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Today’s Cars Are Inefficient and Overweight

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A long time ago, Hot Rod magazine — paper and all — published an article called “Caddy Hack.” It was not about web hackers.

It was about taking panels off.

They did that to see how quickly an otherwise completely stock — the term means as it left the factory, unmodified — 1970 Cadillac Coupe de Ville could run the quarter mile when shorn of the weight that made it heavy and thus slow. In stock trim, the Caddy ran the quarter mile in just under 18 seconds, despite having a high (10:1) compression ratio 472-cubic-inch V-8 — that’s nearly eight liters of engine — under its hood that made an advertised 375 horsepower.

A new Prius — with less than half that power — is quicker.

But the Caddy was crippled by its 4,648-pound curb weight. Think about it: a container ship has more horsepower than a speedboat. Which gets from A to B sooner?

But what if you could cut the Caddy’s weight by, say, 2,000 or so pounds? And that’s just what the guys at Hot Rod did, literally. With a saw. They used it to hack off whatever the Caddy didn’t need to go quickly, which meant, ultimately, almost everything except the frame and drivetrain. Some 2,000 pounds lighter, the mechanically stock Caddy was as quick as most muscle of the period, running a best time through the quarter mile of 13.5 seconds at more than 100 mph.

How quick — how efficient — might today’s cars be if they weren’t required to be as heavy as they are?

The main reason the and other are so horribly inefficient is because they’re so preposterously heavy.

The ’70 de Ville was heavy because it was meant to be. People bought Caddys because they wanted a big, heavy car. The government, at any rate, wasn’t adding weight to cars — via regulations that had to be complied with — back in 1970. Cadillac was free to build cars like the 4,648-pound de Ville, and Datsun (Nissan, today) was just as free to build cars like

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