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.
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.