There Was A Time When Michigan Had No Speed Limit
Drivers of a certain age remember when the maximum highway speed was 55 mph before it went back up to 70. Before that, you could drive as fast as you dared.
'Breaker 1-9, breaker 1-9'
'Go 'head, breaker'
'Yeah, I need a smokey report on I-94 westbound'
'You're all clear, good buddy, put the hammer down'
'10-4, catch you on the flip-flop'
If you were on the road in the '70s- behind the wheel or maybe in the backseat of mom and dad's car on a family trip, you recognize the CB lingo. Maybe you remember when you plugged a fuzzbuster into the cigarette lighter to avoid a "bear with ears"? Today, Google Maps and Waze alert us to the speed traps. For as long as there have been cars, people have wanted cars to go faster while lawmakers have tried to slow them down. Did you know there was a time when Michigan had no speed limit at all?
The first statewide speed limit in Michigan wasn't designated until 1956 when it was set at 70 mph. In 1960, the night-time limit was throttled back to 60 mph, before being lowered to 55 mph around the clock in 1974. (Side note: The nationwide 55 mph speed limit was a response to the energy crisis in the '70s and was a measure to conserve fuel. Federal highway funds were restricted if states did not comply.) As Federal standards finally began to loosen in 1987, rural highway speeds inched up to 65, before Michigan freeways increased the speed limit to 70 mph once again in 1996. Now, you can drive 75 mph on some freeways up north.
There is a lot of time between December 1, 1913, when the first Model T rolled off Henry Ford's assembly line, and 1956 when the statewide speed limit was first established. Local municipalities did the best they could, and a town in the Upper Peninsula set the limit at 6 mph for the newfangled horseless carriage in 1898. MLive did some research and reports that, "historically, Michigan has been a bit of a speedy state. Newspapers from the 1920s and 1930s say the state had no speed limit at all."
Are you wondering the same thing I am? "Just how fast could cars go in 1956?" Well, there's a reason that girl in the Beach Boys song was having so much fun, fun, fun. The 1956 Ford Thunderbird had a 5116cc 16v V8 under the hood that would rocket that chariot from 0-60 in 10.5 seconds. Top speed in third gear was 113 mph.
Barney Fife could never have caught you.
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