Ready for a little history? Okay, here we go. First off, OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) undertook and embargo of U.S. oil supplies in the ’70s as punishment for our support of Israel in the 1973 Yom Kipper War. The U.S. Government then enacted a number regulations intended to encourage fuel conservation, and these included lowering the speed limit to 55 miles per hour – thanks Nixon, and CAFE standards for car makers. One of the goofiest of Federal edicts – for both economy and safety – was the regulation requiring all cars and trucks sold in the U.S. to have speedometers that topped out at 85 MPH.
That not so smooth move was the brain fart of Joan Claybrook, who was the head of the NHTSA under Carter, and generally a wet blanket when it came to cars and fun. Yes, those were dark days for the auto industry and car enthusiasts both, but reminiscing about it did get me thinking about cars and their top speeds, and I started wondering, other than bragging rights, what’s a realistically acceptable top speed for a daily driver?
Now, the fastest you can go on U.S. highways, depending on the state, is around 70 or 75, but I can tell you from experience that cruising speed on an open freeway here in LA is typically about 10 mph higher than that. That should make that 85 a perfect top end, right? Well, no as you do need to be able to move up and down and all around that number to get to your exit or make your way onto the freeway. And of course other countries let their drivers go much faster than we do here. What do you think, when it comes to top speed, is too much never enough? Or, is there a maximum that your car should be capable of that you think is – in Goldilocks’ terms – just right?
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