Five Classic Cars With Modern-Day Gas Mileage Page 2

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1973-1979 Honda Civic

When Honda introduced the first generation Civic to the U.S. market the U.S. was struggling to deal with the height of the 1973 oil crisis. 

With a simple advertising campaign -- “Honda, we make it simple” -- and a level of build quality that most Americans yearned for, the Honda Civic became one of the mainstays of fuel efficient driving. 

Achieving a fuel economy of 40 mpg on the highway, the two-door coupe, 3-door hatchback and -- eventually -- 4-door sedan became a hit with those wanting to a reliable and fuel-efficient engine. 

For the highest fuel economy, chose a Civic made after 1975 with the Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion (CVCC) engine. So clean it didn’t need catalytic converters or unleaded fuel to meet tough emissions laws, it has to be on our list for fuel-efficient classics. 

But there’s a down-side to the first-generation civic: Rust. During its early years, the Civic had such poor corrosion protection that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had to issue a safety recall after winter salt in some states caused the majority of Civics to suffer from dangerous levels of rust on major suspension, body and transmission parts. 

1974-1983 Volkswagen Rabbit

Meant as a replacement for the original Volkswagen Beetle, the Volkswagen Rabbit -- or Golf, as it was known in Europe -- is still one of the best economy classics you can buy. 

Available as a three-door or five-door hatchback and spawning the Jetta notchback saloon in 1979, the VW Rabbit combined a lightweight unitary construction with a sure-footed front-wheel drivetrain. 

While all VW Rabbits were high on fuel economy, the dizzying array of engine choices mean that there’s a great deal of variance between the higher powered gasoline Rabbits and their more frugal Diesel sibling. 

For the best economy, go for a four-speed manual with the 1.6 liter Diesel engine, which the EPA rates at an impressive 38 mpg.  For more environmental kudos, convert your it to run on biofuels like used cooking oil. 

Any others?

We know our readers love classics as much as we do, so what other classic cars would you chose as having the best fuel economy? 

Let us know in the Comments below. 


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Comments (7)
  1. You forgot a good one, 1960 -1969 Chevrolet Corvair. 4 seats (6 with the bench), rear engine, air cooled, flat 6. Mine is terribly worn out, but I can still get 28mpg on the highway. The highest mileage I have heard for a Corvair is 33mpg.

  2. Nikki there is only one car from the past to consider and that is the original Honda Insight Hybrid introduced some twelve years ago.
    Here you had an all aluminium 839 kg aerodynamic(0.25 CD)two seat sports coupe capable of returning 84 MPG on the European cycle. All this while emitting only 80 g/km co2 with a performance of 0-60 mph in 10 sec and top end around 110 mph.
    To ad to their exclusiveness they were built on the same assembly line as Hondas supercar the NSX. They ceased production in 2006 after selling well in the USA,UK,and Japan although were never widely promoted.
    I ran one of these from 03 till 08 without a hitch and regularly returned 83 mpg per fill up with a best of 93 mpg over 163 miles of motorway driving.Phenomenal car.

  3. My 1981 Toyota Starlet routinely got over 40 mpg and was fun to drive. Good luck finding one, though!

  4. To this day I am still in awe over what my 1965 Triumph TR4 got doing 60 in overdrive on the freeway. 40mpg! If that heavy thing could get that, what the heck is wrong with the newer cars?

  5. in 1985 I bought a brand new chevy sprint, an amazing car it averaged around 55 mpg and on two trips I got over 65mpg I wish they would make something like that again, I bought a Yaris in 2007 it got 40 but I expected more

  6. My 2001 Corvette C-5 convertible, with a 345 hp V8 engine, gets 30 mpg on the highway at 75 mph. Can you say aerodynamics?

  7. There are alot of other cars to add to this list, here re some that I have personal experience with. My father still owns the car he drove in high school, a '51 Kasier Special that with its light construction, overdrive and 6 cylinder engine netted 30 mpg on the freeway. My first car was a 1988 Suburban with the 6.2L diesel engine that got 27mpg out of a full size truck. And my current daily driver is a 1969 Oldsmobile Delta 88, try 28mpg with a 7.5L motor in a land yacht.

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