For the American motorist, pulling into a gas station in Caracas, Venezuela, for a fill-up would be like a flashback to the early 1960s, when cars had big fins and monster V-8 engines and turned the quarter-mile -- in a speedy 13 seconds.
Gasoline in that South American country is selling for 24 cents a gallon, according to a recent survey of worldwide prices by Runzheimer International, a Rochester, Wis.-based management consultant company that specializes in transportation.
Despite these seemingly unbelieveable prices, drivers in Venezuela are probably complaining. The cost of the least-expensive gasoline available there was 20 percent higher last month, when the Runzheimer study was done, than it was before Iraq's invasion of Kuwait last summer.
The study shows that although pump prices around the world have fallen sharply since December, they have not reached the levels enjoyed prior to the Persian Gulf war.
For example, in Milan, Italy, gas sold for $4.11 in June 1990, then rose to $4.86 by December. It has since dropped to $4.75.
Another example is Tokyo. Pre-war gas sold for $3.57 a gallon, and during the conflict prices rose to $4.45. Last month motorists were paying $4.27.
The United States is one of the few exceptions to this scenario, according to Lin P. Crandall, director of Runzheimer's international division. She said that for the most part, prices in the United States are at or slightly below pre-war levels.
In the Baltimore area, the price of regular no-lead gas at the self-service pump rose from $1.09 a gallon in June to a high of $1.43 in December before falling to $1.12 in March and $1.06 this month.
"Whether or not we like to admit it, we're pretty well off here in the U.S. as far as gasoline prices are concerned," said Ms. Crandall.
"Even though there is high demand, it continues to be relatively cheap."