Why Old Cars Suck Are Awesome

Illustration for article titled Why Old Cars Suck Are Awesome

A few months ago, Jalopnik wrote an article about why old cars suck, but they looked at old cars as daily drivers and nothing else. I think this is the wrong way to look at it.

Sure this is fine if your talking about some mid-seventies Buick whatever-it-is, but what about the great classic racers of the 50s and 60s, or the beautiful vintage luxury sedans of the 1930s. I'm sure those are "old cars" too.

The thing is, old cars aren't just daily drivers. You don't drive a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO in LA traffic, you take it to Laguna Seca in mid August. I'm certainly not saying classic cars shouldn't be driven, I'm just saying not to treat them as just any other car.


If you look at the subject from a purely logical perspective, one of the greatest racers ever, the Ford GT40 MkII has nothing on a 911 GT2 RS. The 911 is faster, brakes better, handles better, and is almost definitely more reliable. But be honest, tell me that you would take the 911 over the GT40. If you can, you may as well stop here. This is just another example of something classic cars have that new ones just don't, whether that be beauty, prestige, eminence, or something else.

Think about the Pebble Beach Concours d' Elegance. Why would it center around "old cars" if they really were only "old cars?" Classic cars, especially pre-war, represent when the design of a car wa barely, if at all, hampered by all the guidelines that make cars like the new Passat come along. A 1930's Era Delahaye bodied by Figoni and Filaschi represents absolute freedom from anything, aside from moving, that could possibly limit the car's styling. That is why vintage cars are awesome. A 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa was designed for racing and nothing else. There were no crumple zones, there were no airbags, there probably weren't even seat belts in the original design, and that is why classic cars are awesome. Take the first supercar, the Lamborghini Miura. It was just meant to look good. It was illogical. When the tank ran low, the nose lifted at freeway speeds, but it's still one of the best looking post-war cars ever, and I would take one over one hundred Murcielagos any day of the year. This is why "old cars" are awesome. Total freedom from any design limitations, except some safety concerns in the late sixties.

And what about a prestigious history? Just imagine driving the Ferrari Dino 156 "Sharknose" that Phi Hill won the 1961 F1 World Championship in, or the GT40 of Bruce McLaren (although Ken Miles really should have won the ‘66 Le Mans). Just think about taking Ayrton Senna's McLaren around even just one lap of the Monaco Grand Prix, or any track for that matter. But not only racing, imagine driving Clark Gable's Duesenberg, Ettore Bugatti's Type 57SC.

The cars themselves are great too. The unbelievably successful 250 GTO wasn't so successful because every other car was terrible and couldn't take a corner without rocketing off the track in a giant cloud of tire smoke. It was successful because it was great. The Duesenberg SJ is considered one of the greatest American cars ever made because it is amazing. It was the automotive equivalent of unrivaled excellence. It surpassed anything else on the road, and still can. That is truly why these cars are awesome.


What about the companies? Packard, Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg, Pierce Arrow, Talbot Lago, Delahaye, Delage. All these companies are out of business, and many have been for over fifty years. This does not mean they did not make excellent cars. Just owning a remnant of one of these great companies, an artifact showing that there was a time when every new car on the road available to those outside the realm of the ultra rich (although Duesenberg was limited to this range) didn't have to be a boring econobox or overly arrogant green gas-whatever-whatever-hybrid-I'm saving the world-boring-box. I would literally trade every Prius in the world and that will ever be produced for a Packard Parisian Fastback Coupe, styled by Pininfarina (It's real, look it up).

So, why are classic cars great, because often times they are not based on anything, they are not a remake of a previous car, they are how they should be. Designed to look good, or designed to perform, designed to do what they are meant to not just to be good, but better than anything else on the road. In the thirties, every Auburn Boattail Speedster was tested to exceed one hundred miles an hour before it was delivered. That, if for no other reason, is why classic cars are awesome.


They also sound great too. Just saying.

This piece was written and submitted by a Jalopnik reader and may not express views held by Jalopnik or its staff. But maybe they will become our views. It all depends on whether or not this person wins by whit of your eyeballs in our reality show, "Who Wants to be America's Next Top Car Blogger?"


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I Like old cars myself, but feel there was too much emphasis on rare and expensive classics. I'll be the first one to say that modern cars are designed more by safety legislators and insurance lobbyist then engineers and car designers. I have to ask the question though, why can't older cars be good daily drivers? If you have an average amount mechanical talent and don't mind more frequent servicing it's great way to get around.

I personally do a 400 mile round trip commute every week. That adds up to around 500 miles a week that I drive my cars. I was buying used cars with low mileage and driving them till they were worn out then selling them for a fraction of what I bought them for and buying another when one day I was looking for my next car to wear out and I saw this 1981 Fiat spider on craigslist for $600 that just needed some welding to get it back on the road. The seller told me he had just had the engine and drive train gone through when a shock tower had break loose. I knew it was totally irresponsible but I bought it, welded up the shock tower and got several years of fun reliable service out it. Truth is I still use it often though the last few years I've had to replace the rear end, and rebuild the head.

My new plan was to buy older sports cars in the sub $1000 dollar range (you'd be surprised what you can find if you look) make them roadworthy and drive them till they were worn out or I got bored with them and resell them for what I paid for them or even more. So far it's been working great!

Though I quickly realized that having an old car means when it breaks you often have to order parts and it can take a week or so to get it going again so I searched out and bought a second old car. The first was a Fiat X1/9 That was the most fun car I've ever driven. I quickly realized that reliability wasn't the best so I went through several others till a friend who could see I was a car guy and give a good home to a project he had, but realized he'd never get around to and gave me a 1975 BMW 2002 that had been sitting for 10 years in his shed.

So fat I've about $2000 into it, and being a hardtop it's become my winter commuter.

These are all cars that I've wanted over the years, but couldn't justify because I had a family or they were too expensive new or some other reason. Over the years I've had my Fiat, a first generation Datsun 240z the X1/9, a Spitfire, and now the BMW 2002 and they've all been great in their own way. As much as I enjoy the comfort, quiet, power, and safety of new cars, I love my old cars. I'm going to keep driving them, and finding others to return to road and drive as well.