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Vintage Daily Driver


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There are five things I am really grateful cars have evolved. They would be Power steering, Power breaks, Indicators, heaters and demisters. Over the past month I have had my appreciation of the these five things greatly improved after driving a 1929 Plymouth, a car with 40hp and a top speed of 95kph, to work because the "modern" 1987 Toyota Crown needed a bit of work doing to the engine. Now as you are reading this you will probably think that vintage cars cant be used every day as they are too unreliable and can't handle today's commuter traffic, well you're wrong on both counts... sort of.

It took me two attempts to pass my restricted drivers license. When I pulled into the car park of the testing center after failing my first attempt, driving the Crown I had done most of my driving in, I noticed there was a lot of oil in the park where I had started the test an hour earlier. Further inspection revealed the car was hosing oil out at an alarming rate and there wasn't much oil left in the engine. So my second attempt a few days later was done in my sister's Toyota Starlet, a car I had only done a quick blat up and down the street with to make sure I had put it back together right after rebuilding the head. Somehow against all odds I passed with flying colours but I had a small problem; My car had to have the engine out to fix the oil leak, I needed to get to work 30km away and the only car available to me was our 1929 Plymouth. oh well they did it 80 years ago, why cant I do it today?

The first week was great. I really enjoy driving the car, all my work mates were quite amazed someone my age could drive such a machine let alone something akin to a horse and cart would be able to be used as every day wheels. By the second week I realized how expensive the car was to run. It was getting 13 MPG, I was spending $120NZD on gas every week and I needed to fill up twice a week because I could only 3/4 fill the tiny 11 gallon tank because of the leaky fuel gauge. It also started to get colder and darker at 6:30 AM and the car less a heater meant the 40 min trip to work was very cold. Furthermore it rained on a couple of days so I had to drive with the windows open to stop the car fogging up. The wiper is also not the best and I had a hard time seeing when the headlights of other cars lit up the rain on the windscreen. The novelty wore off on the third week. The suspension (and my spine) had a hard time coping with Christchurch's earthquake damaged roads, I was charging the battery every night because the headlights were draining the battery faster than the generator could charge it, the rate of acceleration and deceleration was a bit hair raising pretty much every trip with other motorists not realizing that I couldn't go any faster or break in a hurry. In the mornings I froze my arm off every time I needed to indicate and it let what little warm air in the car escape. After a hard days work on the construction site the non-power steering and crash gearbox were hard to handle and the lack of a radio made sitting in traffic on the way home rather boring. The constant noise and vibration of the engine and drive train were rather annoying too. I put up with the... quirks of the Plymouth for another week and was very happy when the crown was together and able to be used again.

What I can takeaway from the experience is that driving a vintage car gives you more gratitude of what we have in our modern cars, all the fancy bells and whistles that we take for granted, the comfort and luxury that people in the 1920s could only dream about. It also teaches you how to drive, I don't mean getting in the car and pushing the go peddle to go and the stop peddle to stop but rather being in full control of each aspect of the car: when to change gear, when the ignition should fire, how much choke is on, how much fuel to give the engine. you learn to drive to the conditions, keep a look out for dangers, pick appropriate gaps in then traffic and to not be generally stupid as the car you're in is irreplaceable. I think everyone should spend a month or more using a vintage car as a daily driver to discover they don't need all the comforts of modern cars to get from A to B. The last month had its ups and downs but I have to say I really enjoyed it but may leave it a while before doing it again.

Edited by Carsnz123 (see edit history)
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Your experience reminds me of this story:

Winter Diary

August 12: Moved to our new home in Connecticut. It is so beautiful here. The mountains are so majestic. Can hardly wait to see snow covering them.

October 14: Connecticut is the most beautiful place on earth. The leaves are turned all the colors and shades of red and orange. Went for a ride through the beautiful mountains and saw some deer. They are so graceful. Certainly they are the most wonderful animal on earth. This must be paradise. I love it here.

November 11: Deer season will start soon. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to kill such a gorgeous creature. Hope it will snow soon. I love it here.

December 2: It snowed last night. Woke up to find everything blanketed with white. It looks like a postcard. We went outside and cleaned the snow off the steps and shoveled the driveway. We had a snow ball fight (I won), and when the snow-plow came by, we had to shovel the driveway again. What a beautiful place. I love Connecticut.

December 12: More snow last night. I love it. The snow-plow did his trick again to the driveway. I love it here.

December 19: More snow last night. Couldn’t get out of the driveway to get to work. I am exhausted from shoveling. Fking snow-plow.

December 22: More of that white **** fell last night. I’ve got blisters on my hands from shoveling. I think the snow-plow hides around the curve and waits until I’m done shoveling the driveway. *******!

December 25: Merry Christmas. More friggen snow. If I ever get my hands on that son-of-a-***** who drives the snow-plow I swear I’ll kill him. Don’t know why they don’t use more salt on the roads to melt the ice.

December 27: More white **** last night. Been inside for three days except for shoveling out the driveway after that snow-plow goes through every time. Can’t go anywhere, car’s stuck in a mountain of white ****. The weatherman says to expect another 10 inches of the **** again tonight. Do you know how many shovels full of snow 10 inches is?

December 28: The weatherman was wrong. We got 34 inches of that **** this time. At this rate it won’t melt before the summer. The snow-plow got stuck up in the road and the came to the door and asked to borrow my shovel. After I told him I had broken six shovels already shoveling all the **** he pushed into the driveway, I broke my last one over his head.

January 4: Finally got out of the house today. Went to the store to get food and on the way back a damned deer ran in front of the car and I hit it. Did about $3,000 damage to the car. Those beasts should be killed. Wish the hunters had killed them all last November.

May 3: Took the car to the garage in town. Would you believe the thing is rusting out from that salt they put all over the roads.

May 10: Moved to Arizona. I can’t imagine why anyone in their right mind would ever live in that god-forsaken state of Connecticut.

I have a lot of fun with the differences between concepts and details. One of my most etched memories is from a time when my wife decided to do day care as a stay at home Mom about 30 years ago. I came home from work in the snow and standing in front of the grocery store parking lot, a few blocks from my house. were her and six kids in snow suits huddled together and all crying. "Let's all get bundled up and walk over to the store, what fun!" Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Spring is here in the northern hemisphere. Temperatures are approaching half my age!


Edited by 60FlatTop (see edit history)
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Carsnz123 said: " I think everyone should spend a month or more using a vintage car as a daily driver to discover they don't need all the comforts of modern cars to get from A to B."

In America we have AACA Tours to experience that a week at a time with other cars of similar vintage. Most of us enjoy it greatly but know that it's not a forever thing, which ads to the fun. Some tourists like the Buzzard's Breath Region members do multiple tours each year, to get to the month you spoke of, but not always in the same car. I know others who agree with me because I get lots of comments on my tag line below.

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The original poster here is my son who neglected to add that he is 18 and has only recently started work at the construction site where he starts at 7 am. The Toyota Crown wagon has been the family car since 1991 - several years before he was born. As it now has 375,000 km (approximately 235,000 miles) on it, it was treated to a new clutch while the engine was out. The engine itself (a sohc 1G-E - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_G_engine) has not had the head off it yet but did get new valve stem seals at about 290,000 km.

The 1929 Plymouth is an original car. Its first (woman) owner kept it for 50 years but only did 68,000 miles in that time - I don't think she went out of town. It was treated to a quick body-only repaint in the early 1950s and has had only routine maintenance. It was in storage for a few year before we acquired it 20 years ago. It has just turned over 80,000 miles. As far as I know its engine internals are the originals and the vacuum fuel supply works well. The rear end now needs to come out to have the axles seals replaced as the oil is leaking on to the brakes.

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I've heard the snow story many times before but never with Connecticut - always Maine.

Regarding commuting in a vintage car, I guess it depends on what vintage. Early to mid-50's would be about as vintage as I'd want to commute any distance in although I often said I'd like to have a Model T to commute to work with. But then, I only lived 1 mile from work, getting there would be all down hill and the speed limit was 25.

Edited by John_Maine (see edit history)
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Well, this brings back a memory. I drove my '29 Ply (1st car) to school starting in 1968. Although it was only in town and in Kansas, the winter was an adventure when it was below freezing and snowing. Thanks for a most interesting story. I had forgotten how much "fun" these cars are!


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I found in running my Model "A" back and forth from Utica to Rochester in the winter the biggest problem was lack of windshield washers, exacerbated by the flat windshield. That was back in the sixties. The mud would make the windshield virtually opaque except for the small triangle caught by the one wiper - interesting at night. I'm older now and wiser, mostly.

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I have had my 28 Dodge Brothers Fast Four as a daily car for the past 37 years as well for the last 15 years a 29 Ford AA work truck . there is no problem with them being reliable , to say that they are more reliable when used often . They are very cheap to run and maintain and no trouble with traffic , 300 to 500 mile trips in the Dodge is done very often . It is good to see a young driver appreciate vintage cars and to know how much a "limousine " the modern gadget loaded car ( as most of it is not required for it to perform its basic task ) has become . Bob

Edited by robert b (see edit history)
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Guest Oldengineer

Brings back memories for me too. While in high school here in WV until 1964, I drove a 1937 Dodge Business Coupe to school every morning. Winter weather and heavy rain were certainly an adventure in the old Dodge - she loved to try to switch ends on a wet street if you hit the brakes very hard.



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We restored a 1928 Autocar 3 ton truck that used to make a daily run from York, PA to Baltimore, about 45 miles. It hauled pottery to the docks then returned the next day with a load of clay. Lots of hills between here and there so I estimate that at least 50% of the trip had to be made in first gear. Open "C" cab, crank start, acetylene lights, no heater and hard rubber tires that limited its speed to 15 mph or so. After driving the beast a few times we all gained a lot of respect for those truckers.

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