Top Pitfalls Driving a Classic Car

Things to Understand when Buying Your First Classic Car

Nostalgia is a great thing. We all enjoy reminiscing about our first love, first dog, an old friend and how much simpler things were “back in the day”. So it’s no surprise that owning a classic car that is more simple is such a popular idea for people young and old. A classic car can be defined as a car 15 years or old in most cases and an antique car is technically anything 100 years or older, but often anything in the 1950’s and older is called an “antique car”. If you’re thinking about getting your first classic car you’re in for a treat! The hobby is full of camaraderie and you’ll have a fantastic time driving and enjoying these moving pieces of history. But be warned the older the car, the more difficult it can be to drive and maintain these vehicles. We decided to put a punch list together of facts to consider when purchasing your first classic car.

Poor Fuel Mileage

In a world where fuel mileage, electric cars, and alternative fuel sources are king in auto manufacturing, older cars as a whole get poor fuel mileage. If you’re a penny pincher and are worried about your fuel mileage you may be in for a nasty surprise. Stay away from 1960’s and earlier vehicles if this is the case and possibly look at smaller four cylinder vehicles like a German or Japanese compact from the 1980’s-1990’s.

Driving Stick Shift

Prior to the early 1950’s most all cars came with a manual transmission or “stick shift”. This also included column shift cars where the shift pattern can be a bit harder to get the hang of. If you can’t drive manual transmission you may want to learn on something less expensive to repair so you know what you’re in for when you go to drive your new (to you) classic. If you have driven manual be aware that older cars have mechanical clutches which equates to more foot pressure to hold the clutch down. If you live in an area where you will sit in a lot of traffic you may want to consider something with an automatic transmission.

Mechanical Brakes

In today’s cars most all of your functions in the car are power or power assisted. This takes the effort and force out of doing everything from rolling your windows down to pushing your brake pedals. As a rule of thumb; the older the car-the worse the brakes are. As automobiles progressed they got faster and handled better. This meant that brakes needed to work better. Very early cars had totally mechanical brakes with rods hooked to the drums and the brake pedal to actuate the brakes. This required a lot of foot pressure and when not adjusted just right; could be hard to stop in a panic. Sometime in the late 1930’s most cars had converted to hydraulic assisted brakes, but you were still using your leg muscles to push the pedal down to work the brakes. In the late 1950’s-mid 1960’s vacuum assisted hydraulic brakes became more and more common and this reduced the foot or leg pressure needed to work the brakes. If you’re worried about you ability to stop an older car you may want to upgrade the brakes or look for a later car with vacuum and hydraulic assisted brakes.

Classic Car Mechanical Repairs

Older cars were built to last and while they might hold up well when preserved and maintained, they ARE old and will require TLC occasionally. A lot of times a roadside break down is related to a worn out or faulty part that probably needed to be replaced. Many modern reproduction mechanical parts aren’t built to the same quality as the original and things like fuel pumps could go bad more often than before. Be sure to regularly check your classic car for maintenance and wear items that might need to be repaired or replaced. We like to quickly look over our classic each time before we drive it and give it a thorough safety inspection at the start or end of each car show season. It is also good to keep common repair items in stock or in the car with a small tool kit so you can repair your car on the fly. Most older cars are simple to work on and don’t require many specialty tools to do common repairs so you could fix an issue on the side of the road.

Fuel and Oil Additives

Our fuels, oils, and other chemicals have changed over the years and while they may be more efficient or better for the environment they could be harmful to your classic car. Fuels used to have lead present and the removal of lead and introduction of other additives have caused issues with original fuel system parts on your classic car. If you’re getting a classic car that hasn’t been restored or “modernized” you may want to take the time to inspect things like fuel lines, fuel pumps and carburetors to make sure that our modern fuels don’t deteriorate those items and cause a safety issue. Modern engine oils also have had the zinc removed from them and this can cause issues with the oiling capabilities of the engine and can cause tremendous internal damage to an engine. We suggest using zinc oil additives and fuel additives on fill ups and oil changes to assure your classic stays running like a top.

There are many other things to consider but these are the most basic things you need to think about before buying your first classic car. If you need to rust proof or restore your classic car we have everything you need to complete the job. Check out to get all of your classic automotive parts and restoration supplies.

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