America’s hotrod scene has been one of its most unique features and subcultures since the earlier 1900s, and most notably in the 1950s. Enthusiasts would spend countless time and money modifying, tuning, and driving their cars so that they could be the fastest, the most dangerous, and gain the most respect. A resurgence of this culture appeared when small economy cars were modified, and in the 1990s, the “Tuner” crowd was born.
Now the same enthusiasts are shifting from speed and power to efficiency and distance.
One-by-one, back yard mechanics and former racers are beginning to modify their cars for gas mileage instead of horsepower. In this game, less is more, and the person with the smallest car, the smallest engine, and the fewest horses powering their vehicle usually win. Surprisingly, it’s not just the fiscally responsible adults that are concerned about fuel economy, but young enthusiasts are also jumping on the bandwagon.
A quick look at websites like http://GasSavers.org will show you hundreds of people all interested in modifying their cars to make them more efficient. That is where Matt Todhunter, who at one time spent more than $12,000 to make his car fast, now goes to talk about making his car efficient.
“I wanted to be unique again,” says Todhunter, “…and I wanted to straighten up my finances. I knew that I’d never be able to stop modifying cars, so I figured I’d do something that was much less expensive yet still goal oriented. I still get to tinker with my car, it’s ALWAYS a challenge, and I haven’t gotten a speeding ticket in a long time.”
Enthusiasts like Matt Todhunter are becoming more and more common, and they are even beginning to earn the respect of the hotrodders, who are often amazed by the accomplishments these fuel economy fanatics are capable of achieving.
Many of the crossovers from the racing crowd are able to apply the same principles to fuel economy. “Most of the modifications are the same,” says Joe Gardner, another fuel economy enthusiast. “Racers and people interested in fuel economy both want lighter, smaller cars that are aerodynamic and ultra efficient. The only major difference is that we want small engines and they want big ones.”
Considering the similarity in process, procedure, and mentality of modifying for speed and gas mileage, it is also no surprise that many speed enthusiasts are beginning to have two cars: one car modified for fuel economy as their daily driver, and another car modified for speed for their “fun” car.
While America’s obsession with speed will most likely never end, this new breed of auto enthusiast will most certainly be a driving force in their future choice of transportation. As the fuel economy movement gains more momentum, it would be no surprise at all of this became the next “big thing” for car lovers.