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Give It The Gas

May 2024
1min read


Olivier Bernier captured the spirit of the 1958 Cadillac (“American Made,” May/June 1988) so well that any small correction seems carping, but in the interest of accuracy I will mention two.

He writes of the “exceptionally smooth and efficient … Hydra-Matic transmission. …” Smooth it certainly was, but not very efficient. It extracted a penalty of from 10 to 30 percent in gasoline mileage compared with a manual transmission, depending on how it was driven. With gasoline less than thirty cents a gallon, anyone who could pay thirteen thousand dollars for a car in 1958 didn’t worry about gas mileage. Modern automatic transmissions with (our speeds and lockup at cruising speeds are far more efficient.

With respect to the Cadillac’s consuming “a great deal of gas and oil,” 1 would comment that the car certainly did consume a good deal of gasoline, but if carefully broken in and properly maintained, it would not use a lot of oil for many thousands of miles. Oil consumption is objectionable because it degrades drivability, not because of cost. That was a time when improved manufacturing techniques, better design, better oils, and more efficient filters were making it possible to have a car without a smoking exhaust and fouled spark plugs.

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