Last Call: The Fog of War Edition

A motorcycle messenger uses a gas mask to make deliveries during smog attack, Los Angeles, Sept. 14, 1955
This image from 1955 Los Angeles of a gas mask-wearing motorcycle messenger shows what was once the (literally) dirty side of the internal combustion engine. I grew up in Southern California much later than this and the air still was horrible about half the time. I also remember the reticence of both car makers and buyers to the fitting of emissions controls, especially the catalytic converter which required the use of the then more expensive and far less ubiquitous unleaded gas.
The catalytic converter proved to be a miraculous device, and along with other advancements, allow cars today to often times have exhaust that’s cleaner than the air they take in. At the same time milage and horsepower have increased dramatically while cars themselves aren’t all that much more expensive. And the air in LA? Well, I haven’t seen a motorcycle messenger in a gas mask recently so I guess it’s getting better.
Last Call indicates the end of Hooniverse’s broadcast day. It’s meant to be an open forum for anyone and anything. Thread jacking is not only accepted, it’s encouraged. 
Image: Vintage Everyday

0 Comments

  1. Yeah, even just driving behind one single classic car (or for that matter, standing beside my motorcycle from the 80’s) shows just how far we’ve come. And, knowing what we’re capable of with the current standards in place, I’m happy to have them.

  2. Really cool old picture, would love to have the 55-56 Ford Fairlane station wagin he’s riding beside!! 🙂

  3. Yesterday I got a chance to do the Acura Performance Driving school at Mid Ohio. It was mostly paddock exercises with about 40 minutes of track time at the end.
    Started with a single lap around the autocross course to establish a base line. We drove an Acura ILX with an automatic. I think the drive train was stock, but the suspension was not. Lowered about 2″, stiffer springs, beefier anti roll bars and huge brakes.
    Next was classroom time.
    Then we spent time in two different Civic skid cars, one fully supported on casters the other just in the rear.
    Next we did brake and turn exercises. Each of us had our own Acura ILX, these were 6 speeds for most of us. One requested an auto because he hadn’t driven a stick since he was 18. Brake late and hard, trail off, hit the apex and squeeze on the throttle. Easy to understand, difficult to execute.
    After lunch we got back on the autocross track in the ILX for several laps. The instructor rode with us from a couple and we rode with him to learn proper technique.
    Then a few more autocross laps in the Honda S2000. I liked the S2000 better, except for the brakes. They just weren’t as good as the set up on the ILXs.
    Then it was back in the original automatic ILX for one last lap to see home we improved. I cut a full sec off my time, from 35.15 to 34.09. I was one of the 3 fastest so I got one more go in the S2000 and I cut 2 more secs off to 32.03. I didn’t like the auto, I’m confident that I could have been closer to the S2000 time in the manual ILX.
    Lastly, after a short classroom session, we went to the track for some lead-follow laps. The 3 of us who had been fastest were in the same group behind the fastest instructor. I did great when directly behind him, mimicking his moves, but when at the back of the group I had a hard time finding the line and keeping up. We were on the track for about 40 minutes.
    In the end I thought I was doing well, then I rode with the instructor and discovered that I knew nothing. Riding with him felt like what I imagine free falling from an airplane is like – chaotic, with little control of anything. Of course, I’m sure he felt in complete control. It was awesome.
    Tons of fun, highly recommended.

  4. When the Toyota 2AZ-FE launched in the Highlander and Camry, I went to a training where an engineer explained how you could run a (50 state emissions) 4-cyl. Camry in a garage and never asphyxiate because the emissions were so low.
    I immediately asked if they had real-world proof of concept.
    It is amazing how clean/efficient cars have become over the last 20 years.

    1. I didn’t buy that,once, and calculated a bit. (I have no proper education on this and have to make wild guesses, so I may be wrong, but here my results.)
      I came up with about 4000L of dry air needed to burn 1 liter gasoline (=C6H14 here), which is about 1hr of idling in my estimates.
      A small garage sports ~36000L of air, you faint (and lie next to the idling car until you die) at ~10.5% O2, so after 4.5hrs in an airtight garage you are going to die in a couple of hours.
      I still won’t be in there with an idling car for one hour.

  5. In the spirit of a greener LA, here’s a fellow turning over a new leaf in license plate shielding.
    In multiple photos.
    losangeles.craigslist.org/lgb/cto/5204995197.html

  6. While the air quality in LA is so much better now, it’s sort of depressing when you head up into the hills and look out over the city the day after any rains wash the muck out of the sky, and realize how much better things could still be.

    1. Back in 1968 my parents took my sister on a vacation where we first went to New Mexico, Arizona,mand then Los Angles (and other places later but anyhow). We bought Navaho silver Jewelry including a ring for young me. When we got off the plane in LA, my ring tarnished to black within about 15 minutes. That left an impression on me.

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