Salt is killing my sports car this winter, and I’ve made peace with that

To be a car enthusiast in the Midwest is to live in perpetual fear of oxidation. When local Craigslist posts indicate “No Rust,” it usually means there’s corrosion the owner doesn’t know about or hopes you won’t notice. I once looked at a “no rust” fourth-gen Firebird whose underbody was scaling; when I drove it down the dirt road the owner lived on, the steering wheel—like, the whole wheel—flopped about in my hands. “Some rust” usually indicates the car shouldn’t be driven. I even pointed out “some rust” on the rear shock towers of my first car, a Grand Prix GTP. It nevertheless sold within hours of posting.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/02/27/winter-salt-is-killing-my-na-miata

Ah, makes me miss my beloved Jag X-type. When I bought it I said I was going to drive it until it broke in half! Well, 15 years of Michigan road salt had it just about ready to! It was so rusty under the rockers and around suspension mounting points it had to go. I traded it in (for a Cadillac ATS) because I wouldn’t have sold it to anyone to drive. I hope that dealership didn’t either!

Please explain about caulking seams and other rust-preventive measures in detail. I just bought a beautiful, solid, sound 79 Eldo and want to p rotect it. Thanks!

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I couldn’t agree more with you, David.
I drive my 2005 Pontiac GTO (6-speed) 12 months a year and the thought of driving some winter beater is abhorrent. It’s like, “Winter is bad enough, why make it worse by driving a POS?”
Yes, in the snow of New England 400hp, 450 lb-ft and a 6-speed even on Blizzaks is a consciousness altering experience. “Alert” barely begins to describe my attention to the Goat in the snow. I’ve driven it up I-95 in a blizzard. It took an hour and two well-filled glasses of Irish whisky to calm my nerves enough to go to sleep, even exhausted from snowblowing my driveway so I could get it off the street in the middle of the night.
I’ve been under it on a lift and can see the peeling Australian suspension steel as it slowly returns to the earth.
There’s a certain satisfaction in driving something most people wouldn’t think of driving at all, a rear wheel drive performance car, in the snow while watching AWD SUVs slither off into the weeds.
And I’ll drive it 'til it croaks, because driving it is what it’s all about. I’m already looking for its successor.
I did the same with a 1st generation Miata years ago, until the floors got so rotten I risked driving like Barney Rubble with my feet dragging on the ground.
Keep the faith!

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Truer words were never spoken. The car I drive every day is my future classic that I take care of as I go. I stay on top of all the maintenance issues and look forward to the fun stuff like getting new upgraded tires and shopping for performance goodies. To me a car is the medium that takes you through life’s adventures. Why leave it in a garage for 8 months? We all know cars are meant to be driven. Engines want to run and tires are meant to move. I look forward to a little enjoyment each day before and after work. In the end you can either drive it till the wheels fall off or decide to restore it … so long as you get another car that gets your blood pumping daily along with the engine oil.

‘how I can drive a rust-free future classic in the snow’.

The answer is that its no longer a rust-free future classic. As collector I wouldn’t touch a snow driven vehicle to buy as collectible.

I struggle with driving fun cars in the winter. I have bought two low production vehicles rust free daily drivers to drive in the snow only to feel guilty and end up getting another car as winter beater. I can’t save them all, but I have to sacrifice one.

I drove my 93 Miata daily back around 2005 because it was insured as a daily driver, and my winter car, a 1985 Mercedes 190E 2.3, died on Valentines day. I bought a set of 4 used studded snows on Miata rims and hit the winter roads of Connecticut. Miata Is Always The Answer, and I am convinced that with the right tires that car could do just about anything. I drove in snow up to the rockers, on un-maintained roads and salted highways and yes, it was loads of fun. Right now the Miata is clean and needs a battery for when it comes out in Spring but the two winters I drove it in the snow didn’t phase it. Now the previous owner crushing the rocker drains on the driver side, that did cause some rust but nothing that couldn’t be fixed easily and at a reasonable price, but the salt didn’t kill the car.

I put Blizzaks on my 2008 Porsche Cayman S Sport and drive it in the winter. The original owner would crap his pants as it was his garage queen. It gets around great on snow < 4" and is great on ice. People are amazed when they see me driving in bad weather. I say in my best German accent, “day hav snow in da Fatherland!”.
My CSS’s reward for being a winter beater? She gets to do HPDE’s during the summer.

Funny, just yesterday, talking about today’s New Jersey snow, I told the story of driving my first car, a 1968 Mark IV Austin Healey Sprite through Wisconsin winter in the mid-seventies.

I only remember getting stuck so badly I couldn’t escape one time in three or four winters. Eventually it rusted in the traditional places, but I never hesitated driving it year round. Key for me was the transmission and the control I felt using the throttle rather than brakes in the snow.

My wife and I still drive small cars with manual transmissions, in the spirit of our first cars in the seventies in Wisconsin. And of course I have another Sprite in my driveway.

I couldn’t imagine driving any of my collector cars in the rain, let alone snow. I would never buy a car that was driven in snow or from up north either. The fact that you are knowingly putting a collector car at risk for corrosion is nothing to celebrate.


Absolutely, make your peace with it, driving the car is step one in the maintenance of it. One of my favorite people of all time believed in driving the car, and he did it for 3.2 million miles. That would be Irv Gordon who outlines a bit of how it’s done in this Hemmings Article and I can summarize his method very succinctly: Maintain, maintain & maintain! There was a query in response to a comment about opening the drain plugs. In the Volvo (I’ve a 1973 sportwagon) under the carpets both on the floor and on the insides of rocker rails there are a number of plastic plugs. Also if you look closely under the rockers are some drains on the undersides. Irv would fairly religiously pull the carpets out, open these plugs and wash the floors and rinse the insides of the rockers and verifying that the drains were free and functioning.

But it’s in the mantra - Maintain!

I live in NH and see plenty of Miata’s driven in the winter. I always think that it must be a fun adventure and that the drivers are enjoying the drive.
Let’s face it, a Miata is not a collector’s vehicle, so you are doing the right thing by using it for what it was intended for. If this one expires due to use, there are plenty more available.
I’ve always driven every car I’ve ever owned in the winter, that’s what snow tires are for. Yeah, I could sock it away and treat it like I’ll own it forever, but the reality is that I enjoy them while I own them and there will be another, interesting car to replace it down the road. From my first car, a Barracuda, to my current RWD Charger, driving in the snow is part of the pleasure of ownership.

It’s a tough call, but I get it. On one hand, I do not drive my Hagerty-insured summer car ('89 convertible) in the winter, but I do enjoy driving a nice car all year. For me, that might be different than some, but I’m sure you can understand. I picked up a 2002 Chrysler 300M Special (with its enhanced handling and 265 HP) in 2014 with 18,000 miles on it. It never saw rain much less snow and ice during its 12-year life. Friends told me to keep it as a garage queen, and I said that I wanted to enjoy driving it. I have liberally used Fluid Film on the undercarriage (and strategically elsewhere) every fall, and I get a good undercarriage wash several times each winter. No rust is visible yet, but I’m sure it’s happening somewhere. I just tell the 300M enthusiasts that I am enjoying the ride … all year long!

Sell now so someone who will appreciate the car past the three winters it will last with you in Michigan.
Buy yourself a beat up tuner to enjoy the open winter road before a trucker that doesn’t see you through all the flying slush does a lane change and flattens your Miata.
Poor car.

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And then to brag about it?

That poor little NA deserves so much better.

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I have 2 colectors cars that don’t even see rain never mind snow.
However living in New England one has to drive in snow.
I bought a brand new diesel Beetle in 2000 and used it everyday. At that time I did 40-45000 miles a year. I religiously cleaned the under carriage when ever possible. Removed fender liners and cleaned them every fall and spring, checked all the drains, applied fluid film especially heavy in the fall.
The car has 420,000 miles on it and no rust. I drive it daily. It can be done will a lot of elbow grease. On the other hand I am anal about my collector cars and rain never mind snow.

The day I drive my classic car in the rain is the day I no longer care about it and the day I drive it or leave it out in the snow is the day I absolutely hate it! The reason I appreciate and enjoy classic cars is that they have been cared for and have survived the ravages of weather and time.

As a Michigan resident ,this is the third winter I have stored my 2017 GT 350 and it makes it that much more thrilling to drive when Spring comes! Besides, indulge your inner guilty pleasure and get a beater brand x vehicle and ABUSE it all winter!

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Snow in and of itself doesn’t hurt anything, no different than rain or the car wash. If there’s salt tossed all over the place this can cause serious rust, I try to avoid this when and if I’m using a collector car in winter … and I do sometimes.

Warren in MN

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Great perspective. Enjoy the car you love. After too many years of ‘saving’ my Porsche for a sunny day (or for a daughter to have some day), I came to realize I bought it to drive it. When the top is down in near-freezing temps, I like to think it does almost as much for the mental health of others as it does for me.