Without question, cars today are extraordinary. The Audi A6 I drove this weekend is surprisingly quiet inside, accelerates nicely, handles superbly and has copious interior room.
It is also safer, by an exponential amount, than any of the cars in our fleet from the ’50s and ’60s.
(Here at SCM, we get two new cars a week to test and report on. You can find our thoughts on these cars in our weekly newsletter, on our website here and in every issue of SCM under “Glovebox Notes.”)
I would also say — in fact proclaim — that for everyday automotive duties, like driving through rush-hour traffic to pick up my six-year-old, or going grocery shopping, or running SCM errands, a new car is the perfect solution. You never have to worry about it failing to proceed, the gauges aren’t always scaring you as their needles move from cold to hot and back again, and there are no strange noises when you put on the brakes or go around turns.
This all came home to me a few months ago when I was driving our newly-acquired 1982 633 CSi in downtown traffic, and a young woman in a late-model Ford Fusion changed lanes into the side of my car. It left only skin damage, but I was heartbroken. My original-paint car, lovingly taken care of for more than 30 years, was now flawed, and its patina could never be recaptured.
Tom Black of Tom Black’s Garage did a brilliant job respraying the side of the car. But it just wasn’t the same, and I eventually sold the otherwise quite wonderful BMW to an SCMer from Seattle. (He loves the car.)
But I had learned my lesson. Why subject an old car to the vicissitudes of daily use? Even the slightest fender-bender will diminish the value an old car significantly. Doors never fit right again, and paint never matches exactly.
So I have a new mantra now: Use a new car for daily-driver duties, and save our old cars for weekends and special events, when they can be taken out on two-lane roads, hopefully with other old cars. Like a posse of cowboys in a John Wayne movie, we can go whooping and hollering over hill and dale, scaring ourselves with our skinny tires and bad brakes, while no one else even notices.