Alex Deborgorski
Keep those old vehicles running!

Alex Debogorski
Guest columnist
Wednesday, July 1, 2009

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There are now too many vehicles in North America; we need few new ones. Car plants should be mothballed and all old vehicles recycled. This should not be done by crushing and shipping them to China. That in fact, like building new vehicles, causes new pollution.

All used vehicles could be rebuilt and upgraded in an ongoing manner. This would have many benefits besides reduced pollution. Instead of having the car-building sector concentrated in a few special areas of the continent, it would be spread throughout the economy.

Cuba, a poor country, has proven the same cars can be used for more than 50 years, not just five. Phil Edmunston, author of the Lemon-Aid guide, is among numerous environmentally-friendly experts who say reusing a gas guzzler is more eco-friendly than crushing and building another car, whether it's a fuel-efficient throw away or not. Renewing of vehicles would generate work and income all over our country, wherever the vehicles are located.

The vehicles could be rebuilt and modified so they more suit the climate and terrain they are driven in. One problem that would be caused in doing this would be the loss of power by the big auto unions.

Parts supply stores, body shops, garages, etc., as well as specialty shops would have to multiply to cover the demand for keeping all these used vehicles on the road. If one would like to have a different looking vehicle, a speciality shop could design and remodel the one that he has. Manufacturers could concentrate on building new and efficient drive lines, engines, transmissions, and rear ends.

As better drive lines come onto the market they can be installed into the old vehicles. This way more concentration can be put into efficiency and longevity rather than looks needed to suck the dollars out of the poor, depressed consumer's pocket. Studies say that the purchase of a new vehicle puts the buyer on a high for one to two weeks.

The psychology of selling a new car only has a little to do with efficiency and friendliness to the environment. It's mainly about getting the money and building in obsolescence. Just in case advertising and peer pressure does not bring the driver back to the new car lot, then the car breaking down at a particular mileage will. In the last 50 years technology has done little to make the car more efficient, considering how smart we are supposed to be. It has done a lot to complicate the vehicles instead.

If new vehicle building were to continue, the biggest thing to put Detroit on the money track would be to build vehicles which are simpler so owners could repair them themselves. That would take brains!

It seems there are more fuel-efficient cars around today, this is mainly the plastic-bag-on-wheels theory that is taking hold. One keeps cutting away weight, putting in small engines and fuel mileage goes up.

A plastic bag on wheels is very efficient to drive! What about work, carrying weight and hauling more people. We need miles per gallon per pound to increase, not just miles per gallon.

Some of grandpa's big vehicles of the 1960s got 20 miles to the gallon on bad roads. I hear people bragging about 20 miles per gallon with bigger vehicles today. We are obviously not as smart as we keep telling ourselves we are!

- Debogorski is a long-time Yellowknifer and a star of Ice Road Truckers on the History Channel