Hemmings Motor News Blog Blog

Hemmings Motor News Blog

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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Why Were Tachometers Rare on Classic American Cars?

Posted August 04, 2022 5:00 AM by dstrohl
Pathfinder Tags: classic cars tachometers

In my childhood and adolescence, in the Malaise Era Detroit of the 1970s and 1980s, a tachometer was a rare sight. This was, in part, because nearly everybody in the Motor City still drove American cars back then and domestic cars, even ostensible performance cars like my brother’s 1978 Pontiac Firebird or my friend’s manual-transmission Ford Tempo, didn’t have a tach. In fact, it wasn’t until the mid-80s, in my Quixotic quest for a daily driver appropriate for a teenage Car Weirdo, when I test drove all manner of oddball European iron — a Fiat 850, a Saab 99, a half-dozen BMW 2002s including the one I eventually bought — that I really became familiar with rev counters.

Staring at the thin, tach-less, plasticky-wood veneered dashboard of a 1976 Eldorado Convertible on Hemmings recently, I wondered why this was.

“A tachometer is a very important thing to have in your toolbox when you need to know how hard your engine is working at any one time in any gear,” Donald Osborne says. Osborne is a top-tier vintage car appraiser and the CEO of the Audrain Museum (and its related enterprises) in Newport, Rhode Island. “But in an American car, this really wasn't an issue, because, since the twenties, American cars have been designed to be very low-stressed, powerful, fast cruisers.”

These large, lopey, high displacement motors — like the 8.1-liter behemoth in that Caddy — came into prominence for various reasons. Primary among them was the elemental bounty of the new world.

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#1

Re: Why Were Tachometers Rare on Classic American Cars?

08/04/2022 5:00 PM

Low revving 8-cylinder cars ran out of steam before they ran out of RPM's. When it stopped accelerating it was time to shift.

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#2

Re: Why Were Tachometers Rare on Classic American Cars?

08/05/2022 11:29 AM

Why need a tach if driving automatic? Put it in Drive and hit the gas. American cars had been mostly automatic since late 1950s so dash didn't even have a place for them.

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#3

Re: Why Were Tachometers Rare on Classic American Cars?

08/07/2022 4:32 PM

Pontiac had one mounted outside on the hood (bonnet to you Brits). I suspect it was hard to read the Revs on a rainy day! Bad idea...

https://fineartamerica.com/featured/1965-pontiac-gto-hood-tach-classic-visions.html

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