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Hemmings Motor News has been around since 1954. We're proud of our heritage, but we're also more than the Hemmings full of classifieds that your father subscribed to. Aside from new editorial content every month in Hemmings, we have three monthly magazines: Hemmings Muscle Machines, Hemmings Classic Car and Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car.

While our editors traverse the country to find the best content for those magazines, we find other oddities related to the old-car hobby that we really had no place for - until now. With this blog, we're giving you a behind-the-scenes look at what we see and what we do during the course of putting out some of the finest automotive magazines you'll ever read.

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Automakers, Here's How to Get Around the Chip Shortage: Make De-Contented Cars Again

Posted January 24, 2022 8:03 AM by dstrohl

Modern cars are more computer than machine, and the more gadgets and gizmos they have, the more computerized elements they require. Thus, when COVID-19 (and several other factors) caused a massive shortage of semiconductor chips and integrated circuits, it dragged down auto production just as surely as a glass, steel, or rubber shortage would have back in the vacuum-tube or transistor eras.

I’ve got a workaround, though, and it will surely make a lot of Hemmings readers happy: Quit stuffing new cars with so much unwanted technology. Leave off the touch screens (BMW actually did), reintroduce wind-up windows and manual door locks, and see what else we can get away without. Back in the ’tube era, radio-delete plates were nearly as common as actual radios—so let’s go back to vehicles without “infotainment systems.”

Or how about HVAC? Arguably, there hasn’t been an adequately decontented vehicle available since deleting the heater ceased to be an option sometime in the ’60s or ’70s. At one time, a windshield, top, and side curtains for your touring car or runabout were considered a luxury — now if you can’t wear your basketball shorts to 7-11 in mid-February, there’s something very wrong with your car. For sure, those of us in New England need a heater and defroster, but the SoCal market lived without for decades; likewise, Southerners may need AC, but most of us can just roll-down the aforementioned manual windows.

Am I dreaming? Absolutely. There’s no going back today—and maybe that’s why so many of my neighbors seem to prefer side-by-side ORVs instead of passenger cars. Making every car more or less the same simplifies production and all that “content” justifies a premium price. It takes nearly as much money to build a cheap car as an expensive one, so simple machines don’t have good profit margins.

Luckily, this wasn’t always the case, and the determined shopper can still find a low-content machines easily enough. Here are seven examples of low-content, high-quality vehicles automakers used to build. Which one would you want?

1917-’25 Ford Model T

1937-’41 Ford Standard

1949-’77 Volkswagen Type 1 Beetle

1951-’54 Henry J

1957-’58 Studebaker Scotsman

1958-’60 Rambler American

1959-’70 Chevrolet Biscayne

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#1

Re: Automakers, Here's How to Get Around the Chip Shortage: Make De-Contented Cars Again

01/24/2022 9:35 PM

By the time you redesign cars without chips, the chip shortage will be about over.

Are people going to want to buy a car lacking all the bells and whistles that may not have a good resale value down the road?

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#2
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Re: Automakers, Here's How to Get Around the Chip Shortage: Make De-Contented Cars Again

01/25/2022 1:46 AM

Yep.
My work vehicle has a heap of brand new never been used items in it. Does that help the resale?
It has about >200k km on the clock runs great but our consultancy works mainly on civil/marine projects so skin cancer has taken its toll even though mechanically it is as strong as an ox - resale value ... ask a wrecker - their offer may surprise you compared to offers received. Work vehicle - does its job then put to pasture or shot.

My private car (Merc S Class AMG V8) has about 50k km's on the clock and a heap of electronic gizmo's, whiz bangs and whatnot's, that haven't been used, the utilisation and functions of which I have no idea, and have no interest in learning, BUT my wife likes it, the colour, the luxury, the leather interior, the looks .... blah blah blah. [Must confess I like the AMG V8 bit]

Told her when we got it that the moment we drive it out of the showroom we have just blown 50% of the cash to be met with "...but it will last forever..." followed by 18 months later "... see H has bought S (his de-facto wife) a new Audi Sports ..." (Not the A8 one)
So if I sold the Land Cruiser I'd be down, in pure cash terms, a bit over 50% (Ignoring the work component). If I sell the Merc, in pure cash terms, I will be down about 80% (there is no work component except maybe two rush trips along our quite excellent expressways to a site up north - about 400km each way) IF I can get a buyer - which isn't guaranteed, as people that can afford this kind of Merc wouldn't be caught dead in a 2nd hand one.

Remember when your Dad told you to NEVER listen to a new care salesman when they start flogging the add-on accessories? The car mobs figured this out so they built their little cash cow into the car.
I long for the days of the Mk1 Landrover and the good old Holden Ute - 4 wheels, a motor, a gear box and a steering wheel and the fact you could fix the thing when it broke.

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#4
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Re: Automakers, Here's How to Get Around the Chip Shortage: Make De-Contented Cars Again

01/25/2022 2:16 PM

Absolutely. I would love a car with fewer bells and whistles. That is far fewer items to break. And they do break and it's not worth repairing them in many cases, so you deal with the annoyances of partially working systems.

But for people who sell/trade their car when the loan is paid off, that's a different story.

I keep vehicles long enough for things to break. The newest vehicle in our stable is a 2012 with over 100K miles. The others are 2005 or older with mileage in excess of 200K miles. I don't re-sell my vehicles. They go to the crusher in the sky.

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#5
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Re: Automakers, Here's How to Get Around the Chip Shortage: Make De-Contented Cars Again

01/25/2022 3:13 PM

In addition,, where would you find someone to make repairs?? Most, if not all, technicians these days rely on a computer readout. I am certain that those "old fashioned" mechanics are a dying breed. You need eyes to read and follow instructions now, no more relying on "what sound does it make" and knowledge of what is actually going on.

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Re: Automakers, Here's How to Get Around the Chip Shortage: Make De-Contented Cars Again

01/25/2022 9:44 PM

One word: teenagers. They can't afford the fancy electronic diagnostic gear, but they need to be able to work on their cars. So they learn, and you can seek them out to do your work as well.

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Re: Automakers, Here's How to Get Around the Chip Shortage: Make De-Contented Cars Again

01/26/2022 9:46 AM

I cannot speak about your location, but, from what I see here in North America, the availability of older vehicles without all the computerization in them is somewhat scarce. It is people of my generation that owned (and still do own) such vehicles that can still remember working on their own vehicles without the aid of computer diagnostic equipment.

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#11
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Re: Automakers, Here's How to Get Around the Chip Shortage: Make De-Contented Cars Again

01/29/2022 10:29 AM

Yeah, but speaking for myself I'm too old and lazy to do much work on a car.

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#3

Re: Automakers, Here's How to Get Around the Chip Shortage: Make De-Contented Cars Again

01/25/2022 3:16 AM

Type 1 VW, had one that I turned it into a Myers Manx. Come home for lunch, 4 bolts and the engine out onto the bench. A few more bolts and shift the cam forward or back one tooth on the timing gear to get more torque more top end, back together, check timing tappet clearance, bolt up connect cables and off back to work. What a valuable lunch hour spent on a car where everything was known and accessible.

None of these bells and chimes and nagging women in the dash, bad enough with the one in passengers seat.

My daily drive is a turbo Nissan Patrol, 26 years old, no bells, no whistles, nothing to stop you because it thinks the engine needs the oil changing. Now cruise control would be nice but that is what the right foot is for, right!

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#6

Re: Automakers, Here's How to Get Around the Chip Shortage: Make De-Contented Cars Again

01/25/2022 3:59 PM

Apparently, a lot of people long for the "good ol days". Formally known as "these trying times".

If purchase cost is all you are concerned about .. buy a 2022 Chevy Spark or last year's model of another car. https://www.lotpro.com/prices/new/all/0/10000

It is only a very small percentage of those purchasing a new car in today's market .. actually have any control or impact over what options are included in their new cars. They purchase cars from existing inventory (local or nationally). This is more due to the complexity and costs involved in providing additional options to the customer. Options beyond color, wheel sizes, engines, interior materials (leather, cloth, etc), and the numerous other "trim" packages are simply not practical. And... few are willing to wait for the new car - made to order.

The cost of providing many of the mentioned - minimizing options -becomes more that these items cost, making the subject moot (counter productive/counter intuitive). At present, it is doesn't cost any more to provide electric windows than hand cranked windows. The economics of today are not the same as 10 years ago, even less than the conditions of 30 or more years ago.

The hp / gas mileage impact of driving with your windows down at highway speeds is significant. More than the impact of driving with the AC compressor working. How many are willing to pay extra for higher operating costs and the inability to take that occasional drive to Florida comfortably? Or deal with 100 degree days now occasionally occurring in many northern locations. Not many would.

There is a valid argument for a economical car that doesn't have much in the way of options .. But I doubt the automotive industry will find much demand for it in western countries. I also doubt the pricing would be so significantly less than what is currently available. Witness what car companies have attempted in India during the last 20 years. More importantly, I doubt it's pricing or availability would have been impacted by the chip shortage. The performance demands (pollution controls, fuel consumption, maintenance on 100K mile intervals, ODB port, etc...) of the modern ICE - in cars/ motorcycles require a few "chips" regardless of other features.

If a company (or industry) puts all of their processes into "just in time", or other methods that promote efficiency above all else, it will lose some of it's ability to recover or adapt to un-expected changes, pandemics, natural disasters, etc.

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#7

Re: Automakers, Here's How to Get Around the Chip Shortage: Make De-Contented Cars Again

01/25/2022 4:15 PM

I agree with the excess of bells/whistles. The K.I.S.S. principle is missing.

--JMM

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#9

Re: Automakers, Here's How to Get Around the Chip Shortage: Make De-Contented Cars Again

01/26/2022 3:21 AM

An interesting contextual comparison is the John Deere saga ...
Wonderful when working but ages to fix anything that in days of old a shifter (adjustable wrench to our Yank friends) and a hammer would fix most things
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGH6pxNouCY

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#12

Re: Automakers, Here's How to Get Around the Chip Shortage: Make De-Contented Cars Again

02/01/2022 1:54 AM

Naah, I would not want an old-style car. It is OK for short trips, or playing with your VW beach buggy, but it depends on what you want from it. For me, a car is mostly a tool, and I'm not keen on working on them - I can and I have, but why would I want to if I don't have to? When the tool costs too much to keep going, it goes and I get a newer one.

Where I live, some drivers have, ahem, interesting talents, so I'll take my ABS, thank you (it has literally saved my life once), and airbags and crumple zones - bring it on! And 15 000/30 000 km service intervals (minor/major), no grinding of valves every 5000 miles as my dad had to do. And no radio on a 12-hr trip - hell no! Add an engine that just keeps on turning at a constant 129km/h for that journey, cool (>220k km on the clock now). Aircon keeps me comfy and awake on said trip too. And central locking keeps me relatively safe, and the alarm helps to keep the car mine for a little longer. My car is an entry-level SUV, so not too many bells and whistles - manual gearbox, electric windows and power steering. I would be hesitant to get a modern German wonder.

Interesting, they tried selling the no-frills models here (Datsun Go comes to mind), but it did not so as well as expected. A certain level of comfort and safety is required even for budget-conscious buyers. It is a very, very different world than 50 years ago. And I'm pretty sure the folks in the ORVs uses them for toys or workhorses on farms, not for serious commuting or long-distance travel.

But hey, some of my friends love fiddling with their vehicles, with workshops with all the tools you can think of, and for them it is very different. So, different horses for different courses. If I do an overland trip from Cape Town to Cairo, though, I'd take as simple a motorbike as I can find (and some tools, yech, ok)!

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Re: Automakers, Here's How to Get Around the Chip Shortage: Make De-Contented Cars Again

02/01/2022 1:07 PM

Absolutely. Yes, there are things we keep.

1. Air conditioning and heat, but manual controls are fine. I don't need a remote moisture detector that measures the sweat beads on my forehead to set the A/C unit to the correct temperature.

2. Entertainment. A free, streaming audio service we used to call "The Radio". And a CD player for us old farts. I don't need a Bluetooth pairing for streaming. I don't need a mobile hot spot with broadband satellite service.

3. ABS. I could take it or leave it. I don't mind it being there, but I don't miss it on older cars. I learned to drive on snow and ice before ABS existed. Same thing with "stability control".

4. I'd rather not replace points, condensers, and distributor caps, so I am very happy with electronic ignitions. Those have been (in my experience) very reliable, so that is truly an improvement over the "old school" stuff.

5. Power windows. Nice convenience, but with air conditioning and EZ-Cash electronic tolling, my windows pretty much stay closed most of the time as long as I stay away from fast food windows. Window switches can start failing on mature vehicles. The regulator motors seem to hold up OK, but I've had to replace the regulators when the wire rope cables start failing.

6. Power locks. I could take it or leave it. If you frequent carry several passengers or more, it it nice. My kids are grown and flown, so this is a don't care.

7. Remote adjust mirrors. If different drivers use a vehicle, this is nice, but I don't need a memory to remember who is driving and automatically adjust the mirrors for each driver. It takes me about eight seconds to get the side mirrors adjusted to my tastes.

As for the rest of the amenities automobile manufacturers like to pile on their vehicles, they can throw it in the trash can. I know how to drive, I don't need a stinkin' computer to parallel park my car for me.

Auto-braking: I would not buy a car with it. I am an engineer. I don't trust a computer to make a life-or-death decision for me.

As for autonomous cars, this is what I think they should do with them:

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Re: Automakers, Here's How to Get Around the Chip Shortage: Make De-Contented Cars Again

02/01/2022 3:47 PM

All very good points.

However, vehicles these days are made for the "newer" generations, most, if not all I would take a stab at, did not have a father or older sibling who knows what makes cars tick and weren't afraid to let us "younger" ones attempt driving. I can remember my first "real" driving experience. Once off public roads, my uncle stopped the truck and said, it's your turn, then got out of the drivers seat and moved to the passenger side. I was 13. The truck was a 1968 Fargo pickup. No bells and whistles back in those days.

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Re: Automakers, Here's How to Get Around the Chip Shortage: Make De-Contented Cars Again

02/02/2022 11:38 AM

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