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Do Cars Approach Universal Un-Safety As They Get Older?

Illustration for article titled Do Cars Approach Universal Un-Safety As They Get Older?
CountersteerYour true stories of good and bad things that happen in cars.

This question starts with two cars I very much admire: Toyota's 1980s midengine MR2, and its 2000s MR2 successor.

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Toyota UK recently did a comparison test between a 1988 MR2 and a 2006 MR2 Spyder. You can read all about it right here.

Fellow Jalopnik writer Patrick George pointed out that the '88 car runs from 0-60 in 8.2 seconds and the 2006 car is only barely faster at 8.0 seconds. I figured that, to be fair, the MR2 Spyder doesn't make you eat steering wheel in a crash.

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But am I giving the wrong impression of safety about the Spyder?

I don't think that the 2000s MR2 is an especially safe car, at least not by the standards of 2014. The NHTSA never actually tested the car, but it did meet some kind of safety standard and (living) owners report few injuries in crashes.

All that being said, I have little doubt that any kind of direct collision would fuck you up all kinds.

So I come back to the question of the AW11 versus the Spyder in terms of safety. I know the Spyder is a safer car, but I don't think I would take my kid out for a long drive in one, were I to have an MR2, or a kid. At a certain point, if you know the car is going to ruin you in a crash, why not just go all out and go for a completely unsafe car?

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I know a family with a '91 Civic. Two parents, two girls. For years now, the Civic has been retired from driving on the highway, only used for going around town. I know that part of that decision is that they don't want to stress and break the car, but I'm sure that the parents don't want to cart their kids around in that little sardine can of a car. This family is treating their relatively modern Honda like it's some '60s econobox. Like an old Beetle, or a 2CV. I know that the Civic is safer than those cars, but it's not so much safer that it gets to share the highway with gigantic SUVs and whatever else clogs the roads these days.

At a certain point, do we stop noticing the difference between a zero-star crash rating and a one-star one? Do we really think of a tin can '49 Ford as being so much safer than an open-to-the-elements Model T? Do all cars approach a universal level of unsafety?

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I'm not sure about this one. I know that people certainly think about how safe one old car is versus another, but I'm not entirely sure people act so differently with them. Do you treat relatively modern cars with thee same level of apprehension as real oldtimers? And what kind of restrictions do you put on the real classics you drive?

Photo Credit: Toyota UK

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DISCUSSION

ash78
Ash78, voting early and often

My 13-month-old has never ridden in my 98, but my 4-y-o does all the time (mostly due to LATCH inconveniences, though). We never take my car on trips as a family, but that's more about limited space and having a manny tranny the wife can't drive. We take the wife's '01, which is still old by most people's standards. But more than anything, it's the fact that older cars have exponentially more to go wrong with them than newish ones. For us, it's not about passive safety (crashing) as it is about active (handling) and PRE-EMPTIVE safety...that is, not getting yourself stranded due to an electrical fault or a frayed coolant line or any of the other things you can't really predict, but will eventually happen.

But mark my words: if a crash happens and there are ANY injuries, you will always question if there was more you could have done — both as a driver and as a carbuyer. The only solution is not to drive. How about a nice game of chess?