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Is a classic car right for me?



  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,456
    My friend who owns an indy Porsche/Audi shop says he starts to see the 'new" cars just as they come out of warranty, so he tries to keep up with the technical stuff within a 3 year gap.

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  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,809
    It used to be, not much changed from year to year but today's cars require constant training to stay on top.

    The old time mechanics usually learned on the job. They didn't have the Vo Tech schools that they have now.

    Still, it's a tough way to make a living and the veterans are quick to tell the new people that.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 42,908
    Sounds right. Warranty claims can go to the dealer as you're more likely to get a loaner etc there too...but afterwards, not so attractive. So much today is modular and based on what a computer tells you to do, as well.
  • 101dave101dave Posts: 3
    I checked into this forum because I have been considering a late 80's SL purchase. I had Ghia as my only driver. Since it is essentially a bug with nicer skin you should understand that it's not the best handling or safest car out there. In the price range you are looking you will probably see many that have been well cared for and probably babied with some modern updates. I can tell you from personal experiance you should avoid a fixer, the bodies are difficult to work on and the electrical systems can be tricky if it has not been updated. As a daily driver cars like this are not as charming as when they are sitting still so an SL will be much more comfortable. Although, the Ghia will have more of a soul. If you are realistic about it, and can give up some comforts I'd go with the Ghia. It's been twenty years since I sold mine and it's the only car I regret selling. You should also check out some of it's British counterparts, less reliable probably but more fun to drive.
  • OP here. Still haven't given up on the idea of finding a "classic" as a daily driver. A few months back I was transferred to a site even closer to my house, so I'm unlikely to even put 5,000 miles a year on the car (mostly city driving). But I live in the humid south and have a driveway, but no garage. At the moment I'm purely a checkbook mechanic, though I'd be interested in learning more.

    My wishlist:
    -A backseat big enough for a large dog or small kids
    -A trunk big enough to fit 2 carry-on suitcases
    -A vehicle less than 200" in length (the shorter, the better)
    -Air conditioning (which I'm willing to add on)
    -The best gas mileage I can get (though I know it won't be like new cars...I'd prefer 20mpg or better, but I'm learning I'll have to be flexible here)
    -Needs no more than $1-2k/year in maintenance costs
    -Can do 0-60 in less than 15 seconds (the faster the better)

    From what I understand, domestic makes might be more reliable and economical to run. So I've thought up these models:

    Corvair '60-'64
    Dodge Lancer '60-'62
    Ford Mustang Fastback '64-'66
    Plymouth Valiant '60-'65
    Plymouth Barracuda '64-65
    Studebaker Lark '59-'63

    Of course, I'm still partial to the imports, but acknowledge part availability and costs of maintenance may be higher. The BMW 2002 is still on the list, and other suggestions are welcomed.

    I guess the most basic part of my query is, should I still consider an older car or just give up the dream?
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,043
    I used to have a car that pretty much fit that description...a 1969 Dodge Dart GT hardtop with a 225 slant six, and air conditioning.

    It was tight in the back seat, but I could fit, and I'm 6'3" A dog or kids should be fine, I'd think. Trunk was something like 17.1 cubic feet, which is bigger than most cars today. However, it was a shallow trunk, so you couldn't up anything tall that had to sit upright in it.

    Overall length was 196". Fuel economy was around 15-18 mpg in local driving and 22-23 on the highway. 0-60 came up in about 14 seconds, per Consumer Reports' test of a 1968 Dart with the same engine/drivetrain. They also tested a 1967 Valiant, which was about 100 pounds lighter and had a 2.94:1 axle rather than the 2.76 they started using in 1968, and got 13 seconds.
  • texasestexases Posts: 7,896
    "A backseat big enough for a large dog or small kids"

    I can't recommend ANY classic car for frequent transport of small kids. Cars were MUCH less safe then.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,043
    I can't recommend ANY classic car for frequent transport of small kids. Cars were MUCH less safe then.

    Oops...can't believe I totally glossed over that! :blush: Also, safety issues aside, getting a child car seat in and out of a 2-door car can be a major pain. And in some of the smaller ones, like a Corvair or Mustang, would they even fit? I do know from experience that one will fit in the back of a '68 Dart hardtop, but getting it in and out is not easy.
  • There are no kids yet, just planning for a possible future. Though I'd prefer a 2-door model, I would consider a sedan, which would also ease any carseat worries.

    But...if it wasn't earlier in this thread, then it was in another, where people were talking about classics and children. My impression of it was that although modern cars have added many safety features, that for decades older cars got millions of people where they needed to go without killing their kids, and they were unlikely to start doing so now. Is that impression incorrect?
  • texasestexases Posts: 7,896
    Yes, it's incorrect. The death rate in cars from the 60s (deaths per million passenger miles) was about 4 times what it is today. You'll get lots of 'well I'm here, and I drove cars back then so they were just fine!' comments. Problem is, the dead don't post much...

    And I too survived, a '65 Mustang, not much safe about it.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,043
    My impression of it was that although modern cars have added many safety features, that for decades older cars got millions of people where they needed to go without killing their kids, and they were unlikely to start doing so now. Is that impression incorrect?

    I think that as long as you put the kids in the back seat, and have them securely fastened, they should be fairly safe. One reason so many people died back in the day was because they didn't wear seatbelts, and they let the kids go hopping all over the car! Heck, I even remember, as a kid in the 70's, not wearing a seatbelt, playing around in the back seat, getting bored, and then climbing over to get up front between Mom and Dad. Or Grandmom and Granddad.

    The important thing though, is to make sure the car seat is fastened. I don't think cars were required to even have seatbelts in the back until 1965, so if you get a 1964 or older car, there might not be anything to attach the car seat to. Seatbelts were available prior to 1965, but were an option and not ordered all that often.

    One other thing to remember though, is that the disparity between small and big cars has gotten much greater in modern times. Most of the cars you listed most likely weighted less than 3,000 lb, and in some cases, much less. Even the biggest Cadillacs, Lincolns, and Imperials weren't much more than 5,000 lb. And when they'd hit, at least the bumpers would line up.

    But, today there's a whole armada of big trucks and SUVs out there, that weight much more than any full-sized car of the 60's or 70's did, and when they hit, their bumpers and frames will over-ride the bumper of a car, and penetrate disturbingly deep into the passenger cabin. And I don't even want to think about getting t-boned by something like an Expedition or Suburban in ANY old car, let alone a lightweight compact!

    And even cars today are bigger, heavier, and stronger than they used to be. A couple years ago, NHTSA did a crash test where they ran a 2010 or so Malibu into a 1959 Impala. Both cars were totaled, but the crash test dummy in the Malibu suffered very little damage. What happened to the dummy in the Impala was downright disturbing. And, a 1959 Impala isn't a particularly small car...

    Of course, the less you drive, the less chance you'll have to worry about that. If you were out there driving 15-20,000 miles per year or more, and regularly carting kids around, I'd think twice. And, if you drive an old car regularly, just be extra attentive of what's going on around you. Old cars don't react as quickly as newer ones, and often lose control more easily. So you have to make sure you leave a little more distance between you and the car in front of you, realize that people are going to dive and swoop in front of you, etc.
  • omarmanomarman Posts: 915
    I found the youtube video of the 2009 Chevy Malibu vs 1959 Bel Air Crash Test.

    Even the fuzzy dice in the Bel Air went through the windshield. :sick:
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,043
    Oh wow, I totally missed the fuzzy dice the first time this video went around. An oddly funny touch.

    I'm kinda curious as to how a '59 Plymouth or Ford would have held up compared to a similar car. I'm convinced that among standard-sized cars, the Chevy was probably the worst of the worst, thanks to its relatively light curb weight and the wasp-waisted X-frame. That severe dog-leg of the A-pillar probably contributed a bit as well, as it's essentially "pre-bent". I'd think more conventional A-pillar that slopes back as it goes upward would provide a bit more resistance.

    I'd imagine a '59 Ford would do a little better, thanks to its ladder frame, although it still has the severe A-pillar bend. A '59 Plymouth would have a ladder frame and a more modern A-pillar, so it might do a bit better still.

    But, all that aside, I wouldn't want to be in a crash in any of those cars!

    Oh, another problem with the Chevy is that GM tended to mount the steering box really far forward, so that even a mild impact would send the column back into the passenger cabin, like a spear. Mopar tended to mount it further back, not sure how far back it was on the Fords.
  • berriberri Posts: 7,960
    A more interesting crash comparison might have been a 60 or 61 Plymouth when Chrysler converted from body on frame to uni body, although I'm sure the new Malibu would still come out much better.
  • Wow. Even though I don't think most crashes are head-on collisions, it still makes me strongly suspicious about the safety of some of these vintage vehicles in other respects as well. Pretty much blew my mind.

    Is there any research or indication as to what point between 1959 and 2009 that cars became significantly safer?
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,043
    Is there any research or indication as to what point between 1959 and 2009 that cars became significantly safer?

    I would say one of the bigger leaps would've been in the late 1960's. In 1967, collapsible steering columns became standard equipment. In 1968, most dashboards got a lot more crash padding, and starting on 1/1/68, all non-convertible cars were required to have shoulder belts up front. On 1/1/69, all cars were required to have headrests up front. Also, I think it was 1969 that GM started putting in side door guard beams, which improved protection if you got t-boned. Everyone else added them soon thereafter.

    Seatbelts with shoulder restraints were probably one of the biggest safety leaps, but unfortunately, seatbelts only work if you use them. And, for the most part, I don't think seatbelt use became really widespread until the 1980's, when they started passing seatbelt laws. And, those early shoulder restraints were very awkward. The shoulder strap was a separate piece, and required an extra buckle. You could fasten it away in the ceiling if you didn't want to use it. It also didn't retract, so you had to adjust it to fit, and once you were strapped in, you didn't have much range of motion. I think it was 1973 that they started using the one-piece retractable shoulder belts that are still in use today, where part of it is anchored at the floor, and the upper part, either in the ceiling, B-pillar, or built into the seat.

    As for crashes, I think the most common type of crash is a single-vehicle crash, where you leave the road and hit something like a tree, telephone pole, etc, or simply run into a ditch.
  • texasestexases Posts: 7,896
    edited December 2012
    It's been a pretty much continous drop over time, which contnues today (it was a record low 1.09 deathes/100 million miles):
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,043
    edited December 2012
    Interestingly, it looks like recessions have the biggest effect on the reduction of death rates. 1954, 1958, 1974, and 1982 were all bad years, economically, compared to 1953, 1957, 1973, and 1981 (not that 1980 was a particularly "good" year)

    In contrast, it looks like things like increased seatbelt use, and more widespread use of airbags have had a relatively negligible effect on death rates.
  • texasestexases Posts: 7,896
    "n contrast, it looks like things like increased seatbelt use, and more widespread use of airbags have had a relatively negligible effect on death rates. "

    ?? I'd come to the exact opposite conclusion. There is overall a constant drop in fatality rate, with small jumps at times. Remember, this is the overall death rate, with newer cars coming in gradually over time. So as modern safety equipment has gotten into the fleet the rate drops, to 1/5 of what it was initially.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,043
    Yeah, you do have to take into account that new cars come online gradually, and it takes time to get older cars out of circulation. And overall, the trend has been downward, except for that uptick in the mid 1960's. But still, it looks like the biggest year-to-year drops are 1953-54, 1957-58, 1973-74, and 1980-81.
  • berriberri Posts: 7,960
    edited December 2012
    I may be mistaken, but I think those were all recession years, I know several of them were. That usually means less miles driven, so that may play into that data.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,043
    Yeah, they were all recession years. However, that graph is plotting deaths per 100M miles driven, and not simply total deaths overall. So, it takes miles driven into account.

    However, in recession years, perhaps people drive more gently? Or they cut out pleasure driving? Although, I dunno if "pleasure" driving is more dangerous than the driving you have to do, such as going to work, running errands, etc.

    Or, maybe they're less likely to go out to a party or bar, get sloshed, and end up crashing on the way home?
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    Another factor that has contributed to the decline in death rates is tighter allowable alcohol limits and stricter enforcement.
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 9,848
    A friend who is a monthly columnist in the Studebaker Drivers' Club magazine feels very strongly that the guys who set up this "accident" were real....well, you get it.

    I've also heard that red dust comes out of the '59 upon impact, implying some structural rust.

    Still, my friend opines (and I agree), what was the purpose, other than grandstanding? A nice, affordable collector car for someone was ruined, and for what? I think most people know an '09 car is safer than a '59.

    My friend looked at the car when it was for sale, before it was bought to crash. He said it looked pretty nice, all things considered.

    It was a dumb stunt, I think.
  • texasestexases Posts: 7,896
    "I think most people know an '09 car is safer than a '59. "

    You might, but I get a lot of 'they don't build them like they used to' comments in other forums, often from folks wanting to buy a '60s car for their teen son/daughter. If that video convinced one of them not to do it, it was well worth the 'loss'.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,456
    yes I think the "stunt" sent a valuable message to people who basically have no real understanding of vehicle design and the progress we've made in that area. As for the car, no big loss really---you can't preserve every "old thing", and besides, many people turn old 'classics' into grotesque rods, sand buggies, pickup trucks, sculpture, etc.

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  • fintailfintail Posts: 42,908
    Heck, in 2010 an even older MB was crash tested - notice the rust dust and general poor condition of the car. Held up OK, but this is before MB used a collapsible steering columns, so not fun there.
  • berriberri Posts: 7,960
    Personally, from reading and watching local news it doesn't seem all that uncommon when a recent year body on frame Crown Vic or Town Car collides with a unibody car, that the CV or TC comes out the loser despite the weight advantage. That's why I suggested they should have coupled something like a 61 unibody Plymouth Fury with that Malibu to make it more interesting. But I do understand that metal ages.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,043
    It was definitely a wakeup call for me. While I know that modern cars are safer, I had no idea that the '09 Malibu would do that much damage to the '59 Chevy. I would have thought the '59 would have taken much less damage, although still be a serious safety risk to the occupants because of the steering column, hard surfaces, and so on. And I would have thought the Malibu would have taken on more damage, although still protected its occupants fairly well.

    I used to be under the impression that, to some degree, when an old car and a new car collide, the new car becomes the crumple zone for the old car. But, looking at the '59 versus '09 crash, definitely not the case.

    As for unit body versus body on frame, a few years back I remember seeing the results of a head-on collision between a 1964 or so T-bird and a fairly new Crown Vic police car. The Crown Vic definitely took on a lot more damage than the T-bird, and the policeman was hospitalized for some pretty serious injuries.

    The driver of the T-bird died, but she was a 90 year old woman. At that age, it doesn't take much of an impact to hurt or even kill someone. A younger, healthier person probably would have survived the impact, although there's a chance they still might have hit their head on the steering wheel or dash. But, all you'd really need to do with the B-bird is put in shoulder belts, and it would have probably done pretty well in that particular crash, for most drivers.
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 9,848
    edited January 2013
    I still think no great service was done other than crunching what was supposedly a pretty nice, stock-looking '59 Chevy sedan that had otherwise survived fifty years until someone decided to pull a "Gomez Addams" on it. I know I'm older than some of you guys though, maybe that's the difference in thought--at least some of it.

    I also think this is the kind of thing that makes non-car people start thinking "We ought to outlaw those damn old cars and the nuts that drive them!".
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