If you got all your vintage car information from TV shows, you’d likely think all classics had paint shinier than the sun and, if they didn’t, had to be restored in 30 days or someone would be forced to sell their shop. The truth is stranger than fiction, though. When contemplating a vintage car purchase, or justifying the one (or two, or three …) you currently own, you’ll waffle between the joys and the inconveniences. The conclusion we reach from weighing these pros and cons will be different for everyone, but don’t shy away; join the conversation and add your own reasons, either for or against, in the comments.
I wrote out some of the points of vintage car ownership I have personally debated and discussed with friends and family over the years. These have shaped both my collection and my life, and hopefully they can help shape yours.
Read the full article on Hagerty.com:
Hmm... Turnpike Cruisers came out in 1957 (more than 50 years ago) and 55 speed limit wasn't a thing until 1973? in USA. You don't promote a 55 speed limit unless it was higher somewhere...
Granted, I'm not sure many states had roads over 65mph back then (quite a few have over 70mph roads now). But it raises an interesting question of what speeds did the 50s and 60s designers have in mind? I'm not saying it is prudent to drive a 57 Mercury at 70mph in traffic, but on a 70 mph (or higher) road with little or no traffic I don't think that car lets you down or feels scary. A 1930s car... yeah probably scary. I'd be interested in others posting that have actually driven stock-spec cars at speed from these vintages.
As an aside, many offramps and such in my area were built to specs for speeds nearly double the usual posted limits. You can tell by the banking if you get out and walk them (not necessarily safe to do). It's a stark contrast to some of the newer ones that a person going slightly over the limit feels on the edge (or about to go off the edge of the road).
Cars of that era could hit speeds in the 70's, and even higher. But they couldn't be maintained for long without some modifications. Generally the driving and road conditions then were far different than now. With two-lane roads requiring slower speeds, the cars often being unstable at high speeds, and the frequent small towns that showed up every 20-30 miles or so, the higher speeds weren't maintained for long. Compare that to now, where the conditions on the superslab allow for 70-80 mph for very long distances. Earlier cars often had overheating problems at those sustained speeds, and vaporlock was a common occurrence when the cars slowed or stopped for through-town traffic. An average speed of 40-50 mph over a long haul was considered making pretty good time at the time.
I occasionally have had to take my 1941 Plymouth on the Interstate to go to car shows. At 60 mph, it is a bit scary with the narrow tires and high center of gravity. And the flat head six gets quite loud revving that high with only a 3 speed manual transmission.
My 1960 Galaxy handles the highway better. When it was built, the Interstates were numerous and the speed limit was typically 60 mph. Still, it does rev quite high with only a 2 speed automatic
In the mid and late 80's I drove a 1948 Pontiac four door (8cyl 2barrel carb-automatic -6v) every day to school and then at college. It really did quite well on I-70 in Indiana and Ohio at aroud 70-72 or so, it could go faster, but it didn't seem comfortable. I would always get "advice" to change it to 12v or make this or that modification and I never did. Started in -5F temperatures, ran fine in the hot weather, not too bad on the passengers with the cowl and door vents open with the windows down. Easy to haul stuff in the back seat floor. Visibility around the car took some getting used to. Lack of power steering was an issue until you learned to always be moving when turning. While the drum brakes were limited by modern standards, I never recall any issue with stopping power, but as was said, you needed to drive the car and pay attention. Heat was actually fairly good, defrosters and vacuum wipers less so. Easily solved with RainX and FogX... I had a '67 Imperial Crown Coupe which had plenty of power steering, big front discs, good heat, defrost, AC, great visibility, and of course plenty of power. Aside from the 20 foot length, it was completely usable as a new car. It would have no problem keeping up with any interstate traffic - I even think the Auto-Pilot cruise control dial had a 110mph setting... Still have a pair of late 60's Mercedes sedans, I'm not sure that, aside from electronics, very many new cars are as good to drive in normal traffic, handle as well, brake as well, etc. Too bad they rust so badly. I now have a 1930 Cadillac V-8 that I will soon have out on the road, not sure what to expect, but on short trips, brakes seem adequate, steering reasonably good, shifts easily (thanks to syncho-mesh), just working out the last of the bugs (or maybe finding new bugs?) so time will tell if I can live with a 1930's car. If you haven't seen the Hagerty 365 Days of A, I would recommend you look at that series. My favorite parts were driving and starting in the winter.
Great article, covers all the bases. The clunks, etc. never end so all I will say is its more a fingers crossed balancing act approach to what you think you can put off and the oft surprise repairs that come up. Additionally, it keeps getting harder to find shops to deal with these cars (assuming you can't do it all yourself) and as a result they can be far away and expensive with long waits. Hmmmm anyone want to buy a nice 63 vette roadster lol.
The comment about ignoring new noises is so important. With many parts unavailable, minimizing a problem by catching it before it literally explodes could mean the difference between continued enjoyment or a basket case.
Modern "vintage" cars have another horror. Electronics. If your 20 year old ECU craps out, then you're likely off to eBay to find a used one. Eventually, every ECU and electronic box for these older "new" cars is going to be gone and we'll be programming Arduino's to substitute.
Still, I have totally enjoyed my affairs with vintage cars. They are friends and companions. I talk to my Ferrari when I walk past it in the garage. I plead with it before starting to not throw a code or make a weird noise. I thank it when I pull into my garage after a spirited drive and all the parts are in the same condition as they were when I pulled out.
Who am I kidding? It's all about love.
Pro: They’re the most fun you can have with your clothes on.
Con: They ARE money pits.
Remember this however, life is finite and no matter how much or how little money you have when you die, everyone is the same in the cemetery so enjoy it while you can.
I would say that most cars built in the mid to late 50's will cruise all day at 70 Mph. So, that is 65 years ago. I have a 57 cadillac that will prove it. My 68 Olds Delmont 88, with a 455 and 2.56 : 1 rear end ratio will cruise at 80 mph all day with out issue. Proved it 2 summers ago on a 900 mile trip to Denver.
In 1960, a friend's family car was a 1955 Ford station wagon with a small V8 and three on the tree. It would leave rubber when shifting into third. I'm glad our parents never knew how we teenagers abused the family car. Or, perhaps they did?
I agree. I've owned a '71 MGB for 40 years. Taken it from San Diego to Los Angeles many times cruising at 70-75 mph with no worries. Now we're in the bay area & still cruising. Nothing better then driving an older car!!
My '70 VW Karmann Ghia convertible (stock original 1600 single port)will cruise at 70. don't ask it too very often, but I know it will. And since I just retired this spring, I don't have to be anywhere in a hurry any more.
Just enjoy them...like most of our time these days...the time we spent enjoying things has been limited. Just get in, fill it up and drive when you can!!!!! Just a bit closer to home these days...
Vintage cars and trucks are great to bring back to life and enjoy but they take a lot of time ,green, and patience. Parts are not necessarily on a a shelf and finding them can be a challenge. But to complete the project is truly amazing.
Good information. Just sold a 69 mustang and bought a 91 ZR-1, out of the frying pan and into the fire. Cars in great shape for it’s age, but I had to replace a power steering hose which I hope I never have to do again, but the fun is in the fixing and enjoying the car. May not be for everyone but I enjoy it. Beats real work any day!
My own 63 Valiant has been ridden in, worked on and pushed by everyone I have ever loved over the last nearly 40 years. It truly is a reminder of where I have been.
It's a time machine as well as on the two lane roads outside of town..."Suddenly it's 1963 and Rt. 66". Wide open spaces and winding roads
Not far off as when I was a kid we traveled those same roads in a 63 Dart 270 wagon.
As far as safety, I have never felt unsafe in it, but have lap belts which are always used.
It's a three speed manual, un-boosted steering and brakes. It takes conscious effort to drive: no texting, talking on the phone, eating or drinking.
Though I did see some fool enter the Hollywood 101 in a VW Beetle with one hand shifting and the other blapping on the phone. And an idiot in a late model car pull out from a space in the morning with a bowl of cereal in his hands. WTF ? Human stupidity will over-ride any safety features even on a modern car.
So, yes: less passive safety in an old car. But... old cars require that one drives them differently. They don't perform like newer cars and demand more attention when driving. And mechanically.
Mine love my wallet, but this Valiant has never left me stranded when it stopped or developed a problem. I have always been just a short distance from home or a short push into my parking space when things go haywire. The car has instincts: It knows it's going to sit if something gives, so it makes it as close to home as possible. Strange but true.
And I can't stop trying to bring my 86 Olds Calais back to where it was when I bought it in 1994. Cha Ching both. But the trip to Salt Lake and back [1800 miles]in it was worth every cent.
Besides, that's just my booze, tobacco, nudie bar, vape, designer clothes, romance chasing and fine dining [as if] money going for a mechanical friend instead. It's a win all around.
Loved this piece, thanks.
Let's talk about the fact that you invest thousands of dollars in them, and when finished, they are often worth about 1/2 to 2/3rds of what you put into restoring them. Kinda like a boat: A big black hole of metal to throw money into.
But don't dare, ever, to tell us that it's a waste of time! Love my 68 Mustang Convertible after spending years restoring her. Would I do it again. H33L No! I would buy one already finished and ready to drive. My 68 has more than enough DNA in it, via blood, sweat & tears, that if it ever got taken, I could prove it's mine simply by analyzing the DNA! 🙂
So true. In my case, I do not have a car that needed to be stock for value so I was able to upgrade components. Swapping out the 727 for a A518 for going 70+ was a no brainer.
Finding a good mechanic who does good work has been my issue. I can replace rubber seals, swap out a master brake cylinder, fix some rough paint or put on new mirrors and bumpers - but some things I leave to the experts.
Expert is the issue - a lot of them will just fix it enough to get you down the road, or say "your new gauges shot" or "that is the it supposed to be", and find out later it was a real problem or the problem just comes back.
As I wait for my new door handles (rather than adjusting them for the 20th time)....sometimes it is just better to replace the part than trying to save something that was not designed to work for 50 years.
But one nice payoff is that you end up with a lot of mechanic friends. Many shops are just happy to have something cool to work on and are almost as excited as you are when they get your 50+ year old car back on the road.
I own a 1976 Triumph Spitfire 1500 that I work hard to keep up to snuff. We love to take it up the Metroparks roadway up to Lake Erie to get ice cream at Huntington Beach. Last week we decided to use it to do our errands and to save time took it on I-71 into the city (Cleveland). To say the least it was an "exciting" ride. At the top speed of 60 (that is the fastest that I dared) we could feel every crack and seam in the road. It was a great ride but not one I would do on a regular basis. Another reason to own vintage is the "Wow" factor. When you pull up to a light and get thumbs ups and hoots. that is worth all the hours of wrenching.
My second dream car as a kid was a Spitfire. My step-dad was going to finance one for me, and I'd make the payments. I ordered one through the KC dealer in 1973. Dark blue convertible, white racing stripes, the biggest engine they offered, 4-speed, wire wheels. To my 16 year-old eyes, it was the coolest, next to a 67 C2 Corvette (my first dream car). Long story short, after waiting for the car to be shipped from England, the day finally came that it arrived at the dealership. We got a call that it was in, and they were going to prep it, and we could pick it up the next day. I was so happy, that late that night, like a fool, I celebrated by getting drunk with some friends. Dad caught us, and like an even bigger fool, I mouthed off to him. As my punishment, the next day, dad called the dealer and cancelled the purchase, forfeiting his deposit. I was crushed, but I deserved it completely: I was wrong. I learned my lesson the hard way. I have had a soft spot in my heart for those little cars over the years, and often pondered what might have been. One of the features I loved about it was that clam-shell hood. In 2017, I sort of fulfilled both my old car dreams in the purchase of a 84 Z51 C4 Corvette. It's not a 67 Corvette Stingray by any means, but it is a Corvette and it has that Clam-shell hood I loved so much in the Spitfire. Considering how tightly my large frame fits that C4, I'm sure that I would have outgrown both that C2 and that Spitfire long ago. And, at 60 mph, this C4 is just getting warmed up. So, things worked out as they were supposed to, I guess. Enjoy your Spitfire!
I restored a '68 Spitfire with a friend back in '87. It was our "drive around the lake with a date" vehicle. The first kiss with my wife was in that car. We drove away from our wedding in that car. 30+ years later I still have the wife but the vehicle has moved on.
I have a 79 Spitfire that I have owned for the past 5 years. Properly sorted you can get to 80 without too much fuss. Past that the engine is out of the power band. I took care of brakes and suspension first to have confidence in the ride.
40 or 50 years ago.... no, try 70 years ago or more. The interstate system was started in the mid-fifties. Cars from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s certainly were able to cruise all day at highway speeds... but most understood the limitations in braking, acceleration and handling. It was second nature. Today’s cars are infinitely better performing, handling, and especially braking. Most drivers today take for granted how capable today’s cars are. Those that drove 50 years ago know what to expect with old cars.
The other point not mentioned: to paraphrase Jay Leno, if you make money on an old car, you didn’t do it right. Also, the generations all have their favorites, and time marches on. The car hobby, still perceived as an “investment” by many is overdue for a hard crash as public perception, changing laws, and younger generations not interested in cars, except as appliances.
That investment angle always makes me laugh. The $$$$ I have put into a $500 car because I loved the car.
Satisfaction and happiness is a far better return on my investment than flipping a car for profit. Great if you can do it, but the cars I like....well... my dream car is a 1960 Comet ..... good luck with retiring on the money made on one of those .
A vintage car can certainly be an investment, ie a place to put your money that is relatively safe. Vintage car values tend to increase, some more than others. Though being a good "investor", someone who makes money on their investments, is not easy in any field of investing, the stocks, etc. I'm not a good investor, but I keep trying. And it's more fun than the bond market.
Pretty much agree across the board. Owning 4 pre 1975 vehicles I always have something that needs attention. But even though I am north of 60 years old I am having fun...all that matters. My buddy's Dad is almost 90 and before this COVID junk was doing 2-3 cars shows a month.....so it can be done! I may not feel the same in a few years....but my son is a car guy and I hope will carry on for me.
My father had a 1956 Chev 4 door hardtop with 265 and manual. Oh to have that today. He always drove 65mph even pulling a small trailer. Never a problem. In fact I had a 57 Chev and drove that same speeds in mid sixties. The big difference today is overdrive transmissions, computer controlled ignition and much better machining for all parts. My father used to brag that he got 107,000 miles out of the 56 Chev. That was not that common. Now instead of running 2500 to 3000 rpm at 65 mph engines will run 1500 to 1800 at that speed. Plus with computer controlled ignition, gas is not washing down the cylinders every time an engine is started. No wonder 100,000 miles is just getting broken in!
Our family also had a '56 Chevy 4-dr, Dawn Gray and India Ivory. Pretty much defined 'the car' for me when I was a kid, and I sort of grew up in it. It was a three-on-the-tree, but with overdrive. Cruised all day at 70mph+. My Dad traded it in at 120,000 miles mostly because of the fear of major breakdown. That was a lot of miles in those days. He got $200 for it, as I recall, in 1967. If there was one car from my past that I'd like to have back more than any other, it would be that one. I've got some pretty cool cars in my collection, and some whiz-bang modern daily drivers, but I sometimes think I'd chuck the whole lot to have that '56 back.
The satisfaction you get from saving a junkyard treasure and reviving it to street-worthy status is the best hands-on accomplishment you can get nowadays! I feel better when I save one of my projects from the scrapyard than when I completed my masters.. you cant teach this level of creativity! Feel free to check out my Youtube channel 'FastNLoaded' for more fun projects (Please take down post if not allowed)
I have an interesting variety of cars in my stable,from 1921 to 2013. My 2 oldest 1920's cars (a '21 Chevy and a '25 Buick coupe) are mostly relegated to trailer queen status now,even though I live in a rural area. Their cruising speed (28 and 35 MPH respectively) is just too slow even for secondary paved roads. My big '29 McLaughlin Buick can cruise nicely at 50 MPH, but driving a 4400 lb. car with power assist nothing and mechanical brakes in traffic is no treat. The '40 Packard can also cruise all day at 50-55 MPH and has the advantage of excellent hydraulic brakes.
Why,do you ask, do I bother to keep such ancient beasts if I can't enjoy them ? The fact of the matter is I do enjoy them. Even if it's only a couple of miles in the evening when the traffic is lighter,or giving the uninitiated a garage tour, or just walking around them and giving them a dusting, it's a joy to me to see the historic progression of automotive technology through the years.
I have a couple of 1970's trucks (a '72 C20 Chevy pickup and a '78 GMC Caballero) that I do drive regularly, and they both get a lot of admiring looks. They weren't purchased as collectables, it's just that I've owned them for so long they've reached that plateau !
It seems the next generation doesn't share my enthusiasm. Neither of my kids even have a garage at their residence. My son (and future executor) wants me to start downsizing. He doesn't seem to appreciate it when I tell him that will be his job after my demise.
I should sell off a few of them...... someday.
Another great read from Kyle. Keep up the good work.
Hey Kyle, when are you going to trailer one of your rides to the car show at The Mac? I participated last year with my Hagerty insured vehicle. Great event.
I have had my ‘74 Bug for 46 years, through a restoration & two engine rebuilds. It draws call kinds of smiles, still. I have concluded that I am done with out of state trips, must maintain a decent repair budget, and resoect its age, like my own.
Older cars smell, ride and feel different. They remind you of your youth and when your parents were at their peak. My old car is weathered, but it starts right up and can run for hours at 75 mph on the highway. I’m proud to have kept it running all these years and I think it is a reflection of me—patina shows it’s age but still running well.
One of the cons not listed is this....if you do upgrade your vehicle to something with some modern conveniences, there are those out there that will cry that you ruined the car. Fuel injection and brakes are the 2 biggest upgrades you can do to an old car that can improve the driving dynamics significantly. But take that old quadrajet off the car and someone will say you ruined the authenticity of the car and that they can make a quad sing. Maybe, but it still wouldn't match the drivability of a fuel injection unit.
Buy a Corvette and you will run into snobs like that everywhere. If it isn't "Concours perfect", you'll hear them scream bloody murder and act like you just violated the Mona Lisa. My attitude is screw them, it's my car, my money, my work, and my vision. Don't like it? Bite me! If I wanted a museum piece, I would have bought one. I wanted a thrill ride, and by God that is what it will be. If they want a museum piece, good for them, and they won't hear criticism from me. I sure as hell won't tolerate their snobby opinion without giving them a piece of my mind.
Kyle is a very thoughtful and intelligent writer. I always enjoy his columns and they often evoke a reaction in me. In this column, he writes about the pros and cons of vintage car ownership, as if it's a choice. For me, it wasn't. From my very earliest recollections, I have been a car fanatic. There was no alternative path for me. It was always going to be cars and motorcycles. And because I wasn't born into a rich family, I always lusted for the cars in the back row of the used car lots.
I was raised in a working class trades family. Everyone in my family worked with their hands. So if I was going to love cars, I was also going to work on them myself. There are some pros and cons about that.
I wasn't raised to wear a suit, white shirt and tie to work, but somehow that happened. I can't tell you how many professional meetings I attended on Monday mornings, where it was clear that I was the only one who had been working on greasy cars all weekend. I was often embarrassed by that grease that just wouldn't come off my fingers. One of the cons of classic car ownership is that class thing. Some people simply look down upon those who get their hands dirty.
That is even true among some members of the car community. This next comment is going to piss some people off, but when I was a member of my local Porsche club, there was a very distinct sense of awe mixed with contempt by some of the members when they considered those (few) of us who worked on our own cars.
In many ways, it's a lot easier or at least more natural to own a classic if you can rebuild it yourself. It gets expensive and frustrating when you have to rely upon someone else to fix that old machine in your garage. And driving a car that you have restored has to be one of the most satisfying things that I can think of. It takes a lot of skill, discipline and determination to tear apart a car and get it back together again. Restoration of old cars gives us all a little more self reliance in a complicated world. For me, the Pros far exceed the Cons. Thanks for your article, Kyle!
"Some people simply look down upon those who get their hands dirty." Interesting comment...I on the other hand, have always been dubious of those fellows that have the nicely manicured soft hands with no callouses...I guess it's all in the angle that you look at it.