You may have caught my article about the brand-new
1960s Mustangs you can legally buy – upgraded in all the right
places but left alone everywhere else.
They have modern, fuel-injected engines, high-capacity four-wheel-disc
brakes and modern suspensions that make them the equal – or better – of a
brand-new (2019) Mustang not only in terms of performance but also everyday
driveability, low maintenance and long-haul durability, too.
Also their emissions – which are as low as the new Mustang’s and
But they haven’t got any
of the other stuff Uncle has been mandating since the 1960s
that may have made cars more crashworthy but also less beautiful and
individual. No air bags homogenize the steering wheels; no
federally-approved bumpers mar the classic lines of these reborn Mustangs –
which look exactly like the originals because they are original.
It’s the same sheetmetal, just newly stamped – fully authorized
by Ford – and allowed by Uncle.
This is fine – but also
not-so-fine because it’s effectively an exemption for the rich only.
These Mustangs – and a few other similar models, all of them
reproductions of classic cars from the ‘60s and ‘70s – are priced well over six
figures, chiefly because the exemption is granted for a very small number of
vehicles (no more than 500 in a year).
The cars are hand-built to the nth degree of detail and
fastidiousness. But the real reason for the high cost is . . . the
high cost. Building a small handful of cars for sale means you can’t exploit
economies of scale. Every low-volume car is an expensive car,
almost by definition. The manufacturer has to make a lot of money on each car
because he’s only selling a few cars. A manufacturer of lots of cars, on the
other hand, can make just a few bucks on each car and still make a great deal
The best historic example of this is, of course, the Model T
Ford – which sold for less with each new model year because Ford was selling
more of them each year.
But we’re not allowed to have
a modern Model T – a simple car updated in all the right
places – that we can afford. Not necessarily a reproduction
Model T – but in principle. How about a reproduction 1983-1987 Honda CRX, for
instance? That car delivered better gas mileage than any new
car – including hybrid new cars.
Sixty-eight miles per gallon (for the HF version)
and that was 35 years ago.
It did so via light weight, chiefly. The car weighed less than
1,800 lbs. and so a very small (1.3 liter) and not very powerful (58
horsepower) engine was sufficient – and more than that.
Manual transmission. Sport-tuned suspension. People bought it as
much for the mileage as for the enjoyment of driving the thing.
And it was cheap.
$7,668 back in ’83 – which is just under $20k today.
Imagine such a car reborn – and like the six-figure classic
Mustangs, upgraded in all the right places – but otherwise left as they
were. Lighter than the originals, perhaps. Via the use of
modern (and now affordable) composite materials for the body that weren’t
affordable back in the early-mid 1980s.
But no air bags – they weren’t around in the ’80s – and (like
the reborn Mustangs) exempt from all the federal saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety folderol
that has been imposed on new cars since the ’80s.
And not just a handful of them, either.
How about as many of them as
people are willing to buy? So that they wouldn’t be for the rich only.
How is it that some cars
– expensive ones – are exempted from the regulatory folderol which everyone
else is forced to accept?
Isn’t that more or less the same thing as the government
allowing people who earn a six figure salary to skip making “contributions”
to Social Security since they won’t need a monthly government check in their
If it is not saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafe for any new
car to be built without air bags and back-up cameras and all the other things,
why does the government allow some old cars to be resurrected,
but only for the enjoyment of those deep-pocketed enough to be able to buy
Do the deep-pocketed have thicker skulls to protect them in crashes?
Are they exempt from “the laws of physics” the government
always ululates about to justify its cosseting of us at
Don’t forget – it’s illegal for you and me to
even temporarily disable a defective air bag (the Takata time
bombs) until such time as they can be replaced with non-defective ones. But
someone with enough bucks can buy a brand-new 1967 Mustang GT without any air
bags at all and it’s perfectly legal.
Some animals are, indeed, more equal than others.
But there’s no legitimate reason why they ought
One can make a morally persuasive case that a new car’s
emissions be within a certain spec since emissions over a certain
threshold can affect the health of other people. This includes
new old cars like the ’60s Mustangs being manufactured
But the presence or absence of air bags in a car affects no one
except perhaps the person in the car – and even then, only
If it’s ok by Uncle for a guy
who can drop $167,000 on a “new” 1967 Mustang GT to drive around without air
bags, then it ought to be ok for you and me to drive around in a “new” 1983 CRX
– or maybe a ’78 Dodge Dart or a ’70 VW Beetle – without them, too.
Of course, Uncle won’t ok it
precisely because there would be a mass exodus away from Uncle-approved new
cars into much more affordable (and far more fun) new old cars such as an
updated ’83 CRX, ’78 Dodge Dart or ’70 VW Beetle.
It would crater the new (new)
car business – which builds cars to government-spec at our expense, because
we’re not allowed the option to opt out.
But Uncle always allows exceptions – and exemptions – for those
who can afford them or who have the right connections.
Which gives you some idea as to what Uncle is really up to, his
ululations about saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety (and many other
Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask
Eric” link and send ’em in!
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