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Classic Cars as daily drivers

Just wondering how many of you guys drive pre 75 cars as daily drivers.

Reason I'm asking is a couple companies I might be working for are all based about 40-100 (would only drive this every 2-3 days) miles from where I want to live and was thinking about classic cars that could put up with this, without me feeling bad about putting gobs of miles on them, and would get semi decent milege. This is a couple years off (3-4) but I thought it would be an interesting topic.

I was looking at 1966-67 Chevelles, these are very clean looking cars that would not draw too much attention from regular folks (i.e-they wouldn't be inclined to key it because its not to flashy). I would love to have an SS 396, but that kind of car need to be drive once a week, not as more a daily driver. A 283 or 327 (heck even a 250 -6 wouldn't be bad, considering the reliability of these engines, but I would like some power).

Anyway tell me what you think etc


  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,599
    I was driving cars that were older than me as a daily driver, and never had any major problems. From 1990-92, I drove a '69 Dart GT, and when it got wrecked, I bought a '68 Dart 270 to replace it with.

    I don't have too much experience with older Chevies...just a 1980 Malibu and an '86 Monte Carlo, both which were in my family since new.

    As long as you get one that's not a total piece of junk, and know how to do some basic repairs, you should be fine.

    As for how my Darts lasted, well, the '69 was almost flawless, except for needing a water pump and brakework. The '68 had plenty of suspension problems, and a persistently leaking radiator, and also ate two starters and an alternator. I think alot of the suspension problems could be attributed to the car having a V-8, but the same suspension components as a slant six. I know this first-hand, as I swapped some stuff off of the wrecked '69!

    As for the Chevelles, my favorite year is the '66, but any of them are nice (never cared as much for the boxier looking '64 and '65 though). One thing I've noticed about the '68-72 GM intermediates, is that they feel cramped inside to me. I seem to remember you saying you were like 6'4" or something like that. Well, I'm 6'3", and drove a friend's 1970 Cutlass coupe once, and it was just a bit too tight for me. I thought it was strange though, the Cutlass being a midsize and the Dart being a compact!

    If you're out drving 40-100 miles each way, I would think the car would actually last longer, as short trips, stop and go driving, and just starting the car cold and never letting it fully warm up are usually what makes them wear out quicker.

  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,693
    Yeah, I don't see any problems at all with the cars you mentioned, except the gas bill on the 396. Probably your biggest struggle will be comfort, as these older cars interiors and suspensions make you very tired on long trips. Of course, like Andre says, you need to start out with a sound car. I'd pay particular attention to tires and to the cooling system...if you take off the radiator cap and it looks ugly down there, have the radiator boiled out. Your old car will apprciate that on long trips in summertime.
  • the seats might not be the most comfortable, but the ride in these cars I always thought was pretty good, of course I'm used to 3/4 pickups and

    Well I figure its either pay 14,000 for a new Malibu, or pay 7-10,000 for a really good condition Chevelle thats a lot more fun to drive.
    It turns out I will be getting a 1,000$ rebate for my truck (saddle bags) so I don't know.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,599
    really depends on the person and how well they fit the car. I don't think most old cars are too bad for relatively short trips, although longer trips might be a problem. Back in '95, I drove my Dart from DC to Oklahoma, about a 1300 mile trip. A couple months ago, I drove the Intrepid from DC to Houston, about 1500 miles. Now this might be an extreme test for any car, but I think the Dart and the Intrepid were about the same in terms of comfort.

    My biggest problem with newer cars is if they're FWD, the front wheel well protrudes too far into the footwell area, and there's just no foot room. And I find those "dead pedals" just about useless. They put my size 13 foot at too awkward of an angle.

    I'd say the biggest annoyance on the Dart, versus the Intrepid, was engine and wind noise. A Dart has the aerodynamics of an outhouse, and a Dart with nearly 300K miles will tend not to be very well-sealed. And a 318 with a dual exhaust is a bit noisier than a 2.7 with smog controls out the wazoo. All I can say is Thank God for loud stereos!

    The Dart would wander around the road a bit more than the Intrepid, and need constant minor steering corrections. But it's hard to say how much of this is due to the car's age and mileage, and the fact that their used to be a hill on our street where you could go airborne, as well as a couple of railroad crossings!

    As for gas bills, if you're driving a full-size Chevy pickup right now, you won't notice much of a change with a Chevelle, unless you get a big-block!

    As for the new Malibu, versus an old Chevelle, I think the Chevelle might actually win out in comfort! I found the current Malibu's seats to be too firm and thinly padded, and just too small (not saying that I have a big butt!) Also, if I sit in the back seat, my head will hit the ceiling. Most new cars also have the gas tank right under the back seat, which is safer from a safety standpoint, but it also makes for a back seat that feels like...well, a gas tank with some thin cloth stretched over it! Now comparing a Chevelle to a current Impala, the Impala may have an advantage. Your experience may vary, depending on your build and what you're used to.

  • rea98drea98d Posts: 982
    Also, as long as you're not a stickler for keeping everything original, you can probably retrofit things like stereo/cd player a/c, power windows, maybe even fuel injection? to an older car to make it more livable. A friend of mine has a 1974 Chevy full size truck with an engine from a 1994 chevy, seats from a Triumph, a real nice stereo, and a bright purple paint job he uses as a daily driver. I'm sure the 1994 engine is much easier on gas than a 74 would be, and probably makes as much, if not more, power.
  • I am a sticlker for original, but it doesn't effect me too much, because I hate power windows (of course there are cars of this era with them), negative on fuel injection, I want a #'s matching car, and you can buy stereos that fit in properly and usually have like a 6 disc changer somewhere in the car connected so that you don't have to cut the dash. A/C was on a lot of these cars, I don't really care about it either way, never owned a car with it.
  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    drives like a new car. Actually, it is. 41000 original miles. The things I notice right away is the seat is not adjustable, but is still pretty comfortable. No tilt wheel-but again, the position for me seems perfect [I'm 5'10"] I replaced the shocks with modern gas ones, and that along with the radial tires make a huge difference. AS it is now, this car is incredibly smooth, quiet, comfortabele, and with the 327 and Powerglide even, quite responsive. It handles well for its size, and seems well balanced-not nose heavy at all. I drive it every day, but not to work. The worst thing is the slow steering. But then, there are kits for that, and the brakes too. Otherwise, it's a real kick to drive this new car everyday!
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,362
    I remember had the COLDEST air conditioning!

    Nothing like it. My '65 Riviera was the same way. Must have been those hugh compressors and the "good" R-12 freon.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,693
    There were THREE things American car makers did better in those days than anyone else in the world, it was a/c, automatic transmissions and cheap V-8 power that was reliable. European a/c was laughable, Japanese cars couldn't get out of their own way, and most foreign car automatics were either a) terrible or b) made in America anyway. Can't say American styling was very mature, or its technology or build quality very advanced, but for the "native land", these 60s cars were pretty darn rugged. You see a lot more 60s American cars alive today than anybody else's.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Yeah, when I was in Italy a while back I didn't see anything on the road that looked more than a few years old. They didn't have any old beaters, just new beaters.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,599
    I've had pretty good luck with Mopar air conditioners over the years. Well, my '57 DeSoto doesn't have air conditioning, but all the others did. Both of my Darts still had functioning A/C, although the fan motor shorted out on the '68 I now have, so it just won't blow. It didn't work on my '79 Newport, but I only paid $250 for the car, and at least it was one of the rare cars that by '79 still had rear windows that rolled down most of the way, so I didn't complain.

    One thing that did surprise me, though. In '99, a friend gave me a beat up old '67 Newport that used to be his grandmother's. It was literally rusting and rotting away, except for the sturdy 383/727/8.75 drivetrain. I was shocked to find the A/C was still functioning, and blowing cold!

    The 60's Mopars I had heavy little V-2 compressors...maybe those things were just more reliable. The Newport had a more conventional looking modern type compressor, like my Gran Fury (which still works, too)

  • roxreps1roxreps1 Posts: 10
    Does anyone know anyone who has a car lift in their home garage? It's for a national commercial. Please contact me at
  • rea98drea98d Posts: 982
    I don't know if 1978 counts as a classic, but until a couple of years ago, a 1978 Grand Marquis was my daily driver. Tough as a sherman tank, with most of the modern conveniences such as power seats, remote operated mirrors (I think they were cable driven rather than electric, but they work better, faster and quieter than any electric mirrors I've ever seen), tilt steering, almost every option you could get.. It did have an 8-track rather than a CD, and the AC leaked out all the freon, which got too expensive to keep adding, but other than that, (and the 12 miles per gallon) it was a great car. I've still got her, and when I get out of college, I'm going to have a body shop hammer out all the evedence of my learning how (not) to drive, replaced the past-dead transmission, and rapidly aging 400 V-8 with new ones, (mabye a 428 or 460), and once again use her as a daily driver. I'm thinking of replacing the old radio with one that has a clock, so that I can replace the clock with some guages to tell me what the engine is doing. As you can see, I don't really care about keeping her bone stock, matching numbers, or anything else. All she's got to be is a practical, 4-door, good looking car, that will hopefully be around to haul the family I want to have in a few years. And just maybe my grandmother's car will pass down to a new generation.
  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    I wouldn't think that matching numbers would be an advantage for a car that you're planning on driving 40 - 100 miles a day. You're going to add milage to the point where the matching #'s will be offset by the high milage you end up with. Better to buy a clean runner and knock the price down because the numbers DON'T match and save your beauty queen for the weekends... Just my 2 cents worth....

    I wouldn't mind an old Chevelle myself, or maybe a 69 Cutlass THERE's a highway car.
  • I think I misled, I will be driving this 40-100 miles every three days. I'm will be flying for a regional airline and you are usually out 3-4 days. I was just wondering about driving for 1 to 2 hrs straight. It would end up being about 12,000 a year.

    Looking at 66-67 or 71-72 Chevelle. think I would be most happy with these, with a 307 or 350 for ok milege with enough performance to be fun. Plus they are so many parts out there for these years to totally restore.

    The matching numbers, in my experience, anytime anyone messes with cars, new engines etc, it usually ends up being a disaster. I dunno, I just want a original car?

    lokki with a GM, holy toledo (g)
  • hey, since you have a newport, I though I would take a gander at them ( ) the 1970 model looks pretty cool too me, so I found some sites about this car. Alas, it has a unibody (puke puke). Hmm I just don't know about this.

    Was the Chevelle a unibody do you know?
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,599
    Actually, I've had two of them. The first was a 1979 R-body, Chrysler's attempt at responding to GM's downsized full-size cars of 1977. However, unlike Ford, which came out with an all-new body, all Chrysler did was take their existing mid-sizes, and give them a very heavy reworking, to make them more modern. It was an excellent-handling car for its size and weight, and age, but unfortunately it had 230K miles when I bought it, and something would break every month or so (the steering column, fuel pump, power steering pump, starter, parking brake, etc) The last straw was when the water pump went out. Now I could've fixed it for about $30.00 and a few hours of my time, but I started getting the itching for a newer car, with more power stuff, so I bought an '89 Gran Fury.

    My other Newport was a '67 hardtop coupe. It had kind of a fastback roofline, sort of like a Barracuda. It would've been a nice car if it had been taken care of, and mechanically it was sound. Unfortunately, the body was literally falling apart, and the interior was rotting. I was amazed, though, that the thing didn't have any water leaks. A friend gave it to me. It was his grandmother's car, and when she passed away, the family just wanted it gone. The final straw on that one was when the brakes went out. At this time, I had just gotten my Intrepid, so I figured I'd better get rid of something.

    Unitized cars are good if they've been well-taken care of, but unfortunately, they will be more prone to rust damage than traditional body-on-frame cars. And they do have their advantages...if they're engineered properly, they protect you better in a crash than a similar-sized body-on-frame car would. They're normally quieter and less prone to squeaks and rattles. And, also if designed properly, they should have more interior room than a similar body-on-frame car.

    The Chevelle and all the similar GM midsizes were still body-on-frame cars. I think the only unitized cars that GM had in the 60's would've been the Chevy II/Nova, the Corvair, and the Camaro/Firebird. I'm not sure about the first ('61-63) Tempest/Special/F-85). They were technically compacts, until the 1964 redesign which made them intermediates, and may have been unitized.

  • suginamisuginami Posts: 2
    My father recently went the same route you are thinking of going. He was tired of buying Buick Le Sabres and watching them depreciate every 5 years. He decided to buy a 72 chevelle Malibu with a 350 V8. There were two V8's available that year - his is the one with the most horsepower. He bought a #'s matching, original owner vehicle that was in extremely good condition, and I think he paid around $15,000.00. The engine had been rebuilt to a very high standard and had around 40,000 miles on the rebuild. He loves the car. It drives beautifully, is very quiet, gets around 15 mpg all around.
  • mjc440mjc440 Posts: 76
    A few years ago I used a 1974 Dodge Dart Swinger as a daily driver for 3 years. The amazing thing was the only maintenance I did to it was change the oil every 5,000 miles.

    The Slant 6 always started. I remember one time I got off 2nd shift at midnight and it was about 15 degrees below zero. Many of the (new) cars in the parking lot would not start, but the Slant 6 satrted with no problem.

  • I drove a 67 galaxie with a 390 auto daily for around 5 years and the only reason I quit driving it daily was I am extremly pairanoid that somebody here at college will screw with it. I did eventually rebuild the engine after 2 years but it still ran good before I did it. It just blew huge amounts of smoke at startup and had low compression on two cylinders. Mine got around 15mpg before the rebuild and around 18mpg after which really isn't that bad. The galaxie is a hell of a lot more comfortable to ride around in then the 93 nissian truck I drive daily now. The only real problem I had with the galaxie was the breaks. It has non-power all wheel drum breaks and well they really aren't up to stopping 4000+lbs of steel :).

    You might want to consider finding one where somebody has dropped a 350 and trans out of a newer camaro in it.
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