Fuck You, Regs

Longtime Readers will be familiar ad nauseam with my constant bitching against modern automotive design and how homogeneous the cars of today appear.  While a lot of it is driven by things like “wind-tunnel” performance, I’ve never bothered to talk about exactly why  car makers are so obsessed with streamlining and what have you, because I’d always thought people knew why they’re thus obsessed.

Allow me then, to address this shortcoming by pointing you to this excellent article, a snippet of which reads as follows:

It hasn’t happened all at once. It’s been a bit at a time, taking place over four decades in the name of safety and the environment. The whole thing began in 1966 with creation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, followed by the Environmental Protection Agency and dozens of others. Every regulator wanted a piece of the car.
Each new regulation seems like it makes sense in some way. Who doesn’t want to be safer and who doesn’t want to save gas?
But these mandates are imposed without any real sense of the cost and benefits, and they come about without a thought as to what they do to the design of a car. And once the regs appear on the books, they never go away.

Truly, this cries out for explanation. So I was happy to see a video made by CNET that gives five reasons: mandates for big fronts to protect pedestrians, mandates that require low tops for fuel economy, a big rear to balance out the big fronts, tiny windows resulting from safety regulations that end up actually making the car less safe, and high belt lines due to the other regs. In other words, single-minded concern for testable “safety” and the environment has wrecked the entire car aesthetic.
And that’s only the beginning. Car and Driver puts this as plainly as can be: “In our hyper-regulated modern world, the government dictates nearly every aspect of car design, from the size and color of the exterior lighting elements to how sharp the creases stamped into sheetmetal can be.”
You are welcome to read an engineer’s account of what it is like to design an American car. Nothing you think, much less dream, really matters. The regulations drive the whole process. He explains that the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards with hundreds of regulations — really a massive central plan — dictate every detail and have utterly ruined the look and feel of American cars.

Here’s my suggestion to the Trump administration:  wherever the so-called “Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards” reside, go in there and take out 75% of them – I don’t care which ones, but I bet a random sample of my Petrolhead Readers would take care of the problem.

Here’s the money shot quote from the article:

No one set out to wreck the diversity and beauty of our cars. But that is precisely what has happened, as the political and bureaucratic elites have asserted their own value systems over the values of both producers and consumers. They are the masters and we are the slaves, and we are to accept our lot in life.

Maybe not.  This is a hill I’d be glad to die on — just for the sake of automotive beauty.  Here’s one example of a car that couldn’t be made in the U.S. today because regs, and we are the poorer for it:

More about Bizzarrini.

The title, by the way, is a play on a line of dialogue from Cheech and Chong’s Big Bambu  album.


  1. What is missing from the article is an analysis of the malevolent influence of California in producing those regulations. California would pass its own regulations that were more restrictive than Federal law. The car companies would cave because CA is such a big market. Then they would whine because they were having to produce two versions of their models. So the Federal government would change the national standards to conform to CA. Then CA would start the cycle again.

    Either the car companies or the Federal government could have stopped this in its tracks but failed to do so. The car companies should have said, “OK no cars for you.” It would be a game of chicken to see which would give way first. They could also have pulled all their factories out of CA, costing CA lots of jobs. They more or less ended up doing this anyway because the leftists they enabled created such a terrible business climate. The Federales could have stopped it by simply refusing to listen to the whining car companies. Or they could have prohibited CA from having different standards than the rest of the country. It is ironic that with all the BS that the Federal government justifies with the Commerce Clause when faced with something that actually is infringement on interstate commerce, they decline to act.

  2. Gov’t regulations have hijacked every industry in this country and we’re all the worse for it. Why does a car cost $40k? Look at everything the gov’t is involved in, the cost is on the moon.

    I’ve mentioned building and construction regulations here before. I have been dealing with them every dam day for 40+ years. Did you know, for example, that a deck on a 2 story house must not only have an approved railing but under that railing a, get this, “bottle rail” must be installed. A minimum 2″x2″ strip of wood or man made material must be installed with mechanical fasteners directly to the surface of the floor decking under the bottom rail of the railing. This is to prevent a bottle from rolling off the deck and hitting someone below. Though this reg is more than 20 years old now, and thousands of others have been created since, I chose this one to illustrate how ridiculous most regulations are.

    The insulting aspect of regulations in the building industry is that professionals like me with extensive education and decades of experience are undermined by gov’t organizations staffed mainly by the opposite. Did you ever consider the employment value of a 400 pound surly negress with knotted up hair and 3″ purple fingernails? It can’t even wipe it’s own ass! But it gets to flag my plan because a 4 word note was not clearly posted on the front sheet. As an associate once said, “Somebody needs to submit a plan for permitting, with an Uzi.”

    1. Yup. And the worst of it is that there is no need…modern insurance demands will drive good design without getting the government involved.

  3. You’ve posted many beautiful cars, but the Bizzarrina is all class. Those lines are as beautiful today as the day they were made.

    I’m not a car buff, but the number of cars you have displayed here, that I’ve never seen before, is one of many reasons I enjoy the heck out of this site (guns and women being the other top 2 reasons).

    Glad you’re a US citizen. We could/should import a thousand more Kim DT’s.

  4. There are two sides to that coin. Some mandated innovation has been a good thing. Seatbelts, energy absorbing chassis design, seats that keep your head attached to your body, and so on. We wouldn’t have 700 horsepower supercharged engines that get 22 mpg and run like a top for 200k miles while producing mouse-fart emissions were engineers not tasked to come up with clever ways to get around regulations and still build things people want to buy.

    On the other side of that coin, as you rightly point out: CAFE nonsense, airbags that kill people, automation that effectively removes any ability to drive from the majority of drivers, et al.

    The real evil is in the bureaucracy– common sense regulation to make vehicles safer is more often that not a good thing in concept. The problem starts when those implementing it care more about control and “revenue” than actual safety.

    While I lust for the lines and sound of a 60s Ferrari, I don’t exactly want to drive one around in Phoenix in the summer, or get t-boned by someone in an Escalade. Or have to keep 40 pounds of tools in the trunk for when it decides to be even more Italian than usual. Or rebuild the engine and trans every 50k miles (at best). And on it goes.

    1. Yes, but to me the scream of a Ferrari’s V12 redlined in third gear, or the deep bellow of a 7 liter American V8 turning the rear tires into smoke and molten rubber cannot be matched by modern cars.

        1. “..427 cubic inch engine,…” – that’s the “7 liter American V8” that hunter was referring to.

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