The Old Ones Are The Best… Or Are They?


It is something where the battles still rages on, new cars or old? Surprisingly, the most seasoned of gearheads are still asking this question, instead of branching out the argument into many other factors. It seems a bit silly to lump in all old cars with new. But, the classic cars have their drawbacks alongside its many positives, and modern cars, arguably, can lack the style and simplicity of its classic counterpart. So which is better overall in terms of style, value, speed, and safety? Let’s find out! Start your engines…


Let’s get this out of the way at the outset, if we look at the classic models of yesteryear, the one thing that stands out by a mile is the lack of safety features. If you look at any car from the last 10 to 15 years, they are full to the brim with ABS, tire pressure monitoring systems, traction control, as well as the standard airbag. If you look at the features of any classic model prior to 1950 and you’ll be lucky to find even a seat belt in your favorite classic model. Nash didn’t introduce seat belts until 1949, and Ford didn’t do so until 6 years after that, and in fact, safety belts weren’t even commonplace until 1958! You only have to look at this clip to see how a modern car fares in comparison to its classic counterpart. In this clip, you can see the 2009 Chevy Malibu fares much better against the 1959 Bel Air. In fact, half of the Bel Air is absolutely totaled, where the Chevy Malibu sustained damage purely to the front. When it comes to a collision, any modern car will fare better than the classic models, and this is a fact. But what the modern car makes up for in safety features, does it mean that overall the modern car is a better vehicle to drive?



The big thing about modern cars is the sheer comfort of how it handles on the road. The latest models of the sporty speedsters like the McLaren 570S or the Jaguar F-Type seem to handle infinitely better on the road, off the road, or anywhere you could fit four wheels! So why do newer cars handle better than older cars? The main factor is the suspension. New cars have a higher roll center, and when you compare this to the low roll centers of older models, this will be a contributing factor to body roll, which makes the car less stable and is slow to respond at corners, and also makes the tyres more inefficient. Even with a modern car waiting so much more than classic models, the average sports car now weighs approximately 3,500 lbs or more. But with older sports cars weighing less, it makes them far superior sports cars in comparison to the modern versions.



For all the supposed unreliability and lack of safety features of classic cars, the sheer amount of electronic components a modern car has makes it a very complex piece of machinery. Gone are the days of acquiring a user manual on the engine and getting to work on the car over the weekend, fixing the problem with good old fashioned elbow grease. The modern car is a Gordian Knot of electronics, kit, wiring, and not to mention the car mechanics, making it a nightmare for the average mechanic to fix straight away. There is no chance you can get your car back within the hour anymore. The issues that arise in a classic car will be far more easy to fix by the driver or someone who has the right tools, and so it can be fixed in record time. The designs of the bodies, right down to the engines, were made for simplicity. This has all but gone from modern cars. The main focus in classic cars was power and sheer usability. For the vast majority of the classics, you could call the radio superfluous! There are so many features on a modern car that may make your journey a bit warmer if you’re driving in harsh weather, or you can listen to your favorite music on USB, but is this really necessary to the driving experience? And do you know what every single button does in your brand-new drive? It’s doubtful.


The Feel

This is a very divided issue amongst seasoned gearheads because classic cars aren’t fitted with traction control or cruise control. Yet, these are deemed an essential part of the driving experience now. But compare these to the sheer lack of driving aids from any car prior to the invention of cruise control, and you’ll have drivers saying it was much better back then. Why? Because it made you a better driver! And not just this, but with modern cars, are we really in control of them like we used to? People passing their driving tests now would likely struggle with cars from even 20 years ago, so it was more down to an intuition with your car over anything else. And in relying a bit more on the feel of the car, it is something that would help you when it comes to driving every size of vehicle. Have someone drive a car modern car and then put them in a Jaguar E-Type from the 1970s, would they be able to get a smooth drive out of it? Feel is important in any car, and modern vehicles are slowly moving away from it.



We all remember with great fondness the cars of the 60s, with James Bond, Steve McQueen, or Clint Eastwood grimacing behind the wheel, and it made you want to be behind the wheel of one of those! And while the sheer cool factor of those guys made it easier to lust after those classic cars, even if Hans Moleman was driving it, it would still be cool as anything! These classic cars were designed by hand, not by a computer, so it stands to reason that each line and curve has a lot more care and attention behind it. The old-fashioned envy factor is something that underlies these classic cars. Modern cars are a dime a dozen, and they’re everywhere, the classic counterparts are few and far between. And if you are valuing a Ferrari now in comparison to the older models, it stands to reason you will get a lot more for the classic version, pending it is in good shape! You put a modern and classic Mini Cooper side by side, the chances are that people would pick the newer, fiercer model, but when you’re going for sports cars, the older model wins every time!


Environmentally Friendly

Newer cars are all about the greener options, and there are many widgets to tell you how much MPG you’re using, but do the older models spew out as much fuel as you think? Well, it’s not as clear cut as you may reckon. The carbon footprint involved in sourcing the materials for a new car is infinitely more than the older counterpart. But the older car has been on the road for much longer than the newer car, which, naturally would incur more CO2 buildup. Let’s crunch the numbers, the average car would do 30 MPG, and the modern equivalent usually does around 40 MPG, and if both cars do 15,000 miles a year, the older car uses 500 gallons of fuel and the newer one used 375. The modern car pips the classic to the post!


Value For Money

It’s not a fair argument, but if you’re selling your car and looking for something that is more value for money the classic model will naturally get you more money. But when you’re looking for overall value for money, does the modern car give you what you need? Taking into account the fact that the average person is looking for something that can ferry their family back and forth, is fuel efficient and is cheap to maintain, the fact of the matter is that modern cars are far more durable in this respect. Value for money now relies heavily on MPG as well as what you can get for the size, any classic sports car is tiny and barely fits in two people, which is great if you want to travel the French Riveria with your significant other, but it’s not going to fit in a baby carrier!


So, there you have it! The results speak for themselves, and it’s three apiece. But in going for the overall driver experience, it will depend on your personal goals. For a complete, unfiltered, classic driving experience, the modern car cannot touch the older models. But would you rather be a safer driver? Each unto their own! And as the battle will rage on down the years, the caliber of driver is changing, as we have a lot less petrolhead-y individuals on the road and are looking for a way to get from A to B. So, style over substance? Well, it’s your prerogative.

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