Image: American Motors Corporation
Everyone knows that weight is the enemy of car design, and yet oddly, in the 1970s, American automakers actually bragged about their vehicles being heavier than the competition. The whole thing is unbelievably idiotic and serves as just another reminder of the sad state of American cars during that era.
At Chrysler, where I used to work, folks would often talk about “Vehicle Demand Energy,” or the energy needed to move a vehicle down the road at a given speed and in different conditions. Things that affect VDE are aerodynamics, rolling resistance, and weight.
Minimizing VDE was the goal of damn near everyone in the company while I was working there. Make the car slippery, reduce drivetrain friction, and for god’s sake, keep all the unnecessary weight out. Do this, and you can maximize not only fuel economy but acceleration and handling performance. As long as you do it in a strategic way that doesn’t significantly affect NVH, crash performance, or overall cost, these moves were a win for everyone.
That’s why it’s so utterly baffling to me that automakers used to brag about their cars being heavier. That’s like saying “Our car is less efficient than it could be, handles worse than it could, and accelerates worse than it could. But that’s somehow a good thing.”
Basically: “Our car is compromised because we’re lazy bastards. But we think you’re so dumb that we can convince you that somehow this incompetence is a feature.”
Back in the mid-1960s, Chrysler was showing off its newly-revised small “A-body” sedan, the Plymouth Valiant. This car was hot stuff, with its cool styling, push-button automatic transmission, “Torsion Air” front suspension, optional V8 (a slant six was standard), and low asking price.
The video above shows how Chrysler trained its dealers to sell the Valiant to customers, noting its advantages over a key competitor, the Rambler American. You can see at the end of the film (see screenshot above) that Chrysler also mentions the Valiant’s larger sibling, the Plymouth Fury, saying:
Plymouth Fury has a …….