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What are some items that are just not made the same anymore?

I see a lot of people mentioning cars. You couldn’t be more correct.

There are pros and cons to the changes over the years.

Pros, Newer Vehicles:

There is a misconception that “older cars were build solid, you could get in a collision and get no damage.” Somewhat true for the car, but the people in the car see more shock and impulse because nothing is dampened. Newer vehicles are designed with strategic failure points, crush bars, etc. That’s why in crash tests, these things crumple into nothing- even a few extra milliseconds of deceleration makes a massive difference in impulse.

Newer vehicles have far better fitment on components, manufacturing methods are far more precise, exacting, and have exorbitant testing. The engineering is grueling. Efficiencies are higher because we see higher compression ratios, water temps, better oils, tighter tolerances, and better controls. Trust me, as someone who has worked on older cars quite a bit, the fitment on new cars vs old is night and day. The jigs they used “back in the day” to weld up frames vs what they do today aren’t even in the same galaxy- I’m actually one of the guys responsible for engineering frame and body line systems for cars, SUVS, and trucks you see every day. We are responsible for holding positional tolerances from key points within 0.005″, all verified by CMM. Trust me, they didn’t have that 50 years ago. At best, they had mediocre test jigs with Go/NoGo pins based on a “known good” component.

Improvements to oils are one of the reasons why engines last considerably longer these days. In fact, in all of my time working on vehicles, I have never actually seen an engine “wear out” from use while being properly maintained. Not once. Usually, people sell their vehicle long before the engine hits such a low compression level that it is impractical. When engines “die” it’s usually from a lack of simple maintenance and/or abuse. 100k-150k used to be “time to rebuild the engine,” but these days 150k is nothing.

Coatings, metallurgy, etc. Paint technology is insanely advanced now, including “self healing” properties for minor scratches and minimal surface defects due to robotic painting methods and chemical composition. Metallurgy on frames and components is far more advanced. Frames are far more resistant to rust than they used to be.

We hear that “everything is cheap plastic these days” but if you’ve worked on older cars, the interiors weren’t that great. Iconic, yes, but not as precise as today. In fact, if you didn’t have to bend something or fight something, it probably wasn’t going together. There is a reason why there were so many speed nuts situated in wide slots to account for abysmal manufacturing tolerances.

Cons, Newer Vehicles:

Cost, complexity, cost of ownership. The days of being able to service everything on your own car as a general consumer are long gone. In fact, many local and smaller repair shops will outsource many repair jobs to dealerships as specialty tools and computer systems are required. That wasn’t really an issue back in the carb days, or early EFI.

I consider electronics to be a double-edged sword. On one hand, they are fantastic at monitoring and controlling key aspects to an efficient drivetrain. On the other hand, they add a level of complexity and a whole new dimension to failure modes. Electrical gremlins are no longer just “bad ground” or “simple short that blew a fuse.” Now, you get an electrical gremlin, your wiper switch starts changing the volume on your infoPAINment system, and your seat controls start the engine. Crazy. Good luck diagnosing that with all of the proprietary controllers, ECUs, etc. And yes, I hate infopainment systems. I have one in my car, and if it wasn’t for maintaining the resale value, I’d put my fist straight through it.

Part 2 of the “everything is cheap plastic these days” is that there is truth to it. There wasn’t FEA back 50 years ago. Things were made thick and heavy and there wasn’t as much testing. Efficiency didn’t matter as much since gas was so cheap. These days, it’s all about strength to weight ratio. I actually saw a company re-tool several million dollars worth of massive molds just to take 0.5mm of thickness out of the injection molded components and change some of the internal webbing. The idea was that the cost savings on material would outweigh the modifications to the molds, and that the cumulative weight reduction would increase fuel economy. 5% across the board could be 150-200lbs, which adds up. The problem here is that yes, some components are made thin, cheap, and they break.

Seriously, these manufacturers were being given outrageous demands from the EPA, and they were grasping at straws to squeeze out every last bit of efficiency they could. Many times, this involved adding complicated components for aerodynamics, weight reduction analysis, material analysis, etc. Guess what that did? It passed the cost onto the consumers. Think that extra 1mpg over the lifetime of the vehicle outweighed all of the extra manufacturing and logistics? You be the judge, but I’m not convinced.

Frequent cycle and mid-cycle enhancements introduce new complexities and failure modes for vehicles. Not to contradict what I said earlier about testing and engineering, many “mid cycle enhancements” are pushed through in a disastrous, disorganized manner. If you’ve ever heard “never buy the 1st generation of anything” well there is a reason for that, including mid-cycle enhancements that are more than just aesthetics. Think about it this way- many manufacturers re-tool or completely replace their manufacturing systems every 2-4 years. Back many years ago, OEMs would use the same components for years and years at a time so the design was usually pretty solid. If there’s a manufacturing issue these days, and it isn’t a safety concern, it just gets buried with time since a new model is coming out anyway.

Levi’s Jeans.

They were so much better made than they are now and lasted longer. I still like them because I know what I’m getting in regards to the fit, which is pretty consitent, but I’ve noticed how much thinner the material is they use for them and the overall quality isn’t same.

tights. nylon tights used to be so durable that I still have one pair of my grandma’s fishnet stockings from the early 70’s! new ones break almost instantly.

Devil Dogs, Twinkies , Ring Dings….alltaste like a mouthful of chemicals. They used to be glorious