Lately on several of the classic vehicle Facebook groups and forums I belong to, there have been some contentious comments made regarding the safety of older vehicles and/or their quality. What surprises me the most about these comments is that the majority of them aren’t coming from some outsider who is a safety-nut or just doesn’t like old cars. By constrast, the majority come from someone who is part of the group. Understandably, many feathers get ruffled. I would have thought that those type of comments would be unanimously lambasted by the other members of the group. However, it shocks me to see that opinion is divided rather equally. I find this extremely disheartening. Being a group(s) dedicated to classic vehicles, I would expect more dedication and steadfastness to extolling the virtues of the old iron. Criticisms would be understandable if these were groups about “going green”, the NHTSA, or import tuners. Instead, it seems about half of the folks don’t really believe in these machines. As someone with a true passion for old vehicles who joined these groups to share in that passion, that truly hurts. It feels like a betrayal. You say you like old cars, you join the group, you share pretty photos, but when someone criticizes or puts the old iron down… not only do you not defend the old iron, but you jump in on critics’ side. Even bolster their arguement. To me, those people are posers, not hardcore classic auto enthusiasts. Could someone give our love for old cars a little help getting the knife out of it’s back?
What is even more troubling, is when those who ARE truly passionate about old vehicles defend them, they are met with strong rebuttal. It was my understanding that these are groups meant to be about sharing the passion for classic vehicles, not for dogging them. However, when one of the truly passionate members suggests maybe the criticizers would be happier someplace else, they are called rude or narrow-minded. So let me get this straight: These are groups about old cars, but about half of the people are ready and willing to dog on old cars, and if you defend the old cars and suggest the folks that criticize them should either be quiet or leave, you are the bad guy? I am truly concerned about the state/future of this country.
That said, here is my anectdotal evidence of the safety and quality of old iron. I will defend them. Older vehicles were built well, they are very safe, and they will last a very long time. If that opinon offends you, then too bad. This is not the website for you, and you need to go someplace else. If you agree, then welcome. Read on.
Twenty years ago I was broad-sided in my ’69 Mercury Montego by a lady going 70 mph in a ’93 Acura Legend. I WALKED AWAY from the crash. Even though that mid-size Mercury was an early unibody and 27 years old at the time, all of the STEEL in the heavy door (seen above after I removed it) and the rocker panel saved mine and my girlfriend’s lives. If we had been in a 90’s car it would have been ripped in two and we’d have been killed instantly. They had to cut the lady out of her Acura, it crushed like a coke can. And no, it wasn’t just the engineered crumple zones (which are a joke) that gave. Her engine was in the front seat with her. The strongest part of that Acura hit the weakest part of my Montego. It took them 45 minutes to get her out. My girlfriend and I simply got out through my passenger door. Granted my car was bent like a banana and would not see the highway again, but it bent and didn’t break. That is what steel does. It’s tough, chewy, resilient. Plastic and aluminum shatter and tear. Guess what those 2016 vehicles use vast quantities of? As a side note, the Montego would still start, run, and drive just fine. I used it as a work vehicle around the farm for a couple of years until it’s engine was needed for another project. I still have it and it is slated for resurrection. (More about that next post!)
And as far as longevity goes, my family and myself have driven several 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s vehicles well past the 250,000 mark. No major work or overhauls, just taking care of maintenance. The ’77 Marquis my brother and I learned to drive in was retired at 218k. It was still in great shape and rode like a dream. The only parts of any consequence ever replaced on it were a starter and a couple of water pumps. Sadly it was in a flood and smashed by a log. A friend of mine in high school drove his grandma’s old ’69 Caprice sedan. It had over 300k on it at the time and burned a little oil, but still looked good and was reliable. Why? It was taken care of. Most folks think newer cars are better simply because they require almost no human input. The computer and sensors do it all for you. And that is great for our current lazy society that doesn’t want to maintain anything, has no patience, doesn’t pay attention when driving, and relies on the car’s computer to think for them. Heaven forbid we practice a little personal responsibility.
I seriously doubt you’ll see many 2006 Nissans or Toyotas on the road in 30 years. Or that anybody would want them. They do not have the style, power, or sex appeal of vehicles from the late 40’s to early 70’s. And all of those plastic body pieces are already starting to look bad after only 10 years. Yet many 60’s vehicles are daily drivers at 50 years of age. In fact, I see just about as many 60’s and 70’s vehicles on the road as I do ones from the 90’s. And that tells me something.
I realize that classic vehicles were not perfect. But newer vehicles aren’t either. So if you’re on a classic car forum or group, remember it exists for the ejoyment of these vehicles. If you want to find faults, do it someplace else. My main point is that the classic vehicle world has enough enemies with their slings and arrows: the “green groups”, the Ralph Nader types, the noise police, and a host of government agencies. We have enough trouble fending them off. So if you proclaim yourself to be a classic vehicle enthusiast, be part of the united front that protects our vintage vehicles and our rights to drive them. Friendly fire is the last thing we need.
And I will still be driving my old iron long after the majority of 2016 vehicles have become washers and dryers.