German GM-1 Nitrous System

What Happened?
When World War II hit, the Germans had the best air power on the planet. It was years before the Allies caught up, but by then the Luftwaffe had already made their biggest contribution to hot rodding in the form of nitrous oxide injection. The GM-1 (or Göring Mischung 1) was the first-ever bolt-on nitrous kit, and was used extensively in Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf Ta 152H fighters to boost high-altitude performance. It was Jerry engineering—not Yank ingenuity—that first introduced the world to the slogan, “gas ’em and pass ’em!”

What It Caused:
After WWII, jet engines replaced internal combustion engines as the powerplant of choice in fighter aircraft, so nitrous as a power-boosting technology was shelved. Then in 1978, Mike Thermos and Dale Vaznaian formed Nitrous Oxide Systems, and devoted their efforts to doing nitrous the right way in a hot rod setting. Today, NOS and others offer many automotive nitrous systems that provide a significant and safe form of power adder at a price-to-performance ratio that can’t be beat.

The Space Race

What Happened?
There’s nothing like a little friendly rivalry to spur technical achievement. That’s exactly what happened on October 4, 1957 when the Russians launched Sputnik 1. The 183-pound satellite broadcast a steady beep that could be heard by ham radio hobbyists all over the U.S. That steady beep wouldn’t be taken lightly, and the U.S. government dramatically increased spending on scientific research and education. Then on April 12, 1961, the Russians got another first, putting the first man in orbit. It was on like Donkey Kong!

What It Caused:
On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy vowed to congress that America would put a man on the moon and return him safely to earth before the end of the decade. But getting there wouldn’t be easy. It would require a commitment to develop a huge set of technical competencies, some of which hadn’t even been invented. The Apollo moon program that resulted gave modern hot rodding a brand-new set of tools that we take for granted today, such as composites, gas dynamics, exotic lightweight alloys, finite element analysis, synthetic lubricants, computers, and carbon fiber, to name a few. To this day, the Russians have yet to field one decent muscle car!

Future Look

1997 Kyoto Protocol

What’s Happening?
The concern by scientists (and wealthy land owners living in shoreline houses) over the increase in average global temperature has led them to look for a scapegoat—that being man-made greenhouse gases. Although there is still only anecdotal proof as to why global temperature is rising, scientists and politicians have decided to hedge their bet by agreeing to reduce man-made greenhouse gases in a document called the Kyoto Protocol. Simply put, signatory countries to the protocol (called Annex 1 countries) must report greenhouse gas production and reduce emissions by 5.2 percent relative to a 1990 baseline. They can do this through actual reductions, or by cap and trade, whereby a company can buy credits from factories in signatory countries that produce reductions in excess of their target.

What This Will Cause:
Irrespective of ones view about the underlying premise, or whether the U.S. should ratify the document, the Kyoto Protocol will impact hot rodding at some point in the near future. Look for more efficient engine technologies, as well as really awesome hybrid and electric engines to power our muscle cars and hot rods. This, however, doesn’t address the disparity in cap-and-trade between China and developed Western nations, which gives China (and to a lesser extent, India) a huge running start that will deliver a knockout economic punch to the “cleaner” signatories of the protocol. In the simplest terms, the Kyoto Protocol may extract such a high cost that it turns wealthy countries into poor ones. What good is a high-tech hot rod if nobody can afford one?

Of course, there are always unintended byproducts to new rules. Will the greenhouse gas gremlin be eclipsed by a crisis in the electrical grid or by ground pollution from the toxic metals from batteries? Will accident scenes become contaminated cleanup zones? Will the increased demand for rare metals and the reduced need for crude oil create new geopolitical conflicts that we’re better off without? All we know is that hot rods will be there to take advantage of whatever new technology evolves!

Let It Fly!
Do you agree with us? Are you enraged? Did we miss something? Let me know with an email at john.hunkins@sorc.com.