Journal: What is the Best Classic Car to Daily Drive?

What is the Best Classic Car to Daily Drive?

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September 5, 2014
103 comments

Photography by Afshin Behnia and Josh Clason

Many folks think that classic cars are unsuitable for daily driving, and perhaps if you own a Ferrari 625/250 TRC this is true. But isn’t it a joy to drive your classic? And doesn’t it make sense to maximize the feelings and fun you have when cruising or attacking canyons, even if it means putting up with a few inconveniences?

I think it absolutely does. And that’s why ever since 2012 when the lease on my 2009 MINI Cooper JCW came to an end, I’ve been driving vintage cars exclusively. My vintage cars of choice for daily driving are the Alfa Romeo 105 series cars, specifically the 1750 GTV, the 1750 Berlina sedan, and the 2000 GTV. To me, these are the perfect classic “do-it-all” cars. They’re very comfortable in traffic, a blast to drive in the canyons, and make long road trips even more enjoyable. And, of course, they’re gorgeous!

They do require you to forego many modern conveniences, however. For starters, the 98˚F Los Angeles temperature these days does not bode well with vinyl seats and no air conditioning. The windshield wipers are rather lousy in downpours (a problem we don’t have in drought-suffering California). And the headlights are no match for the xenon beams from modern oncoming traffic. So do the positives outweigh the negatives?

This weekend I spent two days driving over 500 miles with my sister in her late-model Mercedes-Benz E class. The A/C was a godsend as we drove through +100˚F temperatures in Central California. It was very comfortable, quiet, uneventful, and rather boring otherwise, especially given its heavy weight, overly-assisted steering, and automatic transmission. The experience was not too different than being a passenger.

Upon returning home and getting back into my GTV, before even starting the car, simply grabbing the properly-sized wooden steering wheel and feeling the low seating position reminded me that I was in a true driving machine again. For me the answer to my previous question is a resounding yes! The positives definitely outweigh the negatives of driving an Alfa Romeo GTV or Berlina on a daily basis.

What has been your experience? Do you daily-drive a vintage car and if so what is it? If not, then why not? And please also tell us what you think the perfect daily driver is.

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Egbert Prenger
Egbert Prenger(@egbert)
2 years ago

As a daily driver my SL-Pagoda offers a driving experience which I think combines the joys of vintage motoring with sufficient reliability, speed to keep up with modern motoring and drop dead gorgeous looks that I could not wish for anything else. My only change is a Bluetooth installed Becker, better brakes and seatbelts to improve usability. Unfortunately in winter times the salt would be too much of an enemy to the body so for the winter months I use an early ‘90sclassic Range Rover to stay somewhat in tune. Another car which I think is a great characterful driver but sufficient safety and comfort for regular use.

rabbie
rabbie(@rabbie)
2 years ago

Not a classic yet, but getting there. I daily drive a 2001 E46 330ci convertible, and it never fails to put a smile on my face. Modern enough to have a few mod cons for the commute, but still a great big NA 3.0L inline 6 upfront paired with a 5 speed manual gearbox to have fun in the twistys. Yes it needs the odd part now and then, but it’s simple enough to work on. Best part is, it cost less than £2k, who says classics can’t be affordable. 🙂

Henridup
Henridup(@henridup)
2 years ago

I used an unrestored 1972 105-Series Giulia Coupe GTV like yours as a daily from 2002 to 2013. The car is now being restored. In that time, I replaced the clutch, sorted out the wiring and learnt to tune the dual twin-choke Dellorto carbs. And that was that. OK, so the fuel gauge also failed and caught me out about half a mile from a filling station. Big deal. I also have a 1972 Citroen DS with fewer than 150000km on the clock that is mechanically in a lovely condition. Nobody will convince me that these two cars cannot serve as daily drives. My Alfa cost me very little to purchase ($1000, believe it) and very little maintenance and repair and so far the Citroen $12000 to purchase and a cracked rear taillight lens. And a bit of oil now and again. Meanwhile, my wife’s late model car (no names, no pack -drill) costs me 300 dollars a year service cost and set me back $2000 after a radiator burst. Thank you for a very pleasant website, I enjoy it very much. Best regards.

Simon Tuman
Simon Tuman(@2man)
4 years ago

E30. Modern enough to have good power, some power amenities and decent A/C (if it works), but old enough to let you drive and feel the connection. I sold my E30 racecar and my modern C350, bought a 88 325i and a 68 Datsun Roadster. Perfect combo

Anthony Guglielmi
Anthony Guglielmi(@mildseven)
4 years ago

I was planing on driving my ’76 2002 daily (to work), I live pretty close to the office but having to lug two kids to school and daycare (wife changed jobs) messed those plans up 🙁

Chris Dyer
Chris Dyer(@dyerhaus)
4 years ago

I daily drive a 2001 Porsche 911. I actually wanted something a bit older, but those were all out of my price range. I wouldn’t want anything newer than what I have, but I could definitely go for something older.

Vasili
Vasili
4 years ago

Hi everyone, I am driving BMW Z3 roadster 1,9L compressor 220hp with Remus exhaust lot’s of ALPINA parts. Original black sapphire colour with red interior. Since now my favorite car to drive small, unique and now it’s a classic. Not many in Australia 🇦🇺 and nothing like mine 🙂 Quick and very reliable car.

Pedro Macedo
Pedro Macedo(@linkerman)
4 years ago

I daily drive an ’89 BMW E30 316i and it’s great at it.
Fun to drive, with a spacious interior and trunk, and still pretty comfortable despite my custom, more aggressive, canyon-carver suspension setup.

My only complaint is that it gets a bit too hot inside during the summer, but I roll down the windows and open up the roof and get bonus style points.

Pontus Larsson
Pontus Larsson(@pontus_larsson)
4 years ago

TVR 290 S in the summer and Porshe 996 Carrera 4 in the Winter.

Joe Barthlow
Joe Barthlow
4 years ago

the GTV’s rival, the BMW 2002, stock, make a great DD

Michael Bolli
Michael Bolli(@fb_1269379447)
4 years ago

I daily drive my 900 turbo, although I’m looking for something else for the salty winter streets… not that it wouldn’t make it. A/C, heated seats, an LSD and grippy tires help much.

Angelo
Angelo
4 years ago

I daily a 1976 Colt Lancer SL-5. Nothing like it really

Dominic Iaquinto
Dominic Iaquinto
4 years ago

I love driving my 85 GTV 6. Nothing has an engine note like it

Sean
Sean
4 years ago

1969 Plymouth Road Runner

Fede Robert
Fede Robert(@federobert)
4 years ago

I currently daily 2 e30s, a 88 325i and a 90 M3. Honestly they’re great, they feel raw and fun to drive, yet have all the commodities one would like to have in a modern car. Reliability is good and when stuff does go wrong they’re not too expensive to fix.

gshibayama
gshibayama(@gshibayama)
4 years ago

While I have 15+ cars, I daily drive 1987 Porsche 911 Targa and 1994 Porsche 964C2 Cabriolet. Late year production air-cooled Porsche is soooo reliable and fun to drive.

I saw your Yellow Alfa today at Portola Valley CnC! I was there briefly with Porsche 964 Turbo S2 in Guards Red.

Jimmy Taridi
Jimmy Taridi
4 years ago

I have a 1999 V70R and a 1968 beetle. Volvo for daily home-office commute and the beetle for weekends. Thinking of adding a golf R32 for saturday nights .. hmmmmm 😈

Cody Crowley
Cody Crowley
4 years ago

I am only 26 years old, yet this is something I will strive to do in the near future. I already own a Triumph Herald 13/60 convertible for Triumph Club of Southern California events and shows, but I intend to trade my daily driver 2014 Ford Fiesta at the final payment for a Lancia Fulvia Berlina to supplement my Herald. Classic cars are just down right cool, charismatic and more rewarding to own in my opinion than a common jellymold. More maintenance intensive, yes, but when you look back over your shoulder when you park, it’s worth the work!

Jannis
Jannis
4 years ago
Reply to  Cody Crowley

Fulvias are great cars my dad has been restoring some.huge girling disc breaks all around and a unique v4 with twin carbs. Go for it

Alex Jupe
Alex Jupe
4 years ago

Since I passed my driving test! For the last 16 years I ran 2 Alfetta GTV6’s. The first for 13 years, complete with tow bar for my trailer so I could pick up other GTV’s for my business. It had 95k miles on when I bought her, I took this to 250k by the time I regretfully broke her up for spares. The next one I had for 3 years, then sold as a second child arrived and replaced it with my 1982 Alfa Romeo Giulietta which I converted to the running gear of a 3.0 75 (Milano).
As a concession to modern luxuries I have fitted A/C which makes her very useable all year round.
I have no intention of running anything other than a classic daily.

Enrique Perla
Enrique Perla
4 years ago

230.6 from the w114 series or Stroke Eight

Enrique Perla
Enrique Perla
4 years ago

Please do not forget the tought and beautiful Mercedes 230.6 six in line. It is my daily driver since 1996.

Michel
Michel
4 years ago

I would prefer driving an Audi R8 instead of my ’69 GTV. If the Audi got banged up in an accident, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. If the Alfa got damaged, I would lose a lot of sleep …big time.

Michel
Michel
4 years ago

I would drive my Alfa 1750 GTV that I’ve been driving (daily driver for 40 years) since 1969 a lot more often but there are so many crazies driving nowadays who don’t know how to drive, …lot’s of crazy accidents…while texting, some running red lights and stop signs, etc…, I can’t risk it. Also, I’ve even heard some Alfas are getting stolen. A real shame. I love driving my Alfa around LA. Have to drive on PCH and canyons from now on and even that’s dicy. Anyone feel like me Y/N?

Rolf Sigrist
Rolf Sigrist(@rolfsigrist)
7 years ago

Not exactly my daily driver…but almost as I drive my 365 GTB/4 “Daytona” around 10’000 km’s per year. The reason driving it so often and long is the same as everybody else’s driving any other classic car…Feeling and senses, smell, V12, sound, wooden steering well etc. etc….there is no substitute for it.

Ron Bernhardt
Ron Bernhardt
7 years ago

I only drive classics daily. ’89 Volvo 240, ’83 BMW 320i, ’87 BMW 635csi. ’88 Alfa Romeo Spider. Love them all.

lachlan hodgson
lachlan hodgson(@gtv6)
7 years ago

My daily ride is an 1985 Alfa Romeo GTV6 and i can safely say that the pros definitely out weigh the cons when it comes to daily driving. No power assisted steering makes it challenging to park and the Australian summers can get quiet sweaty given the air con is borderline useless. However that busso engine sings a song so sweet, that all of its discrepancies become irrelevant. The car truly defines petrol head heaven.

Paul Harvey
Paul Harvey(@foxhunter)
7 years ago

Triumph TR4A. Bought as a kid in 1979. Restored 3 times from as wreck. Passed over in favour of new sports cars for 25 years and then rediscovered. Now driven daily, and properly!

Christian
Christian
7 years ago

My beloved 1993 Nissan 240sx. Lightweight, RWD, independent rear suspension. Analog….Simple and reliable. All I’ve done is upgrade the springs/shocks, replace the suspension bushings with urethane, and install quality tires. It gives me more satisfaction than my modern BMW. Hard to explain really. ….Still, 240’s get very little love.

Mercurio Muzzupappa
Mercurio Muzzupappa(@1969giuliati)
7 years ago

Livin’ in Milano, Italy, there’s no way to drive old cars every day. I’d like to, at least with my Alfa Romeo Giulia TI, but the stupid so called “anti pollution regulation” says NO! The use of the old cars is forbidden from 07:00 in the morning, to 07:30 in the evening, monday to friday! This is the reason why I moved the Alfa in the garage of my parents house, down in Calabria, southern Italy. It’s been driven for almost 30 days a year, and this is very sad. I keep drivin’ the ’58 Bel Air and the ’72 Mustang CVT, at night and during the weekends. Even though I don’t really care about the aforementioned pollution regulaton, I’m forced to drive a modern thing, with all the electronic gimmicks, even ’cause there’s no respect for old cars here. Cities like Milano are full of envious people, and they will leave some “presents” on your car, if they have the chance to. For the rest, I think using an old car every day is possible, and funny! No worries about the lack of modern conveniences, if you keep in mind wath you’re drivin!

Bruce
Bruce
7 years ago

I have a 22 year-old dark green Corrado VR6 with cold AC and 5-spd manual which I simply cannot part with.

Paul H
Paul H
7 years ago

A couple of French classics that are dependable everyday classics are the Peugeot 504 and maybe surprisingly to those not really familiar with them, a Citroen D Special or DS21/23. Both options are capable of huge mileages, are comfortable over short and long journeys.

The D along with the Volvo Amazons were popular everyday classics in the Netherlands.

Vintage Son
Vintage Son(@vintagesun)
7 years ago

Only reason I don’t drive classic daily is because there’s no safety. I’d guess one in 3 cars on the interstate is a tractor trailer in my area, and that’s mostly where I drive, along with the high number of other vehicles on the road. Just can’t bring myself to do it, especially with loved ones in the car on a regular basis. Maybe sometime if the roads are less crowded and the winters aren’t so terrible.

David Allison
David Allison(@porkchopious)
7 years ago

Not that long ago, I drove my 1965 V8, four-speed Mustang Fastback for two years as my only car. I finally got sick of shifting all the time in Northern Virginia traffic. I then changed to a 1966 Ford Fairlane two-door hardtop that I drove for three years as my only vehicle. No A/C, but it had power steering and an automatic. It was very comfortable and had an awesome heater after I rebuilt it. Now I’m spoiled and drive a Range Rover Sport Supercharged. I drove those old cars because I wanted to drive somethings stylish and inexpensive. Old cars CAN be reliable as daily drivers, but they require more effort to do so.

Mohammad Akbarpour
Mohammad Akbarpour(@vitto)
7 years ago

I thought ppl riding classics are rather affluent and vintages are too costly to keep. But these thoughts didn’t hinder me from buying one. I’d take an Alfa Guilia or one of 105/115 series for sure if there were any in my country. But the only option in front of me was Chevrolet Nova II. I sacrificed my rather modern IKCO Samand to make money for the vintage and it is less than a month that I could include myself in vintage riders segment. There are many problems and very low budget.. but nothing could be as fun as to start your day holding a skinny vintage steering wheel in your hand while ppl smiling at you 🙂

Nick
Nick
7 years ago

I’ve been daily driving a 1976 Mercedes 200/8 for the last five years and it has been an absolute champ. It’s never let me down, it’s just as happy pooting around town as it is haring ’round the twisties.

Pedro Campuzano
Pedro Campuzano
7 years ago

I love driving my 68 230 W110 or my 85 300TD W123 Mercedes daily; both comfortable, reliable and more interesting than any modern car in my price range. I really love the feel and mechanical noises they make.

Miguel
Miguel
7 years ago

I second the comments on the 105. I don’t get to daily it but I do drive mine as often as I can. I fell so in love with the 105 driving experience that I hardly turned to my C6 vette once I got the GTV on the road. After awhile it just did not make sense to keep the Vette so I sold it. Adding a 64 Riviera to the collection this week. Long live the classics.
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7 years ago

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Jonathan Kirshtein
Jonathan Kirshtein(@jkirshtein)
7 years ago

Well–for 15 years I only drove old Alfas. I’ve owned over 30 and found Alfetta sedan, GTV6, Milano, GTV and Spider to all be quite useful. Living in the Boston area, shelving the car for the winter is mandatory. As 15 more years years went by, new cars or company cars(Audi) became the daily drivers. On a recent “staycation” I made a point to drive some older stuff in my garage. I took my 74 Fulvia from Boston to mid Cape Cod and the next day my 61 Giulietta Spider to Maine( where I did turn back after experiencing heavy rain). While my 73 GTV sits a bit more than I would like and part of that is due to too many modifications, that car is big fun! If I lived in a temperate climate, old cars would be the daily norm for me.

Alex Sándor Csank
Alex Sándor Csank(@fb_834032855)
7 years ago

Couldn’t agree more with you… in general terms. I drive my 85 Alfa Romeo GTV6 as my daily driver and love it, but I have also owned and driven MANY other classic Alfas and have loved them all! My former 69 Spider 1300 Junior (equipped with a nice 2000cc motor just because) was superb when I lived in Norfolk Virginia, my 88 Milano Verde (called the 75 3.0L elsewhere) was just the ticket when I lived near Baltimore Maryland, and the ’82 Spider I drove while living in St. Louis Missouri was a really sweet ride. Give me a classic Alfa any day of the week!

Jarrod
Jarrod
7 years ago

I daily drove, as long as there was no snow on the ground, my ’72 BGT for a little over two years. When my commute began to include a major interstate, it was no longer prudent to do so. I also daily drove my ’83 Toyota Land Cruiser BJ60 for about a year.

'68 MGB GT
'68 MGB GT
7 years ago

I wish I could write the same as Afshin. However I drive 55.000km/+/-35000mls yearly at high speeds in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and France.
I need reliability, SAFETY and fuel economy. My beautiful ’68 MGB GT has neither.

David Zu Elfe
David Zu Elfe
7 years ago

Well, I drive a ’79 Porsche 924 as daily. And it’s lovely in every way. Still a classic in many ways, but with a gentle modern touch and at a price point where a scuff won’t make you cry.

But I also have a thing for those GTV’s, maybe as a family car…?

Adam Holter
Adam Holter(@aholter90)
7 years ago

My daily is my ’68 Dodge Dart 270, and I couldn’t be happier! Sure, gas mileage is only so-so, there’s no ac (even worse in MD with all our humidity), and no fm radio. And yes, the brakes leave a lot to be desired. But I wouldn’t trade the ol’ girl for any modern contrivance. The Dart is without a doubt the best car I have ever driven. The Slant 6 has gobs of torque and never feels rushed. The seats are literally perfect for cruising, comfortable even after 21-hour blasts across huge parts of America. For a purchase price if $3800 in basically it’s current (and 10o\% original) condition, it was certainly the wisest investment I’ve ever made. Sure, there may be more “convenient” modern cars out there, but there is absolutely no reason to not daily a classic, whatever the make.

Malcolm Cambridge
Malcolm Cambridge(@powder)
7 years ago

1965-66 Mustang. As a daily driver reliability, practicality and cost & ease of maintenance have to be important considerations.
The early Mustangs have always been pretty simple cars, even when new there was nothing cutting edge about them. They just got the styling right.
Parts supply is incredible. You could build an entirely new car today (yes, even the body shells are being reproduced).
Cost to maintain and repair is laughably cheap by modern car standards.
They were always practical cars with plenty of space. Most of the original powerplants can easily keep up with modern traffic. Power steering and air-con were common options when new. Ford built over a million of them in two & a half years so the problems that come with rarity certainly don’t apply, and there’re plenty of original examples still available if Shelby stripes and fat tyres aren’t your thing.

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay(@christophergay)
7 years ago

I had a 1965 GT when I was younger (over 20 years ago!), and used it as my daily driver. For a while, I had a job as a courrier, and blasted about 150 miles a day all over town in that thing! Four speeds, heavy clutch, no power steering, no power brakes, no A/C. Loved every minute of it. Sure glad gas wasn’t as expensive at it is today! I must have spent a lot of time at the station! Sure do miss that car. Easy to work on. Great low end torque out of the good ole’ 289 (271 HP!).

Had a 1966 Mustang before that. A/C, power steering, power brakes, automatic transmission. Much more of a cruiser, but I liked the action of the GT.

Now I need to get my 1974 BMW 2002tii back to the official role of daily driver, which it used to be for me. It’s so dang hot here in SoCal, I’m even thinking of reinstalliing the A/C. Great gas mileage out of this thing, too! Gotta stay motivated!

Frantisek Simon
Frantisek Simon(@frantisek)
7 years ago

depends on your driving style and also on places where you will be driving it.

Overall I would say Mergs – w115 or w123 with A/C blowing cold and automatic trans.

As the “passionate” driver, it would be Alfa 1300 Junior or Guila.

Frankie

Andy B
Andy B
7 years ago

I think you can have the best of both worlds. I used to have a 106 Guilia coupe (1600 junior), and I used it as my daily driver come rain or snow. But heavy traffic wasn’t so great with the none syncro first gear, and heavy motorway traffic was a bit stressful with modern cars with ABS being stopped very hard in front, I had to keep my wits about me.
But I have had an E30 3 series, and an E34 5 series, both with manual boxes and aircon, that felt like real cars, but all the comforts of a modern car. Likewise my second series Prelude, and my Saab 900 were also very good.

If I had to choose a daily driver now with no maximum budget, that i wouldn’t mind leaving outside at the station carpark, I would choose a Cosworth Mercedes 190, an 80’s Audi Quattro or a Porsche 944 S2/Turbo or 968, or Porsche 911 (964)

Cale
Cale
7 years ago

I try to mix it up between cars but seem to always end up in the 67 datsun roadster. Other days I drive a 72 240z, 69 honda cb450 or the 72 triumph 250t. My more practical 63 ford econline gets the job done in the winter.

DZ Anthony
DZ Anthony(@fb_1303613877)
7 years ago

I daily a 1970 cuda 440-6 in all seasons but winter. The main issues are: low fuel economy (440-6 tends to do that), lack of A/C and noise. I love others reactions to the car. People seem friendlier and less cold to someone in a bright orange muscle car. I usually get thumbs up or tales of nostalgia from fellow motorists when filling up. One thing that gets old after a long day of work is the aggressive cam in the car. It takes a few minutes to warm up and idle reliably, and even when it is up to temperature and running it will discharge some raw fuel at idle do to cam overlap. Drivers behind me usually look fumed out after sitting at a light for a few minutes, but once we are moving the problems are gone.

The loud exhaust sucks for traffic driving, but I keep it for the days where I go backroads driving. It sounds so aggressive flat out.

chris mahoney
chris mahoney(@fiatguy)
7 years ago

Without a doubt, the Alfa 164S. I own 62 classics, and the 164 is bt far the best in every way.

Tharanga Wijayaratna
Tharanga Wijayaratna(@kuseetha)
2 years ago
Reply to  chris mahoney

I delighted to see this!!
I have a 164 Super ’96 24V auto. Its fully loaded with options and full leather interior. What a machine. Still gets admiration from the passengers, even teenagers. Downsides are poor fuel economy and not enough space to unleash the power.
Longest daily I had was a 72 VW bug. Very reliable after a full rebuild. Has plenty of parts and quite usable with no worries. Still with me but its driven less.