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It seems the driverless car will soon be reality. I had hoped at one time I might retire before computers became so necessary, but that hope was 30 years off. Not so these man-less vehicles. For those of us who enjoy the physical, mental and spiritual act of driving a motor vehicle and navigating it over hill and dale, simply being driven about seems so, well, unfortunate. Given all this change, I was reminded of an editorial I wrote years back when I was a classic car columnist for a major metro newspaper. I thought it appropriate to republish here:
I’ve been asked many times this question: What is it about old cars that appeals to you? I find it a question not answered in few words. Why? Because owning and driving an old car is part poetry, part history and a lot of enjoyment.
Owning and driving an old car is poetry because of the romance the owner develops with his or her car. A romance it is too – complete with affection, anger, pride and satisfaction. I dare anyone to spend the time and money it takes to restore the safe drivability of an old car and not feel an attachment for it that sure feels like love. You’ll send hours with it wrestling it clean and operable; you’ll hurt your back and scrape your knuckles to make its insides whole again; and you’ll spend more time with it than your spouse likes.
Owning and driving an old car is history because of the historical research that goes into learning about the car so it can be serviced and restored right. What old-car owner can’t tell you all about the car’s manufacturer’s history, the role his or her vehicle played in that manufacturer’s success, the important technological transportation achievements the vehicle represents, and what was happening in history when that particular vehicl
e was new. The vehicle itself is a piece of rolling history…of automotive engineering and styling that it shared with the public every time the owner takes the vehicle out of the garage and onto the road.
Owning and driving an old car is pure enjoyment. And “drive” is the operable word for many older old cars. It has been said that you merely glide today’s vehicles
down the road; old cars with hand-powered steering, non-power-assisted brakes, manual transmissions and older suspensions you really have to drive.
That aside, getting behind the wheel of a car that’s survived 20, 30, 40 or more years is like getting into a time machine. The view of the road is different; the feel behind the wheel is different; the smell is different and the sounds are different from anything experienced in a modern vehicle. A paranoid wouldn’t be comfortable driving or riding in an old car: the looks from passersby would disturb him greatly.