The writing is on the wall. The internal combustion engine is dead.

Granted, it will take a long time to completely die. It certainly won’t happen in our lifetimes.

Reflect upon this: At the dawn of the automotive revolution, electric cars were competitive with gasoline-powered ones.

The lack of long-range, quick-charging batteries led to their demise. When the electric starter was introduced to internal combustion cars, it took away another advantage of the purely electric vehicles; it was another nail in the electric coffin.

Internal combustion engines are complicated, with hundreds of moving parts that have to work perfectly with one-another for the car to work. Most of the time, it also requires the expertise of an auto technician to repair this kind of engine. In fact, one of the reasons the United Auto Workers union opposes President Biden’s incentives to sell more electric cars is that it estimates it will take one-third less time to assemble an electric car than it does an internal combustion one.

Will the loss of ICE engines really be such a catastrophic event?

Progress is progress, and it cannot be stopped. I recall being at my great-uncle’s farm in Groveland, CA (a gateway to Yosemite Valley), and Uncle Mitch sending me out to the henhouse to pick up a few chicken eggs, still warm, and bring them in for breakfast. Keeping the henhouse safe from foxes, and keeping the hens fed and the house clean was a lot of work.

Now I just go to the grocery store.

I also recall a toaster we had at our farm in Novato that was triangular shaped. You put one piece of bread on each side and flipped the panel up which put the bread next to heating coils. When you thought that side was done, you lowered the panel, the bread flipped over, and you put it back up to toast the other side.

As a six-year-old, I thought it was fabulous and entertaining. But my grandparents were delighted when they bought a “modern” toaster where you pressed a slider down, both pieces descended into the body of the toaster, and all four sides were toasted at once.

It won’t be so hard to leave our much-loved vintage cars behind and replace them with electric ones. Of course, there is a caveat here. I am talking about utilitarian cars that are being driven in everyday traffic.

For decades, we have written in SCM about a time when vintage cars are treated like horses. They are trailered to attractive settings, driven for a few days, then trailered home. The result is tours like the Colorado Grand, the California Mille and the SCM 1000.

That time is now.

I shudder when I think about taking my 1967 Duetto out in city traffic. Or worse, leave it parked on the street with its fragile, dainty front and rear bodywork just asked to be punched in by someone in a gigantic truck with a ¾” hitch and ball on the rear.

As consumers we are drawn to simplicity and convenience. I predict that that in the new car market, we will see the adopting of EVs at a much higher rate than currently predicted. One Tesla owner told me, perhaps in jest, that the maintenance requirements in his owner’s manual consisted of, “lubricate the door hinges.”

What does this mean to us vintage car owners? Hopefully, not much. EVs and classic cars can coexist on today’s highways with no conflict.

The equation gets a little more complicated when you put autonomous cars and classics together. I predict non-autonomous cars will be required to have transponders on board, similar to an iPhone, that let self-driving cars know they are on the road.

There is no reason to go to your garage and bid a tearful farewell to your beloved gas-powered classic. It is already an anomaly in today’s world and will become increasingly strange as our world of personal mobility evolves.

We will be welcoming EVs and self-driving cars with our left hand and shifting gears on the SCM 1000 with our right.

Isn’t that the best of all possible worlds?



  1. Hmmn. Well that’s depressing. In contrast, I drove my 1967 series 1 E-Type OTS to a winery on Saturday, and let the manager drive it around the vineyard. She experienced what was to her a race car from the 1960s and was overwhelmed with emotion. What a fun day in the mountains. It was only a short afternoon respite wherein I picked up a case of wine after sipping a flite, and she got the taste of a car from years past. I think I’ll savor a few more memories like this before I send my car to either a museum or the junk heap of automotive history, and become a slave to a battery motor.

  2. Well said Keith. I parked my red 1967 Duetto on the street in 1977 while a student at UC Berkeley. It lasted a week before suffering front end damage. Our mutual friend, Hillary Luginbill in San Rafael said something like what did you expect? But, my daily driver back then was way more fun and had character that is lacking in most electric vehicles. They are appliances.. Which is fine for some but not for all of us.

  3. I agree with the premise that we are at a turning point in auto – motive technology. ICEs remained supreme for over a century. But the simplicity of electric Keith refers to will win out. It’s like the steam locomotive that reigned for well over a century. Simple but requiring massive maintenance as well as repairs of the rails they pounded against. Steam was finally replaced by diesel-electric. Replace the diesel engine with a battery and you have an EV. A simple rotating armature powered by electricity. And the beauty of 100% torque at zero RPM. And the rails don’t get pounded. Now when we see a snorting steam loco out for an exhibition run we wonder how they relied on that for over a century.

  4. The best of both worlds? Not even close! I enjoy driving my daily driver, even though the driving standards are truly shameful and I live in an area with ridiculous traffic. I don’t want to be restricted to driving only on occasional weekends when I’m on a classic car tour — I want to be able to enjoy driving, at least somewhat, on a more or less daily basis. You can keep your autonomous cars. I’ll add that, in my opinion, the various degrees of semi-autonomy that we have now (and will apparently continue to have for a long time as full autonomy remains a long way off) make driving LESS safe. People rely on these “driver aids,” and that encourages them to do all sorts of spectacularly stupid things behind the wheel, such as texting, because they think these systems will save them. After many decades of huge reductions, the highway fatality rate began to rise around six years ago — as smart phones and texting became much more prevalent. That’s not a coincidence, and it’s only getting worse. Last year, the highway fatality rate (deaths per mile) shot up about 25%, which is unprecedented. Predictably, sadly, and absurdly, this was blamed primarily on “speeding” rather than “distracted driving.” The various driver aids and partial autonomy are making people pay even less attention to driving than they did previously. I don’t doubt that theoretical full autonomy would be safer, but the steps along the way are making things worse, not better.

  5. My son Casey and I just finished a three day rally with the Alfa club in Colorado. My son lives in Boulder and we used his Tesla. Comments good and bad
    We had no trouble in the curves keeping up with any of the hot shoes.
    Forget stopping at any charge port except Tesla supercharger.
    We did hook up to a ChargePoint charger but quickly left after it described a seven hour, 20 minute charge needed.
    We then found a Tesla supercharger and it was just a 30 minutes charge port in contrast to seven hours.

    So we still have three problems that We all know and all three are very significant.
    One. Expense of vehicle
    Two. Range of the battery
    Three. Availability of Quick charger.

  6. Yup, am shuddered at the thought of a purely autonomous EV “Orwell” society. The loss of 3 pedal cars coupled with artificial exhaust sounds just doesn’t cater to me. Fast approaching my 70’s hoping to transition to Chapter Eternal before everything you say comes to fruition! Ugh!

  7. I’m not sure how long our ICE powered cars will be able to “co-exist”. The consequences of climate change are now readily apparent, and ICEs are a contributor. And the price of fuel will rise very high, for sure. Get out and drive, now!

  8. Right on Keith. It truly is the best of both worlds, and I dispute the claims of those who say EVs are appliances. My i3 is a hoot to drive around town, and my neighbor’s Model 3 Performance is a great sport sedan. Meanwhile, my ZO6 with a manual transmission is always available when I desire a more traditional driving experience. No one is being forced to purchase, or give up, any particular type of car, you pay your money and make your choice.

  9. I would love to be a curmudgeon about EV’s. I like my classics and my Hot Rods. But my children’s children (soon to be taking the wheel in 6 and 8 years) will be driving in to a world that is heading more and more down the EV road.

    Their children may think of ICE vehicle like we do buckboards. They still work, but why would you want one of those dirty, crude things except for the fun of it.

    So as I attempt to inspire my grandchildren to appreciate MY hobby, maybe I need to look at it a little more realistically. Maybe I should consider putting EV power in my next Hot Rod. Perhaps the process can better involve them and will help us bridge the worlds we will live in. Then, hopefully, they might be more interested in the hobby being passed down to them.

    As for the Driver “Aids”. Ha! I can imagine my 17 year old self, making sport of abruptly changing lanes in front of a Tier 5 Autonomous vehicle and then speeding off in my hot rod. Watching the poor slob in the appliance slowly accelerate back up to the automatically controlled, state designated, maximum safe operating speed in my rear view mirror. What fun!


  10. I wonder how many gas stations will be left in 20 years? I don’t think Elon Musk is correct about fully autonomous cars coming by the end of the year. I would guess there will be a ton of conversion companies offering plug and play kits to update your classic to electricity, probably with a sound generator duplicating your old ICE engine’s sound.

  11. For me, the combustion engine is an integral and hugely important part of the appeal of a car, and is one of the most important things that distinguish one car from another. Electric motors don’t differ much from each other, except for power/torque. Zillion hp EVs don’t appeal to me either – there’s no way, and nowhere, to use that level of performance. I’ve driven a variety of Teslas and a Porsche Taycan Turbo (an utterly ridiculous name for an EV). EVs are technologically impressive in many ways, but even ignoring range-related issues, they leave me cold. I don’t find myself having any desire to own one. None.

    Moreover, the near-universal messaging that EVs will save the world seems massively flawed — which is rather important. First, ICEs emit a miniscule fraction of what they did even just a few years ago, and there are so many other large sources of pollution that should also be addressed. Technology continues to improve to make ICE cleaner still. Hopefully synthetic fuels are viable, at least on some scale. Also, can we just stop the ridiculous power race (and I like fast cars)??? We don’t need 600hp (or 1000) to have fun no matter what the motor type, nor do most people who buy typical sedans and SUVs need 300 or 400 hp. Put the tech gains into improved efficiency rather than ever more power (ICE and EV) and we’ll use much less fuel/energy.

    The environmental impact of a car over its whole life cycle — manufacturing through use to disposal/recycling (“cradle to grave”) — is what actually matters. Whether anything comes out of an exhaust pipe is important, obviously, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Manufacturing EVs is MUCH worse for the environment than manufacturing ICE cars. A huge percentage of the materials required to manufacture electric motors and batteries come from China. How environmentally friendly is mining and manufacturing in China??? It’s the world’s most prolific polluter BY FAR.! They generate the vast majority of their electricity by burning COAL, and that will continue halfway through the next decade at the very least! Climate change is a global problem, not just a US, UK or EU problem. Who are the biggest, most vocal champions of EVs? China – what a surprise, given that China would benefit economically more than any other nation since they have the vast majority of the required natural resources. While continuing to power their utilities with coal…

    Don’t get me wrong, I do think EVs have a big role to play going forward. However, the notion that they should completely replace ICE vehicles, rather than be part of a market that includes ever-cleaner ICE cars, is flawed in so many crucial ways, not least of which is that they’re not necessarily much better for the environment. Perhaps they will be one day, but we’re very far from that.

    It’s increasingly likely that I’ll never buy another new car because I actually want it.

    One last thing (I’m not making this up): Elon Musk — Tesla king — stopped accepting Bitcoin. Why? Because, he said, mining cryptocurrency uses too much electricity, and that’s bad for the environment. Think about that.

  12. It’s really hard to see at this point which way this issue will go. It seems like public sentiment is hardening against the ICE, mainly for environmental reasons, and that perhaps not right now but certainly in most of our lifetimes we will see restrictions on their use. It will be important for car clubs and other advocates all around the world to find ways to emphasise how important the ICE is for some of us, not just as something we enjoy/live for but also for their inherent heritage value and the fact that for many people their car collections represent a significant proportion of their overall wealth – and to negotiate spaces within which we can keep using them, whether that be carbon offsets, mileage-based levies, retrofitting emissions-control technologies, ensuring inner-city ICE-free zones (as we are seeing increasingly in the UK) don’t creep out unnecessarily, sanctioned events etc…

  13. I’ve said it once…
    And I’ll repeat it (over & over again)…


    California’s power grid is already stretched….