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Old classic cars can fetch a lot of money at auctions and most have a lot more style and character than modern cars. However, that style often comes at the price of driveability. Modern electronic engine controls have eliminated such quaint features as manual chokes, vapor lock, flooded carburetors, dysfunctional drum brakes and more.

San Francisco writer Paul Boutin tells the tale of living with a 1963 Studebaker Avanti coupe that he and his wife decided to use as their sole car in place of more recent sedans. The Avanti certainly has style and all those other aforementioned features of old cars, but basic reliability is in desperately short supply. If you're going to have such a car, it would probably be wise to have a solid backup unless you have access to good public transit.

[Source: Slate]


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  • 18 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      Having owned a 74 914 ($2000) and a 93 saab 900s ($5000) at the same time, I found myself relying on the 914 more often than the saab.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Personally I think the couple is to blame for 2 reasons... Why an Avanti esp an Avanti of that year, and 2nd not doing what needs to be done to the car. My older cars 73 240z for example have no issues, I made sure I fixed it right the first time and made the changes that needed to be done, and it is solid the only real difference in maintanince of this car versus my modern rides is that I need to add a little 10-30 to the SU carbs when I change the oil.

      Avantis used 289 ford engines for power, as for the brakes and carbs they are all of the shelf, if the car had been restored correctly, and everything tuned correctly, there would be very little extra service needed on the car. These are engines and parts used in thousands of cars on the road.

      Too many times you see half arsed rebuilds or improper tuning of engines, many people just do not know how to properly tune these older engines, esp at the local mechanic shop around the corner. You need to have someone that knows what they are doing. For example I know people that swear the the SU carbs are the worst thing ever and need to be retuned every time you go up a hill. I tune mine once a year and even then they are pretty much ok. I was taught how to tune these correctly by a British sports car restorer.
        • 8 Years Ago
        NO NO NO NO NEVER NEVER NEVER did Studebaker use Ford engines! They built their own, their own design, and they set over 340 speed records at the Bonneville salt flats with the 1964 models. One supercharged Avanti model was capable of ~198 mph.
        The Stude V8 was designed by engineers hired away from Cadillac and was, therefore, very similar, but improved.
        Please learn more about the marque before posting nonsense!!!!
      • 8 Years Ago
      They didn't call Studebakers "Steady-Breakers" for nothing.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Maybe they just picked the wrong classic car....from 1987 to 1991 I had a 1964 Corvette that I drove daily, once we worked out the kinks in it when we first got it (shifter forks needed adjustment, base of fan needed machining to prevent it from eating water pump pulleys, replaced all four wheel bearings, front springs, and the rear leaf spring, rebuilt the Carter AFB carburetor.) The car ran quite reliably. It never failed to start, it never overheated (even in HOT Texas summers), it never leaked oil or power steering fluid. Of course, it was loud inside (music by 327!!)....but that was part of the fun.
      • 8 Years Ago
      A classic is usally a terrible daily driver for all the reasons he points out, modern cars generally are safer, more fuel effecient, etc. though I think a Dodge Dart from the same era whoule have been a better choice. One thing he missed was - when it wouldn't start he merely raised the hood to manual choke the car till it did. on a modern fuel injection car, if it didnt start, not only could he not diagnose the problem himself, but it would involve a tow truck and hefty service bills.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Today my carb kits came in and I had to find more 6 volt bulbs. The man doesn't like adventure in his life. He would probably be disappointed with the kick-starter as well. I agree that a hobby car can't always be the daily driver. Having spare parts and carrying tools in the trunk, is not for everyone.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Agreed. I own and drive a classic sports/GT car and the maintenance required in the "good old days" were so much more than modern machines. Machining tolerances were also nowhere near today's CAD-designed and computer-controlled tooling. So if you have an old car you have to treat it like an old car.

      Mind you, some things CAN be "upgraded" without having an impact on the original design, for example electronic ignition to replace points & condenser, modern wheels with tubeless radials, electronic fuel pumps, etc.

      I've done many of these things to my car, and it would take a marque expert to spot them, so at a casual glance the car appears stock.

      I also drive the car, and occasionally drive it hard in competition events. I do a major road trip or a vintage rally every year. Old cars HAVE to be driven often otherwise they just sit and rot.

      --chuck

      • 8 Years Ago
      No apples to apples...He is starting with a speciality car and one that has not been properly reconditioned to "as new" mechanical condition.

      So a better comparison would be against a high mileage, late model speciality car. The repair bills on the late model, high mileage, speciality vehicle would kill you.

      A little upgrading to the older vehicle does wonders. Brakes, ignition, sway bars, & tires.

      I buy wifey a new vehicle and I drive low mileage 70's cars to save money. My total cost for the older vehicle is way, way lower in all respects in equal total mileage used.
      • 8 Years Ago
      He had a hard time starting it in San Francisco?

      What an idiot.

      Since learning to drive in 1988, I have had a 1966 Mustang daily driver and a 1974 Ford pick-up daily driver. They both had manual chokes, no power steering, no power brakes and manual transmissions. When my crappy 15 year old escort failed to start in college, the truck always did, even when buried under a foot of snow for a month.

      Some people are just useless wastes of space without the conveniences and computer controls of modern cars. If you cannot understand the basic workings of a car, you should take the bus.
      • 8 Years Ago
      In order to drive a 'classic' (or just any old) car as your daily transportation you have to have what my father used to call "sympathy for the machine" (I think he stole it from that Zen Motorcycle book)....anyway, this guy doesn't seem to have it...it takes patience which few people have in this day and age.
        • 8 Years Ago
        Well put - I thought the same thing when I read the article.

        Frankly I have never loved the aesthetics of Avantis, and accordingly wouldn't tolerate a lot of shenanigans from one (whereas I would from a Ferrari, Jag, or Corvette from the same era), but ultimately the writer chose to bring a 44-year-old car (which he acknowledges was known to have problems when brand new) into his life. To the extent it acts like, well, a 44-year-old car, it can hardly be blamed for it.

        I am reminded of the people who adopt tigers/chimps/venomous snakes, then expect them to act like housecats - to the extent they fail to live up to their owners' expectations, it seem to me the fault doesn't lie with the animals (or, here, the Avanti).
      • 8 Years Ago
      Just read the comment above: "Avantis used 289 ford engines for power"
      NO NO NO NO NEVER NEVER NEVER did Studebaker use Ford engines! They built their own, their own design, and they set over 340 speed records at the Bonneville salt flats with the 1964 models. One supercharged Avanti model was capable of ~198 mph.
      The Stude V8 was designed by engineers hired away from Cadillac and was, therefore, very similar, but improved.
      Please learn more about the marque before posting garbage!!!!
      • 8 Years Ago
      I had a 1991 Volvo 740 and a 1971 VW Bus. The Volvo's transmission died and it also scared my girlfriend by stalling out on the freeway with her driving. I sold the Volvo and drive the VW now. My friends can fix it for beer money!!! It's also been in the shop way less than my roommates' 1999 Volvo XC70 - and I drive it hard and have been doing so since September 2006 when I bought it. Old cars have a certain simplicity that has yet to be achieved by new cars. Hopefully it will even out soon and new cars will be just as good soon (modular computer controls, interchangeable engines, solid transmissions, easily replaceable airbags) but somehow I doubt it.
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