The EPA and Hot Rod Culture - Engine Builder Magazine

The EPA and Hot Rod Culture

This is kind of a gray area for me. Obviously, being a passionate car guy who’s willing to throw turbochargers on anything and really enjoys performance, it creates this internal conflict between wanting to be somebody who participates in a greener view of the future and the well-being of my passion, career and industry.

I’m somebody who has an interest in the viability of humanity as a whole, but the problem I have with this EPA crackdown is that it inappropriately scapegoats the very minute percentage of the population that happens to express themselves through the modification of performance vehicles. To me, that’s an important legacy. My dad raised me on that. He grew up during the muscle car era. 

I’m out here in California, where it’s probably the most harsh and strict environment when it comes to performance, but you still see the prevalence of the performance tradition surviving and finding ways around all this regulation and oversight. I agree with the validity of concerns around the emissions of passenger vehicles. I’m 100% onboard for making a difference toward a better planet. 

However, the problem I have is we fail to identify the reality that it is not a few people modifying the exhaust system on their car causing global warming or climate change. We have an entire world infrastructure predicated on some very silly notions.

About 8 or 9 years ago, I was driving my GTO with some badass heads, cam, headers, and thundering down the freeway to visit a buddy for coffee. I had this epiphany. I have this badass car that I love driving. It’s me. It’s who I am. But I thought to myself, what’s wrong with this equation?

I have this 4,000-lb. machine bellowing beautiful sounds out of the exhaust. I love everything about the driving experience – that’s the whole thing for me. However, what percentage of the energy consumption of my vehicle is actually used to move my body?

The car weighs 4,000 lbs. and I’m 255 lbs. – what percentage of the gasoline that my car is emitting as it sits there at a red light rumbling, is dedicated to moving me? My GTO would probably get the exact same gas mileage if I retro-fitted it with a remote-control system and drove it to Pasadena without me. 

I thought about all the cars out there on the road – hot rods or not – that are driving around with one or two people in them. Think of the amount of SUVs that weigh 7,000 lbs. hurling through the streets! We drive these monolithic, titanic, behemoth, steel contraptions that just burn fuel no matter what. There’s hundreds of millions of these things drinking and guzzling fuel. I don’t even care if it’s an economy car or even a Prius with a little better gas mileage. The truth remains that our view of transportation is the problem. It’s the whole system! 

Stop scapegoating the one guy modifying his car. They’re making the car guy public enemy No. 1 and threatening the very culture that many of us have built our lives within. It’s a tragedy to me to see really good tuners get messed with and shut down. They’ve developed a whole life of talent and skill, serving a market that they’re passionate about. It’s their artistic expression and career that is getting messed with. There’s a whole market filled with big companies that serve this amazing experience for people – fathers and sons and garage projects all over the world that are now being threatened because we’re going to scapegoat the car guy for global warming. 

Meanwhile, there are power plants in Japan spitting radiation at an unprecedented Chernobyl level, and we’re going to worry about exhaust systems!? Tankers running diesel are cracking in the middle of the ocean. There are underwater oil rigs drilling into the crust of the Earth pumping crude oil and leaking everywhere. How about pipelines and fracking? There are countries with billions of people that dump sewage into the ocean. There’s islands of floating garbage in the Pacific Ocean. There’s endless landfills and deforestation. The rainforest is literally disappearing, and species of animals are going extinct. Seagulls are popping up everywhere with plastic Coke can packaging around their necks. We’re fishing the ocean to extinction. We’re converting whole third-world countries into beef manufacturers that destroys their agricultural capabilities just so you and I can enjoy coffee and cheeseburgers. 

We’ve got all these real issues that we won’t address, and we won’t address them because we have too much money invested in the infrastructure of pollution and the gluttony of modern transportation. 

I have some inventions coming down the pipeline that might seem contrary to my passion as an automotive enthusiast, but I’m bridging the gap. I’m going to bring something to market that’s revolutionary that deals with this challenge for people with pollution-controlled vehicles or classics that want to partake in technology without sacrificing what it is they love. 

I also have ideas in terms of how I would do a vehicle that would be analyzed and engineered to dedicate the majority of the energy possible, while maintaining modern safety standards, to the transportation of people. We have to be interested in maximizing the efficiency of transportation and energy consumption when it comes to moving people. 

While we’re analyzing the emissions of a vehicle, why don’t we assess the fuel consumption relative to the occupancy. Why don’t we say the new standard for automotive manufacturers is to have some benchmarks where we’re going to analyze the vehicle in terms of its fuel consumption as applied to the movement and acceleration of the occupants? We want to see vehicles where we know the fuel being used is actually used to move people and not just keep gas tanks filled up. How about that?

The people who own stock in the infrastructure of petroleum also own it as it relates to automotive companies, so there’s going to be an inauthentic pursuit of green technology mandates and technology for how we can slowly transform it. For me, as long as we’re satiating a market for luxury transportation, maximum comfort and technology, all of which I love – there’s a systematic issue.

It isn’t the little car guy doing a burnout that is creating a problem with the overall environment. For me, I love everything about automotive performance. I’m also totally with a green movement. However, I need to see that it’s an authentic effort to make a difference and not scapegoat a small fraction of the market because it’s politically expedient to do so and get the whole country to say, ‘Yeah, those gross polluting Camaros are ruining it for everybody.’

Guess what? Change also isn’t going to happen with a Prius. Automotive manufacturers want to satiate and silence an aspect of the market. They made a car for the ‘green guy’ so he could feel better than you in your Camaro and turn his nose up at those of you driving modified cars. That ‘green guy’ is still participating in emissions that are harmful to the environment. However, it’s been marketed as better because it doesn’t burn quite as much gas. You’re still driving that vehicle all over the place, polluting the planet. 

Yet, we’re going to crack down on these performance car guys. It’s taking advantage of a marketplace and conveniently pointing a finger at someone. For me, an expression of my freedom is always going to be modifying vehicles and I don’t care what anybody says. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m onboard for a change that makes sense, but not this.

There’s an issue around the context of transportation of people, not the minor amount of people modifying cars for performance reasons. I don’t see any authenticity expressed in the EPA crackdowns and legislative changes happening in our industry – they’re only harming the market.  EB

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