Are old cars safe


YEP … the driver IS the key, no car takes the place of a competent driver, one with his eyes on the road, not a damm phone.



The cars are not unsafe, some drivers are. In 1959 our family went on a trip throughout the United States. We were in a new 1959 Ford Galaxie. My parents and all four kids, no seat belts, drum brakes, bias ply tires, four weeks without incident. My father was a very respectful, aware, conscientious driver. Obviously there are more people and more traffic now. I feel the problem is with driver education and technology. Here in California, if you wait until 18 you can get a license without any actual formal driver education. Everyone today expects their car to take care of them instead of them paying attention. When one is behind the wheel of a multi thousand pound car, they should be paying attention to driving and other peoples driving, not cell phones and computer screens. All the safety tech does not replace being a conscientious, respectful driver. People are still being killed in new vehicles with all the safety equipment and technology that the companies are coming up with.


Absolute CORRECT, this idea that your ‘safe’ in some modern piece of junk is pure bunk, all cars are potential death traps, just go ask the ones now dead, they ‘on the phone’ guys, the ‘texting all the time guys’, the ‘follow too close nitwits’, the ones more interested in taking than driving and the list goes on an on. Go ask any MN Highway Patrol guy what he’s seen, the guts and body parts lost in these ‘safe’ modern vehicles…

All the nuts are not on the steering wheel …



I’ve seen what is left of the Bel Air in the IIHS lobby, the brake is higher than the bench seat. Although new cars are much safer they go a lot faster. Driving in good conditions at reasonable speeds keeps our classic risk at acceptable levels.


Of course it’s unsafe…relative to modern cars. That’s not the point. The point is that I am enjoying my old car, motorcycle, aircraft whatever and I die… Well I died doing what I enjoyed and…I knew the risks…Jack


I love driving my 66 Olds. Unlike today’s cars, there are no big corner posts to block my view. New cars may make you safer when you get in an accident, but they also in some ways make it more likely that you will.


My first collector car in 2003 was a 1962 1/2 Corvair Monza convertible, which had front lap belts as a safety item. Nothing else. I felt fine about driving it for a few years, recognizing it was no more safe than, say, a motorcycle - and was ready to take that risk, using defensive driving techniques. Within a few years, it seemed the other drivers on the road forgot what that red octagon with STOP meant. I began to joke about a collapsible steering column is called a “sternum” and realized I did not feel safe anymore. Sold the 'vair, got a BMW with some safety equipment. Sold that, got a mid 1980’s American car with same safety equipment. Trouble is, other drivers on the road are getting to be SO BAD at paying attention, and even worse at tailgating (I never thought that would have been possible), I’m selling the car in the spring. As for self-driving cars? Not a chance. My home and work computers “crash” all the time. I’m not having a computer drive for me. How do you do defensive driving when you are in a pod? I’ve had to “drive for all the other cars on the road as well as myself” for almost 45 years now, I wish people would put their cell phones down and drive, but nothing short of a miracle will get that done. How about phones which can’t work at above about 5 mph walking pace? Unless 911 is dialed of course. -Glenn


Warren, really? It’s been said that ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’. IMO this would apply to you “cruising at 75” in a 36 Ford (see first post). YOU are the driver everyone else should be afraid of.
And to the person who would “put the steel of my 57 Chevrolet against the plastic of the Tesla” …you and anyone else in your car would almost certainly lose that contest as your head and other body parts would be bouncing off that steel even in a low-speed collision.
I love a leisurely drive in my 65+ year old car. But as a retired police Sgt. with 3.5 decades of experience to include accident investigator and reconstructionist as well as Emergency Vehicle Driver Instructor, I’m confident assuring you all that there is NO objective argument that our antique cars are safe when compared to their modern counterparts. And NO ONE is an infallible driver. NO ONE…not even Warren. Enjoy, be careful, but don’t fool yourself.


I have a 1965 Mustang - I realize it does not have the safety features of a modern car. That said - my experience is that drivers of classic cars of all kinds are the best, most attentive and safest drivers on the road - at any time. Ask any cop. They’ll tell you the person driving an old car realizes the inherent risks they face and they drive accordingly. We are not the problem. It’s the 20-something dingbat texting OMG’s to her nitwit friends or the rushed soccer mom with screaming kids in the backseat or the business man or woman trying to wrap a big deal on their cell phones that make the roadways unsafe. I added a non-standard 3rd brake light above the rear seat package tray to my classic in recognition of the modern driver dumbsh*ts that dominate the roads today.

Sorry to come off a little pissed about the situation but I’m just telling it like it is.


I can relate to your friend’s reaction. I’ve been driving a Tesla Model S for five years. It is the safest car ever tested by the federal government, achieving five stars in all crash categories. When Teslas are occasionally involved in head-on crashes, the occupants of the Tesla usually walk away without serious injury due to the large crush zone up front.

I own a 1940 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet as well. I added lap belts, but when I drive it I am always conscious of the lack of headrests and airbags. I’ve already survived one broken neck in my life (while skiing), so I’m quite aware of the risks.


I am extremely cautious these days. I drive my 1970 Porsche about 1000 country road miles every season and am aware that most pickups and SUVs would drive right over my car in a collision. I see distracted drivers everywhere, and I think that there should be laws about distracted driving that are similar to laws for impaired (DUI) driving.


I’ve had 4 old British cars (62 MGA, 67 TR4a, 74 Spitfire, 74 Midget) and I kept one, my 69 E-type. I survived a rollover (seat belts worn!!) in an Acura (tire went). The E came with 3 point seat belts and some safety features. I have redone the headlights, disc brakes and suspension. I’ve also taken two high performance driving courses at Bondurant’s out in AZ. It’s not so much that Jaguar that concerns me, (though it sits low enough that other drivers who don’t look carefully, sometimes don’t see me), but the lack of attention of drivers in ‘modern’ vehicles. They often drive like maniacs on wet/slippery roads ("Oh, I have four-wheel drive) and are talking/texting on their phones. I also fear that the addition of these newer ‘safety’ features, like the lane-change alert and automatic braking will escalate the lack of driver engagement with the task at hand. Are we dumbing-down the act of driving? I still drive stick and can parallel park. Are these to become useless skills? We also have a C7 Corvette and with that car, I do like the rear camera feature. However, it has the potential to easily be beyond the driving capability and skills of many drivers. So, I think it’s the driver that makes the difference, followed closely by a safe vehicle.


I drive a 1915 Model T Ford. Is that safe? The answer is complicated.

I figure the Tin Lizzie safety factor is not quite as good as that of a motorcycle because it doesn’t have the bike’s ability to accelerate sharply, stop quickly or maneuver radically to avoid a dangerous situation.

Secondary to the above is the matter of wood-spoke wheels. The deep potholes lurking in springtime shadows can rattle your vertebral column clear up to your teeth, or if you hit a real deep one, smash a brass car’s wooden spokes to kindling. You have to pay attention all the time.

And then there are other things like the Tin Lizzie’s tippy high center of gravity, and frontal crash protection is practically non-existent. I use the word, “practically,” here because once upon a time, when a musician, I owned a 1961 Volkswagen Bus, the frontal crash protection of which consisted of a headlight and a pair of sunglasses, and so, incredibly, was even worse than that of a brass horseless carriage. Come to think of it, when carrying a Hammond B3, Leslie, various guitars, amps and a load of hippies, braking action was also worse than that of the aforementioned Flivver. That this rolling blood-box could actually attain highway speeds—albeit only after the passage of an impressive interval—was perhaps indicative of a residual desire on the part of the Germans to knock off a few more Americans, and testament to the belief in invincibility only possessed by youth. It’s entertaining to imagine that by, instead, tootling around town in a Model T Ford, I’ve actually increased my odds of survival. Go figure, huh?

But seriously, folks; if your Model T takes a hard hit by another car, the people aboard the antique are going to be significantly injured or worse. And it’s not just the Ford Flivver. Pretty much all of the Brass-Era cars are in the same safety category and you can pick nits off a gnat’s knuckles over whether it would have been worse to smack that concrete overpass with a fully pressurized Stanley Steamer as opposed to a Tin Lizzie, so a discussion about which horseless carriage deserves the undisputed #1 spot for lack of safety reminds me of a saying popular among antique airplane owners: “The Piper Cub is the safest airplane in the sky; it can only just barely kill you.”

Okay, okay; maybe there were a few exceptions which had 4-wheel brakes, but other than that, most if not all of the Brass-Era designs can be lumped into the same safety—or lack of it—category. Yeah, in the modern context, we do things like add electric brake lights and maybe turn-signals, which improves the odds, but doesn’t come close to the warm, fuzzy embrace of an SUV with a padded dash, crumple-zones, collapsible steering column, air-bags, shoulder-harnesses, etc.

On the other hand, safety statistics generated by antique cars compare quite favorably to that of modern cars and the general consensus is that the owners of old iron tend to be very mature, very careful, very conservative drivers. That would tell me that the most effective safety feature is located between the ears. In a Model T, safety depends on unfaltering, red-alert vigilance and the extreme visibility of a very attention-getting, rolling curiosity which, by its very incongruous appearance, is almost impossible for other drivers not to notice.


Driving a 1966 olds f-85 during a minor Exhibition of Speed, came upon Rail Road Tracks
With a blind drop-off. Well I beat the other car to the crossing and did a Dukes of Hazzard.
And dove away with only minor scratching and some stuck on Black Top.
And sitting on my Seat Belts. Try that with a Newer car.


I feel safe driving my classic car. I grew up with and learned to drive on these cars from the 60’s and 70’s so they don’t scare me. My father taught us how to drive safely and with common sense plus he raced cars in the SCCA so we had a great teacher. On his tool chest that I now have there is a bumper sticker that reads: “High performance cars don’t kill-low performance drivers do”. I think that says it all!


I drive my 1937 Buick Roadmaster to several shows each season, some as far as 65 miles away. Most of the trip is on freeways - here 80 mph racetracks. I cruise ay 6o and stay in the right lane. Because the car looks different than the rubber-stamp modern ones, I feel that I am seen and therefore relatively safe. Nothing like a 7 foot tall car to get noticed.


I drive several classics: 1997 BMW 840Ci, 1989 BMW 635CSi and a 1980 Ferrari 308 GTS (EURO). I feel safe in the Beemers, they are designed with crash zones. The Ferrari is probably the least safe and also has the fewest gadgets to play with. This means no distractions when listening to the howl of the engine and rowing through 5 gears. I find myself paying much more attention to other drivers in the Ferrari. Drivers generally seem to “see” a red Ferrari.


Right on !!!



I purchased a 1961 Corvette in June 2016 and had a few improvements. Had fuel injection, power steering, power brakes, and air conditioning, and radial tires and a passenger side rear view mirror installed. The rest is original. Do I feel safe…absolutely. Just has a lap seat belt and I am fine with that. The new technology in the newer cars kind of scares me. First of all it takes away from human control and responses… got to use our brain…don’t use it we lose it. Drivers just may be too relaxed and rely upon the technology instead of their own judgement. And just like all technology…things can go wrong…The more they put into a car the more that can go wrong… Don’t want to be driving 75mph and the technology decides to stop because of a chip malfunction. I do like the rear-view camera option…that is a good improvement…but the driver is still in control to some degree and has to use their brain.


Don’t kid yourself … you can die in ANY car, I see it on the news every night. It’s not the car, it’s your ability to drive like it says in the book.