[V8] What's next: the final demise of the V8.

Roger M. Woodbury rmwoodbury at adelphia.net
Sun Nov 6 08:40:38 EST 2005

I paid $2.24 per gallon of regular gasoline at Sams Club in Bangor, Maine
this past week.  My Audi 200 20V Avant is down for service...something about
a mass air thingy or something, so I was driving The Runt: aka 1992 Ford
F150 Flairside 4X4 shorty that is used for a plow truck most of the time.
Now that gas prices have retreated from the shadow of $3 per gallon, and we
can breathe again, I have begun to think about the next car.

The last V8 was produced twelve years ago, give or take, and those last few
that made it to this country...the ever mysterious and elusive 1994's, and
the only slightly more populous 1992's and 1993's are accumulating more and
more miles every day.  Soon it will be almost impossible to find one with
less than 100,000 miles accumulated, and soon thereafter, they will may be
less than desirable, even considering my willingness to buy one cheap and
restore it.  I have had to think the unthinkable, and that is that I might
well never have another V8.

So what is the next car?  I have read the Autoweek report that the new Audi
Blunderbuss, aka The Q7 may come into the country as a hybrid and possibly a
diesel.  For starters it will be a 4.2 litre V8 and a V6.  I am not
interested in one of these things. For openers, it is simply too big and I
don't need seating for seventy-twelve and cupholders for sixteen.  I also
don't like the look of the thing, so the Q7 is simply out.

Supposedly Audi is going to bring a smaller vehicle of this ilk into this
country, and that might be interesting, I suppose, except that every suv
that I have seen is neither "sport" nor "utility", gets relatively terrible
fuel mileage and at the end of the day, is butt ugly.  

Pardon me if I ramble a bit further along this line. I wonder why it is that
the US manufacturers in particular have steadfastly refused to make a
completely modern vehicle?  The Europeans and Japanese have largely been
"me, toos" in the vehicle design department, but if you think about it,
aside from the advent of the unibody, almost the entire automotive creation
of the past four decades has basically been exactly like the four decades
previous:  a flat pan on which is affixed an iron engine out front a with
four wheels, either two or four of which provide motive power.  Only Mazda
has introduced a different engine layout in a production vehicle, and only
Porsche with its now, soon to die 911 has steadfastly hung the engine in a
different place.  Only Toyota with its demised van line up tried to do
something different with the engine: putting it mostly on its side under the
floor in front, a really neat vehicle, it seems to me.

The modern US pickup truck is really a waste of effort.  HUGE engine
waaaaaaaay out in front of the windshield, with a cab that fits two people
for the most part, although three can fit inside in a pinch, and in relative
discomfort.  An extended cab with miniseats in back for the most part
shortens the bed into uselessness, and if the 8' bed is retained, the thing
is useless except in an empty Walmart parking lot.  I own a Chevy 1-ton
dually 4X4 with extended cab and 8' bed:  useful to carry heavy loads of
finished granite some distance as the huge V8 gets about twelve miles per
gallon doing anything, but try to drive it to the grocery store on the way
home, and your in for an exercise in unpleasantry when you try to maneuver
around SuzyQ Cellphone's Toyota Prius....why we don't produce a pickup truck
with a reasonably sized turbocharged engine putting power through a six or
seven speed, or perhaps sequential automatic gear box; a short nose and a
ten foot bed (for true utility), beats me.

So, all of which brings me to my next car, assuming that the elusive V8
remains just that.  What I would like to have is a smallish vehicle that has
a smallish engine that burns regular gas.  Here in Maine, the idiots that
work in the state capital think that it is great fun to derive tax revenue
from those big time truckers who pass through the state from Canada to
elsewhere, so diesel fuel is taxed to cost more than Sunoco 260 (if you're
old enough to remember that!).  So, for a diesel powered vehicle to make any
sense at all, it has to deliver a true 35-40 miles per gallon, or it is not
more efficient in terms of fuel cost than something similar burning regular
and getting 20 miles per.

The vehicle will have to have all wheel drive.  I have ridden on Audi's
Quattro long enough now to know that here in rural Maine, two wheel drive is
simply passé, and sometimes downright dangerous.  

I am not going to buy a hybrid.  I am not a believer in having a smallish
vehicle that has two or three engines makes much sense.  I am also not
certain that the presence of electric motors will really work here in this
state, when temperatures are probing 15 below zero.  Besides, for me,
"traffic" for most of the year, is five cars waiting for the light to turn
so I can cross Route 3 onto Route 1 and head "downeast".  (In the summer
it's different, but I don't go to town when it is infested with "folks from

So, I am not sure.  The V8's biggest drawback is the fact that it is a
sedan:  zero utility value there!  My 20 valve Avant is a great vehicle, but
I know that I will not drive that past 200,000 miles.  And right now, there
isn't anything on the horizon that will do what it does, as well or better
for anything other than a king's ransom. 

Maybe at the end of it all, I will simply have to start a different kind of
hunt.  Instead of another V8, perhaps what I should be hunting for is a
younger version of my 20-valve Avant, buy it, put it into the barn, and when
the one that I have reaches that 200,000 mile mark, put it out to pasture,
and drive the "younger" one.  It will probably do what I need it to do until
I am simply too old to drive. 

Come to think of it, that's been done before.  I am sure that everyone has
heard of the farmer who bought half a dozen Model T Fords when they first
came out.  He put them in a barn, and as one wore out, he just rolled out a
"new"one, so he always had a new Model T to drive.  He figured that Henry
Ford went about as far as any one could go in building the Model T, and it
might just be that the Audi V8 or the Audi 200 20-valve Avant, might just be
as far as the automobile business will ever go.  


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