So, in a future where fossil fuels are prohibitively expensive, the men in a neighbourhood envy their one neighbour who drives a large V8 sedan from the old days.

The owner of the throwback is well aware, and rubs their noses in the fact they drive little electric cars that are small and have limited range, or are otherwise just dull compared to his massive vehicle every time he arrives home from work.

However, we learn a secret the neighbours don't learn… His wife comes down to the garage from the house, late at night, and asks him if the ownership of the vehicle is worth the effort. As he strains and sweats, he says that the numerous hours every night winding up the clockwork mechanism that replaces the original engine is worth it, as are all the effects that make it sound like a petrol-driven engine.

I keep thinking Harry Harrison is the author, but no search there has helped.

  • I remember this one... I think it was in one of the Raintree collections. Let me look.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Sep 28, 2022 at 11:46
  • Conversations about Rush songs and electric cars can go in TREU chat.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Sep 29, 2022 at 13:35

1 Answer 1


Your instincts were good. Harry Harrison's "Speed of the Cheetah, Roar of the Lion". I read it in Wild Inventions, a collection by Raintree. You can borrow it here. One differing point is that it's his son that he talks to at the end of the story, not his wife.

"I don't care if it takes two hours to wind up the spring," he panted. "It was worth every second of it."

  • 2
    Wow, does that book really only have 4 short stories in it?? I have it in Microcosmic Tales, a fertile source of story-id questions. Sep 28, 2022 at 15:55
  • 5
    @OrganicMarble: They're small books, and each story has several full-page illustrations. My grandmother got me some of them when I was a kid. :-D That's why I remembered this one, which then led to me refinding scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/60503/… where I asked about another story from the books. The various "Young X" books under the imprint of Asimov were also a big influence.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Sep 28, 2022 at 16:47
  • 1
    Ah, children's books. Thanks for the info. Sep 28, 2022 at 16:48
  • 1
    Thanks, guys, really helpful. Even a link - I'm impressed :) Sep 30, 2022 at 20:59

Your Answer

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

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