs doors on a nice day?

Oh well. I’ve wasted enough time and hope anyone reading this didn’t have anything better to do.


Vehicles in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and the 80’s were not near as safe as the newer cars. New car also feature more power and technology but the reason why people prefer old cars is because they were easy to fix and no non-sense cars. Everything was there for a reason and everything was simple. I for example have a Mercedes 190D 2.5 1989. Great car absolutely love driving it but without airbags and driver aids, it requires some skill and it is less safe if I get into an accident.

They were easy to fix, but you had to fix them more often. I still remember back when I was a little kid, and dad’s Corolla made it to 100,000 miles. All the neighbors were amazed. Cars just didn’t do that all that often back then. And dad put a lot of work into it over the years to get it that far, and even then it only got that far because dad was a tightwad and refused to replace it. Which he should have - that thing was beyond tired.

Fast forward to today and my 12-year-old Acura has almost 140,000 on the odometer but still runs like new and even looks mostly new. I’ve put less than $1500 into it, and the vast majority of that was the 105,000 mile timing belt service.

Dad spent a lot more time out on the driveway wrenching on his car than I do on mine, and he spent a lot more time in the breakdown lane too.

Yeah, dad’s car was much easier to work on, which is a good thing because it needed to be worked on a lot.

Mine has tighter clearances and is much more complex and there is some stuff that I just won’t do because it involves too much surgery and downtime for a DIYer like me and so I have to farm it out to a shop, but overall I’m ahead of the game because whereas dad would have to spend a Saturday doing maintenance on his car, I can spend my Saturday doing other things.

As for no-nonsense cars, erm… I beg to differ:


And then there’s this stuff:

which was all standard equipment in the 1955 Dodge La Femme. Yes, that’s a compact and a tube of lipstick, and other makeup accessories. The handbag slotted into a receptacle on the passenger seatback. :wink: