By Jason Torchinsky.
I suspect that an alarming number of our readers are too young to remember CARtoons, the only magazine in the history of humankind dedicated to goofy comic strips about cars.
It was wonderful. It also may have been one of the most accurate predictors of cars of today.
I happened to find an old Sept/Oct 1981 issue of CARtoons while I was re-pressurizing the nacho cheese tanks in my Y2K underground survival bunker. Don’t laugh; that shit can still happen.
Anyway, in this issue there’s a little two-page spread called Car Talk: Then and Now that’s supposed to be from an imagined 2013. Essentially, they’re comparing auto maintenance and repair procedures from a 1977 guidebook and one from 2011. It’s played for laughs (possibly laffs), of course, but it’s remarkable just how accurate some of these predictions turned out to be.
Here’s the one that really struck me as strangely prescient:
So, here they’re comparing setting timing via an old-school distributor with points with a system that uses a hand-held computer plugged into the car. I know when they wrote/drew this in 1981 the idea of a computer you held in your hand and used to adjust settings on your car must have seemed absurdly futuristic and insane, but they were dead on correct.
We absolutely do this now, commonly. They say “be sure you have the right program and are plugged into the right inspection socket,” which basically holds true today. You plug your laptop or phone or dedicated ECU programming tool into the OBD port, and it looks essentially like that little drawing there.
Aside from using the proper specific acronyms, CARtoons just got all Nostradamus on us here.
This one is essentially the same idea: using a hand-held plug-in computer to adjust the fuel/air mixture. Weird and futuristic in 1981, but absolutely common today. I know they wanted to make it seem ridiculously more complex than adjusting a carb, but my experience with carbs and electronic fuel injection is that carbs are the weird black magic in this comparison.
There’s some subtle things in this one:
It’s about changing filters, from an era when a car had, what, three filters, most likely? Fuel, oil, and air? Modern cars don’t really have that many more filters, but there are some more, but the really impressive part about this is the references to the “recyclarium.”
To a 1980s gearhead used to dumping oil into the nearest storm drain, this was probably hilarious. But, again, it’s pretty much exactly how the world is today. All the crap in your sump has to go, by law, to a recycling center. Another point for CARtoon’s secret magic crystals.
They weren’t perfect, though:
Here in 2016, we’re still stuck using crude jackstands, like our Neanderthal ancestors in the 1980s were. No “levato-fields” for us to raise our cars. It’s a shame, because levato-fields seem awesome, even now that I know about the painfulization of the auto-maintainers as a result of the San Diablo Blackout.
By the way, it looks like CARtoons is reborn! I wonder if we can get them to revise this and make some predictions for 2046?