Thursday, August 20, 2009

Are vintage race cars and classic cars safe in today’s traffic?

Questions often debated in all kinds of classic car forums circle around safety. How safe is a vintage race car in modern traffic? Can you use a youngtimer or oldtimer safely every day in in today’s heavy and tight traffic? As always these are loaded questions.
Here’s my point to this.
Vintage and classic cars are clearly less safe compared to modern cars in many aspects. They have inferior brakes (narrower and less sticky tires, no anti-lock-breaking, no anti-dive, etc.), there’s no safety cell around the passengers, no pre-calculated demolition impact management and no airbags, often no safety belts, and none of the modern computer controlled safety features such as “EPS”, “ATC”, “pre safe” or automatic breaking. For example, a Jaguar E-Type takes 50-60 meter (or more) to break from 100 km/h to 0, a modern Volkswagen Golf gets this done in less than 40 meters, modern sportscars are approaching the 30/32 meters. That’s a hell of a difference as it means that when the modern sportscar has stopped, the oldtimer behind him still does 60 km/h or so. You wouldn’t want to sit in this car at this moment.
Vintage or classic race cars usually were the best of their breed at a time and often had more safety features than day-to-day cars. But compared to modern cars they still are less safe because of some of the missing features and engineering concepts.
So, does this mean you shouldn’t use them in daily traffic?
I don’t think so. Yes, the cars are less safe by “nature”, but their drivers are much more awake and much less distracted by things like navigation systems, phones and other gimmick. And last but not least, they know about the safety issues and are more careful and look ahead.

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