Remember Project Sipster?



The new Honda Insight hybrid is expected to get 43 mpg on the Highway. A Toyota Prius or Volkswagen Jetta TDi will get you roughly the same. Look beyond that one number, though, and all three cars share one common thread. They all have spectacularly low lifetime CO2 output because each and every one will bore you to death before you get a chance to refill the tank. Each of these greenies will do 0-60 in about a week, they’re all styled like lumps of cold mashed potatoes, and every last one handles like a couch. If this is what it takes to save the world, maybe the world isn’t worth saving.

refineryNo, if we’re going to stop the terrorists, rebuild the polar bears’ igloos, and somehow turn on the global air conditioner, we’re going to need much more impressive mileage, and more importantly, something that’s actually worth driving. You can’t honestly expect us to give up driving fun just for a silly little planet, can you?

So if 45 mpg doesn’t change the equation, how about 70? Suck on that for a second. 45 mpg is probably a lot better than whatever you’re driving, but it’s still within the realm of the imaginable, but 70? It’s absurd. Perfect, then.

Now, on top of unlikely mileage, we need it from something with a little soul. We don’t need supercar performance, but we should at least be able to outrun a minivan. 0-60 in 7 seconds is about as slow as we can stand before our minds wander. Come to think of it, breaking the 7-second barrier will also roast a Ferrari 308, which will help keep that Magnum PI fantasy alive.

And then there’s the price. If trees and puppies and little green frogs make your heart go pitter-pat, the Insight’s low $20,000 price is downright reasonable. Lovers of the other kind of green will always do the math, though, and inevitably determine that it will take 18 years of fuel savings to pay off their investment, so they might as well keep driving that Hummer. Price, then, is key if we really want to save the world.

For absolutely no other reason than the fact that a good theme seems to be developing entirely on its own, $7,000 seems like the kind of irresistibly low price that would make even Arnold give up his monster truck.

So there it is, then, the top ten cars that get 70 mpg, do 0-60 in less than 7 seconds, and cost $7,000 (and have sexy Italian styling):











No? Well it’s official, then. America has a new project.

panteraWe’ve got the ground rules (7,7,7+sexy Italian styling), now all we need is a plan. First thing to think about is where we want that gas mileage. Most hybrid cars get their great gas mileage sitting in traffic, while diesel-engined cars do their best hypermiling on the open road. Never mind the fact that a typical hybrid battery costs more than our entire project budget, we have no interest in driving in traffic. Diesel it is, then.

Now, sexy Italian styling that we can get for cheap and stuff full of Diesely goodness. Lets see, DeTomaso Pantera? Too flashy. Alfa Romeo Spyder? Drop-tops aren’t aerodynamic enough. Volkswagen Scirocco?

Don’t let that German name fool you, the Volkswagen Scirocco didn’t become an international icon of modestly-priced sex appeal based on its cold, calculated engineering efficiency. No sir, it was the mighty Italian straightedge of hired pen Giorgetto Giugiaro that empowered the Scirocco with its babe-magnet charm. Being little more than a half-squashed Rabbit, the Scirocco will also swallow a Rabbit’s Diesel engine like it was designed to be there.


But wait… While converting a gas-powered car to Diesel power is technically simple (replace the engine and the gas tank), it’s bureaucratically cumbersome. Our creation will need a license plate, and that license plate requires a registration, and renewing that registration will require some kind of emissions test (unless you’re fortunate enough to live in one of those hillbilly backwaters where they haven’t figured out why the air is yellow). That test will require some state-sponsored bio-robot to perform an inspection where he checks off boxes indicating the greasy bits under the hood look basically like they did in 1975, and that the stink coming out the tailpipe still smells right. If the book doesn’t say the Scirocco’s pipe gas should smell like a Diesel, we’re dead in the water.

So that narrows us down to one last choice. One last Diesel-friendly product of Giugiaro’s origami period. The Scirocco’s upright, responsible older sister, the Rabbit Diesel herself. Aerodynamically, it’s no Pantera, but we can get one cheap, we can put a plate on it, and maybe, just maybe, we can glue on enough aerodynamic wizardry to make her slide though the air.

So just like that, we have a plan.

Project SipsterStep 1: We will buy a 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit Diesel right here in New York City.

Step 2: We will drive it across thousands of miles of frozen tundra to Regina, Saskatchewan, where CWS Tuning will skillfully replace the clattery old oil burner with a modern, computer-controlled, turbocharged VW TDi engine.

Step 3: We’ll head south to sunny Southern California to thaw our bones and have UCLA aerodynamics professor John McNulty show us how to make a brick slippery.

Just because the sexy Italian thing was handled so easily, don’t expect the three 7’s to be dispatched without a fight. Hitting 70 mpg will take more than a Diesel engine and some aero tricks. We’ll have to get clever with gearing, we’ll have to learn about low rolling-resistance tires, we’ll have to use special low-friction oils. Every trick will have to come out of the book.

A quick video ran with this first installment of Project Sipster. actually still has the videos up, though their website makes it impossible to post a link directly to one video, this link will at least get you close:


Or, if you’re trying to preserve the suspense and not stumble into the next installment’s video, watch the copy we found on YouTube.


Go read Part 2 here




    1. page two is there but the link to part2 was broke. Some of these super old article links got broken when we switched platforms for our site. I fixed the link and now I have to get rid of the terrible yellow font Dave used on this article that worked great on a black background site but not so much on a white background 😉

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