I'm trying to identify the short story(?) in which cars are designed to be slower than they appear to be driving - louder engine noises, higher speedometer readings than actual speed.

  • 2
    Who needs fiction when we already have ricers?
    – RonJohn
    Oct 9, 2018 at 22:13
  • 3
    Would you buy that for a quarter?
    – Buzz
    Oct 9, 2018 at 22:35
  • 1
    "higher speedometer readings than actual speed" is something they actually do to many cars in the real world, by up to 10%. (EU regulations say speedometers are not allowed to show more than 10% over actual speed, plus 4km/h, and never show less than actual speed. So if you go 100, regulation speedometers will show between 100 and 114.)
    – Arthur
    Oct 10, 2018 at 7:18
  • @Arthur Well, jetpacks and hoverboards are taking their sweet time, so let's tone our sci fi down instead :]
    – Misha R
    Oct 11, 2018 at 9:21
  • possibly the same as scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/213704/… (which is newer but has an accepted answer)
    – Otis
    Jun 9, 2019 at 18:32

1 Answer 1


This is, I believe, in several Cyril Kornbluth works, but it's certainly in The Marching Morons.

The psychist climbed down into the driver's seat and did something with his feet. The motor started like lighting a blowtorch as big as a silo. Wallowing around in the cushions, Barlow saw through a rear-view mirror a tremendous exhaust filled with brilliant white sparkles.

"Do you like it?" yelled the psychist.

"It's terrific!" Barlow yelled back. "It's—"

He was shut up as the car pulled out from the bay into the road with a great voo-ooo-ooom! A gale roared past Barlow's head, though the windows seemed to be closed; the impression of speed was terrific. He located the speedometer on the dashboard and saw it climb past 90, 100, 150, 200.


They seemed to be traveling so slowly, if you ignored the roaring air past your ears and didn't let the speedy lines of the dream-boats fool you. He would have sworn they were really crawling along at twenty-five with occasional spurts up to thirty.


Barlow stiffened as he realized the rush of air past his ears began just a brief, unreal split second before the car was actually moving.


"The automobiles have a top speed of one hundred kilometers per hour - a kilometer is, if I recall my paleolinguistics, three-fifths of a mile - and the speedometers are all rigged accordingly so the drivers will think they are going two hundred and fifty."

  • 3
    Damn just beat me well done
    – Broklynite
    Oct 9, 2018 at 13:44
  • 1
    Can be read online here.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Oct 9, 2018 at 13:45
  • 11
    One thing that bothered me about this story is why drivers would think they were going very fast when their only reference frame is how quickly buildings pass by. They would more likely think that "250 km/h isn't all that fast, really". Also, if they drive 50 km to work, wouldn't they wonder why it taks 30 rather than 12 minutes? Unless you also rigged every street sign showing distances. Oct 9, 2018 at 14:19
  • 12
    @KlausÆ.Mogensen Well, the guy from the present figured it out in only one ride in a car. I guess the others really were morons. Oct 9, 2018 at 15:18
  • 11
    @KlausÆMogensen: Do note the title of the story, in which the word "morons" is used. The people in the story are easily stupid enough to be fooled.
    – JRE
    Oct 9, 2018 at 17:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.