Keith’s Blog: The Car as a Horse

You wouldn’t ride a horse down Main Street, and soon you won’t drive a collector car down your town’s main drag.

Twenty years ago, I wrote that in the future we would treat our old cars like horses. Our cars would be trailered to roads that were appropriate for them, we would use them there — and then trailer them home.

That future is now.

Increasingly, our old cars are simply unsuited for the mix of everyday traffic.

A few years ago, I had a chance to go overnight horse camping near Gunnison, Colorado. Bradley and I mounted up, and with our guide and a pack horse for supplies, headed up into the Rockies.

The horses were in their natural element. Their hooves clattered on the rocks as we crossed streams. We saw no other life aside from a few deer and some eagles.

With today’s classic car tours, we are creating the same situation for our old cars.

The second annual SCM 1000 is an excellent example of putting old cars in the proper old-car environment.

All 45 slots are filled for the tour, and there is a waiting list. The route, which includes spectacular scenery from Oregon and Washington, is set.

As Porsches from 1973 and earlier are featured, we see a preponderance of 356 and 911 cars in the field. However other marques will be represented as well.

The newest car in the field will be 46 years old.

How great it will be to see 45 classic cars on the back roads they were born for. Driving 60 mph will be a thrill — 70 mph or more adventuresome. Curves that a modern economy car would take in stride can become white-knuckle experiences as skinny little tires struggle to find grip.

Their great, finned-drum brakes will be more than adequate to stop the cars when the cars in front have drum brakes as well.

Expressway time will be limited. Almost all of the tour’s 1,000 miles will be on the curving two-lane roads these machines were made for.

I would rather have 1,000 miles of quality time in my old cars once a year than spend a second thrashing them in modern traffic.

It’s become an inescapable part of the old car experience that to fully enjoy our cars, we need to take them out on the kinds of roads they were designed for. There, surrounded by similar archaic machines, car and driver both are in their element.

 

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

Posted in Blogs, Keith Martin

7 comments

  1. I have noticed the same. I have a 1967 Citroen D wagon. Traffic is much too fast for this 52 yr old car. Especially on acceleration. Brakes are good though. Citroen introduced front disk brakes in 1955. In the end no longer as much fun to drive other than for the good waves and smiles it still brings.

  2. HI Keith,
    You are probably right except for those of us who live on mountain roads. Our curse is the long winter with snow and salt from November to April. But the rest of the time it is a pleasure to drive them” fast” on country and mountain passes.
    Bernese Oberland,
    J-P S.

  3. In the Porsche world the people with the water cooled cars would subscribe to your CATERED drives. Many of the not so rich in the air cooled Porsche population still do small group drives and maintain a relationship with others that have the same style car and they service them. In our of our latest Porsche club tours West of Ft. Worth, cars were driven in excess of 120 MPH on country roads which prompted the Sheriff department halt the procession near the end of the drive. How do you enjoy a car at that speed and what makes these people think that the newer Porsche’s can assist them in avoiding a calamity. I have owned 356 cars for over 50 years and am still convinced that they are nimble cars to drive and with 60 horsepower plenty fast enough down a country road. How unfortunate it will be when the demise of driving as you predicted becomes a reality.

  4. Events like these are definitely an awesome experience in an old car. However I will never give up using my cars for the occasional trips to the store, dinners, work, family gatherings etc. When the weather is good I’ve even made the choice to do what I call a Friday to Sunday commitment. This is when I pick a car, drive it to work and then use it as if it was my only car until Sunday evening to fully reconnect again. Not only am I enjoying the car but the smiles, and conversations from strangers really adds to the experience. Old cars can be like walking a dog through the airport, they make everybody smile. I would have to get out of the car hobby if it’s use becomes a once (or few time) a year event. We all know these mechanical creatures not like to be dormant.

  5. Greetings Keith,

    While the appeal of driving one’s olde cars alongside their brethren is wonderful to be sure I still drive my classics weekly, traffic or no traffic as the experience is too vital. I live in the northeast and just took my 65 Lotus Cortina to run errands. It is still an infinitely better experience, even in traffic than driving a modern car. I can easily keep up with traffic and the heater works wonderfully. The twin-cam with Webers also provides much more entertainment than any radio. Life is too short to enjoy them only on a rally; I say bring them out of the garage whenever possible!

  6. The horse has issues on modern asphalt, specifically, exhaust and four point tread mechanics. Not so my 1967 Jaguar E-Type roadster. Maybe an oil drip here or there, but no need to hire someone with a shovel behind her. I’m still in 7th heaven tooling down any road, lane, highway or city street. As long as my car is allowed to burn dinosaur bones and can be supported by 185 x 15 rubber, I’m gonna enjoy these moments, anywhere and everywhere.

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