I have a 1960 Austin Healey 3000 and frankly I have never thought about being unsafe when driving. I generally don’t drive on the freeway, but I wouldn’t really hesitate doing it and have many times. I live in southern California and so I can drive anytime (pretty much). I might drive 10-15 miles, 3 or 4 days a week, usually on residential, albeit, twisty back roads or city streets. I did put 3 point seat belts in when I restored it and that gives me some feeling of safely. These cars don’t stop as well as newer cars, so I try not to follow too closely. I try to stay aware of my surroundings and anticipate things, but I as you get older (and many of us are older) reflexes aren’t what they once were. Be safe out there.
Yes it is, and the photo is actually from the show. Great eyes!
Yes. I have two classic Mercedes-Benz cars, both were built with “crumple zones” in the body design. The 1965 230SL with the hardtop on is considered as strong as a coupe–and could be taken on a racetrack if were so inclined. The 1969 280S sedan was the “S-Class” in its day and with head restraints and full seat and shoulder belts leaves me comfortable driving on the road. Are either of them as safe as my 2015 or 2017 Mercedes-Benz vehicles? No. But they are driven differently, at different times of the day, on weekends, etc., so that I continue to feel safe for the conditions.
I love my '57 Chevy Delray, but the single master cylinder and lack of any safety equipment other than the lap belts I installed scares the hell out of me. I once lost the brakes on my old '55 wagon coming up to a redlight so the fear is real. That time the emergency brake worked! (Remember when we called them emergency brakes and not parking brakes?)
No, I grew up with the old cars, common sense provides the unsafe feeling. As far as surviving youth, yeah I wonder too, but remember not every kid then DID survive car accidents. Funny thing is, I started wearing seatbelts as soon as my dad bought a car that had them, I wasn’t told to, I did it automatically. Even today I feel funny moving a car without fastening a seatbelt first.
Modern cars seem to make drivers less connected to their “duties” behind the wheel and, for some, more carless because their vehicle offer such “effortless” control. Avoiding trouble is as much a part of driving as operating the vehicle. Generally, I drive with a keen awareness for the traffic around me. It automatically steps up a bit when driving my classic cars as operating them is a more interactive experience. I certainly feel safer in any of my cars that I would on a motorcycle, bicycle or on foot.
I’ve got a 1966 Jaguar 3.8S and a 1982 Mercedes 380sl for classics. My wife uses the Mercedes daily, feels very safe in it, but does miss the ABS and traction control of a modern car. My Jag has 4 wheel disc brakes, 4 wheel independent suspension, and 3 point seat belts front and back (I was going to figure how to mount them in the outside rear seats, but the mountings were factory installed in 1965!). So I feel pretty safe in it, but it still has a single circuit braking system, so I am looking for a solution to fit a dual circuit. I had a brake line let go, and I’d prefer the backup of a second circuit. Luckily, I noticed the brake drain on a side road, and avoided a possible accident. Growing up we had an MG Midget, MG 1100, Austin America, Datsun 510, and BMW 1600. One brother had an Austin A40 and Sunbeam Talbot, the other had an Austin Healey 3000. The Midget was my mother’s daily driver. We love the older cars, lots of character.
Being safe while driving a car that is over a hundred years old is a challenge. You must watch your surroundings, be in tune with your vehicles limitations and always be aware that old components can fail without notice.The steering is not great. The brakes are not as efficient as modern cars. I always try to be ready for the unexpected and that can go a long way toward keeping me and my car safe. However, I find that the greatest danger I face is not my old car’s shortcomings, but instead, it is the shortcomings of admiring drivers who come up along side of me at 35 or 40 miles an hour to wave and take pictures. I have had several close calls when they inadvertently crowd my lane and almost push me off the road. Although I love the car hobby and the enthusiasm and joy that other people have for old cars, I do wish that the folks who are driving modern cars would regard driving as more of a challenge so we can all enjoy the experience with greater safety.
Feel safe ? Safe ? Yes, even with the flaws, living and driving in the greatest country on the planet beats Rome,
Karachi, Tokyo…or navigating busy round-a-bouts, RHD, in the UK. Being car-jacked in the USA is a more pleasant outcome.
By allowing sufficient space, when stopped at intersections, you’re less likely to sustain front end damage vs. the less costly rear end repair (except Porsche).
The most dangerous driver is the distracted tailgater, massaging a personal electronic device, aiming for your bumper. Even if she’s cute.
To paraphrase the late FDR, “our greatest fear is the rear itself”.
I have confidence in my cars and my driving. It’s the other drivers in regular cars that make me feel unsafe. So I do find myself taking alternate routes to work when I drive a classic vehicle. A pleasant side effect of this is avoiding the rat race and enjoying the drive again.
As far as safety features go, good suspension, brakes and of course safety belts go along way for me. I had a '69 F100 with drum brakes and lap belts. It had an overdrive transmission retrofitted into it which would allow it to cruise at 75 effortlessly, but man that was scary. On the other hand, my third gen Camaros are confidence inspiring with 4 wheel disc brakes, low center of gravity, handling upgrades, and shoulder belts. You can even find crash test videos for the f-bodies on YouTube and they do pretty well.
I have a 1979 Mercedes Benz 300 SD, with 350 thousand miles on the odometer. It was originally an American Embassy car; fitted with bullet proof windows, a half inch armor plated steel sides and a turbo diesel engine. I drive it into the country of Mexico every year, where I am contracted as a DEA agent and return with no problems. Being that there is no computer, or electronic items, repairs are done locally, if needed. I just had a problem with the vacuum pump which supplies the cruise control operation, shutting off the engine when the key is removed, and the A/C controls. Because this car is 40 years old, this pump is no longer made. No problem cut up a bike tire and you have the diaphragms for the valves.
Is it safe? Well when I ride in the newer cars, it is quieter, more luxurious, the power windows move quicker, but, there is nothing like the sound of my heavy massive doors as they shut tight and securely.
Need body work, no problem, had the car touched up for $200.00 U.S. Dollars and it looks brand new.
I have driven through fields, ruts, roads that do not look like a road, corn fields chasing growers, been shot at and the only thing I need, is a new rear window.
So if you ever see a white 300SD in the West Palm Beach area say hello, can’t miss it, as it has Special Mexican plates and it does have duel citizen as the title reads both American and Mexican use.
Captain Joseph L. Naselli
I have a 1957 Austin Healey. I have added 3-point seat belts, a roll bar, dual-circuit disc brakes and brighter tail/brake lights. I know the condition of my car. I pay attention when I drive just like when I drive my more modern vehicles. I feel fine, and am comfortable on freeways as well as back roads
Watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPF4fBGNK0U
Sorry to say this, but how safe you feel may be irrelevant.
I own 1962 Karmann Ghia convertible and 1976 Scout II not top no a convertible.
We all know the old cars are not save but that is the risk of a classic.
I own 3 classics 2 of which have 3 point seatbelts. The other my 71 Corvette roadster simply has a lap belt. The first 2 I feel quite safe in most of the time however the Vette is a 4 speed and requires far more driving interaction. I travel less populated roads most of the time but still cruise the city. Drive safe, pay attention and enjoy. At the end of the day in the Vette I feel safe enough but not as safe as the other 2, and not near as safe as in my newer daily driver… Then again that is part of the fun !!
I don’t worry about driving my classic cars in traffic. It’s a little like riding a motorcycle, you have to accept the risks.
Also, I drive my old cars and moderns exactly the same way, go with the flow and drive defensively.
Some of my cars are well over 100 years old and have wooden bodies, no front brakes etc. Of course they aren’t safe and frankly never were. It doesn’t help that we share the road with young women staring at their phones etc. My wife and I have each been hit while stopped in modern cars by them and if it had been in one of the old cars we’d be dead. Funny thing is I fly my own plane and my wife has been asked if she isn’t afraid to ride with me on cross country trips. She says it’s a lot safer than the old cars.
We have old cars ranging from Model A’s to Shelby’s, drive them all in good weather and have toured extensively, mostly in our 1937 and 1958 Bentley’s. The ONLY “old” car I have felt unsafe in was our 4000 Series 427 SC Cobra, even though it had harnesses and a roll bar. With that much power (650hp) and very little weight besides the engine, it was a blast, but you felt like you should be wearing a helmet while driving it on the street!
I still am careful about when and where (no grocery store parking lots, please!) I drive them, probably more so these days, but when they sit, they break, so drive on, keeping in mind that the cellphone is for calling the truck when you break down and not much else.
Kyle – thanks for writing this article – totally spot on! The challenge with classic cars is that they are just that - classic. Enthusiasts choose to drive 50 year old vehicles, designed for 50 year old road conditions, with 50 year old technology and abilities - and all in a changing automotive world. That said, there are roughly 7M classics registered in the U.S. alone (as measured by IHS Markit), owned by people who desperately want to continue to drive their cars.
My husband and I co-founded a company called Classic Automotive Innovations that brings cutting-edge technology to classics and hot rods. This comment isn’t a product pitch; we simply wanted readers to know that as classic enthusiasts ourselves, our goal is to make classics more safe, driveable and reliable - to keep these pieces of history on the road. We are currently deep in the midst of R&D to bring solutions focused on safety to enthusiasts. In fact, we’ve been invited to the North America International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit in January to participate as 1 of 50 startups in the AutoMobili-D Techstars area. While there, we’ll be showcasing our future solution for Connected/Safety technology for our classics.
At the risk of geeking out a bit here, we believe that ADAS and V2X technologies are game changers for 25-100 year old vehicles (ADAS: Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, and V2X - a form of technology that allows vehicles to communicate with moving parts of the traffic system around them.) Retrofitting classics will not only allow a ‘play nice/here I am’ scenario in cities, but will offer gravely needed safety solutions for highway and rural driving. However, retrofitting a 1929 Packard, 1963 MGB, or 1975 Camaro is completely different from retrofitting a 2004 Audi. Our unique niche is understanding how to seamlessly blend both the old and new tech. We are creating custom bundled hardware and software solutions to integrate ADAS/V2X technology into these classics and hot rods. By providing lane departure warnings, here I am beacons, etc., suddenly city streets, mega store parking lots, and curvy roads become much less hazardous to 25-100 year old vehicles that will never conform to current safety and crash standards. Our tagline says it all – Past, meet Future. Pam Induni, CMO, Classic Automotive Innovations