Answer: I applaud your desire to use a collector car on a regular basis. You question whether it’s practical to use a car built in the 1930s for this purpose. I believe that the answer is yes, but it depends on how you define practical. Structurally, these cars are practical for use on today's roads. They were built to last, at a time when roads were not as improved as they are today. These cars have frames that look as if they were made out of the same I-beams that support the Empire State Building. And the bodies were made out of steel that is of a much thicker gauge than that used today. They are also perfectly capable of keeping up with today's highway traffic at legal speeds, and providing a comfortable ride while doing so.
Practicality must also take into account dependability and ease of maintenance. These cars rank very high in both areas. Although they are almost eight decades old by now, dependability is not an issue, and they are simple enough that maintenance is minimal and straightforward. Almost all parts are readily available and inexpensive. With routine maintenance there is no reason that you shouldn’t be able to enjoy a cross-country trip, let alone a cross-town trip.
Last, but certainly not least, practicality must also take safety into account. Don’t expect to find air-bags or anti-lock brake systems on a 1930s car. Windshield wipers will likely be vacuum operated so they’ll stop working any time that you step on the gas (when the engine vacuum drops). Electrical systems will do an adequate job at best of lighting your way at night. There was no such thing as a 5 MPH bumper, and the term “crumple zone” would not even exist for another four or five decades. These are all safety issues that we’ve come to take for granted.
But all is not lost. There are many ways to address these issues and dramatically improve the safety of a mid 1930s car. The best part is that on many of these cars it’s already been done. Since you’ve come right out and asked “What should I do”, I’ll tell you.
You should benefit from the technology with which the hot-rod world has provided us, including modifications that not only dramatically improve safety, but comfort and convenience as well.
Many of these cars have already been modified by having the original drivetrain removed and a more modern drivetrain installed. Often a front subframe is installed which provides a modern front suspension with disc brakes as well as rack & pinion or power steering. Along with this transplant comes a 12 volt electrical system that eliminates electrical issues. Dim lights are a thing of the past, and our windshield wipers will work any time we need them because the motor is operated by electricity instead of vacuum.
Further adding to the issue of practicality are many comfort and convenience opportunities. It is not uncommon to find air conditioning, power windows, power door locks and stereo systems.
Cars from the mid 1930s are practical in their own right, but when modified in the manner described, their level of practicality almost equals those of our daily drivers. The best part is that with relative ease, you can find these cars modified to any degree that you wish, and the prices are not likely to give you sticker shock. There are plenty of high quality cars around that were prepared by very competent hot-rodders, mechanics and hobbyists which can be purchased for far less than what’s been invested in the car.
So go out and find a car that you love and start driving it! You can thank me later
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