Demolition man autos proves the future is better than predicted

One of my favorite future sci-fi movies is Demolition Man (1993). Its dystopian future, where everything was filled with joy-joy feelings and toilet paper replaced by three seashells, was dominated by a fleet of General Motors concept cars that provided a sleek backdrop. But when Sylvester Stallone’s character, a brute police officer frozen for crimes in 1996 and reconstituted in 2032, needed a fast car, he reconstituted a 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442. He’d blasted past GM’s future-mobiles without trouble.

A Future Not Imagined

Police cars were based on the 1992 GM Ultralite concept that weighed just 1,400 lbs. (400 less than a Smart car) thanks to a carbon fiber shell. Gullwing doors eased access to a basic four-seat interior. Under the aero body that claimed a 0.19 coefficient of drag (about the same as a 2022 Lucid Air) was a 1.5-liter two-stroke gasoline engine good for 111 horsepower, 135 mph top speed, and 88-MPG. Pretty impressive for the 20th Century.

The Olds 442 was an entirely different beast. It busted out with all the swagger of an NFL lineman, weighing a hefty 3840 lbs. and powered by a 455 cubic-inch (7.5 liters) V8 delivering a whopping 370 horsepower. It ran 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds and wasted the quarter in 14.8 seconds at 95 mph. Because of all that power, horrific aerodynamics and mid-century tires, the 442 delivered just 10.7-MPG and a 127-mph top speed.

The 442 would have whipped the Ultralite, but would have been wholly humbled by today’s tech wagon, the 2022 Tesla Model 3. Where the Ultralite employed carbon fiber to maximize performance, the Tesla employs Lithium-Ion batteries and all-wheel-drive to put 430 horsepower to the road. It runs 0-60 mph in 3.1 seconds, hits the quarter in 11.7 seconds, and reaches 162 mph. Economy is rated 118/107-MPGe city/hwy. It’s considerably more luxurious than the 442 and Ultralite too.

Subaru Goes Like A Bandit

Given the 442 isn’t nearly as impressive as it is in enthusiasts’ imaginations, I wondered about others like the fast black Trans Am with the gold flaming chicken in Smokey and The Bandit. Built flat in the middle of the Malaise Era, the 3,530-lbs. alter ego of Burt Reynolds packed a 6.6-liter V8 delivering…200 horsepower. That got it from 0-60 mph in, yawn, 9.3 seconds. Fuel economy was hideous.

I want to submit one more car for perspective. My family recently purchased a 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness with the turbocharged 2.4-liter flat-four engine, off-road tires, and all-wheel-drive. Producing 260 horsepower, the engine shoves the big wagon from 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds and achieves 26-MPG highway. Yeah, Subaru’s big fat, all-road, four-cylinder wagon can match the legendary 442… in hiking boots and getting better fuel economy doing it.

This isn’t an insult to classic muscle cars that employed all of the technology available in their time to maximize performance. In their eras, the 442 and Trans Am were formidable beasts. However, with turbocharged engines, advanced batteries, and electronic all-wheel-drive, today’s mainstream cars are simply superior to yesteryear’s muscle machines. Turns out, the future is much better than we expected.

Storm Forward!

Send Casey comments at; follow him on YouTube @AutoCasey.