A Miracle and a Tragedy, by Eric Peters

The federal government has put cars with V8 engines, which used to be commonplace, out of reach of everyone but the affluent. From Eric Peters on a guest post at theburningplatform.com:

Henry Ford gets the credit for putting America on wheels via the Model T – which was not only the first mass-produced car but also the first affordablecar, which is what made its mass production possible.

Ford’s other achievement, however, wasn’t a car. It was an engine. The first mass-produced and – like the T – affordable V8 engine. Chuck Berry sang about it in Maybellene:

I was motorvatin’ over the hill

I saw Maybellene in a Coupe de Ville

A Cadillac a-rollin’ on the open road

Nothing outrun my V8 Ford

The Ford flathead V8 came out in 1932 and – just like the T – it changed everything. It was light and inexpensive and easy to manufacture. So it could be sold inexpensively – and in quantity.

Previously – just as cars had once been for the affluent-only – V8 engines were ornate, complex and expensive. They were indulgences of the affluent – not unlike an electric car today.

The flathead Ford V8 upended that. For the next 60-plus years, the average American could afford to drive not just a car, but a car with a V8.

A big car.

These, too, became commonplace – and uniquely American. In no other country could you see fleets of big cars being driven by ordinary people. It was extraordinary.

V8s made that feasible.

And the V8s grew to be even bigger.

By the early ‘70s, it was common for sedans (and station wagons) to have engines in the seven liter range. These were middle-of-the-road family sedans and wagons. Not high-end models.

Everyone coulda had a V8 – or just about.

These were six passenger full-size (and rear-wheel-drive) cars and wagons – the wagons often being nine passenger-capable. The roads abounded with them. They were the analogs – from the ’50s through the ’60s and into the ’70s – of a Camry or Accord.   

Then along came Uncle – and once again, everything changed.

To continue reading: A Miracle and a Tragedy


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