Classic cars look great. They sound great. They all get thumbs up. Some of them aren’t very easy or fun to drive on a daily basis. But, that’s not to say that ALL of them are that way…
- 1908-1927 Ford Model T: The Ford Model T, believe it or not, is actually a fairly driveable car. It’s light, small, and cute. It can keep up with city traffic, do some pretty decent off-roading (when the Model T was built, most roads were gravel or dirt), and in some configurations, seat up to 5 people. There are some downsides, however. Earlier Model T’s have crank starters, which mean that you have to crank it over by hand. Newer Model T’s don’t have that problem. If you don’t take highways, the Model T is a fun choice for taking long, slow trips.
- 1967-1970 Cadillac Eldorado: The Cadillac Eldorado was one of the whale-sized GM personal luxury cars of the late 1960’s. Power disc brakes were standard from 1968 on, and power steering was standard from day one. As for the engine, it’s hard to beat a Chevy big block V8. The standard engine for 1967 was a 429 cubic-inch V8 that was ditched for a massive 472 cubic-inch V8 in 1968. The 472 is a good, powerful engine that makes well over 500 pound-feet of torque. In 1970, Cadillac came out with one of the largest engines ever made – a 500 cubic-inch V8 that made about 400 horsepower and about 600 pound-feet of torque, as rated by GM. Dyno tests showed that it made about 450 horsepower and about 675 pound-feet of torque – to the wheels! That’s about 520 horsepower and 740 pound-feet of torque at the crank! The Eldorado is a big, cushy car that really meant success when it came out. To this day, nothing really shows success quite like a Cadillac. A fun fact is that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has owned a 1970 Eldorado since the day he was elected President of the United States!
- 1947-1955 Chevrolet/GMC Advanced Design Pickups: These are some of the most hardworking, amazing trucks that the world has ever seen. They are literally bulletproof, and it’s amazing how easy to drive they are. From 1947-1954, Chevrolet/GMC pickups used a 216 cubic-inch inline six-cylinder engine called the Stovebolt Six. In 1955, Chevrolet introduced the 235 cubic-inch inline-six-cylinder engine called the Thriftmaster 235. The 3100 series (a half-ton pickup) came standard with a three-on-the-tree three-speed manual, with a four-speed floor-shifted manual transmission. Heavy-duty 3600 series (3/4 pickups) trucks came only with the four-speed. In 1954, a heavy-duty Borg-Warner three-speed manual was offered as an option, and GM’s new Hydra-Matic three-speed automatic was an option. The rear end in these trucks is either a 4.11:1 axle ratio in earlier trucks or a 3.90:1 axle ratio. The 3.90:1 is more road-friendly, as it allows for lower RPM in city traffic and highway driving. In terms of braking, it’s not much. Four-wheel drum brakes were standard for all trucks. Heavy-duty trucks came with a power booster, but not the light-duty trucks. Inside of these trucks, they are spartan by today’s standards. But, back in the day, their interiors were compared to those of passenger cars. The availability of the DeLuxe Cab with corner windows greatly improves visibility, and the DeLuxe Cab-only armrest and sunvisor for the driver are a nice touch. These trucks also had thicker floors and floor mats to make them quieter, and there is even room for some small tools underneath the bench seat. The 3100 and 3600-series pickups came standard with a column-shifted transmission starting in 1948, and the shift pattern was identical to every single Chevrolet, Cadillac, and Buick passenger car as a nod to driver ease of operation. The foot-operated parking brake is located in the far corner of the footwell so the driver doesn’t activate the parking brake when shifting! The cab and body is made completely out of steel, and was designed to be long-lasting. While some of these trucks are starting to rust, don’t worry – there is a thriving aftermarket JUST for that!
- 1966-1973 Volkswagen Beetle: The VW Beetle is one of the world’s most popular cars ever, and it’s a very driveable little car. The 1,600 CC engine has surprising pep, lasts forever, and gets good fuel economy. The VW Beetle from this era is bulletproof, cute, and easily restored for very little money. It comes in some colors that really make it look fun, like the creamsicle orange color! Some Beetles from this era were turned into Baja bugs that are lots of fun to drive, and they often have upgraded engines. A common engine upgrade is the 1,776 CC engine, which significantly boosts power without killing the engine. It essentially just puts bigger pistons and heads on.
- 1967-1971 Plymouth GTX: The Plymouth GTX was Plymouth’s full-size, more luxurious version of the Roadrunner. It had functional hood scoops, a chrome filler cap that looked like a NASCAR filler cap, and optional racing stripes. It had a heavy-duty suspension found in the Charger 500 and Coronet 500. The standard was Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth’s massive 440 cubic-inch V8. For an extra $546, one could step up to the legendary 426 HEMI, nicknamed the “Elephant Motor.” For 1968, the GTX received new styling and the new TorqueFlite 727 three-speed automatic transmission. For 1970, it received a massive redesign that included the racing stripes being removed and put on the lower part of the car. It also introduced the 440+6 (a 440 with three two-barrel carburetors), which could closely compete with the HEMI up to highway speeds. In 1971, the GTX entered it’s final stand-alone model year. The engine choices remained the same. It was also completely redesigned to look more like the Roadrunner. Emissions restrictions reduced horsepower in every engine except the HEMI. From 1972-1974, the GTX was a model on the Roadrunner, before being dropped.
Those are the best classic cars to drive every day, at least in my opinion. If you drive a classic daily, and it’s not on this list, tell me if it’s a good daily driver and why and I will do a part two of this blog post! I know that all of these cars aren’t as reliable or inexpensive as new cars, but they have character, something that many new cars lack.
For those of you still in school, good luck on finals, and get back to studying! Read up about cars AFTER finals are over! I don’t you want to fail finals because you were reading up about cars!