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The pitfalls and triumphs of driving a classic car on a daily basis


#1

It’s romantic really, the thought of piloting a classic on a daily basis. Getting those stares as you drive to work, the rumbling of that cam at the stoplight and the conversations that start up at every fuel station. Those are the good times. But now you’re stuck in traffic, eyes glued to the temperature gauge as it climbs past 220 degrees and you’re starting to sweat. Can I get to the right? Is there a shoulder to pull off on? What made me think this was a good idea?


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/06/04/the-pitfalls-and-triumphs-of-driving-a-classic-car-on-a-daily-basis

#2

His advice of choosing a vehicle from 1966-1980 because anything before then is unreliable and slow is just nonsense. The crux of that argument lies in where you are driving.

If your drive involves highways that are unavoidable, then I tend to agree with the author. Overdrive is quite nice and 65-70mph at least lets me keep up with traffic.

But around town, not needing more than 50mph? Pre-war cars are awesome. saying they are unreliable or more needy than later cars is just plain false. The driving experience is like nothing else. Take a Model A Ford for a spin and tell me its not fun, because they are just plain engaging to drive. What more do you want?


#3

you are so , correct!!!..I own a 1961 Chevy Impala SS Convertable, and I take it to car shows, and zoom along any and all highways at 55-65 MPH, with no problems…


#4

That is so cool! I too used to drive my 68 Charger to work but the issue of whether to embrace highway speeds and a 2.94 or city at 4.30 was always an issue. Fuel costs and insurance not to mention the yahoos that wanna race…
Yes, they will break down - we expect that. Sometimes the issues are just driver error like the time I didn’t quite have the shifter in Park yet, of course, the key can be switched off but the engine cannot restart until fully in Park or Neutral. Panic first. Calm down and think it through logically. Always keep a full complement of tools handy. Parking too is an issue as you need to park far enough away as to avoid dents and dings. Just one more annoyance. Trying to get snow tires is an issue :rofl: Just kidding.


#5

I agree that old classic car is not the most reliable way to get around, but when you are in a properly restored or mechanically sound car from from 1957 to 1980 its like being in a “Time-Warp”, or being back in time for that hour or so. You get the deal with all the technology of that particular time, unless you popped in a new stereo with Blue Tooth or something. But the smell of the oil, fuel, exhaust, leather, and the noise of the engine is why we drive these cars.
I own about 10 nicely restored 1960’s to 1980’s cars that before I use them to drive back and forth to work in traffic or whatever, I send each one to live for a few months to a year at my mechanic shop. There I have the shop go through every part of the car to insure its ready to be on the road in traffic, high-speed etc. At that point I might also restore the interior so its no longer dirty etc that way I can be dressed for work and get to the office with no oil or dirt own my suit.
Using the cars to get to work really puts the mechanics on the hot-seat I feel. They normally only fix these cars to be used one day a month for 30 minutes at a time. But when I bring in a car I really want to make sure it really works. Don’t get me wrong, I’m drag racing these cars by any means, even my wife says I drive like an “Old-Lady”, but I’m just safe.
But my message here is please don’t be afraid to drive your old cars, and if you are afraid then your mechanic has not done his job right. You can modify or replace that old radiator and fan with something that will keep the car cool etc. I even have been able to restore and repair the period air conditioning systems in some of my old cars that I use on warm days…
When its over 100 degrees here in Los Angeles I will probably not drive an old car with old AC, but thats the only time, unless its raining.
Come on guys and girls, lets keep driving them…


#6

Nothing like a “Danger Ride” in either my 1954 Ford Customline or the1960 Falcon 4D Sedan !!
Gets my adrenaline rush… and sometimes involves coasting to the roadside to make “adjustments” or call my son for a tow back home :))
I always love the smell, the experience, the smile on my face… I’ll never stop driving them on carefully selected roadways.


#7

55-60 is fine sure, but there are 80 and 85mph highways near me. I hit 2k on the tach just short of 70mph, loving the overdive in my 52 year old car!


#8

@edbert - 2k on the tach isnt so bad, on my Corvair I turn 2800 or so at 70mph. That is it’s happy rpm though, I assume you have a larger/more powerful engine.


#9

The issue is not so much Reliability but more so it simply being stolen. I was daily driving my 55 hard top about 8 years or so ago. But common sense Prevail. And I stopped and of course the new DUI is everyone on their phone while driving also. So now our classics have 2 new super Hazards to deal with. So nope that’s why it’s best to stay parked as much as possible.


#10

Yes, The pitfalls…and there is way to many of them…lets put aside the possibilities of it getting damaged and the fear factor of having to park it some place but the most realistic is the threat of having to replace it if it is stolen…I do have an alarm on it and we do take it to places where its not always under our noses so thats the greatest pitfall…but the triumphs of owning a classic seam to be the few people out there that do appreciate the time and effort that they themselves know that it takes to maintain a classic…We are on our 3 late summer in the last 4 years…rain seems to be the down fall of owning any classic even worse when its a convertible…then when the rain is finally over the temps toss another sour note our way…TOO HOT!!! The car has been get - in - and - go ready now for two weeks but the weather isn’t allowing any of that…If we get it out 5 or 6 times this season it will be a record…not sure if my math is adding up in my head on how much time it spends in the garage is worth keeping it???


#11

The reliability of a car is related to the condition of the car, not the year it was built.
I have driven a 1959 convertible that was so well restored that it was like stepping back in a time machine and renting it from Hertz.
It inspired me to fully restore my own 1960 Edsel (mechanically, the faded paint will have to wait for the money fairy to smack me with her wand).
While I don’t use it as a true daily driver, I use it in a daily driver way while on vacation, such as a cross country drive to an annual car event.
Granted, I have made a few period correct or minor modifications to that car (auxiliary transmission cooler for desert driving, extra fan blades for stop and go traffic, radial tires, Pertronix instead of points) but it is essentially the same vehicle it was when my parents bought it new.
Granted, it can’t stop in as short a space as a modern, but it can run at 85mph on an Interstate for hours on end the same as my modern.
On one 28 day cross country trip its one “breakdown” was the door switch to the dome light broke requiring me to remove the dome light bulb so I would not run down the battery when stopped.
That is hardly a major problem.
During those 28 days it was my only car. It took me to every place I drove.
A 1980 or later car will break down constantly if in bad condition.
Anything in the 12 volt era can do daily driver-like duty and actual daily driver service.
It is the condition of the car, not the model year that makes a vehicle reliable.


#12

An unusual “pitfall experience”… I would drive my 1965 Corvette as much as I could, well over 10K miles a year. A few years ago, a gentleman came into our offices asking for the person who drove “the 'vet” (not unusual, happened before). Reception called me up front and he proceeded to chastise me, literally raising his voice, for driving that “piece of artwork” that should be coveted and “not abused by the likes of me”. The issue? It was snowing outside. That story still makes me smile today. I am proud to use them for what they are.


#13

I have a 1969 Mustang convertible that I restored to show condition and that I do show regularly. In 2009 my wife and I took the car from the S.F. Bay Area to Birmingham, AL for the MCA 45th Mustang Anniversary celebration at Barber Motorsports Park. Almost everybody who knew me thought I had lost my mind, including most of my car buddies. We traveled with Mustangs Across America on the way there and came home on our own. We drove the old beast for about 5,200 miles in 21 days on the road. She performed flawlessly. Even though the group we traveled with was made up of mostly later generation Mustangs who set a pace of 70+ mph 8 hours a day, the '69 never balked. I wouldn’t ever drive my Mustang as a daily driver, but I do drive it often (2-3 times a week). I was in a left turn lane the other day, sitting in the sun with the top down, when a gal in an SUV rolled down her window and said “Beautiful car. Do you drive it often?” I replied “Only when I want to smile.”


#14

“only when I want to smile” - I like that perspective.


#15


I have had my '65 Barracuda since 1977, when I bought it for $375 and dropped a '68 340 in it that I had built a few years earlier for my '66 Valiant. With 4.30 gears and no A/C, no power steering or brakes, it was not a practical daily driver, but I enjoyed it until 3 years ago, when it began a radical transformation including an aluminum 433 3rd gen hemi, Tremec 6-speed with PPG sequential shift conversion, independent rear suspension, Detroit Speed front suspension, active suspension control, Alcon brakes, etc. It still won’t be a daily driver, but every drive will be fun.


#16

Just my opinion, but seems with all of the changes it is now a new car that looks like an old car.


#17


Yep, that’s the plan.


#18

1970 MGBGT with all the suspension and drivetrain

plus steering column and electrics out of a '92 Mustang LX 5.0 and AOD.
Nothing like new (er) reliability with that classic look !


#19

well said… I agree with you completely


#20

My 58 Chevy Yeoman and 63 1/2 Galaxie cruise down the highways at the legal limits with no problems, other than using a GPS to keep track of my speed. Of course, with drum brakes all around on both cars, I give myself plenty of room for stopping.

BTW, the Monte Carlo in the picture is a 1972.