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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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Will Older Cars Survive an Electromagnetic Pulse Better Than New Cars?

Posted April 18, 2022 8:02 AM by dstrohl

In his latter years, racer and inventor John Fitch became mildly obsessed with electromagnetic pulses (EMPs). Specifically, he feared that such a pulse of energy would fry the electronics in modern automobiles, turning them into two-ton paperweights. His solution, as per his modus operandi, was to design a car from the ground up; this one would use minimal electronics and even a points ignition as did cars from decades past.

He steered conversation toward the topic at every opportunity during my visit with him in 2009, and though I didn't include his concerns and ideas about EMPs and cars in the article I wrote about him that followed, I've wondered since then if these were merely the musings of a 92-year-old man or if Fitch's concerns were valid and worth investigating.

Of course, in the years since, an entire internet industry has steamrolled all discussion about EMP effects on cars in an effort to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt in order to subsequently sell gadgets to preppers worried about societal collapse, making it difficult to separate fact from fiction. Even before that, Popular Mechanics took a swing at scaring the American public with an ill-timed September 2001 cover article on "E-Bombs." And let's not forget all the sci-fi and apocalyptic movies and TV shows depicting eight lanes of highway traffic brought to a dead stop by an EMP attack, however unrealistic even EMP researchers find them.

But the idea that older cars with less or no electronics are better suited to a theoretical electromagnetic pulse than newer cars with their electronic gizmos remains so embedded in our collective consciousness that few stop to question whether that's really the case, so let's try to suss out the science as best as any group of non-physicist gearheads can.

Keep reading and discover:

  • What is an EMP?
  • Why people are so concerned about EMPs
  • What an EMP will do to a car
  • If you are better off driving an old car
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#1

Re: Will Older Cars Survive an Electromagnetic Pulse Better Than New Cars?

04/18/2022 11:15 PM

Old diesels do not use electricity at all to run, unless you count the starter. The ignition system on on injection pump style diesels is purely mechanical. All of it is. Once you have it started there is no electricity required AT ALL. Nothing to burn. No wires, no electronics. Now, kick starting an old 3406 or 8v92 might prove to be impossible ;P

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Re: Will Older Cars Survive an Electromagnetic Pulse Better Than New Cars?

04/19/2022 12:20 PM

Stopping an old diesel when it goes into runaway mode is very difficult too.You must literally choke it to death.

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Re: Will Older Cars Survive an Electromagnetic Pulse Better Than New Cars?

04/22/2022 1:46 AM

I was talking to a friend about kick starting the 3406 and she asked why we didn't just park it on a hill.

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#2

Re: Will Older Cars Survive an Electromagnetic Pulse Better Than New Cars?

04/19/2022 12:18 PM

Find an old 1960's or older vehicle.Points and condenser,coil,no problem.Vacuum tube radios will still work,if there are any analog stations left ,and HAM and CB'ers radio operators probably have some old vacuum tube transceivers around.You would need a pump to pump gasoline,an old style pump would still work;points,condenser,etc.The old tractors will still run.

The military equipment is shielded from EMP,so no problem,but the power grid could be shut down for a while.They do not have the gigantic transformer spares on hand,so they would have to be made from scratch.

We would not be thrown back to the stone age,but back at least to the 1960's or '50's.

No problems for the baby boomers,they would be right at home.

Now if things went full nuke,that is a different story.Einstein said"I don't know what ww3 will be fought with,but ww4 will be fought with sticks and stones.":,or words to that effect.

Perhaps we,or some other species on Earth has been there,done that.

There has been sufficient time for many sentient creatures to evolve,and possibly leave the planet.

It only took hundreds of thousands of years for humans to evolve,and Earth is Billions of years old.

Who says that land creatures were the first sentient beings?Ocean life developed millions of years before land creatures. Put hubris aside for a moment and think about it.....

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#5

Re: Will Older Cars Survive an Electromagnetic Pulse Better Than New Cars?

06/16/2022 3:00 PM

Most lawnmowers certainly will, if that helps?

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