For this I have to go back 62 years plus - to the November 1947 edition of Popular Mechanics Magazine. The above illustration is an advertisement for a remarkable post-WW2 product - the Crosley car which the ad claims produced a 2,800 mile trip for 16 dollars.
I broke out my trusty (sometimes) calculator and figured out what it cost me for a 2,800 mile segment of last summer's trip to the west coast. Hmmm. Hmmmm. Hmmmmm. Something isn't working out right here. Twenty-eight hundred miles divided by 30 (miles to the gallon on our trusty Dodge Caliber) comes out to around 93 gallons of gas which (at $2.75 a gallon) computes out to about $267 dollars for 2800 miles. And we talk about progress?
Well, if I came up with a miracle on the Caliber and got 50 miles to the gallon (like the Crosley) I'd have used 56 gallons of gas and paid $154 dollars for the trip.
But wait a minute - we didn't pay $2.75 a gallon for gas in November of 1947 - we were much more apt to get five gallons for a dollar. So there you have it -- fifty miles to the gallon and 20 cents a gallon probably computes to a figure pretty close to the Crosley advertisement claim. And I know that five gallons for a dollar is a valid figure - I used to pay that when I was much younger.
Then I took a look at the price for a Crosley - note the ad: $888 at the factory (plus tax). Hey, I forgot that there was a time when you could go to the factory and get your new car as it rolled off the assembly line. Then I thought about the prices on cars today and I wonder how we came about the difference. What a difference a few years make!
The Crosley could hold four people (granted, they may have to have been pretty small, but the Crosley I rode it wasn't tight). Keep in mind the fact that I was not a big feller but the car was not that small. There may not have been bucket seats and a fancy console between the seats - but hey, there was togetherness and we've lost sight of old fashioned togetherness in a car. In the early 70's Joyce and I double-dated once with our eldest daughter and her boy friend and we went in a Volkswagen 'Bug'. It was cozy and we had a blast. Now that I think of it, how often do parents double date with a daughter and her boy friend today. I suspect daughters today would say something like, "But mom (or dad) -- what would my friends think if they saw us out together on a date like that?" They survived it (though they ended up with different mates) and it went down as a treasured memory.
I remember in my Air Force days that one of my friends in Italy rented a Fiat Topolina. Translated that would read 'little mouse'. It was little but it provided good transportation and didn't cost a bundle. And we fuss today because car size is shrinking.
So, I guess there's something to the saying that we've come a long way - but it sure costs a heap more today than what it did in 1947. And it may not be as much fun.