MICHAEL Bloomberg, Alexandria Ocasio–Cortez, et al, want you and me to trade in our gas-powered vehicles for electric mopeds to use to commute back and forth to D.C. That would be a real adventure, yes?

Meanwhile, Bloomberg and his elitist buddies maintain fleets of private jets and helicopters that have fuel tanks the size of municipal swimming pools.

All I want is a simple, reliable V-8 engine under the hood. P.S: I have a plaque around here somewhere thanking me for serving 26 years on the executive board of a grassroots environmental organization, so I might just qualify as an “environmentalist.”



I rebuilt my first car, a 1959 Volkswagen convertible that had 100,000 shown miles on its broken odometer, with junkyard parts. That feckless car taught me to be a good mechanic, and mechanical work helped me pay for college.

Twenty years ago, if someone told me my “fleet” (an aged work pickup and a used executive car) would both have V-8 pushrod engines whose design roots go back 60 years, I would have declared them mad.

The high-tech, race-bred efficient engines in Japanese and European cars forced the American automakers to offer high-tech engines, too, and I used to be an advocate for small, high revvers. But today, things have gotten out of hand to favor mileage and emissions.

I’ll stick with the stalwart V-8. I don’t want to tow a landscaping trailer with a John Deere tractor on board with an engine that whines like a mosquito.

Virginia’s governor wants to raise gas taxes to promote alternate fuels, public transportation, bicycle lanes, etc. I used to ride the VRE trains when I could. However, those who have to commute by auto or live in rural areas are going to be subsidizing the urban dwellers (who just happen to be someone’s political base).

Competing factors in any engine design are reliability, power, mileage and emissions. Any of these gain at the expense of the others.

VW descended into public relations and financial hell by faking emissions numbers while enhancing performance. The need to raise mileage and cut emissions has led to designs that are clever, complex and expensive to maintain and repair. Tiny overhead cam engines have been mated with variable valve timing, infinite-speed transmissions, dozens of electronic sensors and relays and turbochargers to woo buyers and placate the EPA.

These finicky, over-engineered, tiny engines are going to make car mechanics wealthy if they don’t go mad trying to repair them.

All this techno stuff is borrowed from the race track to get good miles per gallon and emissions numbers from powerful, but tiny, engines. I call this “crystal meth for cars.” This complexity makes all the competing factors look good—except for reliability.

There is an old saying in racing: “The perfect race car engine blows up the moment the car crosses the finish line.” Race car reliability is sacrificed to the benefit of the other factors required for racing. No one puts 200,000 miles on a race car and their engines are rebuilt often. Andy Granatelli, a legendary race engineer, said, “There ain’t no substitute for cubic inches.”

Legacy V-8 engines are simple and tough. V-8s are easy to maintain and can be rebuilt forever. A 6.2 liter engine is barely turning over a 70 mph and can get mid-20s mileage. Manufacturers bank on naive consumers who only consider miles per gallon and emissions numbers.

Legacy designs are not always bad for the environment. A 35-year-old pickup will spend far less time in the repair bay over its long life and may still be running when a quad-cam, turbo-charged, computerized Wundercar is rusting on the junk heap.

Bob Sargeant is a semi-retired defense analyst whose favorite daily drive is a 10 mph John Deere tractor.

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