The first car I drove in was a Saab with...
The first car I drove in 1978 was a Saab with a two-stroke, slant-three
engine. Friends jested that this was a lawnmower engine, because I had
to add a quart of oil to the gas tank every time I filled it up. I took
their remarks as a great insult ... to my lawnmower, which is a very
Do two-stroke engines exist on the planet anymore? My father still owns
this masterpiece. Would you guys refuse to work on it if it rolled into
your shop? And most important, what kind of prayer would you recommend
before shooting it between the headlights? -- Bill
TOM: There are tons of two-stroke engines around these days, Bill.
They're in just about every chain saw, weed-whacker, snowmobile and
gas-powered nose-hair clipper on the planet. But they're not used in
cars much these days, at least not in the United States.
RAY: Two-stroke engines have great advantages. Because every other
stroke is a power stroke (as opposed to every fourth stroke in a common,
four-cycle car engine), two-cycle engines provide a lot of power and
torque in a very small size. That's why chain saws use them. Do you
think Lenny the Lumberjack wants to schlep a 25-pound four-cycle engine
halfway up a spruce tree? I should say not!
TOM: Plus, two strokes have the added advantage of being able to be used
upside down, since they don't have oil-filled crankcases. So as Lenny is
falling backwards out of the tree, he can still prune a few limbs on his
RAY: The problem with the old two-cycle engines is that they ran very
inefficiently and created a lot of pollution. But in recent years, with
the advantages of all kinds of modern pollution-control equipment that's
been developed since your Saab was built, several major manufacturers
have been experimenting with two-stroke engines. And I suspect someday,
someone will come out with one again, probably in an economy car where
shedding weight is a crucial goal.
TOM: Now, would we refuse to work on a two-stroke Saab if it rolled into
our shop? It would depend on whether or not we had a boat payment due
that week, Bill.
RAY: And for the record, we don't condone shooting a car between the
headlights. That's undignified. When the time comes, we simply recommend
making an appointment at Kevorkian Motors.