Saturday, May 22, 2010

The 85 mph speedometer

Our family's early 80s Oldsmobile Cutlass had a speedometer similar to this Cadillac speedo.

It really didn't make a difference on the Olds, but other, much faster cars had them too.  Like the Mazda RX7.

And this Mercedes 450SL.

So what gives?  Well, in 1979, the U.S. federal government required cars sold here to have 85 mile per hour* speedos and something to alert the driver about the 55 mph national speed limit.  This was during a time when fuel economy and hyper-safety were of paramount concern (to regulators).  Now, I'm personally a big fan and admirer of Joan Claybrook, the then head of NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), but I think it's clear that this was a bad idea.  Soon, the rule was retracted.  And we're left with these relics.

*85 miles per hour is about 137 kilometers per hour.


Anonymous said...

That Mercedes has a mark at 59MPH for the top of FIRST gear!.. hahah

Anonymous said...

I think the 85 refers to Ms Claybrook's IQ. What an onerous heavy handed nanny state moron. People like her-safetyNazis- are a scourge

vurana miles said...

This is half the reason people hated Carter....along with the 55mph limit itself, which wasn't even Carter's doing.

m4ff3w said...

I always liked the speedo on the Merkur XR4ti:

nicoweb said...

What was last year for the 85 mile per hour speedo?????

Unknown said...

Good riddance to 55