Do you feel safe in your classic car?


As we approach the 52nd anniversary of Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed, which hit bookstores on November 30, 1965, and look back at our recent investigation into Nader’s safety concerns about the Corvair, a question came up in the Hagerty Forums that is ever-present in the classic car world: Do you feel safe in your classic car?

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2017/11/29/feel-safe-in-your-classic-car


I own a 1972 Mustang Mach 1 and no I don’t feel safe when driving it. Constantly worrying about the steering, no air bags and the seat belts. Hard to adjust to after driving a pickup truck. Hopefully over time I will feel safer.


I owned a 1972 Morris Mini. Being an unusual car I had so many people creep up to my bumper and come uncomfortably close to me to get a good view or to actually take pictures at 65 miles an hour. The car did have shoulder harnesses, but I often wondered if I might be better off being thrown from the car rather than being squished by a jacked up pick up. 1500 lbs vs 5000 lbs, I would lose every time. It was a great ride. My Morgan 4/4 is at least as dangerous if not more so. You can’t be too cautious.


I own a 1987 BMW 325i 5 speed. No airbags or fancy electronic devices, After driving automatics for years I find that driving a more demanding car has actually improved my skills and sharpened my defensive driving techniques. Driving the 325i is almost as good as the car I drove in my 20’s: a 1969 Fiat 124 Sport Coupe.


I have a 1972 Pantera. I don’t feel safe driving it around Denver CO anymore as the roads are too congested, the drivers clueless, and not wanting the car damaged. Selling it in the spring - it was a blast but it needs to go to another home


I own a Porsche 930, I definitely do not feel as safe if I were to get into a crash as I am in my daily driver (a 2017 Toyota Tacoma Truck). However the reason I think the roads are less safe is that it seems to me that less and less people are paying attention to driving and more and more attention to their smart phones. I live near San Francisco, we have way too many drivers that I seriously wonder how they got their license. As a result I tend to stay away from other cars as much as possible, and mostly drive on the single lane country roads on the outskirts of my town. I think the biggest issue is smart phones, I think they’ve made a ton of people in capable of paying attention.


My current vintage car is a 1973 Mercedes 280 SEL 4.5. While I don’t feel as safe as in my Audi Allroad, I do feel safer than in some other vintage cars I have owned. For starters, it has three point belts. And Mercedes was already well into designing their cars with crush zones by 1973. Plus it is a fairly big car. Overall, I don’t worry about the safety issue when driving it.


I feel very safe in my old cars. They are in good shape and very capable to drive at the speed limits. One car does not have seat belts but I drive very carefully. I will never feel comfortable in an autonomous car. How will they ever have cars driving themselves on the 401 highway. Authorities keep talking about driver inattention but new cars have more distracting features than ever. My computers always seem to have something wrong with them and then become obsolete in short time. I don’t want any computer driving my car. I won’t ever buy a new car again. There are too many unnecessary features and are over priced. What scares me are the drivers on their phones! I see that everyday.


I don’t feel very safe in any car with the way most drivers are today. Almost everyone is paying attention to something other than driving and the newer cars give them a false sense of security. I love driving my 1970 Corvette Convertible, but I always stay away from heavily traveled roads in fear for damage to my car or me.

I wish there were more old cars on the road because I know those drivers would be doing the one thing they should be doing behind the wheel…driving.


I have two classic cars - 1990 Mercedes 300SE and a 1966 Corvair Monza 110. I must admit that I have never felt threatened in my Corvairs (I’ve had 3). I drove my 2nd from the Chicago-area to Oklahoma City in 1972 and all around OKC for about a year and back home again. The closest I have ever felt to be unsafe was in OKC when an older driver in a ’57 Chevy in the left lane decided to exit the highway and I went with him.
With my current cars I never feel unsafe as where I currently live I am usually the only car on the road.


Not as much as I’d like. Mine is an 87 Porsche Carrera which is still a great car. However, I have a Subaru Outback with all the safety features you could want from a modern car. The Eyesight system is wonderful. I know I can put a back up camera on any classic car, but I wish I could retrofit some more safe add ons. So far I replaced the lighting system with new LED system. I was driving faster that I could see before, but not now.
If you know of other aftermarket safety systems that I can add, let me know.


I own a 1959 Porsche Conv. D. I bought it in 1965 and have been driving it ever since. I’ve never considered it being “unsafe”. I’ve added seat belts just to keep us in the seats on spirited drives. I try not to use any expressways. You, the driver, must make your own decision. If you don’t feel safe, get rid of it. An unsafe feeling makes you a hazard to yourself and everyone else. My concern is with the drivers who depend so much on the current “safety devices” that they no longer feel the obligation to give their full attention to the “job” of driving an automobile, no mater what the year.


well, it’s all relative. my 66 Lotus Elan feels safer than my Vulcan motorcycle.
There’s ALWAYS more fun doing things that involve some type of risk, otherwise nobody would ski, ride motorcycles, or fly private planes for fun. all of which I have done and enjoyed immensely…


Only to a point…
I have a 69 international pickup and when I drive it on the highways the newer car drivers expect it to have the power steering, power brakes and suspension they have!
They either crowd it to get a better look or cut in front and expect the 48 year old heavyweight to stop as quickly as they can!

Sure I have the tonnage but no airbags to cushion that very abrupt stop.


Of course, we aren’t as safe in our classic cars as we are in modern cars with all the bells and whistles. I try to minimize the risk, knowing it can’t be eliminated totally in any car. The risk of driving a classic car as a daily driver year around is out of the question, for us. We carefully consider the weather, the time of day, the traffic, and the road conditions to improve the chances of a safe journey. Our '64 Studebaker Avanti and Daytona are kept in excellent driving condition but we are always conscious of their limitations. As drivers, we have upgraded their tires, wheels, brakes and lighting. We aren’t kidding ourselves, we are only lessening the risk, not removing it.
Old cars are fun to drive, but we can’t drive them the way we used to anymore. That would be tempting fate.


My biggest concern is not my vintage cars, but the other drivers. “The way people drive” is the biggest threat to my safety; not my car’s lack of modern safety features.

I always allow extra space for braking and stay situationally very aware. The greatest safety device is the driver.


I’m somewhat surprised by the responses here. I expected a higher level of driver competence and confidence. I never feel unsafe in any vehicle I’m driving, new or old. I do recommend adding seat belts to ANY car. They can be installed discreetly to be hidden or removable for shows. Having road raced karts for a bunch of years, I can attest to how high and far one can be thrown at even moderate (40/50mph) speeds, so please take the time to be able to buckle up and USE THEM. Otherwise, my only concern is with the vast majority of “other guys” out there who shouldn’t be allowed on the road for any reason. I’ve driven through a lot of sketchy situations in my life (I’m 70 now) and the only accidents I haven’t been able to avoid were on the track where pushing the limit is the rule. On the street I use my experience from the track to control the situation around me and avoid driving near any obvious jackwagon. It’s not the cars or any road that give me pause, I’ll drive 'em all on any of 'em. “Ban low performance drivers, not high performance cars”.


Feeling safe is a relative thing. My 1991 454SS pickup feels safer than my tiny 2015 Honda CR-Z but is it really? Does it matter? When I’m riding my Harley I need to be more careful because of other drivers but I’m never afraid to ride it.


We have several “Classic cars” from a '67 Lincoln, a '74 Karmann Ghia covert, a 69 & '70 MGB and a '71 Opel GT.
All with a various degree of “feeling safe”. But I learned to drive in a Bugeye Sprite back in the 60’s when all American iron was hugh. It made me a better and safer driver as I couldn’t afford to be hit with do little car protecting me.


I agree with many of the previous posts. There are too many distracted drivers on today’s roads and highways. Plus, many appear to have never had a driver’s education course or are simply rude, inconsiderate, and/or impatient. Thus, I try to avoid interstates and peak traffic congestion times when driving my Triumph TR-6. I always practice defensive driving but that does not mean some idiot cannot take you out in a heartbeat. Safe travels to everyone.