Should we really take our kids in our old cars?
I got word last week that Chip Star’s Race Car Resurrections, the shop that has Bradley’s 1960 Bugeye, located a 3.7 rear end and was rebuilding it. Stock ratio was 4.22, and 3.9s are common. So scoring a 3.7 was a find.
However, the installation of the 3.7 rear end caused me to think about the increased cruising speed — it will now be comfortable at 65 mph instead of 55 mph — and whether I want my 9-year-old son in the car on the freeways.
Old cars and safety are a contradiction in terms. My everyday driver (“the scooter”) is a 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT. It has about 600 airbags, antilock everything, a backup camera and more. I don’t have a second thought when I pick up Bradley from school. He gets in the back seat, belts in, plugs in his iPad and away we go.
Much of today’s traffic consists of hulking SUVs and “Crossover” vehicles, often driven by distracted drivers who are texting as they go down the city streets. In the Hyundai, we have a fighting chance of survival if one of these behemoths ploughs into me.
That’s not the case in the Bugeye or any of my vintage cars. Nearly every economy car on the road today can accelerate, brake and corner better than they can. They have no airbags, crumple zones or antilock brakes. With many of them, the steering column is a straight piece of metal that goes from the steering box at the front of the car to the horn button. “Safety by Lancelot” we call it.
Further, in most old cars, it is impossible to easily fit three-point shoulder harnesses. I’m not so worried about rollover protection — statistically the number of cars that end up on their lids after a crash is very small. But it would be nice to not do a face plant into my toggle switches in a collision.
I don’t have a good answer here. Living involves risks, and if you remove all danger from your life, you’re going to be in a bubble.
So what do I do? Do I not allow my son to ride in my vintage cars? Do I have him join me on the outskirts of town where it is far safer, driving on country two-lane roads? Frankly, the joy of having him next to me in the car would mean nothing compared to him being injured.
A year ago, I sold my daughter Alex’s 250 Ninja motorcycle and my Suzuki 650S for exactly the same reason. As much as I loved riding with her, the thought of seeing her go down on the highway through an accident (a thrown tire tread from a truck, a careless lane-changer) far outweighed any pleasure I might get from the riding experience. We’ve kept our dirt bikes, as you have much more control over your riding environment in an off-road park than you do on city streets or freeways. But we’ll never ride on the streets again.
Perhaps you can provide some guidance here. How do we introduce our children to the joys of vintage cars while minimizing the dangers? Where is that happy medium? Let me know in the comments below.