Tuesday, 11 August 2009

An lesson in early fuel economy measures

Stuck at the traffic lights this morning I spied two cars of interest - a Prius (a car I have zero interest in) and a Rover P4. That's the immaculate black car in front of the Pious.

Dad owned one of these back before I was born. He used to tell me that his favourite feature was the freewheel, which allowed you to coast down hills, saving on fuel.

From Autoweb:

It wasn’t a surprise when Rover began to fit a driver-controlled freewheel mechanism on their cars for the 1933 season, as such devices had been quite fashionable since the late 1920s. A freewheel, when ‘unlocked’ by the driver, allowed easy, quiet clutchless gear changing, and made it easy to save fuel by coasting. But it made great demands on the car’s engine refinement, braking and handling capabilities. The unusual thing is that Rover continued to fit freewheels successfully as standard right up until the 1956-59 period, only phasing them out as the various models were fitted with vacuum servo brakes. This was in case an engine stopped while freewheeling, thus losing manifold vacuum.

People make such a big deal out of driving supposedly economical cars these days, no matter how expensive and impractical they are. Yet here we have a car that went into production in 1949 that featured a simple feature for improving fuel economy (even if it did have its downsides). Furthermore, that freewheel feature was incorporated on earlier models, dating back to the 1930s.

We tend to forget that in the early days of motoring, fuel was amazingly expensive compared to now (and the quality was crap), meaning that driving was limited to the very rich. Even when the Model T drove down the cost of buying a car, fuel was still expensive due to the government taxing the hell out of it and inefficient refining methods. Post WWII was the motoring Golden Age due to the happy coincidence of improved highways, cheaper and more reliable (and comfortable) cars, along with relatively cheap fuel (compared to earlier eras).

Even then, motoring only percolated down to the middle classes - the poor still took the bus.

How will our roads look when the High Priests of Gore have driven the poor from the roads with high priced petrol? Will social-justice compassion junkies be happy when the "disadvantaged" can no longer afford to drive?

Hell, if it reduces road congestion, I say "bring it on". I'll still be able to drive a 4WD when fuel hits five bucks a gallon. It might actually be pleasant to be on the road again in a motor car when the proles are removed from the equation.


kae said...

I managed to get excellent consuption on my long journey into work, it helped that there were a few places where I could take my foot off the accelerator and just let the car go, a couple of downhill sections where there was always traffic and a few flat spots.
Now I only travel 11ks to work consumption's like the city cycle.

Boy on a bike said...

I meant five bucks a litre, not gallon.

1735099 said...

I've seen 7.5 lit/100 km in my MX5 on a journey. The biggest variable is the driver's right foot.

Kaboom said...

Petrol is the cheapest part of owning a car, and it is astounding the fuss made when prices increase.

The proles are going to vote with their feet, and I'm looking forward to Labor being blamed for the enormous living cost increases consequent to their misguided CPRS scheme.

However, being a tax, once it is initiated it will never be removed.

I wonder how Labor is going to (1)reimburse the poor folk 120% of the cost of living increase, (2) how this will help reduce energy consumption, and (3) who is going to pay for it?

What a clusterfuck......

Anonymous said...

You sure that isn't a P5? A bit sharper back to the cabin than the more rounded P4 shown on your link.
Quite a big grill too!


Boy on a bike said...

Yeah, I think you are right about the P5 bit. It didn't sound like it had a V8 under the bonnet though. I was thinking it might have been the P4 100 model.

I was going too fast for a good view!

Anonymous said...

Early P5's were still 3 litre models and it wasn't until the P5B ("B" for Buick) did they start using the buick design V8 (Check the wikipedia link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rover_P5)