It's not just about mileage. While modern cars are built pretty damn well, they probably won't be on the road in 33 years (much less 57). They weren't built for super-longevity. Plus, most people who can afford new cars usually just replace their still-strong running cars that are only a few years old with a brand new vehicle every 3-4 years anyways.
Coming from Connecticut, we have quite a few of these '70s behemoths and late-'60s muscle cars on the road. Despite the fact that we're big into the salt in the winters, the cars look incredible and are always rust free. Nobody talks about the so-called pollution from these vehicles as there are no state/private inspections on older vehicles (hell, the DMV doesn't even have to see the car to register it) around here. If you don't own a classic and have money, you drive a gas guzzling Mercedes/BMW/Bentley/SUV. Despite the huge numbers of inefficient vehicles, our air quality is fine and we have no environmental problems at all.
You're right about the people who take off the emissions equipment on the older cars. They're sacrificing whatever fuel efficiency they could have hoped to have had in favor of a slight boost in HP/torque figures. I mean, I don't care about the environment or anything, but from an economic standpoint, it's dumb. Thankfully, these big late-'70s Lincolns are relatively clean if well-maintained and not driven by a lead foot, or a ricer who thinks he's cool by ripping out all the original equipment and replacing it with those horrible, loud, crappy exhausts.
Fortunately we still had the Pontiac Trans Am; a very hot seller. The anti pollution and smog devices took quite a while to iron out. It was a very low point in American performance. And I switched off to imports like the 280ZX.
Fortunately today there are incredible cars to choose from; 500-600 HP if you wish. Straight from the factory and turn the key. You may not want to spend 50k on a Mustang or over 100k for a Corvette. Or a Hemi Challenger. Not fuel misers. I put the top down shift into first gear and go. I have driven my son's Viper first gear up to 60 MPH and 5 gears left. There are plenty of tracks, and we can legally drive 75 mph on the highway here. Work hard, and if you can afford it, go for it. Life is short, and boring, drab, abysmal transportation is not always better!
CAFE is a bit of a catch 22. Sure, it's great that we have very few vehicles on the road that get less than 10 MPG these days, which was the norm in 1970. However, I strongly feel that this government agency has lost touch with reality, and is taking things way too far. To mandate that all passenger cars average 54.5 MPG in 12 years is ridiculous. As I pointed out previously, the majority of the sub-compact cars on the market are currently getting in the mid to high 30s. I find this very disturbing, and hate to imagine what the automotive landscape will look like in 30 years. Any car enthusiast is not looking forward to these times, and if you agree with the actions the EPA is taking, you are plain and simply not a "car guy".
Driving tiny cars is not necessarily the answer. I drive a full-size crossover that averages about 17 MPG, but I live 3 miles from work and try to trip-chain as much as possible. I also try not to make a lot of unnecessary trips. So those of you driving your Toyota Yaris' and commuting an hour to work each way are probably leaving a larger environmental footprint behind than I am. Plus using more fuel to boot.
When I was in New England, I saw early 60s Continentals. Love the convertible models with suicide doors. We have a lot of pristine large cars in the northeast, taken out on nice days. SUVs are everywhere.
Removing the emissions equipment on older cars actually IMPROVES fuel mileage. Also, free flowing exhausts not only increase power, but also boost gas mileage. Anything that improves the air flow through an engine increases both power and mileage. The same is true also on newer cars. I have replaced the restrictive air intakes on both my late model sedan and sports car with free flowing cold air induction systems and modified throttle bodies. I've gained 15-20 horsepower and increased my fuel mileage at the same time.
As a mechanic, I can't imagine where anyone gets the idea that removing emission equipment REDUCES gas mileage. The exact opposite is true.
Please show us proof that today's cars aren't meant to last as long as older cars. I'd love to see actual facts to back this up, simply because I'm having a difficult time taking such statements seriously. It was the US automotive industry that essentially coined the term: "Planned Obsolescence", or the idea that a company could create products that at least looked totally different from one year to another. I can tell you for example that the Mercury model I own was drastically restyled every single year: The 55, 56, 57, 58, and 59 models look TOTALLY different... as in they don't even look like the same car. In fact, the average time period people keep cars has actually gone UP, not down. Design cycles were far more frequent "back in the day", and as a result, people traded in their "old" cars more often. In my family for example we have a 17, 12, 11, 5, and until recently, a 15 year old vehicle(s). The average time an American family keeps a car these days is 12 years. Back then it was more like 5 years.
As far as cars rusting out, well given that most of those old cars including mine didn't have anything in the form of fender shields underneath for protection against rocks, water, and salt. I can remember as a kid seeing WAY more cars with rusted out fenders and rusted through spots in the body. So just like the first assertion, I'm having a hard time believing that older cars were somehow superior in regards to corrosion resistance.
Once again, most of the comments nostalgically recalling the supposed perfect virtues of the cars of yesteryear are the exact same sort of comments as I'd also expect to hear from some who assuredly proclaim that any music made in the era of their youth or some other bygone era is (of course) and without question better than anything from today. What it all boils down to is whether someone prefers something from another era, whether it's because that particular item is attached to some time period or personal remembrance from that era doesn't also mean that this thing is also 'better' as a result. Let's not get technological advancement confused with old nostalgic proclamations. There is a difference.
And as far as the environment, perhaps it's worthy to note what that term means. It's not just about the environment that woodland animals, trees, and mountains exist in. It's also YOUR environment too. As in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we live on. Polluting that environment is never a good thing. Just keep that in mind...