Under The Hood

Neil Young's 'gross polluter?' Give me a break!

Recently, I was forwarded a link to a CNN article featuring famous musician Neil Young and his plight to install an electric/biodiesel powerplant in his 1959 Lincoln.

Apparently, the car’s 430-cid V-8 gets 10 mpg, and Johnathan Goodwin, who is yanking the engine in order to install the hybrid engine, says the new power source will get 100 mpg. He expects the change to take 45 days.

Now, I’m all for doing things to make sure our kids have as clean of a place to prosper as we did (I’m an Eagle scout who has planted more trees and picked up more garbage than there are old-car fallacies to be shared), but this article used Young’s project as a chance to attack the old car hobby. Phrases written or quoted by author Sean Callebs include “gas-guzzling,” “big polluter,” and “old, inefficient,” and, like many other who make similar assumptions, infers that American cars are gross polluters.

American cars are not necessarily gross polluters. I don’t keep up on modern cars, but even I know that, since at least the early 1990s, Ford has been selling cars that run on E85, and GM has been experimenting with electric cars on the road for years. And Honda, Toyota and Nissan all offer large SUVs, some even big trucks with “gas-guzzling V-8s,” to people just interested in driving them only to pick up kids from soccer practice or fetching basil from the local Piggly Wiggly. Why aren’t these companies considered guilty of offering “gross polluters?” If these companies are so good, why can’t they offer a car that gets the kind of 50-mpg-range gas mileage that Geo Metros offered in the 1990s? People who make the assumption need to visit more than a Honda or Toyota dealership to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the modern automotive market.

But I digress. Our old cars are not used frequently. Therefore, the amount of fuel they actually burn and the pollution they create is negligible. I seriously doubt Young is driving his Lincoln enough to worry about the amount of fuel it consumes.

Also, car collectors keep their cars in a finer state of tune to better preserve and enjoy them. And good running cars get better gas mileage and spew less emissions. Many non-car people treat their cars like appliances and don’t do preventative maintenance. Their cars only go in the shop when there’s a problem or their cars stop working altogether.

And when it comes to being gross polluters, I’m not sure this is true, as I have never seen an emissions test for a 1959 Lincoln, Model T or 1965 Corvette. My personal emissions test experience is limited to a 185,000-mile 1978 Chevrolet Malibu Classic coupe with a 305-cid V-8 that always passed with flying colors. At the same time, I knew many people with much newer four-cylinder cars that struggled to come under the limits dictated by the test.

Furthermore, re-using old cars instead of using new energy to build new cars saves energy. Even crushing cars takes energy, not to mention the power used in processing the metal.

There are many collector cars that get good gas mileage, and by that, I mean fuel ratings in the 20 mpg range or better. Corvairs, Ramblers, Model T’s and A’s, and even many big, six-cylinder-powered 1950s and 1960s sedans can get good gas mileage.

So let’s stop letting uneducated citizens make assumptions about old cars. In today’s dark, political climate when everyone’s rights can be robbed by a loud but influential minority, give people the facts and call them on the carpet when they abuse them.

10 thoughts on “Neil Young's 'gross polluter?' Give me a break!

  1. Bunny-Hugging Liberal

    I must take issue with your blog. First of all, we all have to do our part to save this planet for the next generation. There is no higher cause. If a couple of dried-up rock stars want to do their part to help, we should applaud their efforts. While I understand that some people think that it is more important (to their egos!) to be seen driving a large gas-guzzling car than it is to save our environment, somebody has to put their foot down and help them realize that some things are simply more important.

    As far as I am concerned, scrap and recycle all the old cars and use the metal to build more efficient modes of transportation. Not only will this help provide cleaner air, it will also make Mother Earth more beautiful when all the junk yards are finally gone.

  2. Bunny-Hugging Liberal

    I must take issue with your blog. First of all, we all have to do our part to save this planet for the next generation. There is no higher cause. If a couple of dried-up rock stars want to do their part to help, we should applaud their efforts. While I understand that some people think that it is more important (to their egos!) to be seen driving a large gas-guzzling car than it is to save our environment, somebody has to put their foot down and help them realize that some things are simply more important.

    As far as I am concerned, scrap and recycle all the old cars and use the metal to build more efficient modes of transportation. Not only will this help provide cleaner air, it will also make Mother Earth more beautiful when all the junk yards are finally gone.

  3. Jimmy Dean

    I fully agree that we should all do our part to keep the planet healthy, happy and spinning round, but this is going way too far. I’m not saying that classic cars and trucks are sacred, but bunny-hugger needs to take a big chill pill, hop on his/her bicycle and take a hike!

    If Neil Young wants to green up his car that is his choice. As for me, I prefer my smoke-belching truck…even if it only gets 11 miles per gallon.

  4. Jimmy Dean

    I fully agree that we should all do our part to keep the planet healthy, happy and spinning round, but this is going way too far. I’m not saying that classic cars and trucks are sacred, but bunny-hugger needs to take a big chill pill, hop on his/her bicycle and take a hike!

    If Neil Young wants to green up his car that is his choice. As for me, I prefer my smoke-belching truck…even if it only gets 11 miles per gallon.

  5. Henry Ruhwiedel

    Gas guzzzler? My 1953 Caddy Coup DeVille, 322 CID V* got 24 mph highway back when highway meant 70-80 mph, not 55 mph on rollers in a building. Top speed was 126 with wire wheels, every power option, and rare AID CONDITIONING and AM-FM radio!
    Most of today’s cars are crap. I’m still driving my 79 Caddy, and upped the performance with a hot rod 8.2L vs the original 426 CID. Its still 15-16 mpg highway and does well over 140 mph.

  6. Henry Ruhwiedel

    Gas guzzzler? My 1953 Caddy Coup DeVille, 322 CID V* got 24 mph highway back when highway meant 70-80 mph, not 55 mph on rollers in a building. Top speed was 126 with wire wheels, every power option, and rare AID CONDITIONING and AM-FM radio!
    Most of today’s cars are crap. I’m still driving my 79 Caddy, and upped the performance with a hot rod 8.2L vs the original 426 CID. Its still 15-16 mpg highway and does well over 140 mph.

  7. Paulie B

    At this stage in his career Neil Young is just trying to get as much publicity as he can. Good or bad, it doesn’t matter, it’s publicity and people will talk about him.

  8. Paulie B

    At this stage in his career Neil Young is just trying to get as much publicity as he can. Good or bad, it doesn’t matter, it’s publicity and people will talk about him.

  9. Old Car Lover

    All of the cars I own are between 1964 & 1978. My daily (incl. Winter) driver is a 1978 Buick LeSabre with over 455,000 miles on it. We paid $150 for it 11 years ago. It is a very comfortable ride, always starts in the worst weather, and doesn’t get stuck in the snow. I don’t even have to add oil between changes. Why do people act like building new or revamping old cars (houses, etc.,) doesn’t take any energy? It does take energy and then the old stuff becomes trash. And, of course, it also takes energy to recycle. It seems like we’d save lots of time & energy if automakers made a point of making parts for their cars available longer instead of paying engineers to redesign cars every year. I noticed several years ago that I am unable to see past the curve in the hoods of the newer vehicles. I am not even that short! But, I prefer the longer hoods with an ornament and have never had an accident claim. Maybe I am not the only one and that is why so many of the newer cars have smashed up front ends. I also live in Michigan where salt is used on the roads all Winter. Now, that is something that is hurting the environment but I never hear anyone lobbying against it much. Due to the salt, my poor Buick is getting quite rusty. I try to take good care of my stuff and use things to the fullest extent. I think that the people that lobby against the older cars are just jealous that some of us are happy with what we have instead of having to always have new stuff. About 25 years ago, I was hit head-on in 1967 Olds LS. Thankfully, we had our seatbelts on. The car was totaled but we were fine. I was told that we might have been killed if we’d been in anything smaller. So, for me, newer isn’t always better. And, remember, anything plastic is made from the same oil our gas comes from!

  10. Old Car Lover

    All of the cars I own are between 1964 & 1978. My daily (incl. Winter) driver is a 1978 Buick LeSabre with over 455,000 miles on it. We paid $150 for it 11 years ago. It is a very comfortable ride, always starts in the worst weather, and doesn’t get stuck in the snow. I don’t even have to add oil between changes. Why do people act like building new or revamping old cars (houses, etc.,) doesn’t take any energy? It does take energy and then the old stuff becomes trash. And, of course, it also takes energy to recycle. It seems like we’d save lots of time & energy if automakers made a point of making parts for their cars available longer instead of paying engineers to redesign cars every year. I noticed several years ago that I am unable to see past the curve in the hoods of the newer vehicles. I am not even that short! But, I prefer the longer hoods with an ornament and have never had an accident claim. Maybe I am not the only one and that is why so many of the newer cars have smashed up front ends. I also live in Michigan where salt is used on the roads all Winter. Now, that is something that is hurting the environment but I never hear anyone lobbying against it much. Due to the salt, my poor Buick is getting quite rusty. I try to take good care of my stuff and use things to the fullest extent. I think that the people that lobby against the older cars are just jealous that some of us are happy with what we have instead of having to always have new stuff. About 25 years ago, I was hit head-on in 1967 Olds LS. Thankfully, we had our seatbelts on. The car was totaled but we were fine. I was told that we might have been killed if we’d been in anything smaller. So, for me, newer isn’t always better. And, remember, anything plastic is made from the same oil our gas comes from!

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