Electric vehicles and hybrids are common now, with a Tesla or a Prius on basically every corner of any modern city. But not that long ago EV and hybrid tech was too expensive for the common man. Back then, if you were interested in in lowering your fuel bill and carbon footprint, what the heck were you supposed to do drive?
Well back in the 1990s a few enterprising people with those ideas embarked on adventures of shadetree engineering to upgrade their cars notifications, not for more power, but for more efficiency. This slice of car culture is known as “ecomodding.”
Ecomodders grated long boattails and kammback shapes on cars to smooth out drag. They’d install kill switches or outright turn off their vehicles while coasting (essentially manual cylinder deactivation). They’d rethink entirely their driving styles, to squeeze every last mile out of a gallon of gas.
Some cars were better candidates than others for eco builds, and the Geo Metro XFi was a legend in the ecomodding community.
Extremely light from the factory and exceptionally miserly stock, the XFi trim of the original Geo Metro was a special super-economy version of the Metro hatchback. The motor ran a little leaner, had a slightly different cam, and a taller final drive ratio – all to give you a 58 mpg freeway rating, at least on the old EPA rating.
Naturally, the ecomodders felt they could further optimize GM’s hi-fi fuel economy efforts. People chopped tops, added smoothie wheel covers, in an effort so make the car as slick as possible.
One of the most famous people is Doug Heffron – builder of this tandem, super-aero Geo Metro XFi.
Time hasn’t been kind to these ecomodding projects; as many websites have fallen by the wayside and are now rife with 404 errors, broken links, and missing images galore. It’s kind of hard to find more images of Heffron’s Aero Metro build. Luckily, the Wayback Machine has archived a semi-functional version of the site.
MetroMPG did an interview with Heffron back in the day. The project seems to be mostly a man and his Metro, hacking the economy car into something greater in his garage.
That was in the mid aughites, though. It’s unclear where Doug Heffron is now or if this car is on the road anymore. We might have to circle back for an eco-modding deep dive at some point – but we wanted to talk about ecomodding on Earth Day and there wasn’t enough time for a comprehensive investigation!
Anyway time marches on, and it seems like ecomodding isn’t as popular as it once was in the era of readily available EVs and ubiquitous Hybrids. Still, some are going achieving amazing results. This heavily modified Chevrolet Caprice Wagon is somehow achieving 46MPG.
I just wonder, where is that spacey-looking Metro XFi? I hope it’s still on the road, still routinely getting 75 mpg without trying.