There is something special about taking a roadtrip in the United States. Getting out onto the open road, seeing the country, taking in the sights. Once you’re outside of the metropolitan areas you begin to realize just how sparsely populated America is. Driving for an hour and only seeing a few other cars reminds you how vast is this nation.
Cars are a lot like insects in the amazon: they are designed for a specific task and adapted to their environment. If you live in a place where parking is almost impossible to find (like San Francisco) you might choose a Smart car which, at only 8 feet, 8 inches long can fit almost anywhere. If you live on the Great Plains you would select a diesel pickup that would be cheap to operate and can handle the bitter Winters. If you like to cruise on the open road there is really only one kind of car which makes the most sense to own: a rear wheel drive, V8 powered sedan (until recently that was the Crown Victoria, choice of police everywhere).
V8s have loads of torque (what gets you moving) and operate very quietly when you’re pushing down the road at 85 mph. Rear wheel drive allows the steering wheel to do only what it is designed for: directing the car. And having 4 doors gives you plenty of space inside and mass to keep you pointed where you want to be.
Unfortunately, V8 powered, rear wheel drive sedans are becoming an endangered species and so are people who know what it’s like to drive one.
On this 3,500 mile roadtrip I’m currently on I have selected the correct tool for the job: a 1992 Mercedes-Benz 400E sedan. It has over 164,000 miles on it but is as tight, quiet, powerful, and luxurious as the day it was created. This is the last of the over-engineered Mercedes-Benzes to be built. This type of vehicle is an “only in America” car. In fact, Mercedes-Benz had been producing the W124 model for years before putting a V8 in it. There were no plans to put a larger engine than the straight 6 into the car but then Toyota’s Lexus was introduced into America and their LS model had… a V8.
The 400E (and later the E420) was only sold in two places – Germany and America (two countries that love their cars and highways).
What is it about America that, until recently, allowed the V8 to thrive? Cheap gasoline was a big reason but so is the fact that not only are the distances in this country vast but our Government does not do things that happen in other countries where cars are taxed according to the size of their engines.
Because for most of its history the U.S. Government never told people what kind of engine to get in their cars people bought what they wanted and that just happened to be torque and power… all things the V8 has aplenty.
And so being on the road for 8 or 10 hours at a time with the speedometer showing 85 mph but the tachometer only turning about 2,000 RPM it is so quiet that I can hear the sound of the cassette deck spinning the adapter I use to play my iPod in the car. Even at 90 mph if you put your foot down you’ll be slightly pushed back in your seat and a big smile will come over your face as you realize that with great power comes great responsibility.
The 400E is not an Aston Martin. It only has 269 hp and 295 pound feet of torque but compare these with a 2012 Toyota Penis (134 hp and 105 pound feet of torque) and you’ll see what a V8 can give you.
But as happy as this car – and its engine – makes me feel there is also something very sad about it all. Silly Global Warmers, Liberals who fly private jets, and bean counters looking to plug budget holes with new taxes are closing in on the V8 (and even the V6 for that matter). In most of Europe not only are cars taxed on engine displacement but a new measurement is arising – how much CO2 is emitted – to force car makers to produce smaller and smaller engines.
Except for a few niche cars the V12 and V10 are dead. This is a shame because I’ve driven V12 powered cars and they truly are like what I would imagine riding in the hand of god would be like. For the V8, the writing is on the wall. Luxury cars like Audi, BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes are pushing small 4 cylinder turbo-charged engines on their customers and V8s are falling by the wayside.
This is all very sad and worrying. There is plenty of oil left and man has no control over Global Warming. It’s all artificially created scarcity invented by Liberals intent upon punishing the car owner and taxing him or her out of their chosen powerplant and into some tin can wind-up toy car.
These groups already killed the air cooled engine (found in my Volkswagen Bus) and now it is on to other powerplants.
In Kalifornia there is even a name for this: CARB (California Air Resources Board).
But the saddest thing is that we have an entire generation of Americans who have never ridden in (or driven) a V8 powered car. They will never know what they are missing which will make it even easier for Liberals to kill it off.
And so I will enjoy the 2750 miles remaining in my trip and press the gas pedal down with glee when its safe to do so knowing that each time will be one less time I can.