Opinion: On borrowed time
Will the second era of horsepower ever end?
A GOLDEN AGE FOR AUTOMOBILES:
We are living in an amazing time that allows one to purchase a 700 HP Dodge, 600 HP Mustang, 500 HP Camaro, 400 HP Audi or a 300 HP Ford Focus. Probably more amazing is the fact that it's not just blind power. These cars are engineered to be able to take corners and stop, unlike cars of the first era of factory horsepower. Turbo's are in full effect and we are benefiting from the technology. With the advent of synthetic engine oils, 20,000 miles can be placed on the odometer before you need to think about a oil change. Computer management has become so sophisticated, durable and reliable most people do not even think about the computer in their own car. Very shortly, computers will probably start driving us around and we will most likely let them do it without a second thought. It might be time for me to put up my Dwell Meter and Timing Light.
MEASURING HOW FAR WE'VE GOTTEN:
The examples of cars from the above paragraph are pretty extreme. So lets look at a "normal" car and then compare it to a predecessor. The Toyota Camry was the best selling car in the United States in 2017. It boasted 268 HP and a fuel economy of 24/33. In contrast, the best selling car in the United States in 1997 was also the Toyota Camry. A quick search tells us that it had 133 HP and was capable of an estimated 23/31 MPG. Those type of numbers had been pretty typical for the last 10 to 15 years. The comparison shows that fuel mileage numbers did increase, but not nearly as much as the horsepower ratings. How is that possible? Technological Innovation.
AUTOMOTIVE TECHNOLOGICAL GAINES:
Technology is ever pushing forward. Bringing the things that we haven't even thought about today, to a website, ready for purchase, tomorrow. As far as technology and cars are concerned, autonomous cars are coming, whether we like the idea or not. The reason couldn't be simpler. As Gearheads we are not in the majority of the population. Most car owning people on this planet view a car as a means to an end. To them, a car is very much like their toaster, something that's used for a purpose and then put away and forgotten about when not being used. Most people think of cars as burdensome things that are mystical when operating incorrectly and when they work correctly, these same people do not think about them at all. As car lovers this is as foreign a concept as restrooms with no toilets or driving on the other side of the road. Ultimately, cars are a commodity and majorities will always determine the future of any commodity.
Wave goodbye everyone...
SUCK, SQUEEZE, BANG, BLOW:
The last era of factory horsepower was ended by government regulation, fuel shortages and peoples changing attitudes towards high horsepower cars. Governments are even more intrusive than they have ever been, but they might not play as large a role as they did in the past. Geopolitical forces also played a huge role in ending Muscle cars the first time around, but any fuel shortages will probably be artificially created by government mandates. As big a role as government meddling and foreign whims played in the first demise of the muscle car, they will not play as large as consumer buying habits. The real killer of factory horsepower will be a consumer driven market that will turn its back on traditional cars in favor of something they can treat like an appliance. Which is how the average person increasingly thinks about cars.
Refusing to stand in line, Fred was ostracized from the collective...
Easter Island was once largely covered in trees. Yes, I'm talking about the island with all of the large rock statues. Human inhabitants cut most of them down. I wonder what the islander that cut down the last tree was thinking as he did the deed? Honestly, I don't believe he thought much about it at all. Their had only ever been a few trees on the island his whole life, so the last one coming down, probably didn't mean much. Easter Islanders were suffering from environmental amnesia. They didn't notice somethings numbers getting smaller and smaller over the course of their lives because it happened so slowly. I believe the same thing will happen to the automobile market. One day someone will purchase the last new car with an internal combustion engine and a majority of people will not think twice about it. In fact, if anyone bothers to ask about it, most people will probably call it progress.
Keep on Cruisin'!
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Art by: Chris Breeden
About the Author:
"Chris Breeden is a Social Media content creator for Custom & Hot Rod Life on DRIVETRIBE, YouTube and Facebook. After spending 5 years in Southern California, a.k.a. Hot Rod Heaven, while serving as a jet engine mechanic in the United States Marine Corps, he moved back home to Tennessee with an even greater love for Hot Rodded Vintage Tin. Since then he has worked in retail sales and the transportation and logistics industry. In 2018, seeing a gap in Hot Rod and Custom Car coverage on DRIVETRIBE, Chris began advocating for their inclusion on the platform. During the summer months, he can be found all over the Tennessee region covering car shows, meets, and cruise-ins. During the winter months, he can be found in the garage working on his custom 1949 Ford two-door sedan and 1954 F100 truck."