It’s Mad Max time again. Crazy vehicles with Super high performance engines racing across the desert that’s the only world left. super cool. But would it really be like that? No it wouldn’t. Unfortunately for me, I’m an engineer and my reasoning kicked in on the way to the refrigerator.
Why? Power is life. In an environment the infrastructure to support full up internal combustion engines has disappeared any engine that even had a hope of running is worth 1000 slaves, literally. An engine is power for your water pump. An engine is the work of hundreds of people a day. It can thresh your grain, chop your wood, cut your boards, run your lathe and pump air to your forge. An engine would be worth far more than it’s weight in gold.
Why? Simply put, the energy available from human or animals is diffuse. In order to get the kind of power that even a small engine provides you need thousands of workers, which you have to feed and house even at a minimal level. So any kind of running engine is incredibly valuable.
So you would never run them flat out. For no other reason than an engine running flat out destroys itself fairly quickly. Running fast means that the cylinders don’t have time to cool before the next power stroke, pistons get hot and wear. They may even melt or explode. That’s not uncommon on a racetrack even with perfectly built and tuned cars, teams of expert mechanics and engineers and professional drivers with engines designed to take the strains.
The typical American V8 is a temperamental beast. Those of us who are old enough to have driven them in the 1970’s know that all too well. Even in normal driving conditions they had some pretty serious reliability issues. How many people remember the days when a car burning oil was not unusual. Run them hard and something like this dynamometer test wasn’t unlikely.
In a society with access to parts that’s not that big a deal. Where none of those things exist, you are in real trouble. Here’s the kind of shop you need to deal with rebuilding an engine. Yes the engine is a V8. It’s also been rebuilt once already.
Of course the engine you start out with might look something like this.
Which is a far cry from those shiny engines we see in the movie. The V8’s in Mad Max look like they came right off the pallet from Edelbrock., with parts from the likes of Moroso and such. I’ve never seen so much chrome in my life. To say nothing of the Roots blowers. In real life I’ve seen maybe one or two on all the cars I’ve ever seen, both being show cars. Roots blowers are not an everyday appliance on an automobile engine. And some of those rigs were just plain stupid, like ganging engines in the truck to replace the more powerful and reliable Cummins or Cat diesel that was there in the first place. Everything you gain by having two motors you lose in transmission losses. To say nothing of what you have to do to get everything to work together. You certainly wouldn’t be running them full bore out in the desert with no filtering. At least not for very long.
Ultimately in your post apocalyptic world, your limiting factor is probably going to be lubricating oil. Generally if you don’t have the right viscosity in the right place, things start to go wrong very fast. That’s the advantage of not running hot and fast. Your lubricants won’t break down and you won’t the multiformula multiviscosity made with a proprietary refining and mixing process by elves. The “oil” you get in a can is pretty magic stuff with a whole science behind it. Not something you can just brew up in you post apocalyptic enclave.
Realistically, if the balloon goes totally up and there’s nothing left, well things are going to go back to simpler technologies with animal drawn farm machinery. If you are lucky.
The economics of farm animals.
Even at best, farming with animals is labor intensive and expensive.
Horse drawn plow.
Various horse drawn farm equipment.
Horse drawn combine harvester.
The very rare and treasured large gas engine that would be used to power an entire village or manufactury.
20 hp Hit and miss engine.
Militaries with retrofitted vehicles and lots of infantry, probably armed with bolt action rifles or maybe even longbows and pikes. Vehicles will be like technical trucks or modified humvs will be rare.
Or even more modified and improvised vehicles like this.
Of course there is the US army’s Humvee.
It’s likely that things after an apocalypse would go back to more or less human power very quickly. Even draft animals are expensive. They have to be fed and watered, which in the Mad Max Universe is a huge problem because food and water are in rather short supply. In fact I’m trying hard to remember if I’ve ever seen any character in Mad Max actually eat anything.
In a real world post apocalyptic world the left over steels and metal would more than likely be melted down in cupolas managed by people like me, who would have chains around out ankles and multiple armed guards 24 hours a day to ensure that there was no possibility that I would seek greener pastures elsewhere. I do know that in a post apocalypse anybody with the old skills would be worth far more than their weight in gold. I would be treated well as a slave, given everything I wanted, but my freedom.
What transport that exists will be over existing roadways and railways using improvised vehicles like this, more than likely using some scavenged parts and whatever can be made from local resources. Those rusty piston and lining will be put into a home made crankcase and sparked with a scavenged spark plug. All those high power V8s Sixes and Fours become eight, six or four vehicles, that while not very powerful and fast, get the job done, moving food to market, which will the largest transport need.
The other use for those small engines would be as this article shows, running the generators of the slaveholders and wealthy, keeping the last refrigeration and pumping systems running. refrigeration for keeping food from spoiling and most importantly medicines. To say nothing of the diminishing numbers of computers to help in the administration and management.
Now, I understand that the Mad Max movies are supposed to allegories and the vehicles are supposed to be metaphors for various ugly parts of the human condition rather than something you would really see in a post apocalyptic world. Frankly I don’t think that we wealthy Westerners really understand what things would be like after total breakdown. That maybe why the media has a real problem getting their heads around the likes of ISIS. Anybody who takes a good look at that crowd should be really scared about what happens when they win. I can understand some avoidance thinking there.
Still one wonders what kind of movie would have come out if the producers of Mad Max, rather than showing us a false apocalypse made out of the fears of the Progressive establishment had left the crazy vehicles at that celebration of wretched excess at burning man where they belong and just taken the cameras to Africa to look at the real ongoing apocalypse occurring there, created by western educated presidents for life, steeped in Socialism, generalisimos and child armies armed by a Russia willing to sell truckloads of AK47s at fire sale prices and Muslim slave traders shipping people off to the ol rich states to die building all those palaces.
Perhaps asking a movie producer to deal with the real horrors of the likes of general Butt Naked, The slavers of Boko Haram or the palaces and Swiss bank account of the presidents for life is asking a bit much. Better I suppose to make the movie about how horrible the West is, with the usual PC hits on how bad nuclear war, industrialization and white male bigotry are. Had they done that though, they would not have gotten the media accolades and recognition of their peers in the “industry” It’s far better to deal with imaginary apocalypses than deal with the real one going around them. Or did they think that all those heavily armed “security” troops were just there for show?