Are New Econoboxes Better Than Old?

I still have the car I learned to drive on — a 1975 VW Rabbit. I like it, and Karen likes it better than I do. It’s a classic economy car, one of the first modern subcompacts. Way back when, it got over 30 MPG pretty regularly.

It hasn’t run in the past couple of years, but I got it running well enough today to get it onto the grass where I could wash it and check it over.

My 1975 VW Rabbit

It has an undiagnosed problem that’s making it run ragged, which I’ll take to the mechanical geniuses at the Independent Auto Werks in Corvallis if Karen and I can’t figure it out, and it needs to have the rust fixed and a new coat of paint. And a new stereo. Other than that, it’s as good as it ever was, which was pretty good.

I don’t really see the point in buying new cars. Cars last forever (at least, they do in areas where they never salt the roads), and newness lasts hardly any time at all. Nothing to get excited about. And if you want to impress your friends and neighbors, it’s cheaper and more fun to do it with a classic car, which by now has acquired some personality. Not that my Rabbit is turning any heads right now — or not in a good way. But I can fix that.

I was comparing the payload capacities of my various vehicles, and I was startled to learn that, while my Isuzu Trooper has a payload of 975 pounds and 18 MPG on the highway, the 1975 Rabbit has a payload of 715 pounds and 38 MPG! The difference between a subcompact and an SUV is only five sacks of feed? Unreal!

Gas mileage hasn’t really improved all that much since 1960, when a Ford Falcon could get 30 MPG and seat six. So there’s a huge range of history to choose from if you’re in the market for a thriftier car. No one’s holding a gun to your head to buy a new car that will never save enough money on gas to make the purchase sensible. The only important leap in automotive technology since my 1975 Rabbit was built was cupholders. But we lost 10 MPH bumpers somewhere along the line, so I’m not sure it was a fair trade.

I Publish Books! Norton Creek Press

Thoughts? Questions? Comments?

I'm wondering what your thoughts are on this issue. Most of my posts are based on input from people like you, so leave a comment below!
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Robert Plamondon
Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, and is an expert on free-range chickens. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years.

Author: Robert Plamondon

Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, and is an expert on free-range chickens. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years.

1 thought on “Are New Econoboxes Better Than Old?”

  1. I had a 77 Rabbit, as well as an 84, automatic. Definitely preferred the 77, with the stick. Kept having a problem with the fuel injectors clogging. Maybe bad gas, or bad injectors. I kept hearing the word “orifice” repeated.

    A roommate had a 77 Monte Carlo in the city, and i would drive that occasionally around Chicago, while the Rabbit stayed home in Peoria. When I drove it on occasion, it felt like a go-cart compared with that boat Monte!

    Recently, a friend of mine got an old Rabbit up and running. Same reason as you point out. Cheap to buy, great to drive, easy on the gas. (Not so lovely crash test results, but hey, nothings perfect.)

    I’m working on a 96 Saab 900 I’ve had since new. I said I’d keep it at least 10 years, which I have. And now, why not to keep driving it? I can get almost 40 MPG going less than 60 on the highway. Wow. Its a hatchback, so I get the cargo hauling, and the FWD makes it very surefooted on the slick stuff. (Won’t drive a RWD car if I can avoid it. Too unpredictable on ice.)

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