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View Diary: Of First Cars and First Loves: Sorry, Nan, this Diary is About my '69 Beetle (114 comments)

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  •  Those things have also prevented the air from... (5+ / 0-)
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    JayBat, BlogDog, Rick Aucoin, jakedog42, Zinman

    ...becoming unfit for breathing.  As bad as smog is in LA today, it was worse in the 70s, and there were fewer cars on the road.  

    Those things are also why you can get four and six cylinder engines today that put out as much -- or even more -- power reliably as a V8 from the 1970s or early 80s.

    You know the Jaguar XF Supercharged puts out over 500 HP and nearly 600 ft-lbs of torque, and still gets 20 MPG on the highway and pollutes less per mile than the diarists 69 Beetle?   Try that with carburetors and analog ignition.

    Remember the days when it was universally true that a manual transmission would help you get better mileage than an automatic?  Not anymore.  The DSG autoboxes in the VW and Audi lines get better mileage than the manual, and still offer the driving benefits of a manual.  You can now get that same technology in a Ford Fiesta.  Imagine that -- technology originally developed for Formula 1 race cars is now available in a sub $20K econobox from Ford, and it gets better mileage than a manual, and better performance than an old style hydrostatic slushbox....    

    I have a Volkswagen TDi.  It gets 50 MPG or more on the highway (My personal record is 62 MPG), and thanks to the low end torque of the diesel, it'll out accelerate anything on the road that gets anywhere near the mileage it gets, and even is quick enough to surprise some bigger cars.  

    And it -- like many new cars -- is not that hard to work on.  I do everything myself.  In many ways, it's easier to diagnose and fix a problem on it than it was on older cars.  When something isn't working right, I hook it up to my laptop using a program called VCDS and the car tells me -- in plain english -- what is wrong.   I plug in the computer, and the car says something like "Reading on #2 oxygen sensor out of parameter.  Recalibrate or replace sensor."  I thin hit the "recalibrate" button.  If that works, great.  If not, I go to the VW dealer, buy the part (it's not that expensive) replace it, and hook the computer back up, run the calibration program, clear the code, and I'm done.

    Now, VCDS is a pretty sophisticated program, and only works with VW/Audi cars.  But, for under $100 you can get generic OBD scanners at auto parts stores that are universal.  They're not as slick as VCDS, but they work very similar.

    Modern fuel injection is stupid simple, really.  And since there are only a handful of companies that make it (Bosch, Marelli, Denso, Delphi) once you learn one system, you can work on dozens of different vehicles.  You have a high pressure fuel pump, a fuel rail, injectors, a pressure regulator...  The things are controlled by a few sensors -- the Air Mass Meter measures the density of the air going in, the O2 sensors measure the makeup of the gasses leaving the engine, the crank or camp position sensor measure the timing of the engine, and the brain-box takes those measurements and calculates the correct fuel dosage to maintain the correct stoichiometic ratio in the combustion chamber.  That's about it.   Once you understand those parts and how they relate to one another, you can diagnose problems pretty quickly.  

    I also owned air cooled VWs in the past.   I've also owned my fair share of "simple" or "old school" cars with carburetors and analog ignition.  The TDI blows them out of the water in reliability.   No question.  At all.  The modern cars with their electronics and stuff have lowered pollution, have made cars perform better with less fuel, and have made them easier to live with, more reliable, and in many cases they are easier to fix, not harder.  


    •  Yes, we got something for the tradeoff. (3+ / 0-)

      It's true that it's a damn sight harder to be a shade tree mechanic these days.  

      I used to be pretty handy with my cars.  My first car, a '69 Buick LeSabre with a 350 carbureted engine.  My second car, a '72 Gran Torino Sport with a 351 Cleveland, my third car a 1980 Grand Prix also with a V8.  My fourth car, a 69 Mustang Mach One with a 351 Windsor, my fifth car, a 79 Formula with a Pontiac 400 engine in it...

      Hell, it was 2000 before I ever owned a vehicle that didn't have a V8 in it.  My current 2000 Jeep Wrangler with a straight 6 and all the electronic ignition and such that made it so the first time I tried to change the spark plugs I accidentally pulled the fuel injectors by mistake. Gas went everywhere... embarrassing.

      People talk about the "good old days" and one of the things they talk about is cars.  "They sure don't make them like they used to.".

      No, they don't.  

      My first car, that 69 Buick LeSabre, was 12 years old when I got it.  The paint was completely gone, it had rust holes in the quarterpanels, the interior carpet and upholstry was shot to hell and the engine wouldn't run.  I eventually got it running, but you would never make that car look nice again.

      12 years old.  And it was a scrap heap.

      My Jeep Wrangler?  It's 12 years old now too.  And the black paint is still mostly shiny, though dull in spots there's no rust on the car.  I've had to put new rear-end gears into it, but that's the only major repair I've had to do in 12 years of owning it.  Well, I did have to replace the fabric soft-top after 10 years, the stitching had started to go.  

      Yeah.  They DON'T make them like they used to.  Thank god.  They make them a LOT better.

      So I can't work on my Jeep like I could work on my '69 Mustang.  That's okay.  I don't HAVE to work on my Jeep like I had to work on my '69 Mustang.  :)

      2.1 million Texans voted Democratic in the 2010 midterms. How many people in YOUR state voted D in 2010?

      by Rick Aucoin on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 05:28:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  My dad is an old hot rodder from 50s and 60s... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rick Aucoin

        His first car was a '55 Chevy Bel Air that he inherited from his Aunt who died of a brain aneurysm when she was only in her mid 30s.  It was 1957, and he was 16.  

        He loved that car.  And he always loved old American Iron.  And air cooled VWs.  My parents had an old Bug when I was a tiny kid.  I was small enough to where I could fit in the little cargo area behind the rear seat.  

        Though my dad loves the old classics, he's the first to admit they were all terrible cars.  Terribly unreliable.  Terribly uneconomical.  Terribly built.  Terribly unsafe.  He used to say that the reason they changed designs every year back then was because the things fell apart after one year of ownership.  

        I think he would agree with you that they don't build 'em like they used to, and that's a good thing.  

        He no longer tinkers on cars.   He has bad arthritis in his hands, and has had surgery twice to repair a torn rotator cuff, so turning a wrench isn't really feasible anymore, as much as he loves doing it.  

        His new daily driver is a VW Golf TDi.  It's only about 10% larger on the outside compared to an original Beetle, but about 100% larger on the inside.  It has heat that works.  Even a functioning defroster.  And air conditioning.  It's quiet, rides smooth, and handles corners and brakes better than the best sports cars did in his day.  It gets better mileage and pollutes less.  The TDi diesel engine -- with proper maintenance -- is well known to last over 500,000 miles before needing an overhaul.  The old air cooled engines would never last longer than 100,000, and more likely at around 50,000 would need overhaul.  Granted, you could overhaul them on the kitchen table with a basic tool kit, but still.  

        He loves his memories of the old cars, but I'd put money on him being happier with what he has now.      

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