The Last Daily Driver Update
I got a late model this weekend. It’s the first post-1960 car that I’ve had in over 3 years. The first 15 months of that span were in a 1960 Chevrolet wagon with modern appointments such as a ZZ383 crate motor, a/c, disc brakes, etc… The last 18 months and of that span were spent in a 1939 Ford sedan with no modern appointments what so ever. Both cars served me admirably, but it’s time for me to make a few changes out of necessity.
To me, the key to driving an old car every day has always been my ability to avoid traffic. I live out in the country. I work out in the country. I simply don’t deal with traffic. If I lived and worked in an environment that exposed me to regular traffic, I’m confident that I never could have daily driven an old car for as long as I have. It’s not that I don’t think my old cars could have hacked it. It’s just that I don’t think I could have dealt with the stress of it all on a regular basis.
What was that sound?
Shit. Does my clutch feel soft?
What’s the water temp? Has it ever been that high? Am I about to boil over?
I get stressed out and after a bit, that stress begins to wear on my fun factor. And if you aren’t having fun – what’s the point?
I’ve been having to go into Austin quite a bit lately due to my Rheumatoid Arthritis. I hate the trips in my ’39. I feel like Hunter Thompson at political convention – the paranoia is over whelming as I sweat it out in the bumper-to-bumper. To beat it, I took on a late model.
It’s all very hard to admit from an emotional standpoint. See, since this daily driver experiment started, I’ve become a bit of a “daily driver snob.” I see folks that claim to drive their old cars daily, but have a brand new Chevrolet truck in the driveway. The sight of it all tasted like bad milk to me. Who does that guy think he’s fooling? If you have a back up plan, you ain’t living. Right? I know. It’s all silly…
In any case, I don’t want to be the guy that I’ve grown to make faces at. And so, this post is purely selfish. I still plan to drive my ’39 90% of the time that I have to go somewhere, but I now have a back up plan. As such, I’m no longer the hardcore badass of Dripping Springs, TX. Dammit, that hurt to type.
All that out of the way, I figured a wrap up was in order. Three years of old car driving – half in a “street rod” (’60 Chevy wagon) and half in a “traditional” hot rod (’39 Ford). What’s the net of it all? What did I learn? Simplicity rules.
Considering the environment in which I live and work, the simplicity of a traditional hot rod was easier to service daily than the complexity of a custom appointed street rod. I realize that it’s a hard argument to make convincingly. The power and reliability of an overhead motor is nice. The efficiency of an automatic with overdrive in undeniable. Many think that air conditioning in the central Texas heat is a must. And, of course, radial tires track and ride so much better than bias.
It just didn’t work out that way for me. In my mind, all of those appointments make sense. In real life, I feel like they actually hampered the ultimate goal of it all. As a complete hack in the garage, I wanted to drive an old car every day. I didn’t want to worry about whether or not my TV cable was adjusted properly. I didn’t want to freak out if my a/c wasn’t blowing as cold as it could be. I didn’t wan’t to deal with air bags, compressors, alignment, and ride height. And most of all, I didn’t want to figure out who I could get to help me if any of that shit broke.
Even when it all worked, and it mostly did, I didn’t get that rush that I get when I drive my ’39. Put frankly, I felt like I was driving a late model void of personality and soul. It was almost boring.
Conversely, I don’t think I’ve ever started the ’39 without at least a small smirk sneaking up on my face. That car feels like it’s part of the family. I know its quirks. I can work on the car without much help from my more talented friends. I’ve never driven it and wanted more from it. Driving the ’39 is a completely fulfilling and incredibly rewarding experience. I can just let go… and enjoy the car for what it is and what it was always intended to be – simple transportation.
Even so, I’m just one guy. Take it all with a grain of salt and realize different folks live in different environments, have different skill sets and, ultimately, have different needs. The end game, however, should be all about having fun. Gentlemen, I love old cars.