The Sad, Slow Cars of the 1960’s

January 18th, 2018

Stay Away From the Old Lady in the Camry

I feel like writing about trivial things today.

First of all, today and yesterday I watched Bullitt all the way through. I record old movies on the Turner channel so I have things to watch during meals or when the birds are out of their cages, and Bullitt turned up on the program guide, so I saved it.

What do people love about Bullitt? The car chase. Two 1968 cars. The bad guys drive a Dodge Charger R/T with a 440 in it (375 HP). McQueen drives an “iconic” (tired of that word) Mustang GT fastback with a 390 (325 HP). The Charger falls apart during the chase. The bad guys run into things. They can’t get away from McQueen, and they get sloppy.

Here is the funny reality: according to the guys who made the film, the Mustangs (2) used in the chase were so much slower than the Chargers, the bad guys had to go easy on the gas. They could have pulled away from the Ford and ruined the chase for everyone. Here’s another sad fact about the overrated Ford: no positraction. I noticed that on my own. McQueen took off from a dead start, spinning ONE rear wheel. He left one long black stripe on the pavement, not two. Who in his right mind buys a fast car with one rear wheel that spins?

I think “positraction” is technically a GM term. I use it loosely. It refers to a limited-slip differential that causes both rear tires to apply force to the pavement. If you don’t have positraction, you can end up in a situation where all of your power goes to one wheel which spins without moving the car forward.

It would be ridiculous for a motorhead to buy a fast car without positraction. It’s even more ridiculous that the sharp professionals who prepared the Ford and Dodge for the chase didn’t insist on it. They knew it would look silly if the car spun its right rear wheel. I guess they had no choice.

I decided to look up the performance numbers for these “legendary” cars. Get ready to laugh. The Charger ran the quarter in 14.9 seconds, and the Ford was measured at 14.8. Is that good? Well, it’s better than the 16-second car I drove in high school, which was crippled by 1970’s greenie technology. But how fast is it today? Let me pick a car at random. I love doing this. Let’s see what a Honda Accord will do.

I have the numbers. A Honda Accord with an automatic transmission, four doors, and no cool Hurst shifter will do the quarter in 14.1 seconds. It will make it to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds. This the “sporty” Accord, to be fair, but nonetheless, it’s a mom-mobile that mops the floor with a real Bullitt Mustang and a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T. Too funny.

The Accord also pulls 0.88 g on the skidpad, which is so much better than a 1970’s Corvette (the American handling champion), it’s in a different universe.

Think how hard Dodge and Ford worked to get those awful numbers. The Dodge had a 7-liter engine and God only knows how many special motorhead parts on it. The Accord has a 2-liter engine, and it probably doesn’t even have any cool stickers on the fenders.

Only the Dodge was a muscle car. The Mustang was not. A muscle car is a big grocery hauler with a huge engine inserted for compensation. A small car like a Mustang is actually made to go fast, from square one. The Mustang and Camaro were scaled down to make them fast. They were called “pony cars,” either because of their size or because of the chrome pony on the Mustang grill. Which you would see a lot, in your rear-view mirror, if you raced it in an Accord.

Another interesting fact: Ford loaned the Mustangs to the filmmakers, and they also provided two bigger cars for the bad guys. The big cars couldn’t handle the San Francisco bounces, so they had to use Dodges. Embarrassing for Ford. The cars in the film had modified suspensions, so it appears that the big Fords couldn’t cope, even with expert help.

I’m a bad person for saying it, but if they redid the movie today with four Honda Accords, the speeds would be way higher, and everyone would have Bluetooth, so they could curse at each other over their cell phones: “Not cool, bro [frowny emoticon].” And what if the bad guys drove the baddest 1968 muscle car available, and McQueen drove an Accord? It would be painful to watch.

It seems like the big difference between real muscle cars and the crummy ones they produced after 1972 was low-end acceleration. I may be wrong, but the pre-1973 0-60 times seem more impressive than the quarter-mile times. I guess when the 1973 cars lost a second and a half in the quarter, most of it came from the 0-60 part.

I read up on Steve McQueen. It turns out he pretty much was the guy he played. He was very good with cars and motorcycles. He was good enough to compete professionally. He was a black belt in some martial art or other. He grew up in reform schools. He ran away and joined a circus. He was a merchant marine. He was a non-merchant Marine. He saved five guys from tank that was about to sink through broken ice. He got in trouble in the Marines, reformed, and ended up guarding Harry Truman’s yacht. He did his own stunts.

Maybe they should have filmed his life instead of his roles.

He also treated women like dirt. Oh, well.

He visited with Billy Graham before he died from mesothelioma, and when he died, he was holding a Bible Graham gave him. Good news.

Unrelated matter: today my pipes froze. I did not expect that in northern Florida, at 25 degrees, after only a few hours. I left the water dripping from the faucets that aren’t attached to the house. I figured the faucets that go through house walls would be protected. I didn’t do anything to protect the house pump or the farm pump. Got up today and had no water at the tap. It took several hours for things to thaw out. Now I’m wondering what I should do tonight. I feel like I need to leave one faucet running indoors, to keep warm water moving through the pump and pressure tank. I don’t think things get bad enough here to crack pipes, but I may be wrong.

If I lived in Montana, I would know what to do. If I lived in Key West, I would know what to do. Here, I’m in a sort of climate twilight where you apparently have to take limited measures.

I don’t know if my citrus trees will survive. Two of them are worthless to begin with. One is a sick grapefruit tree which does not produce edible fruit, and the other is a sick ponderosa lemon. No one wants a ponderosa lemon. They don’t taste as good as real lemons. The third tree is a sick cara cara navel. It would be good to keep, as long as it was well enough to produce, but I have no way of protecting it. It may have bought the farm last night. It has citrus greening, so it’s doomed, but another year or two would have been nice.

I can replace it with a mandarin that will resist citrus greening, but I can’t find new trees, and it would be about two years before I got fruit.

I do not know how to cope with landscaping here, because I don’t know what dies in the winter and what doesn’t. My plan is to protect nothing and replace the dead stuff with things that don’t have to be babied. Perhaps rocks.

The climate control system is mystifying. In Miami, when it gets below 40, you freeze. The builders don’t prepare houses for the cold. Every time cold weather hits, the supply of space heaters gets snapped up overnight. People rely on them to heat their homes. It’s stupid. Now I live in a house that has a real heating system, but I can’t get it to work right.

This house has 2 AC units and 4 thermostats, plus a computer that connects the units. When the power goes out, the computer (which has no backup battery) loses its programming, and the smaller unit stops turning on. That’s annoying. I had to figure out how to program it in order to avoid repeated $75 service calls. Now I find that when the weather gets into the 30’s, the upstairs gets very hot on one side of the house. My bedroom goes up to 79 degrees when it’s freezing outside. I have had to open a window.

I think the heat from downstairs must be coming up a stairwell. This is my best guess. I think the heat goes upstairs, the downstairs doesn’t get hot enough to shut off the downstairs thermostat, and I lie and sweat. My answer is to turn off the upstairs heat, put a space heater near the birds downstairs, and turn the downstairs heat down to 70. Seems to work, but I suppose I’ll have to call the experts eventually to find out if there is something I don’t know.

This house has real insulation and real windows, unlike most Miami houses. When you turn on the AC in a Miami house older than 30 years, you air condition the whole neighborhood. The cold air goes out through floors, ceilings, windows, and doors. It’s wonderful to live in a house where the cold air stays in.

I am addicted to my new housecoat and houseshoes. Cold weather has its down side, but at least you get to lounge around in a cozy robe and shearling shoes.

Enough exciting news, I guess. Time to read up on faucets and frost.

3 Responses to “The Sad, Slow Cars of the 1960’s”

  1. Ruth H Says:

    When we moved into this home it had one of those computer thermostats. Fortunately it only controls one system. But it kept resetting itself insisting we were working people and needed to be shown what to do during the hours from 8-5 since working people aren’t home at that time.
    I finally got discussed with it and had the electrician come put in an old fashioned on/off, up/down controlled thermostat.
    You could use one on each level. Simple fix. Disgusting to have to do.

  2. lauraw Says:

    We fixed our unequal house heating and confused thermostat by putting a couple fans in strategic positions to mix the air. Cheap, and cheap to run.

  3. lauraw Says:

    Oh- the staircase.

    One of the fan-placement things we did was disrupt the hot air flowing up the staircase. You don’t have to totally intercept it, just point a nearby fan in such a way as to mix the hot air near the first floor ceiling with the colder air near the floor. Then it won’t have the inclination to dramatically rise up the steps like that anymore.

    If this is near the birds, you probably will need a blankie or barrier to protect them from the moving air which will feel like a draft to them.