Tuesday, April 28, 2009

2.3 Liter Engine Under the Hood

My first car was a black 1981 Plymouth Champ with gold pinstripes on the sides. Sporting a manual transmission, hatchback and good gas mileage, it honored conservation and was a reaction to the Jimmy Carter era gas crisis of the 70s.

On Saturday nights of my youth, gear-head enthusiasts and muscle car owners would park their cars on the edge of the parking lot of the local high school, facing the main drag, with their car hood’s open. They’d either sit on the front fender of their cars or they’d travel in groups, going from car to car, ogling the toothbrush-clean engines.

When there was nothing to do, I would go down there with my friend Dave and open up the hood of my Plymouth Champ. Eventually, the gear-heads would wander over and vibe me and Dave or play along with the shtick:

“So, what’s she got in there?” looking under the hood of the Champ.

“2.3 liter engine with the option of power or economy,” I would respond, proudly.

The power/economy option would always warrant the same question:

“What’s the power/economy option?”

Having explained the power/economy option countless times, I refrained from being smug and starting the response with, “Well, I’m glad you asked…”

“Well, it’s pretty simple. Power is when you wanna go faster and economy means better gas mileage.”

Most people would shrug and move on. One guy, though, said, “If this were my car, I’d always drive it in power!” He had a good point. He invited me to check out his vehicle – a blue monster truck. I took this invitation as acceptance into unofficial car club.

While driving to work this morning, I heard an ad for the new Honda Insight hybrid. It boasts an “Eco” button. When you want better gas mileage, you push the button. And I would assume, when you want worse gas mileage (like we all do) or when you’re street racing a Prius, you keep your hands away from the button. It’s a little fancier than the power/economy option of my Plymouth Champ, but it’s basically the same thing.

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