Time Machine II
(posted 5/9/08)

Three years ago, I selected a car to take if I could somehow time-travel back to 1950. I had wanted something to impress the locals. The vehicle I selected was a low-slung sports car.

Now it's 2008, and I've decided what car I'd bring if I could travel back 50 years. This time I'd really impress them. And do it in a practical four-door sedan.

I'd arrive in a 2008 Toyota Prius.

People would be wowed: a hybrid gas/electric which sometimes ran on only its electric motor and delivered over 45 mpg. (The average '58 automobile got about 14 mpg.)

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The Prius, as seen through 1958 eyes, would be perceived as a futuristic swoopy vehicle with plenty of room inside, even though it's 3 inches shorter than the 'little' '58 Rambler American, more than two feet shorter than a '58 Ford or Studebaker Scotsman and 31 inches shorter than a Plymouth Plaza. I'd be sure to point out all the safety features - in 1958, most cars offered only a dished steering wheel and a padded dashboard as a concessions to safety. I'd explain the four-wheel antilock disc brakes, traction control, the front airbags, side airbags and head airbag. I'd also point out the television camera and screen (Wow! Color TV!) on the dashboard for backing up.

By the way, the 1958 Rambler American was the resurrected '55 Rambler complete with its ol' 90 horsepower flathead six. The company promised "up to 30 mpg" with the American's optional overdrive transmission. Ramblers equipped with the Flash-O-Matic slushbox would probably get 20 mpg or so.

As a grand finale, I'd talk about performance: with its 0-60 time of 9 to 10 seconds or so, the Prius would be pretty hot stuff; it could easily outrun a '58 Cadillac, Lincoln or Imperial. And most other high-compression V-8 engined vehicles of the period. In fact, the automatic tranny Prius could probably outdrag an automatic '58 Corvette. In those days, non-manual Vettes were equipped with the dreaded, inefficient Chevrolet two-speed Powerglide transmission.

I think the 1958 populace would proclaim the Prius an absolutely stunning machine.

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