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Firing Order - Stupidity of overly stringent EPA regulations on automobile manufacturers

Posted in Features on April 4, 2016
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Weeks ago Volkswagen got caught with its hand in the cookie jar. The U.S. government and greenie lawyers instantly had their panties in a huge twist. In case you missed it, the auto manufacturer was found guilty of programming its Audi and VW 2.0L diesel-equipped vehicles to sense when they were being tested for emissions. Bottom line, the emission devices ramped up during testing and laid back down under normal operational conditions. Yeah, VW cheated. Yeah, VW got caught. Yeah, VW is gonna get a huge fine levied against it for every vehicle that left the factory with that sneaky programming. Sometimes you gotta pay the piper. But not the stinkin’ lawyers.

That’s right. The ink wasn’t even dry on the papers breaking the story before money-grubbing lawyers were circling the class-action-lawsuit waters like sharks. “Owners of Audi and Volkswagen vehicles have been duped! Sold a false bill of goods! Pain and suffering! Emotional damages! Big, fat checks for legal teams! Pay, pay, PAY!” Please. Yeah, VW broke the rules and should be fined accordingly—that’s fair. But what harm was done to the end-user? The owners of these vehicles aren’t getting a bill from the government for every mile they unwittingly drove with their diesel emissions devices functioning at reduced levels. If anything owners of these vehicles should send VW a nice fruit basket in thanks for side-stepping overly stringent, unnecessarily complicated diesel regulations that reduce engine efficiency and honestly don’t contribute all that much to overall reduced vehicle emissions under normal operating conditions. These owners got a better running, less problematic vehicle as a result of VW’s cheating. In short, other than having their computers reflashed under a recall at some point to “fix” the sneaky programming, they’re out nothing—emotionally, financially, and probably even environmentally.

But what’s this all have to do with the photo of this awesome ’70s Dodge W200 you may ask? It was owned by my good buddy, Jerrod Jones, back when he was the editor of Off Road magazine. He offered to sell it to me for a sum so paltry I’ve blocked it out of my memory because it’s just too painful to recollect. It had a factory 440 engine, TF727 auto, NP203 T-case, and a Dana 44 front and Dana 60 rear. And that color. Mmmm, ’70s shag carpet burnt orange! It would’ve been a perfect candidate for an Off Road Design NP205 Doubler and a Dana 60 front axle upgrade. So why didn’t I buy it, you ask? Bureaucracy, that’s why. The vehicle was a ’76 or ’78 (again, it’s too painful to remember) and would have had to pass the stupid California bi-annual smog inspection. It would be one thing if all you had to do is put the vehicle on the rollers and let the tailpipe sniffer ensure it’s blowing as clean as is required for its chassis type dictates. But nooooo, you need to have all the factory-issued smog equipment in place. So, even though I could have slapped a fuel-injection system atop the 440 with a wide-band open-loop controller that would allow the 440 to have better fuel economy and cleaner emissions compared with a carburetor and all the factory emissions crap weighing it down, in California’s eyes if the EGR and air pump and all the little goofy analog emissions things aren’t present, it fails. Automatically. Don’t pass go. Don’t buy your dream vehicle. So, I let it go to an owner outside of California with far less stupid vehicle emissions requirements. I don’t think I’ll ever get over this emotional damage I’ve undergone from this. My dreams are shattered. I’m experiencing pain. Wait…yes, I think I’m suffering as well. Quick, somebody get me a lawyer!

-Christian Hazel

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