May 18th, 2008

#1063: But, I could use bacon as a bookmark!

A Koran in every home! I don't want the Manual of Hate, free or not. Until muslims start to decry the terrorist atrocities committed in the name of their prophet of doom, I will continue to hold this opinion of the entire freaking religion as one that is full of hate, violence, and death. (It's why I always put scare quotes around "religion of peace".)

Bigoted? You bet! With malice aforethought, too! I can think of one major terror attack carried out against the US in the last 30 years which was not perpetrated by a muslim: Oklahoma City.

I do understand that there are plenty of practitioners of islam who are not terrorists, who wouldn't commit an "honor killing" or do any of the other batshit insane crap the koran demands of them--but I still find it completely unacceptable that no major muslim leaders denouce the perpetrators of the horriffic crimes committed in the name of islam and/or mohammed. "Not all muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are muslims." It's profiling, baby!

If I get one of these evil tomes I'll mail it back with a pack of bacon interleaved in the pages, and in a bag of pork rinds. Fuck 'em.

* * *

Hawaii proves, once again, that price caps don't work. And the most insidious thing is that gas stations in Hawaii must now show consumers what gas "would cost" if a cap were in effect.

Of course, that "would cost" figure is bogus. Sure, the government can tell oil companies that they can only charge X much for gasoline. That's been done before. But what would happen if gas was X much when the "free market" price is Y? Supply would drop, and there would be lines and rationing. (Remember the 1970s.)

Government can make gas, which should be priced Y, only cost X, but at the cost of limiting supply--and the placards won't say that. ("If the cap were in effect, this gas would only cost $Y! But you'd only get five gallons and you'd have to wait four hours for it.")

So people will put pressure on the governor of Hawaii to re-emplace the price caps, and when she doesn't, she'll get voted out of office...and the new governor will emplace them and utterly screw the populace over.

The new governor will blame the oil companies, of course, because naturally it's all their fault that they're unwilling to sell a product for less than they paid for it.

* * *

This article from Newsweek says little or nothing that I have not been saying all along.

This is bullshit: "Back in the 1980s, the Honda CRX-HF and the Geo Metro each got more than 50mpg, but they didn't have airbags or steel beams in their doors to protect occupants in a crash."

They didn't have airbags but all cars sold in America have had to have side-impact protection. That shit about "no steel beams in their doors" is bullshit, and it's a persistent myth that older cars didn't have side-impact protection.

Take the door apart and look inside. You will find that there's a piece of corrugated metal across the width of the door. This is the side-impact protection beam and it's been mandated on all cars for decades. The rules changed during the 1980s and that beam may have been strengthened, but it has always been there.

It is true that 1980s cars didn't have air bags. Air bags weren't mandated before the mid-1990s. But if you look at the literature, air bags themselves aren't useful unless you're wearing your seat belt, and if you're wearing your seat belt you don't really need the air bag as much. I own two cars without air bags but with seat belts, but I won't even drive a car that lacks seat belts. (Not a long way, anyway. Around the block, perhaps.)

The fact is, if one wanted to build a car which gets good fuel economy--even with current safety standards--it could easily be done. Government rules mandate air bags and certain minimum standards for impact protection. Follow those to the letter. Leave off:
  • big engines
  • antilock brakes
  • traction control
  • automatic transmission (or limit it to a 4-speed)
  • one layer of sound insulation
  • ground effects and spoilers--in fact, anything which is solely for appearance
  • heavy wheels--go with lighter rim/tire combinations
  • four-wheel disk brakes--go front disk/rear drum
  • heavy upholstery and padding in favor of lighter materials
  • complex sound systems, in favor of a simple 4-speaker stereo
  • navigation system (or other complicated electronics, eg Ford's "Sync")
  • other "comfort" and "luxury" features
The end result will be a car that gets 40+ MPG...and which no one will want to buy.

You can get fantastic fuel economy from anything if you're willing to give up performance. The instant you demand a 0-60 time under 9 seconds, though, you're starting to cut into your "headroom" for fuel economy.

Driving the old Escort the other day, I was thinking about the people who say that Escorts are "slow", and I thought, "Wait--slow compared to what?"

To be sure, my Escort isn't going to win any drag races. It's 0-60 time is about 9.5 seconds, as I recall--that was fast for a 4-cylinder car in the 1980s, but these days it's not at all remarkable: try driving a Subaru Impreza WRX STI. Of course, that car costs three times what my Escort did new (and 75x what I paid for it). But it gets good fuel economy when you keep your foot out of the turbo--about 27 MPG, if memory serves.

Yet, I realized, how many times had I been upset that I couldn't keep up with traffic? Seriously, how often had I been angry that I couldn't accelerate as fast as the car in front of me? How often had I needed to flog the car so that I wouldn't be slowing down traffic?

Rarely--in fact, never, as far as I could recall. Almost all the time, traffic accelerates much slower than that car can accelerate, and the only time I need to go from 0-60 as fast as I can, I can't think of any time I really need to.

What? "On ramp"? Depends on the type. If it's a fully-functioning merge, I just come down the ramp at 40-ish, pop her into third gear, and accelerate, upshifting as needed--and have never had a problem. The kind where you have to stop and wait? I just wait for the right sized hole to come along, and presto--I'm there.

0-60 in 10 seconds is perfectly acceptable. "Slow"? Compared to a Corvette or even a WRX, sure it is. Compared to many other cars, too. I've never owned a car that could go 0-60 faster than 7-8 seconds (my 1985 Fiero) but every car I have ever owned has been capable of keeping up with traffic.

The fact is, Americans want speed--heck, everyone likes fast cars--but we don't need it. I can drive the 1977 MGB wherever I want to despite its 0-60 time of 17 seconds (and its quarter-mile time of 19 at a top speed of 65!) because I know the car's performance envelope and adjust my driving accordingly. (I've never had trouble keeping up with traffic in that car, either.)

As I've said innumberable times, you can have any two of: fast, efficient, cheap. The linked article mentions an all-aluminum Ford Focus that sacrifices no performance yet gets 50 MPG...and costs $50,000. This is why a Prius costs over $20,000 (and, in many cases, gets within shooting distance of $30,000)--the technology is expensive.

If you want a cheap car that gets good fuel economy, it's going to be slow. Expect to have to shift gears for yourself, because auto transmissions are less-efficient and heavy. Prepare to do without a 6-speaker stereo with subwoofer. Expect that you won't have heated seats or fancy aerodynamics. Expect steel wheels rather than aluminum. And expect to go 0-60 in about 10, 11 seconds.

Ah, to hell with it. I know I'm shouting at the wind, here.

* * *

It's Christmas in May for Mugabe! China Claus has come with his big sack of weapons!

And so Mugabe continues to cling to power. His private army now has a literal shipload of weapons with which to quell the "uprising" of people who think their votes actually count. These poor people don't know enough history to realize why that's not so, and so the supporters of the opposition are going to find themselves brutalized by Mugabe's thugs.

Gee, haven't we seen this one before? *sigh*

* * *

Idiotic liberals self-identify for our convenience.

How nice of them.

#1064: One problem eliminated.

Forget making a custom thermostat housing. This is the solution to the coolant fill problem I mentioned in an earlier entry about the Ford-engine-in-Fiero idea I'm considering.

An inline filler. Who'd'a thunk it? It'll do. One problem solved.

The guy who does that site is well-known in the Fiero community for engine swaps. He knows what he's doing; if that kind of solution works for a 4.9 Cadillac engine, it for damn sure should work with half that much engine.

The store connected to that site also offers a service: they'll custom-make AC lines for your application. Send them the ends, a sketch of what you need, and $125, and they will send you the AC lines.

My one worry was how to get air conditioning in this car--would I have to leave it off? The GM compressor will not mount to the Ford engine, and it was the height of foolish optimism to hope that the GM lines would bolt to the Ford compressor. This will solve that problem. I was going to convert the AC in that car to use R-134a anyway, since R-12 is illegal, so I don't have to worry about much else in that department. (Except, of course, that I'll need to get an AC compressor, since the one for my engine stayed with the car.)

I still have lots to do, but I'm glad to see that doing some thinking, and research, is yielding some important and useful information. I never would have thought of an in-line coolant filler, for example.

More and more I'm coming to the conclusion that the single most difficult part of this swap will be the shifter mechanism. If I can just make that work, the rest will only take parts and effort and time.