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Everything old is new again: Car and Driver magazine modifies an econobox to improve MPG
Posted Wednesday, March 12/08 in General
34 years ago this month, the March 1974 issue of Car and Driver magazine ran an article about DIY modifications to improve fuel economy. The article was a direct response to the 1973/74 oil crisis - which was when people in North America first started seriously talking about improving fuel efficiency to address issues of energy security and high fuel prices.
But the magazine did a lot more than just talk about efficiency. They grabbed the bull by the horns (okay, a Ford Pinto by the bumper) and actually did something about it. Their story, Project Car: Crisis-Fighter Pinto, outlined six simple, mostly aerodynamic modifications which actually saved gas.
After the jump: the six modifications, in detail.
The Car & Driver guys didn't mess with the engine itself. Instead, they reduced the amount of work the engine had to do. Fuel is burned to overcome two main forces: rolling resistance and aerodynamic drag. At highway speeds, aero drag dominates, so that's where Car and Driver spent most of its effort - and eleven dollars on supplies (about $50, adjusted for inflation).
Mod #2: Partial grill block.
Mod #3: Smoother nose.
Mod #4: Smoother tail.
Mod #5: Reduced parasitic loads.
Mod #6: Reduced rolling resistance.
The Car & Driver Pinto demonstrated that even in a so-called "economy" vehicle, the auto maker had left a lot on the table in terms of potential efficiency improvements. The same remains true today, particularly regarding fuel-wasting, poor aerodynamics.
What's more... "...they are all the type of changes you can make - without going broke - and the type of change the car makers will have to make for the coming model years. Bluntly, this is the way it will be."
But perhaps the most interesting thing about the Crisis-Fighter Pinto is the fact that Phil Knox cites it as the catalyst that sparked his passion for DIY automotive aerodynamics. And since I can trace a line to the EV World article about Phil's aeromodded Toyota pickup truck that inspired me to learn about the same topic, ultimately I can thank the C&D article as well.
darin AT metrompg D-O-T com, or here