I’ve written many times that old cars are not safe in modern traffic.
It’s one thing to type that out. It’s another to experience it.
Sunday I took the SCM Volvo out for a drive, through Portland, onto the freeway and back.
As old cars go, the Volvo is relatively safe. I have installed inertia-reel shoulder belts for all four seats. It has front disc brakes. With the handling kit I had installed by Swedish Relics, it still has pathetic road holding, but better than it did when new.
I started from downtown Portland, and headed north on Interstate 5 to the I-205 bridge. The speed limit is 55, and I was going 50. I found that when I tried to change lanes or merge, the new cars on the road showed me no mercy. They pulled up close behind me. They wouldn’t let me over.
The fact that I was driving a car that was half-a-century old didn’t make any difference to them. All they knew was that they were going 80 mph and I was going 50.
They saw me as a moving roadblock.
Frankly, I was terrified. The new cars, mostly huge, whizzed by me at a 30-to-40-mph differential. I couldn’t match the stopping power of any of the cars on the road.
I wanted to turn around, go home and get my little Hyundai.
Finally, I left I-5 and got onto the two-lane Washington SR 14 (the same highway I took three weeks ago while I was still sorting out the car).
Once we were on an open, two-lane highway, both the car and I relaxed. I started thinking about the SCM 1000, and why the route that Neil D’Autremont puts together is so critical to the success of the event.
These old cars do not want to be on the freeway. They also do not want to be in congested city-center traffic.
I visualized being surrounded by 40 other classic cars, heading up the Columbia Gorge. I smiled.
With each passing day, our old cars become less suited to modern conditions. They really should only be taken out on appropriate roads and in appropriate conditions. I’m not even so sure you should go out solo on a long trip through desolate areas — no matter how well your car is sorted.
I’ve been planning on a spring break road trip with Bradley. We are thinking of covering 1,000 or so miles and heading south to Virginia City. Now I’m starting to have second thoughts. We would hit Oregon’s Steens Mountain and the Alvord Desert — very remote country.
Do I want to add the stress of having an old car, traveling solo, to my trip with him?
This will be the only spring break road trip we have together with him as a 7th grader. Next year he will be 13 and may want to do other things.
He will enjoy the views and the time together no matter what car we are in.
With the Hyundai, starting and stopping and keeping up with modern traffic will never be an issue.
Driving a 1965 classic, solo, with no friends around, adds its own degree of tension.
The Volvo is nearly completely sorted and appears to be ready for 1,000 miles. But it doesn’t like to cruise at 80 mph. It has no a/c. It has no airbags and just-adequate brakes. The car is an assemblage of 50-year-old parts, only one of which needs to fail to bring everything to a halt.
The Hyundai is safe, reliable and relatively comfortable. But it is no sports car. But will Bradley care?
Am I just getting old and soft? Am I denying myself a father/son adventure?
I’m perplexed considering the fantasy (and stress) of a road trip, solo, in a vintage car, compared with the no-hassle experience of having 1,000 miles alone with Bradley, traveling through forests and across mountains and deserts together.
Turning on the a/c if it gets hot. Listening to Sirius radio.
Given this choice between modern convenience and traveling solo in a classic, what would you do?