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Old 01-08-2008, 08:39 AM   #1
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35 MPG Standard Will Kill the Muscle Car? Uh-Huh. Sure.

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35 MPG Standard Will Kill the Muscle Car? Uh-Huh. Sure.
By Chuck Squatriglia
Deccember 26, 2007 | 10:52:29 PM
Categories: Fuel Economy

You just knew it would happen, and it has - someone in Detroit is whining that the new 35 mpg fuel economy standard set to take effect in 13 years will be the end of the muscle car.

Uh-huh. Sure it will.

Tadge Juetcher, chief engineer for the 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1, says the tougher fuel efficiency rule, coupled with efforts by the European Union and California to curb emissions, could make next year's supervette the last in a long line of pavement-peeling Motor City muscle cars.

"High-performance vehicles such as this," he told the Associated Press, referring to the supercharged Corvette General Motors will unveil next month at the Detroit auto show, "may actually be legislated out of existence. It really could be an endangered species."

Juetcher isn't the only one predicting we'll all be driving Smart ForTwos and longing for the days when we could scare ourselves silly going zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds on our way to 200 mph. One blogger goes so far as to say gearheads are doomed to a future no less miserable than "Sarah Connor in the movie Terminator 2, who was haunted by visions of a dark and bleak future after a nuclear war." What makes it so funny is he's completely serious.

And completely wrong. We're gearheads of the highest order here at Autopia. We love going fast. We've driven some of the quickest production cars out there. And we're pretty excited about the future.

Clearly these people crying that the sky is falling are minimizing, if not completely overlooking, a key fact of the Energy Indepedence and Security Act of 2007: automakers must increase the average fuel economy of their entire fleets - from the smallest econobox to the biggest SUV - by 40 percent, from 26.4 mpg to 35 mpg. To hear some of these people whine, you'd think the law requires every car that rolls off an assembly line in 2020 to get 35 mpg.

This means automakers like GM will keep building cars like the ZR1 (15 mpg city / 24 highway), but make them more fuel efficient while also producing more compacts and subcompacts (which, by the way, are the fastest growing segment of the market) like the Aveo 5 (24/34) that also will become thriftier. GM and others might also begin offering Americans some of the highly efficient cars they are selling in Europe or developing for foreign markets (such as the Chevrolet Beat, for example.)

GM, to continue the example, is making a huge investment in new engine technology, hybrid drivetrains, electric vehicles and other alternatives to fossil fuel. All the automakers are charting a similar course, as we outlined in "How Detroit Will Reach 35 mpg," because they all plan to keep building cars we actually want to buy - and that includes big honkin' SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade and insanely fast sports cars like the Dodge Viper.

The alarmists also need a little perspective. The 1964 Corvette with the 327 cubic-inch engine produced 375 horsepower and the 1965 Mustang with the "Hi-Po" 289 produced 271 horsepower. (Note: figures are gross horsepower; automakers began citing net horsepower figures in 1971, so the ratings dropped even when measuring the same engine.) Those are impressive figures, even by today's standards. Then came the 1970s and the gas crunch, emissions control systems and catalytic converters. Purists lamented it would all spell the end of the muscle car and we'd all be driving Chevettes.

Yes, there were some pretty lean years for awhile, but the industry adapted and moved on. Next year's Corvette ZR1 will crank out 620 horsepower and the Bullitt edition of the Mustang will have 315 (a Shelby edition planned for 2009 reportedly produces 540). Horsepower figures have roughly doubled in the past 20-odd years, and at least 33 cars available in the United States produce 500 horsepower or more. Anyone who thinks they're all gonna disappear has been inhaling exhaust fumes too long. In fact, some auto industry insiders and analysts say were at the dawning of a new horsepower war.

Putting aside the question of whether anyone needs that kind of power, you can argue the 35 mpg standard will make all cars - including high-performance vehicles - better. Some of the first things Detroit will do to boost fuel efficiency are reduce weight, improve aerodynamics and reduce parasitic loads by replacing engine-driven components like power-steering pumps with electric parts. That's a sure-fire recipe for better performance even if horsepower figures decline significantly.

Things will only get better. We're going to see more engines with direct injection (so far used mostly on very high performance vehicles), more turbochargers and more superchargers. Six- and seven-speed transmissions will become commonplace. There will be more hybrids - in everything from subcompacts to SUVs - more clean diesels and even electric cars coming down the pike. Electric drag racers like KillaCycle and Current Eliminator V are pushing the boundaries of what batteries can do. Alt-fuel vehicles are setting all sorts of speed records. Mothers Polish and renowned car builder Chip Foose recently teamed up to build a 1,000 horsepower 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle powered by propane. And then there's the Tesla Roadster, which has redefined the electric vehicle and shown alt-fuel cars can be every bit as exciting as fossil-fuel burning super cars.

Thirty-five mpg will kill the muscle car? Don't bet on it.
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Old 01-08-2008, 10:01 AM   #2
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That's a refreshing article. Much different from what most are writing about. There is a mention at the end about a car running on propane. I guess it would be an engine similar to diesel. It makes me think how awesome it would be if we converted to E100/alcohol. A fuel coil could be used for cold starts. More power & exempt emissions.
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Old 01-08-2008, 12:33 PM   #3
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Thirty-five mpg will kill the muscle car? Don't bet on it.
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Old 01-08-2008, 12:45 PM   #4
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That's a refreshing article. Much different from what most are writing about. There is a mention at the end about a car running on propane. I guess it would be an engine similar to diesel. It makes me think how awesome it would be if we converted to E100/alcohol. A fuel coil could be used for cold starts. More power & exempt emissions.
What? propane is naturally a gas at room temperature and when you compress it you eventually get a liquid, I don't think its possible to run it like a diesel you will just get a compressed gas. I think it is more similar to cars that run on methane (aka natural gas) or nitromethane (aka top fuel). But a diesel?
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Old 01-08-2008, 12:58 PM   #5
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What? propane is naturally a gas at room temperature and when you compress it you eventually get a liquid, I don't think its possible to run it like a diesel you will just get a compressed gas. I think it is more similar to cars that run on methane (aka natural gas) or nitromethane (aka top fuel). But a diesel?
I read an article where a guy was using propane in his diesel truck. I believe it was described as the equivalent to nitrous in a regular gas engine.
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Old 01-08-2008, 02:12 PM   #6
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Ah yes, I have heard of it being used that way. But thats completely different than using it as a the only fuel.
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Old 01-09-2008, 02:29 AM   #7
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I'm glad someone wrote that in English - the word "average" is the key. If all cars had to manage 35mpg then chaps like Ferrari and Lamborghini would be selling cars to their own and no one else.

However, these rules still help get us better mileage out of our muscle cars. God knows it should be possible by now!
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