The hot rodder’s worst nightmare has come to pass, and the toll is even greater than a few lost V-8 donor engines.
You can hear the laughter of the gathered salesmen over the tortured roar of the intercooled, turbocharged, five-cylinder engine. The pristine-looking 2004 S60 Volvo will soon become yet another victim in the Cash For Clunkers program: its throttle is being held at redline in order to deliberately and permanently disable it. As the cameraman walks around the open hood of the spotless engine compartment, a geyser of steam erupts from a vent. A half minute later, the engine note turns sour as hot oil shoots from an unseen orifice. The cameraman jumps back, and someone rushes in with a fire extinguisher. A few seconds later, the engine seizes. As if on cue, the gathered crowd laughs and hoots. A recently washed and well cared-for vehicle with a street value of about $10k has just been destroyed as part of Obama’s Cash For Clunkers program.
In another Youtube video, dealer techs are gathered around a 1991 Chevy Silverado with a Vortec 350. Within seconds, the Chevy emits its last death throes and expires amid much laughter. A tech off-camera rejoices, “F-ing Chevrolet!” The scene is much the same at a Dodge dealership, which has taken in a large Dodge cargo van. Its 360 Magnum V-8 engine doesn’t give up so easily, and takes over 40 minutes to give up the ghost. When it does, the cylinder block splits violently, belching a cloud of smoke and oil so large, it obscures the camera’s view of the van.
At a Honda dealership, they’ve created an online training video for the proper euthanasia of traded-in “clunkers.” In the video, a technician dispenses quick death to a V-8—equipped Olds Aurora, then affixes an official government tag noting the engine's inoperable state. The oil is drained, and a container of liquid sodium silicate is poured into the crankcase. It takes only a few seconds of the engine running at 2,000 rpm before the silicate abrasive fuses bearings, rings, valvetrain and other parts of the high-tech dual overhead cam aluminum V-8 engine into a solid, irreparable lump.
And there are hundreds more of these videos on Youtube, some of them relatively benign that show actual clunkers getting the axe, but far too many of them showing perfectly good "non-clunkers" being turned into scrap. These cars have engines that otherwise might end up with a good home in a hot rod or a coveted muscle car. They also represent vehicles that might have been sold to those not fortunate enough to afford a brand new car. In the latter case, the pool of reliable and affordable used cars is shrinking to the point that used car values are being driven up too high for some needy families at the poverty line.
In the short period of time the Cash For Clunkers program has existed, it has taken out of circulation over 27,000 running, registered, and insured cars. These aren’t disabled or derelict junk cars--"clunkers"--but real running cars that folks were using until they were destroyed at new car dealerships. As an unintended result, charitable donations of cars to non-profit organizations are way down--like in the basement. These charities help people who are unable to afford a new car, or they sell donated cars to help fund charitable activities. These organizations and the people who rely on them are the real losers here.
Yet we’re paying big tax dollars for all this mechanical and personal carnage. The federal government has already gone through its $1 billion, and needs another $2 billion to keep it going. The dealerships and automakers are pocketing the windfall, and the ailing economy is starting to sound like a Vortec 350 with a crankcase full of sodium silicate.
Hey, if you've already got a perfectly running car and you need to experience the new car smell that bad, my suggestion is that instead of scrapping it, donate it to charity, and take an equivalent tax write-off. There are many organizations that need your running car. Not only will you stop the needless mechanical waste, you might help stop some human carnage in the process. Here are just a few places that can use your car:
www.carsforbreastcancer.org (benefitting breast cancer survivors)
www.kars4kids.org (benefitting children’s charities)
www.maddaboutcars.org (benefitting mothers against drunk driving)
www.purpleheartcars.org (benefitting veterans)