Journal: Are You Forced To Conform To Your Classic Car?

Are You Forced To Conform To Your Classic Car?

Michael Banovsky By Michael Banovsky
October 21, 2016

Knowing you have mastery over something is an incredible feeling, which is one of the reasons why older vehicles inspire so much adulation. Just imagine you were a driver before a car’s controls were pretty much standardized to where you’d expect them: if you had no idea what to do, the result would be catastrophic. Master its controls, however, and a whole new world emerges.

One example I enjoyed was learning to drive a Ford Model T early in my writing career. To be painfully honest, I hadn’t really considered it’d be all that different from driving a more modern machine—in other words, crude but workable. Instead, I was confronted with a machine designed around its own particular blend of features and quirks like an ignition advance to control throttle, a long handle for gears and brakes (kind of), and pedals that definitely don’t do what you’d expect them to.

I don’t see any of it as a knock against the Model T—far from it. It’s not terribly difficult to get the hang of its controls, but when perched high atop the wrought black motorized loveseat, cell phone buzzing in my pocket, I wondered only if it thought I was from outer space (or perhaps what color the sky was). It’s not that different from imagining yourself sliding behind the wheel of the 1960 Fiat-Abarth 1000 Bialbero La Principessa before realizing that it’s two-thirds missing.

There’s only so much room in a streamliner, and to drive it you must first fit…

The placement of controls or a shape built for speed are just two examples; tiny cabins, raked windshields, inane startup procedures, and the ‘rough edges’ found in most classic cars are all but ironed out these days, which is probably why we don’t seem as attached to new ones.

New cars are built to accommodate drivers, while vintage ones were built for drivers—a useful point to remember the next time you’re forced to operate the choke with the skill of an organist. How do you conform to your classic car?

Photos via: Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Gooding & Company by Piotr Degler,

Join the Conversation

Leave a Reply

2 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
2 Comment authors
Mark PetersenSchnell87 Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Mark Petersen
Mark Petersen

Eveytime. I’m 6′ 1″ and while my daily is an Alfa Romeo GT (diesel), my classic is a ’61 Austin Healey Sprite (Sebring replica). To enter, my left leg goes in first and then my backside slides down the seat and door bar, hopefully not leaving my right leg outside. So my legs aim off to the right of the footwell, steering wheel aims off to the drivers window, the right side of the seat is raised so my head misses the rollbar and my neck cranes over to the left. Great fun (for short journeys). When she, eventually starts,… Read more »


I have the privilege of driving E-Types every once in a while and it took me two sets of ripped pants to realize that I needed to put a hand on the sharp edge on the top back side of the driver door frame when I got in. At 6’2″ I also just barely fit into the series 1 cars with some awkward leg work needed for clean shifts…so it is truly a privilege to even get to drive those pretty machines 🙂