Do you feel safe in your classic car?


I was thinking about this just a few days ago. I took my 1949 Austin Devon Saloon on a little 3 mile trip to our local Scottish bakery. It was awful. Impatient (often holding their beloved cell phones to one ear) drivers cutting in and out to get past me, rushing ahead so that they can stop at the red light at the next intersection, tailgating and so forth. In the meantime, I am dodging potholes and construction cones, and trying to find a space to move into the left turn lane. My car has modern turn signals, a working trafficator and my left arm straight out the window, but no one seems to notice or care. I drove back home on side streets, a stop sign at every city block and still encounter some boob who just has to pass me, even though I am already going 2 or 3 MPH over the speed limit. It was 40 degrees outside but my palms were sweating. I would say that at least 50% of the cars on the road around my home are distracted and another 25% are inexperienced or poorly trained.

I wouldn’t say that I’m a wuss, as described above. I’m just an experienced defensive driver. I have never felt the need to be cocooned in a safety bubble. I don’t particularly like antilock brakes (on any vehicle) and my little Austin doesn’t need power steering or brakes. Besides the turn signals, my only other concession to modernity is radial tires. That way, when I hit a pothole or some uneven surface, at least I will generally be facing the same direction when I come back down to earth.

My daily driver is an '03 Ford F-150 pickup. Yesterday, I was going down the expressway about 5 over the 70 MPH limit when I was passed by a car going at least 85 or 90. Several miles ahead, the same car was going 55 and weaving all around. When I passed it, I could see the driver with a smart phone in one hand right in front of the face, texting away. Even if we fix the phone problem by making them impossible to use at more than 5 MPH, we will still have huge video displays, people hollering at kids in the back seat, and big dogs romping around on the front seat.

Add to that, for the privilege of driving my two old cars less than 50 miles a year, I pay $533.00 for insurance and get a raft of resentment from my working wife who has to park her car in the driveway all winter. I really think that I am going to sell one, or both, of them. What you can’t enjoy driving, isn’t worth hiding in the garage.


@pam.induni - That is an interesting company you have going. Always good to have people like yourself keeping an eye towards the future so we can continue to enjoy the past!


I own a 1952 Studebaker and a 1960 Edsel. I had the Studebaker upgraded to 1962 Studebaker brakes because 1952 brakes did not stop the car on steep hills. That is not safe at all. Now it stops down hill! (Not all that well, but well enough to use it traffic when driven sensibly).
The Edsel’s brakes are dead stock. Non power, drum. Neither have seat belts because they were not made with them. I try to keep my classics as close to true stock as I can (within reason).
The Edsel has power steering and AC so it goes on cross country trips. I have no fear when driving it. It has been in many accidents (none with me at the wheel, and none in the last 20 years) and every time the other cars have crumpled while mine just got a cosmetic ouchie.
Driving classics safely mostly depends on driving style, not technology. You have to allow your car’s stopping distance between vehicles on interstates. You have to pay attention to what the guy passing you on your left with a cell phone out the window, to take your picture, is doing. You have to drive in a way that is within that vehicle’s abilities. You have to keep up with maintenance. Everything has to work like it did in 1952 and 1960.
You can’t let the windshield wipers not work because you are not planning to use it in rain.
I feel safe because I understand the vehicle limitations, and don’t try to make it act like a 2017 car.
These cars worked just fine when they were new and they still can. But it is you, not the car’s design/equipment that makes it safe.


I always feel safe driving whatever car I may be in, because I feel confident in MY driving. It is the other crazy people that scare me. I’ve almost been hit at least 5 times in the last several months driving a '93 Corvette to work.

Even when I drive my '55 Corvette (which drives like a truck, no power anything) it is always the other people that I am watching for, and as many have said, the cell phone distraction is usually the cause. I leave space, and inevitably, someone cuts in front of me and slams on their brakes. I haven’t driven the '55 to work at all this year, because people out there are not paying attention and I don’t want to have my car totaled. I will take it out to somewhere that I don’t think there will be too much traffic though, and then we can have some fun!


MGB here…I’m fine for a drive on country roads . The car is underpowered and brakes are so so…but on an interstate , the feeling is fear and panic…too small …too slow…nothing like being at tire height as a semi rolls by…avoid at all costs.


I agree with you @ssgdundee. I look to keep my classic driving where I know it fits within the flow of traffic. My classic wasn’t built 50 years ago with the intention of running 70 mph down the interstate. Doesn’t mean it can’t do everything a modern car can, but operating outside its design constraints is a certain kind of brave.


mines a 1971 dodge charger, i thing you just need to know how to drive an older car and have a good idea how the performance of your classic differs from a modern car and drive as defensively as you can without being paranoid. you cant go tearing around in these old cars anymore, the only thing they do well is make smoke when you brake torque them :slight_smile:


'91 Lotus Elan M100 is my classic. I scan my mirrors diligently - always concerned with large pickups/SUVs tailgating, and “drivers” looking down at their phones - but if the road ahead is open, accelerating out of their “target” works well.

I’ve also modified my center high mounted stoplight to take LED bulbs, and have added a flasher module to this unit. Might be a bit annoying to those following in stop-and-go traffic, but at least they know I’m there!


I generally avoid highways with my 1961 XKE. The back roads are more fun. I make sure to keep it well maintained especially the brakes. I had to drive in traffic on Rt. 95 yesterday and was tailgated by a semi. Nothing was visible in my mirrors except his bumper and a bit of his grill. I guess he was checking out the car. I pulled over to let him pass and maybe bother the line of cars I was following. I expect this when driving and don’t let it bother me too much.


Yes, because I’m driving (in control). I have had three vintage '69 cars. A Corvette and two Mustangs. The Corvette and the Mustang SportsRoof both had optional 3 point seat belts which I never used. The Vette was a 4 speed and the cross chest belts restricted my ability to shift and the belts on the Mustang were secured to the headliner with clips over the door which were impossible to refold if you ever used them. People today are used to having the car’s safety equipment compensate for their poor driving habits. My current '69 Mustang convertible has been driven across country and back at least once with nothing but a rag top and lap belts. I’m not afraid to drive it in the least.


Yes, I absolutely feel safe in my classic. I know it’s limitations and mine. Unfortunately, it’s the morons driving around me that tend to make situations unsafe. I’ve told my kids any time you drive, be defensive, expect other drivers to be poor drivers and act accordingly.


I own a 1983 Porsche 911SC. I never feel totally safe out on busy roads. I make every effort to avoid busy traffic times and places. The amount of unskilled, as well as distracted drivers on the road is amazing. Being that the 911 rear break lights are so low to the ground and so many people drive SUV’s,I installed a red LED strip in the upper back window so I’m more visible.


So any car is a dangerous car in the wrong hands? Precisely as it pertains to the mass of cars surrounding me on the congested roads of the Bay Area. Speeding, unsafe lane changes, running red light, cell phone use and on and on. I can account for my driving in my five old cars but I can no longer count on all the cars around me as it is now too many. I have no problem with the reliability of my cars whatsoever but feel safer in general traffic while driving my far more nimble and quicker 2004 Focus. Imagine some nut cutting me off in my 65 F-100 or 68 Mustang with drum brakes? Consequently it is getting harder to find decent times the cars can be driven.


No, I don’t feel safe in my MGB but that doesn’t mean I don’t drive it and enjoy it. I drive defensively and try to not put myself into situations with no out. Unfortunately one can’t account for the actions of every stupid driver out there. If you haven’t, take a look at some of the car crash videos on YouTube and you will see many instances of things happening with no warning whatsoever. I don’t dwell on this but I know if I am in an accident in my classic car I am less likely to survive or avoid serious injury than I would in a modern car.


I drive a 1941 Plymouth Coupe. No safety accessories came with the car other than anemic brakes and a fancy dual-tone horn. After market turn signals were added at some point.
I do feel somewhat safe in this car because it is a car that feels right when it is going less than 45-50 mph. I avoid taking it onto the highway. I haven’t added seat belts yet, but probably should to avoid hitting the un-padded dash.


I drive a 1974 Porsche 914 with a stock 1987 911 Carrera engine with original fuel system. It is matched to a rebuilt 901 transaxle with gear changes (A,F,O,X, flipped H) to match needed shifting and driving elements of the engine. Front suspension, steering, brakes, torsion bars, etc are Carrera parts (everything rebuilt), 21mm sway bar, red Koni adjustable shocks; rear is red Koni shocks adjustable with adjustable perches, stock rear 16mm sway bar, Carrera brakes with modified e-brake cables, 110 CV joints, Sway-A-Way drive axles; cup II 17inch 7.5 rims front and Cup II 117 rims 9.5 rims in rear; BF Goodrich tires on all corners; 911 spare tire (Carrera), Elephant Racing suspension bronze/grease zert fitting; etc.

I am always wondering if all the changes made to the car have any weak areas that may come up while driving. The historic problems with Porsche shifting always comes to mind when driving. I only drive the car on the open roadways during light traffic and always headed immediately out of the city to the open roads. This creates the problem of breakdowns which I have had considerable ones while troubleshooting the car during development. Another question comes up since I originally was building the car for some track/auto crossing which involves returning the car more to the street rather than the race track (Did I get all the race track elements out of the car to where it is safe for the street. It does handle like a go-cart.


My feelings about antique auto safety are very personal to me. I have a dear friend that lost his life driving home his 1936 Ford coupe from a car show. His 36 Ford coupe was no piece of junk. It was very well cared for and he would drive it to his Florida home in the winter and back to his Maryland home in the summer. His life was ended when a careless speeding motorist crossed the center line and hit him head on while driving a Toyota Corolla. During the trial the careless driver said that it was not his fault the other driver wasn’t driving a newer safer car. **LET THAT COMMENT SINK IN FOR A MOMENT. Since this horrible accident happened I have been relentless about my comments on antique car safety. I feel that using the very best safety equipment currently available for our antique cars and trucks is a must. And if a show judge takes off points for installed safety equipment shame on them. Drive safe and enjoy your antique car or truck with confidence. Here is a link about the accident. https://www.marylandcaraccidentattorneyblog.com/2011/01/annapolis_man_gets_6_months_fo.html


Geeze, After reading all of these comments there seem to be more classics that real Classics, as recognized by the CCCA. I drive a Classic. No, I do not feel as safe driving my 1937 Cord Beverly as I do in my 2017 vehicles. However, it is all relative. Having a rebuilt brake system, adding a high mounted stop lamp, and turn signals only make me feel better. I do know that I drive much different than when in the newer vehicles. I look further down the road, watch 360 degrees, watch cross streets and driveways, yet it is the car next to me and on either side that I have to be aware of. they gawk, wave, take pictures and relax their attention to driving. I know I do not drive as safely when I’m in newer vehicles with all the, built in safty equiptment, I just relax a bit.
I must admit, I have to hold the Cord back as it can run right up to 90 MPH, which is not good for an 80 year lod gal. H. Payne


Perhaps it’s blind ignorance on my part, but yes, I do…at least I feel safe in two of my three collector cars. I’ve personally gone through the braking, suspension, and steering systems of all of my cars, so I know they’re in tip-top shape. The two I feel safe in both have four-wheel drum brakes, and it’s the one that has front discs that scares me partially because I can’t lock the wheels up like I can in the drum-brake cars. As long as I’m confident in the abilities of the car, and as long as I’ve done everything I can do to reduce my own error, I feel safe. When I don’t know the car or I can’t get a read on how it’ll handle, whether modern or vintage, I don’t.


According to IIHS, my young timer, has a lower death rate, which means that it is safer, (both, passive safety and active safety), than the current model!

You cannot accept it, I know.

So, please, have a look:

#1: Passat b35i, passive safety:


#2: Passat b35i, active safety:


The above for the 2wd edition. The 4wd, (valid for, almost, all the cars), is up to 50% safer.

Please have a look: