Fuel efficient classics
Published July 21, 2013
Forget about a mountain drive or a blast down the highway. With fuel prices still hovering near all-time highs, even a cruise down to the local car show can drain your wallet. But owning a classic shouldn’t necessitate a large shareholder’s position in Exxon. In fact, you could daily drive the following classics as they sip, not slurp, fuel.
- The Austin Mini was the David to the auto industry’s Goliath. This giant-slayer is a world-class rally-winning race car due to its Go-kart-like steering and front-wheel drive. Anywhere but on a drag-strip, the Mini’s razor-sharp handling, short wheelbase and quick braking more than compensate for any lack of power. Additionally, there are infinite engine choices and tuning levels, but even with a wilder setup you should see north of 30 mpg. What else would you expect from a one-liter?
- A more mainstream option, if you prefer a true sports car with traditional front engine/rear-wheel drive layout, comes from across the other pond: Datsun 240Z. It’s as reliable as it is pretty and is currently appreciating strongly. It features a 2.4-liter straight-six engine that is just as responsive as the chassis. Forget the Toyota 2000GT, this is the classic Japanese sports car. As an added bonus, the Z gets fuel economy on par with most of today’s sports cars: about 22-25 mpg.
- So too does another reliable sports car option that is also beginning to appreciate rapidly: the timeless Porsche 911. I recently drove one cross-country and back while enjoying 23 mpg. These German cars may be finicky, but once they’re running right, they’re as dependable as a Swiss watch (and much more fun). Want even better fuel economy and a lighter car? Go for its four-cylinder little brother, the 912, which is also less likely to swap ends on you if you get scared and jump off the throttle.
- How about the Lamborghini Countach LP400? No, it isn’t remotely fuel efficient. But the Fiat X1/9, designed by Marcelo Gandini of Bertone (who penned the Countach), and also a rear-wheel drive mid-engined two-seater, is very fuel efficient. No one will mistake its performance for that of the Countach, but it is a good-looking Italian that gets roughly 33 mpg in normal driving.
- Sadly (or thankfully, depending on perspective), fuel efficiency isn’t classic American cars’ forte. Most Detroit muscle doesn’t even dream about 15 mpg; big-blocks were racing engines detuned so that people could get more than four mpg, but not much. However, if you’re a fan of mean 60s steel, don’t despair: there are options that make about 20 mpg, have style and are cheaper to own and insure than their big-block brethren as well! For example, the Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang could both be outfitted with six-cylinder engines, and while they certainly won’t set any speed records, they’re stylish, fun and relatively easy on gas. Just make sure you get one with a manual transmission, as the automatic will eat into that fuel economy.
- Finally, the Chevy Corvair. Not a muscle car, but a great, modern-looking classic that featured a rear-mounted air-cooled (oil-cooled) flat-6, just like the Porsche 911.
Go ahead, pick any of the above, just because it’s old doesn’t mean it has to be inefficient. Then hit the road!
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