Back in the Day?

pawprint1August 18, 2005

Did people check gas mileage back in the day?

Did they care about gas saving tips or electric cars or what mpg a car acutally got?

I've only been driving for 21 years. It's not a long time, but I never worried about those things in the 1980's. And I've only heard stories about the gas cruch of the 1970's.

Today, 2005, not one day goes by where I do not hear about the price of gas.

What was it like back in the day?

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I've been driving for only a little longer than you have (25 years), but I can remember older relatives saying that some of the older cars got as good or better gas mileage than the ones that were out in the 70s. The "gas guzzlers" didn't really get popular until the late 60s or early 70s, when people became well enough off to be able to pay extra for high performance and luxury. Up until that time, most cars were of moderate size, often had 6 cylinder or small V8 engines, and didn't have anywhere near the number of power accessories standard on cars today.

I think a lot of us would be surprised by the fact that being completely unconcerned about the price of almost everything, as so many people have been lately, is a pretty recent development. Back when gas was a tenth the price it is now, a lot of people made a tenth of the incomes they make today -- or less. Plus, in 1960, something like a color TV or refrigerator cost a month or two's wages for the average worker, whereas today most people earn enough in a day to buy a color TV, and just a few days to buy a moderately-priced refrigerator.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 7:28PM
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I recall, that the old man used to check and record his mileage at least as far back as the early sixties, I don't remember if it was something he did before, but I do remember that he had a little cardboard circular calculator that some oil company gave out. It had distance on the perimeter of the card, gallons added at fillup was listed on the perimeter of the wheel, and mileage was indicated in a litle window near the center of the card.

One car he had, I remember very well was a full size Dodge, about 1969. It had an axle with about a 2.73 ratio, and mileage on long trips was about 17 or 18. I built a fiberglas body dune buggy back in the early 70's and we towed it behind that car, again on long highway runs, and mileage would drop down to 10.

I'm not real ambitious on knowing or keeping these same records, but the trip indicator does make it easier to keep track. If the wife is along on a long trip, I tell her to check the mileage just to monitor any unusual changes from normal, and also always reset the thing back to zero at each fillup.

As to gas saving efforts, he was always doing the regular tuneups with new plugs and points, always fidgeting with point settings, trying to squeeze out mileage. The only gadget I recall him wasting money on was a transistorized electronic coil, and that didn't improve things enough to cover the cost of it, no matter what the promotion said.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 9:01PM
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Not saying it's a bad thing that we have them now, but back in the day,we didn't have all the anti-polution devices to pull down milage, wich has ment cars now need to be smaller, and lighter. I remember seeing a movie from the early 60s where the neighborhood kids kept puting gas in the tank of this nerdy guy who was always checking his milage. He would brag, and brag about how many miles he got. Then of course they started takeing gas out, and his milage went down, so he tryed, and tryed to fix it, and it got even worse, cuz they took even more out.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 9:34PM
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I hesitate to enter into a discussion such as this because it seems someone will always chime in and say no that can't be right because-----. However I'll give it another shot. I started driving legally in '56. I managed to buy a '57 power pack Chevy. when the '58's came out and yes gas was a big big thing. I think it sold for about 38 cents a gallon for premium which is what my car needed and the gas mileage was around 14 mpg. which was not good. Of course being only 18 years old I didn't make much money and between the car payments and the gas there sure wasn't much left over. I had a tab at the local gas station and run up a bill over $200.00 which was terrible. I paid it off with the tax refund. A great car, lots of fond memories but it sure was tough financially. Before that I had a'52 Mercury flathead V-8 which got around 20 mpg. Probably should have kept that instead of buying the Chevy. Understand also that as a teenager I wasn't concerned enough to try and save gas, looks and speed were much more important. Lots of cars in the '50's were indeed large, like the Buick Roadmasters, Cadillacs and Lincolns. Up untill '53 Buick was a straight eight and used an automatic trans. called Dynaflo. They were good and fast cars but absolutely terrible on gas. The big ole Lincolns were V-8's but were also gas guzzlers. Also some 6 cylinders were hard on gas too like the early '50's chevys with the new powerglide transmission. The problem with the early automatics was the slippage. You got a lot of engine roar and not much pickup. And don't think some of these cars weren't big and heavy because they were. The '52 DeSoto had a huge hemi engine and some used a fluid drive transmission. Put it in gear let out on the clutch and it would sit there all day like that. Just press the gas pedal and it would start moving, let up on the gas and it would shift gears. A kind of semi automatic. Was it hard on gas, you bet. Between the huge V-8, the trans., and the weight gas mileage had to be bad. Chryslers were the same way. So the so called gas guzzlers have been around for a long long time. As someone said gas was cheaper back then but so were wages. Things don't really change, everything is relative. And even after saying that I still have a soft spot in my heart for the teenager who has to pay today's gas prices. Later Skag

    Bookmark   August 19, 2005 at 3:01PM
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I didn't know gas mileage was always a big deal. But then again there wasn't the internet to make it a public issue.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2005 at 6:46PM
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In 1951 I recall gas at 16.8 cents. There were gas wars at that price. We were concerned about the price. 17 cents then = 147 cents now which was the price of gas only a year or so ago.

Minimum wage was 75 cents/hour in 1948 and you could buy a decent house for $5000. That translates to $43,232 today; barely a down payment. Todays' gas prices, it would seem, aren't all that far out of line.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2005 at 8:30AM
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