I’m not sure why cars grew to such epic proportions starting in the early 1970’s, but there was a time when even “compact” cars were growing fatter and longer. As you might imagine, fuel economy suffered as the Big Three American automakers produced engines up to 500 cubic-inches (8.2 liters) in size. Today though, small cars, not big ones, are all the rage, and GM has put together an oddly entertaining infographic comparing the land yachts of the 70’s with the subcompacts (like GM’s upcoming Spark) of today.
For its comparision piece, GM averaged out the size of 1973 full-size sedans from the Big Three, which came in at a whopping 222 inches, or 18.5 feet long (though I should note that the 1959-60 Impalas were 225 inches long.) That is
literally almost twice the length of Chevy’s upcoming Spark subcompact, which measures in at 144.7 inches from front to rear. The Spark and other subcompacts average about 6 inches taller than ‘73 sedans though and both the Spark and most ‘73 sedans came on 15 inch wheels. Oh how I long for the days when wheels were just wheels…
Now you might be saying “Well that’s all well and good, but those land yachts had tons of room!” And you wouldn’t be wrong…though in terms of actual passenger space, the Spark and ‘73 sedans were quite similar. How is that possible? Well you need a big engine bay to hold an 8 liter engine, and the trunks on these cars were huge as well. That didn’t leave as much space as you might think for the people actually driving the car.
And let’s talk gas mileage. While rated at around 10 mpg, my friend had a ‘73 Cadillac Coupe de Ville convertible, and even though that car drove as though it floated on a cloud, he swore he never got better than 6 mpg…and this was back when gas only cost $1.50 a gallon. I doubt that old Caddy sees the road much these days. The Spark should get at least 40 mpg from its 1.2 liter engine.
I am still waiting for someone to come along and convert an old land yacht into either an electric or alt-fuel vehicle. Biodiesel might be the best bet, because it takes a ton of torque to move three tons of American land yacht…or you could just buy a subcompact like the Spark instead. Me? I’ll take the Caddy…