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Hooniverse Asks: What’s the oldest car in which you’d consider commuting?

Some of you want basic safety items. Others need heated seats, a cup holder, and satellite radio. But a handful of you are ok with the basics. An engine. A way to control that engine. And a steering wheel to get you were you need to go. The older a car gets the more likely it is to have less of the many features we take for granted in modern machines. How far back would you be willing to go with regards to a car that you need for a daily commute?

The oldest machine I’ve owned has been my 1965 Ford F100. Some of you are already harumphing and scoffing. You’re in older cars or trucks and you could handle something even more ancient. Others might be cringing at the idea of a daily driver that lacks power steering, power brakes, or even a three-point seatbelt setup.

Everyone’s idea for what they perceive that they need is valid. If you have to have airbags, that’s completely understandable. Maybe you commute a ton for work and GPS is on your must have list. That makes good sense for you.

But maybe your commute is light. Your daily slog to work isn’t terrible. And you could knock it out with a car or truck that’s older than most every car passing you.

What’s the oldest vehicle you’d consider for your daily commute?

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38 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What’s the oldest car in which you’d consider commuting?”

  1. crank_case Avatar

    It really depends on the commute, I used to do over a roughly hour commute at one point in a then 14 Peugeot 205 GTI, which even in its day was regarded as being as not exactly plush, being built out of biscuit tin grade sheet metal, no ABS. The commute took an hour or more sometimes, not because of traffic as you’d expect, but it was a pretty odd location – the IT dept of a dairy foods plant located outside a village, 40 miles from where I lived. 40 miles might not sound a lot, but there was no motorways/highways, the best it got might be what you’d call “main road” and even these wide straight sections were over hilly terrain, plagued by slow drivers, and the odd bit of agricultural machinery. I’d regularly have to slow for villages and there were several insanely twisty sections too, which were good fun, but sometimes not when you were exhausted after a late shift.

    The only way to make progress was to overtake pretty much everything where possible to avoid getting held up by people who brake tap for every corner.

    The problem with this approach is you tend to carry speed from one overtake to the next, so I’d often find myself hammering along at 90mph, and on what I guess Americans call “two lane blacktop” at best. Just kinda flat out more regularly than is advisable.

    I figured I couldn’t keep that up, as I’d either lose my license or end up dead (amazingly never got a speeding ticket, despite regular police handheld speed traps along the route). So it was either move closer or change job. I decided to change job, which turned out to be an awful decision, but that’s another story.

    I’ve often commuted in older cars, and as long as you’re not in bumper to bumper grind, most stuff after 1980 is grand if it’s in good shape to begin with.

    Nowadays though, I’ve got to make my way through the city centre of Dublin, which is now officially one some of the slowest moving traffic in Europe, so how old a car is kinda irrelevant, because it’d be hell in most things, so I take the Bus. It doesn’t get me there any quicker, but at least I can have a snooze instead of tearing my hair out crawling an inch at a time and dealing with the general arseyness of other grumpy drivers/suicidal pedestrians and cyclists. I did try cycling for a while but even that got a bit too much.

    1. crank_case Avatar

      This was mid 2000s when the “good old days” of low traffic volumes, no motorways anywhere and gentle anarchy were coming to an end. Needed in some ways, because people were dying, but things have swung a little too far towards the moral high ground jumping fun police.

    2. Sjalabais Avatar

      My mom scared my sister and me forever doing 182kph (speedo) in a Renault Twingo in the late 90s. Felt like the engine would blow up around us anytime.

    1. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
      dead_elvis, inc.

      Mine’s only 32 years old, and while it ran like a champ on two cross-country drives last year (Seattle to southern Vermont, then back to Seattle via a slightly longer route), it also hammered home just how poorly suited a naturally aspirated 240 is to keeping up with modern interstate traffic speeds, especially at altitude. Also, mighty loud inside. 600 miles makes for an exhausting day in one of these at this point.

      I picked up an ’02 V70 (5MT, not a slushbox!) around Thanksgiving. It feels like a spaceship by comparison.

      1. I_Borgward Avatar

        The Volvo Turbo: A 240 that can go up hills.

  2. Zentropy Avatar

    I would happily daily my dad’s ’50 Chevrolet coupe, but only after a disc brake conversion. The only real issue I have with old cars is brakes, but I think I’d draw the line at WWII.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      There are also tyres to consider, even drum brakes will lock the cheese-cutters on older cars. Depends on speed and traffic aggression, ie would you be able to keep a big enough gap to allow for weaker braking? I wouldn’t like to try it on my commute.

  3. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

    Realistically, I’d want modern electronic ABS, so I’m going to say some choices go back to 1980 or so.

  4. P161911 Avatar

    Possibly, a Ford Model A. I believe that is the oldest car with a modern controls layout. It would work for spring and fall days.
    Realistically, mid to late 1980s. Fuel injection and decent brakes are nice. If I ever get my 1977 Corvette back on the road I would use it.

    I have been thinking some about driving “old” car on a regular basis. I think for the first time in many years, we have finally moved to the point that a car from the late 1940s (with upgraded brakes and radial tires) to the early 1980s is now a substantially different driving experience than a “new” car. Before it was always “I don’t have to have airbags and ABS.” Now there are airbags, ABS, touchscreen radio, cup holders, Bluetooth, reliable fuel injection, automatic climate control, automatic headlights, collision avoidance, side and rear airbags, etc. It used to be to make a old car palatable for everyday driving you would put disc brakes (if the fronts were drums), radial tires, a new head unit, and some parts store cup holders. Now the list is becoming longer and the difference in overall driving feel/experience is becoming more pronounced. Like I said, I could probably make a Model A work, but really anything much older than a BMW E30 or a mid-1990s American car probably wouldn’t be fun on a daily basis.

    1. nanoop Avatar

      I didn’t consider the control layout, which could have been very quirky indeed. Ford A for me then!

      1. P161911 Avatar

        http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/29/6817.jpg Three pedals and none of them control acceleration.
        The only thing that would be a huge adjustment for a Model A would be having to do your own spark advance. But apparently there are retrofits for automatic spark advance.

        1. nanoop Avatar

          Spark advance might be tedious, true, but I am delighted to see a starter switch.

        2. crank_case Avatar

          That’s the last thing you need to be dealing with of a caffeine deficient monday morining at 6AM.

        3. Sjalabais Avatar

          It’s an awesome entry into a 90 year old car. Model A’s aren’t even that expensive. And there are people who have written about dailying them fairly recently:

          1. marmer Avatar

            Did I miss something? That illustration is of a Model T, which is crazy weird because it was introduced in about 1909. By 1915 you could be reasonably certain of the locations for the accelerator, brake, clutch, shift pattern, and steering on the left.

          2. marmer Avatar

            Did I miss something? That illustration is of a Model T, which is crazy weird because it was introduced in about 1909. By 1915 you could be reasonably certain of the locations for the accelerator, brake, clutch, shift pattern, and steering on the left.

          3. marmer Avatar

            By the mid-30s Packard had synchromesh and four-wheel brakes, so that’s my answer. My wife’s crazy brass-era nut car collector cousin says derisively of his ’32 roadster: “It’s like a modern car!”

  5. nanoop Avatar

    My commute is about 9km each way, with 45mph max, and six traffic lights. I would rock anything that could protect me from the weather and get me up the final slope, and has a starting procedure that would not take longer than the actual trip.
    Ford A and the like?

      1. nanoop Avatar

        No spark advance, what’s not to like!
        Until recently there were a few eBuddies in my neighbourhood, not that far away from your suggestion.
        Out of production, too, I hear the company is specialised in importing electric Fiat 500s from the USA(!) to Norway.

        1. Vairship Avatar

          Given the choice, I think I might prefer the Detroit Electric over the eBuddy.
          Note to others: be careful when searching for ‘eBuddy’ online…you might want to include the word ‘car’ and avoid the word ‘battery’

  6. 0A5599 Avatar

    It’s a sliding scale. Not all cars from the same era have the same technical capabilities. I would want something able to keep up with freeway speeds, not overheat or vapor lock in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and not ride like an oxcart. At the same time, I would want something that could be left unattended in a supermarket parking lot, so something like a Tucker would be too risky.

    Probably 1940’s, but older than that would be acceptable with some modernizing.

  7. mdharrell Avatar

    The oldest car in which I have commuted regularly, and drove long distances regularly, and otherwise treated as just another plain ol’ car, was a completely stock 1937 Plymouth P4 sedan. It served me well for several years. For commuting I would happily go with a vehicle much older than that if I could find something in usable shape for “old car” money instead of “valuable antique” money. I’ve been keeping an eye out for a shabby but serviceable Model T or, better yet, Model TT, but even the older end of that range isn’t a limit in what I consider an appropriate age so much as a limit in what I consider an appropriate price. My daily commute isn’t very far and can be accomplished at low speeds with a little planning, so it is regrettable that, for example, the London-Brighton Run people pretty much call the shots for the pre-1905 market worldwide.

  8. GTXcellent Avatar

    Absolutely depends on the season
    Summertime, I’d have no problem driving my 1968 GTX all the time (poses a problem though with rear seatbelts for my boys going to daycare) and would happily drive something even older – I think my timeline would go back to juice brakes
    Wintertime is a very, very different story – I’ve commented so many times on our weather here that even I’m sick of it, but our weather is true survival weather. You go in the ditch, or something breaks, and it really could be a matter of life or death. Realistically, I’m not going back more than 10-15 years, just out of fear of something breaking at the worst possible moment.

    1. Zentropy Avatar

      I used to daily my CJ-7 in the winter. It was one of the most reliable vehicles I’ve owned, and it was unstoppable in the snow. The windshield defroster and insulation could have used some improvement, though…

    2. Maymar Avatar

      Winter gives me mechanical sympathy too – it seems cruel to let something live so long, just to subject it to road salt.

    3. Fuhrman16 Avatar

      I’m pretty much in the same boat. During the summer months I would have no issue driving something 50, 60, even 70 years old. But driving an old car during the winter months really starts to get old fast. I spent many years driving cars from the 1970’s through Minnesota winters and it was not fun. Carbed and mechanical fuel injected engines don’t get along with sub zero tempurtures, they has poor hvac systems, and less than ideal rust prevention to cope with all the road salt.

  9. KentMB1 Avatar

    I’d say maybe a 1974 Benz 280 (wink)

    1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      In the garage, waiting for a buyer…

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        Wait, how did that turn out?

  10. Sjalabais Avatar

    I used to commute in a 1971 Volvo 145 and that worked just fine. Colossaly oversized, two circuit disk brakes, decently powerful tractor engine, sofa seats, enough heat to melt the North pole after only 2-3 kms driving. The only issue would be the noise level, but that’s to get used to. But that is probably about as far back as I would go. Not thinking too much about safety, but also vehicle preservation. The salt we get on our roads now is disgusting. They use seawater which salt content has been raised to 35%. Two year old cars need new disks and sometimes calipers because of that. I am convinced carmakers have founded their share of studies that say we need more road salt – it produces a decent income for them and their shops. So no classics.

  11. Maymar Avatar

    My commute is only 10km one way, and on nicer days I’ll bicycle to work (only takes an extra 10 min or so, without straining myself all that hard). From a driveability perspective, as long as I had modern-ish tires and brakes, I should be fine. That said, as mentioned by several, I really don’t want to subject a classic to our winters, and also I don’t really have the space for the sort of tinkering or maintenance an older car might need.

    As it is, the oldest vehicles I’ve routinely driven is a 25 year old (at the time) Chevette (bad brakes and some were undriveable until it warmed up), or a 30-year old Honda Rebel (which is pretty much the same as a 5-year old Honda Rebel).

  12. Snowman McChillin Avatar
    Snowman McChillin

    I used to daily my 62 lancer ( for about 10 years). The only reason I don’t now is because winter is colder in the mountains and the defroster/ heater are sub par, and I need to do some suspension/brake/ floor repair.

  13. Smaglik Avatar

    Something in the 80s. Need electronic fuel injection, living at 7000′, and dropping down to 3000′ weekly at least once, I don’t care to have to manually adjust the mixture

  14. salguod Avatar

    Depends a bit on if I’ve got a backup vehicle. I’d take more chances as far as reliability goes if I did. Probably wouldn’t go earlier than the 70s, though, without a brake upgrade.

  15. Manxman Avatar

    A 1995 Caprice might work for me. Front air bags, abs and good for its size MPG, especially touring, which is it’s long suit. I’ve driven older cars recently and I guess I’m too used to disc brakes and traction control to go back to the old days. I recently drove a well set up Corvair in the rain and it scared me to death – me, who owned a 4CV Renault in the 60s and drove the crap out of it.

  16. Tank Avatar

    When I was looking for a new car I highly considered a beetle, And a 85 El Camino came up for sale near my work. But with my parents moving 13 hours away, I figured I should get something sensible for my only car