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

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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.