In a previous life, I was a real petrol head. At the ripe old age of 17, I bought myself a Triumph TR4, and whilst by today’s standards it was a slow car, back then you had to have a Healey 3000 or an E Type Jag to go faster. Fitted with a 2,138cc 4 cylinder engine and an electric overdrive gearbox (which effectively gave the car 7 speeds), this little beauty could sit on 100 MPH (160 km/hr) all day, and STILL return 30 MPG (~10L/100km). One Easter weekend when way too much traffic (and far too many cops!) allowed such speedy touring, the car returned 40 MPG (7L/100km)….. but back then, petrol was so cheap, nobody, not even I, cared about conserving the stuff. Climate Change was unheard of, they truly were “the good old days”. I still remember one pay day being so broke, I actually put 20c worth of petrol in the car, just to get to work……! Even though it has to rank among the most unreliable / labour intensive cars I’ve ever owned, it was part of my youth and I still feel nostalgic about it. And that body shape is, still, to die for in my opinion…..
I have actually owned so many cars, the mind sort of boggles. I think I’m up to 15 by now….. and when you consider I owned the TR for 17 years and a Honda Integra for 17 years also, it’s been quite an adventure…. I’ve mostly owned unusual cars, from the sluggish Renault 750 that was my first car, to the TR, a Dolomite Sprint (wonderful car…), a Renault 17 Gordini (with twin Weber carbs!) a Citroën CX, the Lada Niva I drove while building our house, and the current Citroën Xantia…… oh and the ute of course. Not a Holden or Falcon in sight, way too boring!
That was then, and times have changed.
People are often puzzled when I mention the Lada. Apart from the ute which I got for a steal, the Lada was the best value for money car I’ve ever owned. They have a bad reputation for being unreliable when in fact most of them were never serviced properly. Like mine! It had some pretty silly design faults, Not least a 42L petrol tank (I mean to say, Russia’s even bigger than Australia…. how far can you go on 42L..?)
Being gutless, I tended to drive it hard when I first got it. As a result, I was flat out getting 375 km from a tank, so I set out to improve its fuel consumption. First up, I eventually came to realise that revving the begeezus out of it didn’t get me anywhere faster, so I just admitted that it was slow, and drove it sensibly. Then I pumped the tyres up harder. I also removed the fan belt driven cooling fan with an electric one. Bit by bit, the distance covered on a full tank started rising. Then my Lada dealer who sold me the parts to keep it going told me the huge 15 inch tyres I bought the car with were no good for it, so I tossed them and replaced the wheels with the standard 175×16 rubber the car originally came with. That was a huge improvement, the car actually handled better! I also switched to 98 octane fuel….
Then one day something funny happened on the way to the office (building site..) A piece of the flexible coupling between the gearbox and transfer case – the bit that distributes power to all four wheels – broke off (yes, you guessed it, poor maintenance). I tried to have a new one delivered to Cooran, but the bloody couriers refused to come this far, so I had to drive the 140km back to Brisbane on the broken part.
With all my fingers and toes crossed (you have to understand that all the engine’s power, such as it was, was fed through this broken part), I gingerly made my way back home via the spare parts shop, but instead of cruising at the usual 110 km/hr (the speed limit), I sat on 80….. and to my amazement discovered that I had saved something like 25% of my fuel!
Having fixed the car, I now started experimenting with driving more slowly on the freeway between Cooran and Brisbane, and before I knew it, I had increased the car’s range to 550km, or a staggering (for a full time 4WD Niva) 7.6L/100km……
Nobody, I mean absolutely nobody, who has ever owned one of these cars believes it’s true. Not that it bothers me, take it or leave it. The fact remains, driving slowly saves HEAPS of fuel……
Now that I’m an old fart driving a staid Citroën, I get around like this everywhere. You also need to realise that the difference in speeds hardly makes a difference in the travelling time. To get from here to Brisbane takes me exactly 12 minutes longer than if I drove at the speed limit. I’ve actually managed to squeeze 6.2L/100km (45MPG) out of the 2 litre Xantia (other owners on Citroën internet forums don’t believe I can get 7.0, let alone 6.2!), but the fact remains that if I don’t get 1000km out of the Citroën’s tank, I’m very disappointed….
Years ago, the four of us drove to Cooktown way up North in Glenda’s old Ford Laser. I actually managed 1000 km out of its 55L tank (way smaller than the Cit’s) for 5.5L/100km (or 54MPG)….
There are other subtle differences to my new driving style too. A lot of fuel is wasted through accelerating too hard. So now, I just “feather” the loud pedal, barely pushing it at all. When I come to a hill, I let the car slow down… and when you’re going downhill, take your foot completely off the accelerator, because the car’s engine management totally stops feeding fuel to the engine on a closed throttle. Even the Lada had this feature. I know because it was one of the things I had to fix! This is one design feature I use a lot… look well ahead, and just back right off really early instead of using the brakes. Saves brake wear as well. And don’t forget that every time you have to slow down, you’ll have to speed up again on the other side of the obstruction, causing more fuel waste.
As far as I’m concerned, saving fuel like this is part and parcel of living within one’s means. I’ve had my fun, and I’m sure in no hurry anymore.