By on June 23, 2013

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I realized how far we have come off the tracks from that golden era of miles per hour when I had to cuff my over-30 nephew after he asked how many kilometers were on a large 1972 Chrysler Imperial. Those of us from a kinder and gentler time knew that old Impy was a miles car – not a kilometer kar.

Canada used to be a miles per hour country, until we recklessly elected Pierre Trudeau to run our country from the late 60s until the early 80s, with an-all-too-brief timeout from the guy in the late 70s.

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Some of you older Americans may remember Trudeau’s ex-wife Maggie for her brief fame as a Rolling Stones party girl in the 70s, including a famous photo that made its way to Playboy magazine. Older Canadians are more likely to remember Pierre Trudeau as either a hero or a villain in Canadian politics.

I live in western Canada and I remember the man as a villain to put it politely in our G-rated online publication. I have a long list of grievances about his run as our Prime Minister, but, for the purposes of our car philosophy, I will concentrate on his push for metric measurement.

Trudeau was not a huge fan of the United States, and he designed many of his foreign policy decisions around his desire to make Canada more European than North American. Metric measurements came in handy in that.

The prevailing attitude was that the world was shifting toward the metric system, and away from the Imperial measurement. The metric system was based upon the efficiency of ten as a number, and it would put everyone on the same page in the measurement game, or so the idea was.

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Great idea, except that the United States was not moving into a metric system. Our biggest trade partner, closest neighbor, and best global friend was standing pat in the measurement game. However, Trudeau let his ego and anti-US philosophy run the show, so we ended up as a metric country, even though all of our historical legal measurements were made in acres, quarter sections and townships.

None of that mattered to Trudeau,,= and now we have an entire generation that measures in kilometers, and has no idea about miles on a car odometer, simply because the man was an egomaniac who got the keys to the country long enough to run up a huge debt, and make it his own little social experiment.

Some of it didn’t take, because most people in Canada still measure themselves in feet and pounds, even if their driver’s licenses scream centimeters and kilograms in accordance with the Trudeau manifesto. But even Trudeau was unable to change quarter miles at drag strips, miles per gallon and 0-60 times in Canadian car guy culture.

It didn’t have to be this way. Canadians should never have moved away from miles per hour, except for one guy with a completely unchecked ego named Trudeau. For me it is just another reason to love old cars that drive in miles per hour. Any time before the Trudeau era in Canada was a golden age for cars and our country.

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189 Comments on “Dear Uncle Sam: We Used To Measure In Miles Per Hour As Well, Honest...”


  • avatar

    Most of the World measures in Metric,all except the USA which is somewhat backward in that regard. I like Metric and its taught in our Schools, in my case I had to learn it, when I left School many years ago, we were still backward until P. Trudeau who was elected many times with a majority mandate by the Canadian People, I understand it’s hard for old people to understand Metric,but the next generation understands all too well.
    It also makes Gasoline less expensive to most Eyes, when it’s measured in Litres and not gallons. It’s still expensive in every Province and Territory due to Taxes that the Governments mandate.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      It is all part of having a global Standard that hopefully can save costs across the board.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        I literally find it shocking to read this editorial that is bitching about the fact that Canada (wisely) chose to join the modern world & implement the metric system.

        The fact that the United States hasn’t yet adopted the metric system across the board is an absolute embarrassment, speaks both to the collective laziness and arrogance of Americans, and does a tremendous disservice to American students, most of whom are being handicapped out of the gate by virtue of the fact that they are the only students in any developed nation (or just about any nation, for that matter) who aren’t fluent in the superior metric system.

        Steadfastly resisting national adoption of the metric system increases costs, creates confusion, and most importantly, delays implementation of a superior system of measurement, which has as its basis the core, consistent use of derivatives of the number 10.

        Why doesn’t the United States toss out the Arabic numeral system and adopt the use of the Roman numeral system, while we’re at it?

    • 0 avatar

      I measure in SMILES PER GALLON.
      And SMILES PER HOUR.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      Trudeau also took Canada backwards by making it officially bilingual. Funny how it’s fine to impose a singular measurement regime while doing the opposite with language – something arguably far more important to a nation. Trudeau brought Canada backward, especially since English is the lingua franca of the World.

      Beyond emulating the failed wage and price controls of Nixon, Trudeau also dated Babs Streisand and married a mentally ill woman who proved to be such a national/international disgrace that they divorced while he held office.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        How is introducing a second language to a population a step backwards? Claiming that adding French to the rest of Canada being a step backwards for Canada is just as stupid as the Quebecers who claim that adding English is detrimental to the residents of their province.

        • 0 avatar
          thornmark

          >>Claiming that adding French to the rest of Canada being a step backwards for Canada is just as stupid as the Quebecers who claim that adding English is detrimental to the residents of their province.<<

          Obviously intelligence is not your strong suit. A common language is a unifying asset economically and socially. Trudeau did the opposite and he did it for political gain.

          • 0 avatar
            ect

            Firstly, there was no call to insult JuniperBug’s intelligence, without any basis to do so, simply because he disagrees with you. He deserves an apology.

            Secondly, official bilingualism simply recognizes the right of the more than 25% of Canadians whose first language is French to deal with their government in their language. It is not a step backwards at all.

            Thirdly, the move to metric was not sprung out of the blue, and hardly unique to Canada. Prior to 1970, many business, professional and other groups had expressed support for conversiont to metric, for good reasons. By the time the Canadian government adopted a policy to go metric, metric conversion was already in process in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, about to start in South Africa, and under study in the US (which was widely expected to adopt it).

            Canada risked being seriously disadvataged in international trade (which was even then fully 1/3 of GNP) if it did not go metric. The government of the day was slow to recognize that, but eventually did.

            I’m a Tory, and always thought the Trudeau government did enormous damage to Canada. But neither official blingualism nor metric conversion fall within this rubric.

            By the way, the North American auto industry has been completely metric since the mid-80′s.

  • avatar
    slow kills

    I hate the Imperial system. It is so antiquated and awkward. So American, I guess, would be the author’s point.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      Or, so British, I would think.

      • 0 avatar
        Summicron

        Thank you.

        Why are we Americans so stubborn about defending one foreign measuring system as opposed to another, vastly more rational one?

        Back in the Meiji era, Japan vacuumed in thousands of foreign advisors to assist in building their military, industrial base and educational system. They essentially cloned the British navy and the German army.

        I wonder if they had the same problem with conflicting measuring systems?

    • 0 avatar

      You obviously didn’t read it too closely “Slow”, my point was support of the Imperial system.

  • avatar
    b787

    Metric system is far superior, period.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      As a design engineer, this is very true.

    • 0 avatar
      Michael500

      Not true. The Standard measurement is more accurate, which is why Airbus used it for their 300 in the 80s. The USA uses the Standard system because we are number one, and we do what we want. I could care less what the Canadians, Frogs & Eurotrash think.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        You don’t leave the country much, do you?

      • 0 avatar
        Brian P

        In what way is the old English system more “accurate”??

        You can measure distances to infinitesimally small amounts in either system. Likewise with mass, volume, etc.

        The old English system is certainly more awkward to use, and I speak as a Canadian who is stuck with an awkward mixture of both systems due to the failed attempt to fully implement the metric system and due to the refusal of our southern neighbor to do so in public, even though practically any product that is designed to be sold in the international marketplace had better be a metric design.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          It’s not. That’s just the typical American centered BS that comes out any time someone suggests they get with the times. The reality is that even US industry doesn’t use Imperial measurements for design other than when they convert from metric to Imperial for the service industry.

          The US and Liberia will keep holding out, Imperial measurements are makin a comeback any day now.

      • 0 avatar
        ect

        “The USA uses the Standard system because we are number one, and we do what we want”

        Is that why the US auto industry is metric? As are the electronics, computer, pharmceutical, wine and spirits, and many other industries? And much of the military? And most of the sciences?

        US “standard” units are,by law, measured in metric units. So, a “foot” is legally defined as .3048 metres.

        Metrication is a fact of life in the US.

      • 0 avatar
        Piqutchi

        Don’t take this too seriously, people.

        Michael sounds too tongue-in-cheek here for that.

    • 0 avatar
      majo8

      That the metric system is far superior is just your opinion, not a fact, period.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      That’s just, like, your opinion, man…

  • avatar
    sgtyukon

    Back in the late 50′s and early 60′s, and because of the space race, the US education system became obsessed with producing scientists and engineers. They started teaching metric in schools, but they did it wrong, so they failed. They emphasized conversion (which confused everyone) when you don’t need to convert very often. People in the USA don’t have much trouble with 2 liter soda bottles and they didn’t find 35 mm film difficult either.

    If a 9 mm socket is too small, are you going to try a 7 mm socket? If your destination is 600 km away and you’ve gone 200 km, are you there yet? And if I tell you we’re averaging 100 km an hour, about how much longer until we are there? If it’s 40 degrees when you go outside and it’s chilly, Fahrenheit. Who’s more likely to be a good basketball player, someone who’s 1.1 meters tall or someone who’s 2.1 meters tall?

    See, you don’t need to convert much.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Without switching to the metric system, conversion is about all you can do. And sure, you don’t have to convert very much if you never leave the country, but it can’t hurt to have a rough idea of the conversion if you ever travel.

      To really become fluent in something, you need to immerse yourself in it. With the US staying with the standard system, the majority of the population was never going to be immersed in metric. Those going on to become scientists and engineers were, so they became fluent. Learning the conversions in primary school is just a head start – the real education for those fields starts later anyway.

      I think the space program was rather successful in the 60s, so I wouldn’t say the education system failed.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Can’t speak for the politics behind the change in Canada to MKS units, but I think that was a smart move. The old system is illogical, unscientific, and frankly, irrelevant. As an engineer, I went through both systems, and other than disliking the rather large size of a degree C when talking comfort temperatures, metric should be the worldwide universal standard.

    In my opinion, America should convert. We are already partway there; anybody work on American cars? They have been metric for years. The hardest part for people to deal with is that the measurements have relatively little meaning – yet. Most have a feel for what it means when you say two miles to go. Two kilometers has little relevance. Right now most would be thinking, well one KM is .63 miles, so converting means…But with exposure all that changes. Its time America.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      As an engineer, I don’t much care which system I use. Except when it comes to heat transfer, where the English system is a tool of the devil.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I concur. Unit system is irrelevant. Neither is really any better than the other. The advantage metric used to have in better distinguishing mass & force (weight) has been now so bastardized, it’s just as bad.

        • 0 avatar
          Brian P

          It’s still there, as long as you stay with the proper SI units. Mass is measured in grams (or multiples thereof), force is measured in newtons (or multiples thereof), pressure is measured in Pascals (or multiples thereof). It all works out properly.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            “It’s still there, as long as you stay with the proper SI units.”

            Well, that’s the problem, isn’t it? I see pressure gauges with kg/cm^2. I see hydraulic cylinders with load ratings in kg. I even see bolt torque specs with kg*m.

            People who do understand units can work with any system. People who don’t understand units foul up whatever they work with.

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      Golden2husky:
      “Most have a feel for what it means when you say two miles to go. Two kilometers has little relevance. Right now most would be thinking, well one KM is .63 miles, so converting means….”

      This. Tell an American it’s 23 C outside and he doesn’t know if he needs a jacket. Unless you’re old enough to have been a fan of Bob and Doug MacKenzie and quickly double and add 30 in your head…

      I do prefer the imperial system but I also recognize the reasons are partially emotional.

      I like degrees F because degrees C are too big a unit. Degrees C is designed for water. Degrees F is for people: 100 F is “hot as hell”, 90 F is “90% of hot as hell”, 0 F is cold as hell, etc. It seems to fit well.

      By contrast I like miles because its a big country with big distance so a big unit seems appropriate.

      I recognize these are emotional preferences however.

      • 0 avatar
        niky

        Celsius is easy. 50 degrees is halfway to boiling, and that’s the temperature at which Saudi Arabian companies have to call of work.

        40 is still hot as hell.

        30 is liveable.

        20 is nice and cool.

        10 is frosty breath time.

        0 degrees is freezing. 10 below is comfortable for Eskimos.

        Depends on what you’ve grown up with. At least C isn’t arbitrary. Well… I mean it is, but it’s not hard to learn.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          Japanese Buick summed it up nicely with “C is for water and F is for people.”

          0 might be freezing for water, but it is not that cold for anyone dressed remotely appropriately.

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    Shouldn’t you be posting this garbage in Alberta Report?

    Although many Albertans might agree with you, Westerners as a whole do not.

    You mention Trudeau by name nine times in 800 words. This is supposed to be about cars, not politicians who’ve been dead for almost 13 years. Or is this really about Justin?

    Why don’t you tell us the truth about how Canada switched to the Metric system because its largest trading partner, the USA, had decided to make the switch. Only after seeing the disruption it caused in Canada did Jimmy Carter decide that the US of the late 1970s had enough problems already and stayed with customary units.

    Why don’t you tell the truth that when Canada used the Imperial gallon our MPG figures were not comparable to those of the US and its smaller gallon? Where’s the conspiracy there?

    Why don’t you tell us how many countries remain on the Imperial system? Hint: Liberia, Myanmar, USA.

    Please also tell us about any vehicle built or designed today in the Imperial system? Hint: there are none.

    And next time you want to post on Canadian politics, why don’t you explain how the second largest country in the world ends up with a prime minister and governing party that more than 60% of voters voted against.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      J Sutherland…I like your writing Dude. You old car knowledge is second to none. Stick to something you know.

      Pierre Trudeau was one of the greatest leaders in Canadian history. He wiped the floor with Joe Who. He kissed the butt of nobody. Not the USA, not the Queen,not even the his native Quebecers.

      Richard Nixon called Trudeau an a$$hole. Pierres response ” I’ve been called worse things by better people” classic. He gave protesters the one finger salute,and told the oposition to f–of.
      Lyin Brian came along and give us the GST, and kissed Ronald Reagans butt. Then he gave coruption a whole new meaning. At the end of Brians term, more belived that Elvis was still alive,than supported the lyin,thieving,two faced corupt, “Progressive Conservitives” Do you remember the 300K stuffed into an envolope. I do, Brian shoved onto his pocket,and forgot to mention it.
      Anyone else, would of done time. So Mr Sutherland, you like the way the Americans do buisnees. Me to. Take a kick back in the U.S. and you get locked up. Mulroony would still be serving time.

      Metric is here its not going anywhere.

      J…..I have my politics…you have yours. We both love old cars.
      Lets leave it there.

    • 0 avatar
      Petra

      Agreed.

      “Canada used to be a miles per hour country, until we recklessly elected Pierre Trudeau to run our country…”

      …and that’s where I stopped reading. It was more than 40 years ago. Get over it.

      • 0 avatar
        daiheadjai

        Well, we ARE still paying down his debt…
        Trudeau was a character – he had lots of charisma, but also (as the author notes) a huge ego.

        And it is undeniable fact that he cozied up with Castro and other dictators during the Cold War, rode around Montreal in a Wehrmacht helmet in the early years of the war (he didn’t think we should have fought against Hitler) and that he often ran roughshod over little things like individual rights and freedoms (i.e. during the FLQ crisis, though you could make an argument to justify this).

        Not to mention, his spending is quite likely why we ended up with Mulroney and the GST (as for “lying”, don’t forget Jean “We will abolish the GST” Chretien).

        And on corruption, did you forget the $250 million sponsorship scandal money (much of it also handed over in brown paper envelopes), as well as the $1bn HRSDC scandals, the $1bn long gun registry, etc.?

        That’s part of the reason why we have the Conservatives in power (instead of our self-anointed “natural ruling party”)

    • 0 avatar

      Austin, I am sure you are aware that Alberta Report has been out of circulation for many years. You and I can agree to disagree on Trudeau because I lived through the economic devastation of his National Energy Program which was as close to state-run energy policy as I ever want to see in this country. The NEP crippled Alberta and I know many people and businesses that were wiped out by this ruthless political move designed to sacrifice one region for votes in another region with more voters.

      Pierre Trudeau was the Canadian leader in 1976 when Canada got its first secessionist party elected in Quebec and sowed the same seeds of discontent in the West when his domestic policies fired up a separation movement in a region with some of the proudest Canadians in the country.

      Speaking of pride, western Canada sent its best to defend this country in two world wars while Pierre Trudeau avoided service during WW II and instead led a privileged life of leisure and patriotic indifference. His only military service record was to invoke the War Measures Act in 1970 as our Prime Minister when radical Quebec separatists/terrorists attempted to disrupt Quebec’s political structure. This made-in-Quebec problem resulted in a rather stiff response from Trudeau that affected the rest of Canada that had no part in the Quebec secessionist movement.
      Nothing I can say will dislodge you from your views of Trudeau and you can expect the same from me Austin. I just wanted to paint a clearer picture on the reasons for my discontent for readers who have never heard of him. His metric edict was just one of my many reasons.

      • 0 avatar
        Juniper

        Yo J!
        No mention of cars in your repeated last post.
        Get back to cars or I will smack you with my yard stick.

      • 0 avatar
        ect

        The NEP was a flawed policy, but it did not cripple Alberta. The fact that oil prices went from $37 per barrel in 1980 to $14 in 1986 did that. Just as it devastated places like Texas, Denver and Venezuela – where the NEP was never in effect.

        Similarly, metric conversion was not an “edict”. It was a government policy that had widespread support.

        Your “picture” of Pierre Trudeau (of who I was not and am not a fan)is riddled with inaccuracies (to be polite).

    • 0 avatar

      Austin, I am sure you are aware that Alberta Report has been out of circulation for many years. You and I can agree to disagree on Trudeau because I lived through the economic devastation of his National Energy Program which was as close to state-run energy policy as I ever want to see in this country. The NEP crippled Alberta and I know many people and businesses that were wiped out by this ruthless political move designed to sacrifice one region for votes in another region with more voters.

      Pierre Trudeau was the Canadian leader when Canada got its first secessionist party in Quebec and sowed the same seeds of discontent in the West when his domestic policies fired up a separation movement in a region with some of the proudest Canadians in the country.

      Speaking of pride, western Canada sent its best to defend this country in two world wars while Pierre Trudeau avoided service during WW II and instead led a privileged life of leisure and patriotic indifference. His only military service record was to invoke the War Measures Act in 1970 as our Prime Minister when radical Quebec separatists/terrorists attempted to disrupt Quebec’s political structure. This made-in-Quebec problem resulted in a rather stiff response from Trudeau that affected the rest of Canada that had no part in the Quebec secessionist movement.
      Nothing I can say will dislodge you from your views of Trudeau and you can expect the same from me Austin. I just wanted to paint a clearer picture on the reasons for my discontent for readers who have never heard of him. His metric edict was just one of my many reasons.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      >>And next time you want to post on Canadian politics, why don’t you explain how the second largest country in the world ends up with a prime minister and governing party that more than 60% of voters voted against.<<

      It's called a parliamentary system. If you go back you'll find that's how an exotic creature like Trudeau got his "mandate" too. Sometimes it can happen here too since the majority voted against Clinton both times he won the Presidency.

    • 0 avatar
      99GT4.6

      The first time Trudeau was elected 55% of the country voted against him, the second time 62% voted against him, the third time 57% voted against him and the fourth time 56% voted against him. Seems he never got a majority of the country to vote for him yet you never bring that up and don’t seem to have a problem with it when it happens to a Liberal PM. Trudeau screwed us with his constant pandering to Quebec and his reckless overspending.

      • 0 avatar
        juicy sushi

        What pandering? Official bllingualism was an enourmous rejection of Quebec nationalism which offended th separatists hugely.

        There are plenty of reasons to criticize Trudeau, like all other Prime Ministers. We don’t need to make stuff up to do so. To attain high office is to provide more than enough rope to be hung by.

        • 0 avatar
          daiheadjai

          Arguably, official bilingualism has led to a phenomenon not unlike that caused by “Affirmative Action” initiatives, whereby people are promoted or hired, not based on merit, but rather based on their language ability.

          IIRC, the Canadian Forces are one area where this has happened, as is the Canadian bureaucracy/public sector (a casual look at gov’t job postings often reveals a requirement for French, even in places where English is the overwhelming majority).

          As important as the French connection is to our history, I question whether or not an official policy is the best thing.

  • avatar
    Onus

    I grew up in the 90′s in the us.

    They taught use exclusively in the metric system at school. They taught us imperial only half a dozen times which we then all proceeded to forget or i did at least.

    Just the other day when i had to send a package out i had to look up how many ounces are in a pound. That is how much i use this system. I don’t. Thankfully with dual labeling i can just read the metric side instead of trying to figure out what the heck a pint or fluid oz is. I can’t picture the size in my head.

    The only reason I’m proficient in some things imperial is because I’m forced to use it. Like gallons, mph. I do have a hard time with Celsius in everyday situations to be honest but get more a hang of it everyday. I have used it excursively on my computer. When me and my friends talk about running temperatures its always Celsius never Fahrenheit.

    As to length i can do centimeters, inches, millimeters. Which one do you want it in?

    The problem with Canada is as long as the us is still not metric people in Canada will learn at least some imperial in their life. Well if you don’t travel maybe not.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    As an educator I’d just like it if we only had to teach one system. Teaching two absorbs much classroom time that could be used to strengthen student mastery of mathematical concepts instead of having to teach every concept having to do with measurement in both English & Metric and then check for student understanding in both systems.

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      ++

      I’ve got 3 educators in the living room right now; wife, son & d-in-law. I could easily have some malicious fun by playing imperial-advocate.

      But I won’t ’cause they’re all tremendous cooks and I’m not.

  • avatar
    shaker

    There’s an undercurrent of ‘Kilometers’ = ‘Kommunist’ in this post that is not surprising.

    That aside, it doesn’t help me to find who’s actually to blame for my having to buy 2 entire sets of wrenches and sockets, and a bigger tool box to hold them all.

    It’s the same at work, 2 sets of everything, because the system used in our products is pretty much decided by the education/culture of the design team.

    Keeps Snap-On and Sears happy, though.

    This would be the time to make the switch (as I’m certain the we’re ready for it culturally) but it would be (as exemplified above) a political problem, as it would cost money, and the USA, in some ridiculous atavistic fashion, would be admitting “defeat”.

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      “Keeps Snap-On and Sears happy, though.”

      Yeah, keeps us buying all those pretty man-trinkets, doesn’t it?

      Personally, I don’t mind that so much as I do the damned trend since the 90′s of BARELY stamping the sizes of either system into sockets.

      I keep a real element from old camera lenses in my tool boxes/bags so I can read the f-ing things.

    • 0 avatar
      Madroc

      This site’s constant political grousing has definitely reached a new comedic high with this post.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      Only two sets of of man-trinkets? Add in sets of Torx and their relative, the – whatever they’re called – E sockets external Torx. Without a set of the former I can’t even change a bulb in the headlamp assemblies. Without the latter, I can’t get at a loose bolt in the driver’s seat rail. Gotta admit thought that these are less likely to cam out or strip.

      • 0 avatar
        Summicron

        Yeah, and after buying all those 1/4″ hex inserts for a drill or driver, you get to try and keep track of them. Which of course means constant re-buying no matter how many little dedicated boxes or pouches or compartments you try to organize them with.

        Especially when kids get into your stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        E Torx are the worst. They are used infrequently enough (at least on my cars) that I wanted to avoid buying any of the sockets. Had one holding a window regulator so I tried hammering on a hex socket that was close enough. It worked once before, but not the second time around. Had to drive all over finding a place that sells E Torx, and ended up buying a whole set for that one bolt, as no one sold individual sockets.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Oh my, I know exactly what your talking about, I had to stalk down a Snap-on man for an external Torx bit. Of course he had one, pulled it out of an entire set, which I was almost inclined to buy, but the price of the individual part was by far enough.
          Only to get home and find that the studs were pretty much fused to my old block, no amount of heat or penetrating spray was getting them out, snapped the heads on two of them and said screw it, that PIA cost me about a week, never did get the right parts….

        • 0 avatar
          TR4

          My local NAPA sells them individually.

    • 0 avatar

      I did not know the metric system was communist. But it is French, which in some circles in the US is nearly as suspect.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      But if you didn’t have two set of sockets what would happen when you had a corroded or rounded off 13mm or 9/16″ bolt if you didn’t have a 1/2″ or 14mm socket to hammer on there?

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The US just needs to adopt the metric system period. There was a move to in the late 70s, but it was dropped. We already measure engine displacement and beverages in liters. As for the French language let Quebec keep that along with France. If the US is going to be bilingual then Spanish would be the language. Mandarin would be a better language for Americans to learn for doing business in China. We need to be more pragmatic and gear the US toward more of an International commerce setting and overhaul our education system to ready the next generation to be prepared for a global economy.

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      Yepper…. if it’s good enough for the Germans it’s good enough for me.

      And I like 24-hour time, too.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      1986 called…they miss you. In all seriousness I fail to see what the big deal is. I lived in Europe and had no issue operating under the metric system. Military maps use metric (likely due to our NATO partnerships) and I never had an issue. 2 systems really aren’t that complicated.

      Perhaps we should go in whole hog like the Soviet Union back in the day and convert our clocks to a metric based time measure…that worked GREAT!

      • 0 avatar
        Summicron

        I miss 1986 like crazy.

        Big-Glass Trooper!

      • 0 avatar
        Signal11

        US military adoption of metric wasn’t for NATO, it was because metric makes sense.

        On a standard US military map, it’s extremely easy to go up and down in scale from meters to kilometers. Can you imagine doing that with yards, feet and miles? I wouldn’t even want to think what a protractor would look like. Calling for artillery would be a nightmare.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    The metric system’s main problem is that it doesn’t convey a sense of scale.

    I can imagine a foot, a pound and a gallon. I can’t do the same with a meter, a kilogram or a liter.

    Seriously, what sounds more impressive?

    A 454 cubic inch V8, or a 7.4 liter?

    The metric system is sterile and soulless. It’s not connected to mankind at all. And it’s not like there’s anything the metric system can measure that SAE can’t either.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian E

      Meanwhile someone raised with the metric system has no idea what a foot, pound, or gallon is, but can visualize a meter, kg, and liter just fine.

      You should be able to figure out the meter and liter too. A meter’s just a little longer than a yard, and liter’s just a little bigger than a quart. Water is sold in liter bottles at the store, so surely you must have some idea how big that is.

      As an engineer I find myself working with the metric units so often that I have to convert imperial measurements in my head. Neither one is “connected to mankind”. It’s all arbitrary. And honestly neither one makes a huge amount of sense – powers of 10 are actually very difficult to work with; powers of 2 are much more useful both for computing and estimation (twice as much is easier to imagine than 10 times as much).

      • 0 avatar
        Swamp Yankee

        “Neither one is “connected to mankind”.”

        I agree we should just convert to the metric system, but the imperial system is actually connected to mankind in a pretty concrete way. Many of the measurement units (foot, yard and so on) are derived from dimensions of the human body. It may be clunky, but it is not soulless.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_(unit)#Historical_origin

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      7,400 cubic centimeters sounds much more impressive than 454 cubic inches.

    • 0 avatar
      iMatt

      Okay, so maybe you can provide some sort of correlation between a foot, a pound and a gallon. Is there any at all, asides from belonging to the Imperial system?

    • 0 avatar
      Michael500

      True dat! USA-1

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      That is nonsense. I can visualize millimeters, kilometers, degrees C, and liters just fine … because I grew up with the metric system. I only deal with old English units when I have to.

      To me, a single-digits or below temperature is cold, and a 30-plus-degree day is hot. Twenty-low-something is just nice. When in the US on business, I have to mentally convert all the gibberish F numbers to C so that they make sense.

      • 0 avatar
        Brian P

        And by the way, my car has a 1.9 litre engine. I neither know nor care how many cubic inches that is.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Degrees F, and Cubic inches too accurate to handle?

          Much rather see 76F or 496 C.I.

          Both tell me much more than 24C, or 8.1L

          • 0 avatar
            Brian P

            … they tell YOU much more.

            24 C and 8.1 litres tell ME much more …

            It’s all what you are used to, but the argument that one “can’t visualize” something does not hold water. Someone who grows up with the metric system can visualize the needed units just fine.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Someone who grows up with the metric system can visualize the needed units just fine.

            True

            However, Celsius actually converts to 24.444. I would much rather have a more accurate number, growing up knowing of other choices, I learned Celsius sure, but why would I use it over Fahrenheit knowing the difference?

            And why exactly is an engine displacement being measured by a unit for liquid? When I was very young I used to assume it was the amount of oil the engine held, as it made no sense for displacement. Cubic inches makes sense for displacement, especially when you get to boring an engine over, and fuel adjustments.

          • 0 avatar
            typhoon

            It’s not a unit of “liquid,” it’s a unit of volume, just like cubic inches or, for that matter, cubic centimeters. Volume is merely one property of liquid that can be measured (mass and temperature are two others). Liquids are merely one thing that have volume.

            7.4 L makes a great deal more sense to me than 454 CID because I can compare it easily to other engine displacements I know (like a 3.0 L V6 or 4.6 L V8). I’m not stuck in the sixties (unlike some of this site’s authors?), so I don’t deal in 289s and 302s and 351s anymore. I do have a good feel for CID from being a car guy, but I prefer the metric method. At any rate, they’re both easy to get a feel for and neither is more “natural” than the other. The metric system has many other advantages at least; the only advantage of the “standard” system is people’s familiarity with it and stubborn refusal to consider metric units. Needless to say, engineers the world over have no trouble using the metric system, regardless of your feelings on the subject.

            Anyway, is this article a joke? Is the author really complaining that Canada uses the same measurement system as the rest of the world, the same measurement system the cars are designed with in the first place? Has this site always been so backwards and conservative? I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see an article condemning interracial marriage next. This article is a new low in absurdity, and this is a site that published an article very speciously connecting Joe Biden’s comments on gun control with cars (for any excuse to complain about the current administration in front of an audience here to read about cars).

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        While I think the metric system has a lot going for it in terms of ease-of-use, I’ve never been a fan of Celsius. One degree celsius covers too much range. It may have use cases for science that I’m not familiar with, but it has never connected with everyday life for me. When I lived in a climate that had winter, I did not consider 0 C cold. I think it is weird for 0 degrees to be relatively warm. Now 0 F…that is cold.

    • 0 avatar
      Signal11

      7.4 liters easy, because I wasn’t around when we still measured engine displacement in cubic inches. I have no inherent sense what 454 cubic inches means. I do know what size engine go in what types of cars and for that, anyone under the age of 50 is thinking in liters. (Quick, how many cups, pints and/or gallons is 454 cubic inches?)

      Learning the inherent sense of scale of metric isn’t hard. It only takes a few weeks/months of immersion to start thinking in metric.

      As an American engineer who works almost exclusively internationally, I refuse to work with American contractors in the Caribbean unless they tell me they work in metric. One of the things I realized while on the job site while working with Americans contractors is how many more basic arithmetic MISTAKES American construction guys make than almost everyone else in the world. American work crews need more supervision because of the Imperial system.

      The superiority of metric on a construction site extends way past basic math. How much does a 1000L of water weigh? Easy. 1000kgs. That truck is rated for 2.5 tons. How many 1 cubic meter (1000L) tanks can it carry? Easy, 2.5 tanks. Americans are much more likely to engage in guesswork.

    • 0 avatar
      schmitt trigger

      “The metric system’s main problem is that it doesn’t convey a sense of scale.”

      It is all a matter of getting used to it.

      I mean, Americans of all walks of life fully grasp the size and cost of a kilogram of cocaine or weed.

  • avatar
    niky

    I measure speed and distance in Kilometers, but I’ll be damned if I can do human height in centimeters… though I can do buildings in meters, no problem.

    I measure my produce and lquid in kilograms and liters, but my own weight in pounds.

    Damn you, competing arbitrary measurement systems!

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      I quickly got comfortable with metric heights and weights as a sumo fan.

      Metric conveys a sense of scale just fine when it’s all you get.

      One look at Mainoumi (98kg/171cm) standing next to Akebono (233kg/203cm) was pretty mnemonic.

      • 0 avatar
        niky

        I think standing next to Akebono would be terrifying more than anything else.

        • 0 avatar
          Summicron

          Well, pretty much all a little guy like Mainoumi had to do was get out of the way and let him topple over.

          Japanese fans called him “meat bomb”. They pack fans in so close to the dohyo that he fell onto a goodly number of them.

          Against bigger guys Akebono was devastating, hence yokozuna rank.

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      Don’t forget nautical miles and knots used in aviation and marine applications!

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    Interesting, the first celebrity upskirt was the Canadian PM’s wife. The things you learn on a car blog.

    You can see that Maggie Trudeau was trying to keep things “European” also (obviously NSFW):

    http://www.celebset.net/pics/M/1605Maggie%20Trudeau%20%28Ex%20Canada%20PMs%20Wife%29.jpg

    Longing for the Imperial system is sad, it is just a clearly inferior system that even the English no longer use. Engineering lightweights Germany, Japan and South Korea also use the metric system. And any scientist doing anything important in the US uses the metric system.

    The US needs to switch over. Using the Imperial system in the US for common measurements like speed limits and drivers license height and weight disconnects ordinary people from the engineering and scientific communities, which use the metric system everywhere.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    That first pic is a ’58 (ish) Plymouth ? . I had one when ” Christine ” was filming .

    I’m old so I grew up with the Imperial System and can use it pretty well.

    As a Journeyman Mechanic I quickly learned the Metric System is simpler & faster on the fly , many aspects of it I can’t quite grasp tho’ .

    Yesterday as I was stripping a ’59 Metropolitan Nash FHC I kept cursing the old British Whitworh System as BMC supposedly dropped it in 1956 but didn’t see any need to change many small parts they’d been using for 25 years already…..

    As usual the comments here make for very educational reading .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Thank you .

    I’m always in awe of the collected wisdom and experience I see here ~

    Even some of the troll(ish) comments are highly illuminating and funny .
    I wish I had the writing talent displayed here so often as I have many possibly good stories but storytelling or writing is an art form I don’t have .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      “storytelling or writing is an art form I don’t have”

      With all due respect, horsefeathers.

      Just write it and we will enjoy. And ask for more.
      You are one of the most BS-free people I’ve ever read.

      And you know a ton, metric or imperial, about cars, especially groovy old ones.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Again ;

        I thank you .

        Having grown up back when a ‘A’ Model Ford was just another old car , I have great interest and respect for those halcyon dayze of my youth .

        The facts remain however : I routinely get complaints about my boring old stories and Tech Advice .

        Since you at least seem to enjoy them , I’ll keep my oar in .

        In my view , life is far too short to waste driving a new car , plus since I have to feed and fix it as well as drive them , I’ll keep my oldies thankyouverymuch .

        The minimal B.S. quotient is difficult being an older , Conservative white man who lives in The Ghetto but I remember those grumpy old men being such miserable @$$holes when I were a qurious laddie so I try to not follow their example .

        -Nate

        • 0 avatar
          Summicron

          Well, I’ll tell ya, Fellow Traveler to the Pharmacy, “boring” for me is every article here about the latest insectoid blob with slit windows, twin turbos and alloy Conestoga wagon wheels instead of normal rims and fat rubber.

          Nothing I’ve read from you has *ever* been boring.

          • 0 avatar
            olddavid

            +1(I think that is a compliment) I remember the T’s and A’s as the proverbial $25 car, too, Nate. Apparently Summicron and me constitute a fan club of two. And, you obviously have had the satisfaction of making something run that “they” said was un-fixable. One of the great pleasures in life.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            ” alloy Conestoga wagon wheels”…

            I so detest the chrome ones more, but like fins of the ’50s and perhaps the Imperial System, their time will pass and be delegated to the “What were they thinking?” relics of the past

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            “I so detest the chrome ones more”

            Agreed. No faster way to spot doomed neighborhoods. Nothing else so succinctly says:

            “I has da brain of a crow!”

  • avatar
    AC

    The problem with this particular piece of revisionist history is that Canada’s move to the metric system in the 1970s coincided with a similar effort in the United States that started in the 1960′s. Contrary to popular belief, President Ford (not Carter) signed the Metric Conversion Act into law. No one in Canada had the foreknowledge that the United States would cease its efforts to move to the metric system in the 1980s. I suspect that by the time the United States abandoned its effort to move to the metric system that it was already too late for Canada to turn back.

    Bringing it back to cars, I was skeptical of the metric system until I worked as a service writer. Seeing every technician, each with two sets of tools, and imagining what a drain this is on the economy overall changed my mind. Not to mention domestically produced vehicles not even being consistent on the same vehicle really convinced me. The United States could end this madness in a generation if they wanted to, but for some reason patriotism causes people to cling to a British measuring system.

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      A lot of us Americans went through out Ubiquitous Japanese Motorcycle days and came to appreciate metric even while owning & working on Detroit vehicles.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    What a strange, under-researched article. Having worked among old mechanics (both automotive and aviation) and been around a lot of engineers and scientists, I’ve never once heard of a single complaint about Canada being on the metric system. I myself find it much more intuitive when using tools or making calculations. As for distances and speeds, having travelled to the US and having many American friends, I have no trouble converting those values on the fly for their comprehension (who invariably have no concept whatsoever of how long a kilometer is). Funnily, when pulled over on my bike in NYS for doing 25 MPH over the limit, I had to convince the polite trooper that my reason for speeding had nothing to do with my speedometer being metric-only.

    Why would you feel the need to bow to the US and let them know you once were on the same measurement system as them? I’m not the first to remind you that the US also planned on going to the metric system; they just failed at it where we succeeded. If you’re so old and set in your ways that you haven’t yet adapted to a system that’s been standard for nearly 40 years, and are happier calculating how many rods you get to the hog’s head, by all means go for it, but there’s no need to pretend that the rest of the nation – or anyone else – is behind you.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      “Funnily, when pulled over on my bike in NYS for doing 25 MPH over the limit, I had to convince the polite trooper that my reason for speeding had nothing to do with my speedometer being metric-only.”

      Good thinking. Why let the police officer make your case for amelioration?

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        I wound up getting the ticket reduced to a lower fine and non-moving violation. Must’ve done something right (notably having a clean driving record and writing the court asking for a reduction).

  • avatar
    Pikes

    Ah, the metric system! I recall when it was introduced (or imposed by Trudeau as a cornerstone of an anti-American foreign policy initiative) my primary education was complete, so Imperial measures had been well-drilled into my brain. For me, the net effect is that I exist in a funny dual measurement world, where the measurement I use is the one that is more meaningful to me (pounds, not kilos and feet/inches, not meters). My children think this is hilarious, as they are fully fluent in metric.

    I think that the auto makers were moving to metric way back when. I do recall that the ’74 Mustang was bolted together with (mostly) metric fasteners, and had a 2.3 liter engine – not 141 cubic inch.

    Does anyone remember the handy stickers that were available to place on your speedometer face with the metric equivalents of miles per hour (60 MPH = 100 KmH)?

  • avatar
    GST

    60 mph equals one mile in one minute. Case closed.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      100 km/h = 100 km in one hour. Case back open?
      Does either of those factoids really figure into our calculations during every day driving?

      Isn’t the speed limit on interstates generally 65, anyway?

    • 0 avatar
      grein002

      And 60 km/hr equals one kilometer in one minute…

      Your point?

    • 0 avatar
      Michael500

      GST is right, the Standard system fits better with the natural world. Do the Canadians & Eurotrash want to change the time measuement system too? The Metric system was designed for the rabble/uneducated masses around the world. I’ll stick with the First World measurement system.

      • 0 avatar
        Charliej

        Michael, do you live in Alabama? That is the kind of logic they use. Anyone can learn metric, well almost anyone. If you are one of those who can’t, I’m sorry for you. Maybe intensive schooling could bring you up to average.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        Michael500, if you think that using the term “Eurotrash” over and over again makes you seem smarter or more knowledgeable about the world outside your window, it’s high time you learn that that isn’t the case. It doesn’t make Europeans look bad; it makes you look bad.

        You’re aware that of the 200+ countries in the world, the US is one of about 3 who still uses the imperial system, right? As for your comment about the US being more first world than Europe, if you ever obtain a passport (and possibly legal adult age), go take a visit to Western Europe or Japan, just as a couple of examples. After you find out what the standard of living in Switzerland is, for just one example, and how little your US dollar will buy in the big cities there compared to what they earn, you may feel a bit silly about your “We’re a first world country and they’re not” sentiments. Hint: I have Swiss relatives, and when they come to North America, their first reaction isn’t, “My, your road system is so well-engineered and well-maintained, and your flimsy timber houses so superior to our built-to-last-centuries brick and concrete ones.”

        You can also check how many US innovations in the 20th century were connected to men with German sounding names. It’s a funny thing when you get the keys to a country’s patent office after winning a war…

        Contrary to what Americans are indoctrinated with, the rest of the world isn’t all sitting around in mud huts wishing they were in the US.

        • 0 avatar
          Michael500

          I’m being a little provocative here. Although I DID read in Pop Mechanics about Airbus going with the Standard measurement system. My 73 Monte Carlo “beater” car was mostly Metric. I grew up with the Imperial system so it’s too late for me to change and I won’t do it because someone in Belgium wants me too. You’ll get my Craftsman Standard sockets out of my cold-dead-hands!

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      120km/h (not an uncommon speed on the highways) = two kilometers per minute. Works pretty okay for me.

  • avatar
    redav

    I have no problem with kilometers or liters. However, I can’t stand kilometres and litres.

    I also have a huge problem with the comma-as-decimal notation used by ISO.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Quick! What’s the next-smaller socket than 7/16″?

    If you answered 3/8″, you might be right. You might also be right if you answered 13/32″.

    Now… what’s the next-smaller socket than 11mm? If you answered “10mm”, you will definitely be correct.

    I hate fractions.

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      + This

      Fractions are like German for tech writing, archaic and headache-y.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      As someone who just spec’d an M2.5 screw, I’d say there are always exceptions to that rule. You still have your choice of thread profiles which affects net tension area. Don’t get me started on different types of heads or reliefs, either.

      7/16 or 11mm, whatever, the tolerances are often too sloppy for it to matter which socket you use. I’ve seen some Chinese stuff that looks like it came from early in the industrial revolution. hand crafted.

      • 0 avatar
        Summicron

        Heh… yeah, just assembled an office chair for my wife. Hate the tortuous little allens they include so I dragged up both my metric and standard T-handles.

        Turns out either one alone would have worked, there was so much slop.

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      eggsalad:
      “Quick! What’s the next-smaller socket than 7/16″?

      In the real world the answer to this question is the same in both measurement systems: the one next to it in the socket set.

      I mean seriously, no one really looks at the sizes of sockets unless they are following directions that call for a specific socket. You try the one that looks like it might fit, if it’s too small you try the next bigger one, if it’s too large you try the next smaller one. This time honored system works for both metric and English sockets!

  • avatar

    I’m a western Canadian, and no particular nostalgic about Pierre Trudeau, but thank God we went metric. The Imperial system is just awful to learn. (And learn it I did, but now hardly anyone needs to, really.)

    One thing the original poster forgets is all the confusion that arose out of the lack of consistency. US gallons are 3.8 litres; Imperial gallons (the ones we used in Canada) are 4.3 litres roughly. In a lot of situations that difference is very significant. (And I absolutely hate how a lot of Canadian retailers exploit the difference even today by simply referring to “gallons” when they mean the non-standard US one.) A litre is a litre is a litre; it’s completely ambiguous.

    The Canadian fuel economy measure, litres per hundred km, is also easier to use. If my car gets 7 litres per 100 km, I can expect to use about 49 litres to drive the 700 km to Calgary from Regina. It does make comparing fuel economy from vehicle to vehicle a little tricky (an increase from 7 to 6 is way more significant than a decrease from 7 to 8 would be) but overall, it’s more usable in the real world.

    Also, let’s be real, what looks better, a speed limit of 70 or a speed limit of 110? :)

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      One thing I hate about Canadian measurements is when we do MPG. Since the obvious metric measurement for fuel efficiency is L/100km, then the only reason we’d use MPG is to compare to US figures, right? Makes sense to me. Why, then, do we use the Imperial gallon (4.55) instead of the US gallon (3.79L) when we calculate MPG? It’s ridiculous.

      • 0 avatar
        juicy sushi

        There’s a couple of reasons. As part of the Commonwealth we stick to Imperial (as we did pre-metric). Also, it makes the mpg numbers sound ridiculously good when we remember all the mpg claims we hear on US tv…

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Before we’ll give in to Kilometers, the world has to give us back our Inches to measure wheel diameter.

  • avatar
    pacificpom2

    The only major incident of metric/imperial conversion cock up was the “Gimli Glider” Lessons were learnt from this episode. As for metrics invading the world and having to convert, it only effects us in aviation, as is it a predominantly an imperial measurement world with a smattering of metrics. Conversion from one unit to another is rare. The only one I know off is fuel, it’s delivered in litres and calculated in pounds for weight purposes. As for the real world, conversions are only useful if you are comparing US vehicles to their overseas markets, i.e. looking up the Chevy Malibu figures to compare the Holden Malibu and local competitors. Everyday comparisons don’t enter into it. I know how far a kilometre is, just as I know how big a yard is. I don’t do a conversion factor in my head to calculate how many yards in a km. I know that my car takes 72ltrs to fill and that will take me 560km. Whether that is 15.97 imperial/19 US gallons (why the difference?) and 347 miles is irrelevant, unless I bring my car to the US and drive it around. The only other measurement that has survived metrics is wheel diameter, still refer to them as 18 inch wheels fitted with 235/60r18 tyres!

    • 0 avatar
      Onus

      The difference is the us gallon is based of the wine gallon. The imperial one was said to derive from the ale gallon. Well this is according to wikipedia so take it with a grain of salt.

      Don’t get me started on wheel sizes. I found it odd to travel out of the country for the first time to find out wheels are still measured in inches!

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      ” As for metrics invading the world and having to convert, it only effects us in aviation, as is it a predominantly an imperial measurement world with a smattering of metrics”

      Knots and nautical miles rule! And since the nautical mile is one minute arc of latitude (sort of :) it sort of makes sense.

  • avatar
    Deaks2

    Herr Schmit is away, and all of a sudden crap articles like this show up? Interesting…

  • avatar
    kkt

    Canada wasn’t using the U.S. system before it went metric. Canada was using the Imperial system, that perversely used the same names for slightly different units. The Imperial length and weight units were pretty close to U.S., but the gallon was bigger enough to get into trouble even for everyday things like ‘how far can I drive on 5 gallons of gas?’ Canada had a pretty simply choice: be the only country in the world using Imperial, or be like the entire rest of the world and use Metric. I think it’s obvious that they made the right choice.

    The U.S. was stupid for adopting metric most of the way and then changing their minds at the last minute. Now the scientific and technical community uses metric, some everyday purposes use metric, but other everyday purposes use traditional measures. So everyone has to learn two systems. Canada made the change and it was over within a couple of years. We waste our time teaching two systems and making an unnecessary obstacle to understanding technical fields.

  • avatar
    Mathias

    The question of whether the US should adopt the metric system now — or should have adopted it years ago — is not easy to answer. There are tremendous costs either way.

    But the question which system makes more sense, or is simply “better,” is easy: Metric is.

    I have two standards arguments for these discussions:

    (i) your 1/2 ton truck has a payload of 2000 lbs. how high can you fill the bed with water before you reach it?

    A five by 6.5 ft bed is 1.5 x 2 meters as near as makes no difference. 3 square meters of bed x 33 cm high is 1,000 liters of volume or 1 (metric) ton of water.
    2,000 lbs. would be 30 cm of water, to better than ten percent.

    This can be worked out before our ‘standard’ friends are done asking their smartphones how many pounds a cubic inch of water weighs :)

    (ii) Those conversion charts you seen in U.S. machine shops, showing fraction/decimal/letter/number sizes?

    What’s in their place in German shops?

    Pin-Up Calendars.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      Oh boy …

      I don’t know how many times I’ve taken some sort of problem that was presented to me in old English units, converted everything to SI, solved the problem at hand, then converted it back to old English for the benefit of whoever was asking the question, and was done before someone else had figured out how to do the calculation in the old units system.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Sorry, but your argument of how much water can you carry in the bed of your pickup just doesn’t………….um hold water like the bed of a truck. If your goal is to create a redneck hot tub then the capacity of the truck doesn’t matter it’s what will push the bed sides apart and there isn’t a spec on that. The capacity of the springs, axles and tires really doesn’t play into since it would be a static load and in that case their actual capacities are much higher than the on the road limit.

      What I carry in the bed of my trucks is things that I buy by weight like gravel, or things like bags of concrete, retaining wall blocks, or shingles that list how many lbs they are on the package or price tag. In other cases I know from hauling demolition debris, gravel ect where my truck sits with various amounts of weight in the bed. So when I need a little bit of gravel I take my Scout pickup and use the self loading chute. Put some in, step back look at the truck, and add as necessary until I get to the 2000lb limit of that truck. Low and behold I can gauge it to within about 100lbs.

      • 0 avatar
        Signal11

        So you’re guessing.

        As I mentioned, I’ve seen a lot of Americans engage in guessing on cargo capacities for vehicles where even junior high dropouts who know metric can rub some brain cells together to figure out precise quantities.

        • 0 avatar
          chuckrs

          Cut the guy a break. It’s hard to find metric gravel so you can be all exact.
          Original problem:
          (2000lb)/(62.5lb/ft^3) ~ 30ft^3 divided by 5 x 6.5 bed ~ 1ft = 30cm. Honestly, the length of the King’s great toe vs a ten millionth the distance from the equator to the pole – both are arbitrary and have been subject to revisions. Metric is still better in every way except temperature measurement in everyday life.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Multiple systems makes for a PIA in the shop ~

    I worked on Volvos during the time they changed from carbys to FI , being
    Swedish they were Metric but to $ave $ and be reliable & cheap to make , they used Borg Warner automatic trannies , the Japanese made them in Metrics , Volvo used the American fractional version .

    Having fun yet ? .

    These same sturdily built cars used English Skinner Union dual carbys so of course , there was a smattering of Whitworth threads and fastenber head sizes , just to punish us Mechanics I guess =8-^ .

    All in all I rather liked my old Volvos as did the Customers , good cars albeit stodgy to the extreme .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Onus

      Oh i hate this.

      I own a pickup made in 1990. The platform is from the 80′s. Who knows whats metric and whats standard. Its a crap shoot.

      At least on new cars i just use the metric stuff, i leave my standard in the drawer.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    I’m from Western Canada (Alberta) myself, and I gotta say….this is an absolutely ridiculously out of touch article. Going to the metric system was one of the smartest things this country has then. It’s the Americans who need to get in line with everyone else on this.

    Trudeau was an egomaniac, and there are plenty of things to knock the guy for, but this? Ridiculous.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      Exactly. I don’t know much about Trudeau (I do know that I prefer his wife’s bush to the Bushes that the US has had: http://www.celebset.net/pics/M/1605Maggie%20Trudeau%20%28Ex%20Canada%20PMs%20Wife%29.jpg ), but if he was a broken clock then even a broken clock is right twice a day (once a day if we are using the 24 hour system).

      A lot of people in the US dislike Jimmy Carter, but you don’t see them going around complaining about brewing beer at home being legalized:

      http://baddogbeer.com/jimmy-carter-home-brewing/

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Why don’tcha all just start driving corollas if ya’ll are so scared of being different.

    I can see where the metric system is a better device, but I can also see where the Standard way is better.
    I was taught metric probably 4 times before college and I never used it in a real life application. During college is when I actually found a few of its benefits.

    Why is it Americans that always must change our ways, rather than other cultures, just stop invading what we do.
    Spelling the word tire, tyre is cute, but makes no grammatical sense, but I’m not going to lambast others for their ways no matter how annoying it is.

    Also when were tires invented? Was it before the colonies succeeded from the Brits or after?
    It was after(as I assume), someone needs a face slap.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      It’s not about being different, it’s about being wrong. English is the language of business and science around the world. The dollar is a reserve currency. The US shouldn’t be so insecure that it sticks to medieval scientifically illiterate units of measurement that are as American as bangers and mash, keeping regular Americans illiterate to the metric units of measurement that all engineering and scientific communities use.

      The US sticking to Imperial units of measurement is as pathetic and insecure as the Académie française making official French documents refer to e-mail as courrier électronique.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Imperial are actually a little different then what the US standard is.
        As I have said the Standard form is a much easier system to learn and use, I was taught standard once, it stuck, and metric 5 times (including college Re-taught myself) It makes sense in science, but not in real world applications.
        Regular Americans learn Metric system many times through their multiple years in school, but you can’t expect of every person that goes through school to be a nuclear physicist, standard is much easier to remember and know then the Metric system for the normal person.

        Nothing insecure about it, why change what works, you are not required as an American to know standard, just as you aren’t required in France to take a test every year proving you know the metric system.
        Metric system is awesome in certain applications, but in everyday life I like to use standard.

        I’m sure Europeans say their glasses are half-full or there is only a quarter of petro left.

        • 0 avatar
          racer-esq.

          “It makes sense in science, but not in real world applications. Regular Americans learn Metric system many times through their multiple years in school, but you can’t expect of every person that goes through school to be a nuclear physicist, standard is much easier to remember and know then the Metric system for the normal person.”

          So a system with random conversion factors for every unit is easier to remember than a system based on 10? I was just at the store and compared a generic product to a name brand one. They both listed 1.5 liters, but one listed 51 ounces, while the other listed 1 quart 19 ounces. If it was not for the metric measurement (listed because the product is also sold in Canada) I would have no idea that the products were the same size. Because there is no way I would remember that there are 32 ounces in a quart. Especially since, in the weight system, there are 16 ounces in a pound. The Imperial system and derivative “US” measurements are objectively idiotic compared to metric.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Ok I’ll give you that one, I’m not going to claim I haven’t done the same.

          • 0 avatar
            racer-esq.

            Same with temperature. Are you going to argue with a straight face that the system where water freezes at 32 degrees and boils at 212 degrees makes more sense in “real world applications” than the system where water freezes at zero degrees and boils at 100 degrees? The French are FAR from perfect, but this they nailed.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Temperature may not make as much sense, but I would much rather have a system wherein I can have a more accurate number, over a system where the only advantage is a feel good, type deal.

          • 0 avatar
            Signal11

            No “number” is more inherently more “accurate” than another.

            You never got a sense for metric because you never used it (you said that yourself).

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Signal, the scale allows for more accurate reading.
            And I did eventually use the metric system in college.

        • 0 avatar
          JuniperBug

          Hummer, the word “accuracy,” it doesn’t mean what you think it does. “Precision” would be the more accurate word to use, but of course that assertion would still make no sense, as any measurement system can be as precise as you want it to be, but the metric system lends itself better to using decimals, so in my view it has a slight edge there.

          I find it very ironic to be demanding that other countries stop “invading” what the US does.

          So should 200 countries change back to the Imperial system for the 3 or 4 holdouts who haven’t switched to metric?

          The pneumatic tire/tyre was invented in 1889 by a company called Dunlop. Want to guess which country that was in, and how they spelled the word? If anyone can dictate which spelling makes “grammatical sense” (?!), the US isn’t it.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            I’m not saying any country should change their measurement system. But we definitely shouldn’t all be the same over a guise of being better. That is no different then someone’s opinion that Honda is better than all others.

          • 0 avatar
            SC5door

            “The pneumatic tire/tyre was invented in 1889 by a company called Dunlop. Want to guess which country that was in, and how they spelled the word? If anyone can dictate which spelling makes “grammatical sense” (?!), the US isn’t it.”

            1. It was invented in Ireland.
            2. “Tyre” was used in the UK, not Ireland.
            3. The proper spelling is “Tire”, and is of French origin meaning “to pull”.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Well, it’s simple the US should look at doing what the rest are doing.

    I was born and did some of my schooling in the US and learnt the ‘American’ system of measure.

    We then immigrated to Australia and I learnt the British Imperial system ie rod, links, perches, furlongs, cwt, stones and etc.

    We went metric in the 70s, the best thing since sliced bread. How hard is it, all based on 10. Just like the way the OECD economies have based their currencies on 10.

    Mathematics is the most international “language” and everyone can speak it.

    Why does the US have to be different? It’s not as if you can’t speak it already.

    • 0 avatar
      Tinker

      We’ll switch, when all the Citizens of the empire convert to left hand drive. The “old fashioned units” are no problem at all as long as we don’t have a metric system to change into/out of.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    The USA is a conservative and funny place. It is not a culture you want to follow into the past. Enjoy my BLOG on the subject.
    See : http://obscureaussie.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/how-many-rods-in-a-chain/

  • avatar
    BobAsh

    As someone who was born, raised and still lives in country using Imperial system, but who is, at the same time, an American car enthusiast, spent 8 years translating British car magazines into Czech and is fairly fluent in both systems, and can do all the important conversions (miles to km, feet to meters, pounds to kilograms etc.) nearly automatically, I cannot, and will not, ever understand how anyone with higher than elementary education and IQ higher than a monkey can ever consider the Imperial system usable in the modern world, let alone superior.

    It’s not about the conversions between the Imperial and metric systems. They are stupid both ways, with tons of numbers to be remembered. After long time using them, I know that 1 mile is 1,609km, 1 foot is 30,48cm, 1 pound is 454g (or 0,454kg).

    But the real problem is conversions INSIDE the Imperial system. We do our math in decimal system. Dividing or multiplying by ten is the easiest thing to do – you just ad zeroes or move the decimal point. And the metric system is based on the same thing.

    I have no real idea what “farad” is, and I can hardly imagine volt. But thanks to the prefix system, I know that “kilofarad” is 1000 farads. And, for more useable units, I know that kilometer is 1000 meters, milimeter is 0,001 meters, centimeter is 0,01 meters etc. I can use the metric system to measure anything from the size of the atom to the distances between stars. And if you give me a measurement in centimeters, I instantly know what it means in meters of milimeters. And the same goes for grams, liters, volts, amperes, you name it.

    But tell me that someone is 5 feet 10 inches tall, and I’m fucked. Why it isn’t, say, 5,8 feet? Or, why isn’t he just 70 inches? Or, could he be 4 feet 22 inches? Why there is 12 inches in the feet and 3 feet in one yard? And 1760 yards in a mile? Who the hell should remember all that crap? Ounces to pounds? Pounds to imperial tonnes?

    Can anyone of you Imperial system lovers tell me right now, without using a calculator, how many miles is 24467 feet? If it was 24467 meters, I could tell you without even thinking about it that it’s nearly 24.5 (24 and a half) kilometers. Or 24 467 000 milimeters.

    And don’t even get me started on tools. In civilized world, you have milimeter spanners. They start (theoretically) with 1 and end with whathever the size of the biggest bolt is. So if I take the 12 and it’s too big, I’ll try 11. If it’s too small, I use 13.
    But what’s the size I would use if 1/2″ is too small? 5/8″? 9/16″? 17/32″? 129/256″? One would need a calculator to choose a friggin spanner!

    I can imagine living in the world of mph speed for cars, gallons of fuel and even, however illogical it looks, measuring people in two units at once. But using Imperial for engineering or even scientific work must be a nightmare…

  • avatar
    thornmark

    I would love to see Perth.

    Australia, the island continent, reportedly has more poisonous creatures than anywhere else.

    I think most people would find it funny that your Governor-General, appointed by the Queen, can and has dismissed the Prime Minister against his will.

    I believe the same may be true of Canada, that the Queen’s rep has the residual power to change government. The Commonwealth is a funny business. God save the German Queen.

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      On paper, yes. The last time it was use it caused a constitutional crisis and resulted in an explicit promise to never try anything that stupid again.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Its not that easy to dismiss the Prime Minister. If the Monarch is removed the constitution will give the new “Governor General” the same powers.

      The only ways are a vote of no confidence by parliment, ie, the Prime Ministers own members vote no confidence. Generally there is a vote by the government in power among it members to replace the Prime Minister.

      The other more interesting one is if a bill is defeated twice when trying to pass the Lower House and Senate. Also our bills unlike the US don’t have little tidbits attached. A bill is a bill, a single item.

      The Australian system of government is a hybrid between the British Parlimentary system and the US system of Congress. We essentially tried to remove the flaws from both systems.

      Well, I don’t know if it is any more effective than either, but we have a stable and prosperous country.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Frankly it doesn’t matter which system is used. Learned things the way it is done in the states. Went overseas at 18 y/o back in 61. Metric was everywhere and easy to learn. Stationed in Canada in 1966 and dealt with the imperial gallons. Just took a trip to canada last month and dealt with the metric system. Drove all over the maritimes in a car with mph very clear on the dial and km fairly subdued. Learned to convert quickly.

    Know what is fairly tough. Conversion when you aren’t prepared mentally for it. No real excuse for that though.

    Know what is worth fussing about. Absolutely nothing. Canada is beautiful and so is New England. Back in Texas now and the only thing I have to convert much is the spanish language. Can’t wait till next year. Think I’ll do it all again.

  • avatar
    claytori

    I saw a TV ad for the Chrysler 200 today. It said that it gets up to 43 miles per gallon on the highway. Sounds impressive, until you realize that they are talking about Miles/Imperial Gallon. That is about 36 Miles/US Gallon, which is pretty good. But why would they not just quote the 6.6 Litres/100 Km that everyone else uses. I seems like an effort to deceive. Note, in Britain the speedos and limits are in miles per hour but you buy fuel in litres.

    • 0 avatar
      CompWizrd

      And to make it more fun, Canada’s test setup is still way out of date.. My car is rated at 27/33. Transport Canada says 33/43.5, if you use US Gallons. T/C’s numbers are way high, only way you could get 43.5 is by actually following the speed limit, and leaving the AC off. The EPA’s numbers are a hair low for real world city, and a bit low for ac on(I get about 35-36) and quite a bit low for AC off (I get about 40)… but still much better than TC’s.

      I believe we’re getting a more accurate system in 2015 though.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        As mentioned earlier up, for some reason Transport Canada insists on using the Imperial gallon instead of the US. Multiplying TC’s figures by 3.79/4.55 should get you close to the EPA’s figures. Actually, for all I know they are the EPA’s figures simply converted into an even more obscure unit of measurement.

  • avatar
    99GT4.6

    I am 19 and have lived in Canada my entire life. Regardless of what we are officially, we are in a sort of limbo between the two systems.
    Some of the ones I am most used to using are:
    Celsius for temperature
    Liters for gas
    Cubic inches for older engines, Litres for most new engines
    Kilometers for speed/distance
    MPG for fuel economy
    Horsepower instead of KW or whatever the metric equivalent is for horsepower
    Pounds, kilograms and grams for weight
    Cm, feet, and meters for distance
    The metric system makes more sense mathematically but even growing up with it a lot of the imperial units have more meaning to me.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Well, well, well. Out of the same primordial ooze as our current Canadian prime minister dragged himself, comes a writer to tell us on a car blog, no less, that Trudeau was a poor PM. Under the guise of attacking the metric system, this is a political rant about the best damn leader this country ever had. A man with an actual brain.

    I’m an engineer from Nova Scotia, but have family in Calgary, Alberta, where today the place is literally flooded out. My thoughts are with our fellow citizens coping with chaos.

    I travel to Calgary often, love the place and have met dozens of great people. Have also met about three of the antedeluvians like this author, people with such a twisted outlook that they cannot recognize a good thing when it slaps them in the face. The metric system of measurement is superior, period. Just because a person is too mentally lazy to change is not an argument to keep the old system.

    As for the political stuff – horsefeathers. We’ve got plenty of pre 1910 thinkers running the country now. At least they’re honest, they call themselves Conservatives and have managed to ruin Canadians’ international reputation in a mere 7 years, while proving to be as mean and nasty to their own populace as only people brought up in the 1880s could be, and returning their countrymen to be hewers of wood and resource rapists in lieu of some semblance of modern thinking.

    I’m nowhere near as proud of my country today as I was in the Trudeau era, when there was an air of excitement and do anything possibility in the air. Today on this car blog we get off-topic grousing from some Westerner or another. Absolute rubbish on all counts.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      Hell, I’ll even take Chretien over Harper. Like Trudeau, at least the man had a personality, and gave you the impression that he gave a damn about his country and the people in it. Harper is just in the corporations’ pockets, doing his part to make the rich richer and the middle class poor. He and his stupid haircut can fall in a hole for all I care.

      • 0 avatar

        Harper’s like Mulroney. Lauded one minute, vilified the next. Trudeau Junior seems to have inherited his father’s charisma and his mother’s brains. Dare I say it but Mulcair seems to be a decent alternative. I was never a fan of “Le Bon Jack”…

    • 0 avatar

      wmba, your clever use of sophisticated words like “primordial” and “antedeluvian” are an admirable use of the thesaurus, but they do not make you any extra points in this debate. You are a numbers guy(engineer) and I expect that you would be able to add up the large scale deficits that began with the Trudeau era. Incidentally, I was no fan of the Mulroney government and I am disappointed with Harper’s lack of fiscal restraint as well.

      Your Maritime address means that your province and many other provinces(such as Quebec) have benefited heavily from the equalization program that have been generously supplied by my province and other western provinces. You can understand why we were very upset when your patron saint Trudeau decided to throw us under the bus with the NEP. Sorry if I can’t worship at the throne of your man Trudeau, but I know people who lost everything when that program was implemented in the early 80s. They are not fans either.

      Sure I have taken a broadside at Trudeau and angered some of my fellow Canadians who were either too young or lived outside of the economic devastation his political ambitions imposed on my province. However,my nostalgia for mph and mpg is genuine, even if I am simply another cousin of Fred Flintstone in your eyes. Good thing I also went to university and can easily understand your big words.

      • 0 avatar
        juicy sushi

        Alberta has also made use of the Equalization program in the past. Every province in Confederation has done so at some point. Alberta may well do so again at some point in future. The provinces insisted on having the Equalization program embedded in the Constitution. The revenue for the program comes from general Federal tax revenue, not from the provinces. Hence the reason Ontario received Equalization funds post-recession, even though it is a net contributor in terms of Federal revenue.

        If you guys want to have discussions about the economic viability of the Maritimes vs. the Alberta resource extraction economy please try to use facts in their proper context.

        • 0 avatar

          Maritime provinces such as Nova Scotia and New Brunswick receive over 1 billion dollars each per year annually from equalization largely derived from resource based provinces like mine. It is indeed accurate to say that Alberta has taken dole (very infrequently)in the distant past- the last time was approximately around the end of the finned car era.
          Alberta is a “resource extraction” economy that kept the eastern half of this country from a severe crash and burn after 2008 and will continue to drive Canada’s good fortunes for many years- barring an incredibly bad policy like a new NEP.

          That makes Alberta very viable in an economic sense and I refuse to apologize for its resource based roots. I would like to add that all of my fellow Canadians who hide behind pen names lose credibility with me in this debate.

          • 0 avatar
            juicy sushi

            Your insecurity over pen names isn’t really my concern. I also did not ask you to apologize for the structure of the Alberta economy. I asked both you and wmba to try to have a mature discussion using facts rather than hackneyed talk radio idiocy.

            If you would like some facts to argue with, we publish a large number of statistics on the Department of Finance website at http://www.fin.gc.ca/pub/index-eng.asp. The Canadian Council of Chief Executives and Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters have also made extensive public statements on the structure of the Canadian economy and its challenges.

            I am not telling anyone what to think, however public policy arguments with an absence of facts lead nowhere. I will cease to comment further on this topic as I am supposed to be on vacation.

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            Well, if you won’t cough up your real name guess I’ll have to.

            It’s J. Clarington Sushi III.

            Yeah…. *those* Sushis.

  • avatar
    fabriced28

    All the best for Canada! How you can blame someone who acts with such bad reasons such as logic, simplicity, ease, I can’t explain. But I’m currently in the US, and what a pain it is to handle all those stupid old monkeys of units. Even in the scientific field, this is the very beginning of the understanding that it is so damn useful to use the metric system that I believe American people in general will never be able to get wide spread access to its power. Because yes, it empowers the ones that use it, because it is more accessible to people with less talent in mathematics.
    It’s endorsed by scientists, most useful to illiterate, but there is still an idea in the US that they have something to lose by using it. It’s akin to a tariff on engineering work, and that highly protectionist reason may well be high on the list of reasons for reluctance.

  • avatar

    This by far must be the worst post on TTAC. The hate of the author towards Trudeau shadows completely his logic and understanding of the metric system.
    I’m not sure if the subject of this post is really the conversion to the metric system in Canada or Trudeau himself.
    I admire our neighbor to the north, I visited Ontario and Quebec and find them great places with great people. They’ve done a good job converting to an international measurement system.
    In the States, NASA, the Detroit 3, the military and in general big companies use the metric system but we don’t use it in the day-to-day life. It’s overdue.
    Mr. Sutherland seems one of those Detroit dinosaurs who can talk endlessly about the beautiful ’60s but doesn’t understand the present and perhaps can’t take a decision for the future.
    It’s regrettable that such a post appeared on this site.

  • avatar
    nvdw

    It’s nostalgia like this that makes the automotive world still use horsepower instead of kilowatts. About time we abolish that as well.

  • avatar
    felix

    As someone who doesn’t live in Canada or US, I found this post and comments hilarious. So many panties in a bunch! Or is that knickers in a twist?

    Edit: just saw the photo of Maggie. Never mind.

  • avatar
    IHateCars

    I grew up with Standard but what is so hard about multiples of 10? It is so much easier to work with…

  • avatar

    I think we all should go back to talking only about Vehicles and leave Politics out of any discussion, after all most people who are not Canadians, could not give a darn about what are Political people do, time to change the Channel folks!

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    Britain actually decimalized twice.

    First the money in 1971, dumped or replaced the, half-pences, penny, three-pences, six-pences,shillings,florins, half-crowns not to mention our guineas ($1 pound 1 shilling, not actually a note).

    There was confusion, and some inflation as prices pretty much all rounded up. The old and stupids had a hard time, but plenty of assistance was offered at the time.

    Believe it there are still RW nincompoops (see Daily Mail readers) who still it was the worst thing ever.

    Once the old coots died off, the more gradual changeover to the actual metric measurement system was mostly a doddle. My 85 year old parents have no problems with it.

    Darwin was right!

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    Thanks to the drug culture, pretty much every American student is now quite familiar with metric weights.

    BTW, most manufacturers have 114.3mm x 5 bolt pattern wheels, ie 4.5″x5. GM now uses 115mm x 5 wheels, thus elimination 3/4 of the aftermarket options. Aaargh!

  • avatar
    beken

    one more thing missed. The imperial gallon used worldwide and the US gallon used only in the USA are different measures. So any miles per gallon measure was already different between Canada and the US.

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    Obligatory:

    ::The metric system is the tool of the devil! My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead and that’s the way I likes it.::


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