Here’s some truly disturbing news for nostalgic car owners. We recently spotted a billboard portraying a Datsun B210 as a generic polluting old car while visiting NorCal for the Motoring J Style show. Turned out, it was part of a California program to buy back cars that fail the state’s infamously strict smog check. For up to $1000, these cars will be “retired” from service, meaning that the government is paying people to scrap old cars. According to a new Detroit News article, this program replaced 16,000 vehicles last year, and unfortunately for us nostalgists, the trend is growing.
The article also reports that Texas has instituted a similar program that offers a generous $3500 payment and has already retired 11,000 cars since January. Three areas in Canada have gotten in on the action as well. Unsurprisingly, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents the interests of automakers who want to sell you tons and tons of new cars, agrees wholeheartedly with such programs.
Naturally, we find this a bit distressing. We have a hard enough time finding these vintage machines and their parts. Now the state is sponsoring their mass extinction. Even sadder, check out this article from Hot Rod (thanks, Bob), which proves that there are plenty of perfectly good cars being led to the slaughter by clueless owners.
It’s not that we don’t want to reduce pollution; we think that’s a noble and worthy cause. But we have to wonder, how green is this really? To fully understand the trade-off, we have to take into account the entire lifecycle of the product and ask, “What does it take to produce that new car?”
Think of all the iron ore that has to be mined, plastics created, paints and dyes used, and factories powered. The manufacture of one new car requires almost 40,000 gallons of water according to the US Geological Survey. Not to mention the cost of transporting these materials and delivering the finished car to its new owner, who may have just thrown out a car with years of life left.
The best solution, in our opinion, is to keep that jalopy and for the manufacturers, if they are indeed so concerned about their old products polluting our skies, to offer bolt-in engine swap kits based on their latest motors and let the states dish out cash for that. Who’s with us?