April 22, 2024

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10 Reasons Why Classic Car Ownership Should Come With A Warning

Owning and driving a classic car can be a rewarding experience, as with most things in life, there is always a tradeoff.

We will always see the good side, maybe friends, relatives or just people on the internet enjoying their classics. In reality, there are a few very good reasons why more people don’t drive classic cars. In reality, as a car gets older, wear and tear takes its toll, and it will end up costing more to run than the average monthly installment on a new car, making it illogical to use on a daily basis. Some cars are obviously worth the time and effort, but it is important to know what you are getting yourself into.


1931 Devaux 6-75 on the street.
Via: Classic Car Journal

Most old cars still use carburetors, which in itself is a dark art many choose to avoid. A carburetor is a wonderful thing when it runs right, but needs constant attention and fine-tuning if you want your classic to start on the first click every time.

Via: GolfStandard, Shutterstock

Then there is the fact that modern ethanol fuel does not play nice with carbs, specifically the jetting, if the fuel sits for just a few months it will gum up those little guys in short order.

Warming Up

Datsun 240Z gauge
Via-Carbon Signal

Old habits die hard, this is a trend that has been passed onto our generation, but no modern car actually needs to be warmed because cooling systems have advanced so much over the years.

via Jeep Forum

Old cooling systems were not very good to begin with, so over the years they would have degraded even further. Warming up a classic car is almost essential or the thing will just stall out on you all the time, especially if you come from a place with a colder climate.

Related: These Are The 10 Most Common Car Maintenance Misconceptions


BMW Coolant Pressure
via YourMechanic

Once you have successfully warmed the car, watch in dismay as the heat gauge (if it works) steadily climbs, making you literally sweat if you are in stop/go traffic.

A very steamy engine (from boiling coolant)
Via: CarThrottle

It circles back to the less than perfect old cooling systems, but the major issue is obviously wear and tear. If you are willing and able, a full restoration of a cooling system, including a flush and new hoses will go a long way to mitigate this issue, especially if you come from a hotter or subtropical climate.

Terrible Brakes

No More Drum Brakes
via CarFromJapan

Drum brakes are just awful. There is a very good reason why disc brakes were invented, and they brought the world an altogether simpler way to stop a vehicle.

The VW Beetle
Via :Euro Classics

So if your classic predates the mass adaptation of this particular mechanical marvel, always brake earlier, and more importantly, modulate your brake pressure, so you don’t lock up. Working on drums is also quite literally a painful experience.

Related: The Difference Between Drums, Discs, And Air Brakes


via Cars Inspiration

You might say: “well obviously.” But take a moment to consider how little rust there actually is on cars that are more than a decade old. Rustproofing has improved a lot in recent times.

via wikipedia.org

Cars from Italy and Japan were infamous for returning to the earth long before they made it to the decade mark, although the most infamous is likely a certain model made by GM.

Lead Paint

This Abandoned ‘40s Ford Pickup That Has No Patina, But Is All Soul
via Pinterest

Yes, lead, they did like using lead, didn’t they? Lead based paint was a fan favorite in the automotive industry right up until the late 70s.

Patina Chevrolet Truck

So if it has “original paint” or a decent “patina” there is almost certainly lead in there. Some cars look great with a good patina, but it isn’t worth keeping around if it is quite literally gradually poisoning you.

Related: The World Is Finally Free Of Leaded Gas: This Is Why We Used It And Ditched It

Original Tire Sizes

Ford Capri Perana, front, race cars, orange with decals, side, Pinterest

Not everyone is obsessive enough to insist on original parts across the board, but if you are then you are going to be spending a good deal extra on tires.

Citroen 2CV

Cars used to have significantly smaller wheels and tires, some are also unusually skinny (especially old French cars) so sourcing tires that fit original rims is tricky.


BMW Oil Leak
via Ultimate Bimmer Service

Ever heard someone say, “if it isn’t leaking, something is wrong.” Well, it might be a bit of a joke today but for some older cars, especially those with air cooled engines, leaks were absolutely normal.

Via Barrett-Jackson

Old gaskets and seals were not as good back then and if they haven’t been replaced they will obviously degrade over time, so a little seepage is actually to be expected. If there isn’t any seepage, then maybe it is running low on oil!

Related: EXCLUSIVE: How Motul Developed New Classic Line Oils For The American Enthusiast

Parts Availability


Likely the most frustrating problem with older cars is parts availability. Even if the parts actually still exist at all the waiting time can be pretty long, if you are not as lucky, you might be getting familiar with all your local junkyards and forums.

Porsche 914 Parts Problems 2
via Michael Van Runkle / HotCars

Unless you own an old imported vehicle, which might entail long, involved web searches and some form of import tax.


Via: drivemag.com

Old cars are not safe, built in a time long before ABS was a standard feature and the only crumple zone was your forehead.


Things also break, sometimes those things break at inopportune moments, like for example while you are cruising down the highway, potentially causing an accident or at the very least leaving you stranded.

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