4 September 2007

Members Sound Off: Cruises in the Crosshairs

We asked. You answered. In the most recent issue of Hagerty’s Magazine, we mentioned that the famed Woodward Dream Cruise, held each August in metro Detroit, had become the latest target in the battle between hobbyists who want to celebrate our automotive heritage and fringe environmentalists who’d like to banish collector car usage all together.

Several readers e-mailed to offer their thoughts on the issue. Here’s a sampling:

I was discussing pollution with a friend of mine, and he told me an interesting story. While getting his 1960 Chevy truck safety inspected (235 ci I6) the tester was bored and decided to see how the emissions were for the old truck. This truck, mind you, is used almost daily and has been for over 15 years. Recently it was taken out of service for some rear end work, but is back on the road now.

The truck passed the emissions test for new vehicles. We figure that any vehicle properly maintained and in tune is not as bad as a polluter as you might think. Since most collectors treasure their cars, they are probably all in perfect tune, and therefore are polluting far less than you might expect.

I remember growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s and you could always tell an old car that wasn’t maintained by the stink it put out. In-tune vehicles didn’t stink. New cars poorly maintained don’t stink or pollute like the older ones could.

I would also point out to any environmentalist that the number of collector cars on the road is insignificant when compared with any other source of pollution, especially biologics (cows, moose, human bio-mass) and I would also say that the restoration of these cars is the ultimate form of recycling. The old cars are not putting oil and other fluids in the ground as they rot into oblivion. Instead they are working members of their auto-society.


I am glad that you invited comment on the article "Cruises in the Crosshairs".

As verified by Melissa Damaschke of the Sierra Club in the article, no mainstream, thoughtful conservation organization is interested in singling out collector car and historic automobile organizations for banishment. And, indeed, collector car groups should not be saddled with environmental ire.

In most circumstances the collector cars are better maintained and mechanically cared for than the majority of 'general use' cars. Yes, collector cars pollute, just as public transportation buses, police vehicles, trains and even hybrid vehicles pollute. The comparative small number of collector cars, driven a limited number of miles per year produce a correspondingly small amount of pollutants.

No doubt, due to their greater visibility, collector cars become an easy target for unsophisticated environmental reformers who are unaware that the single day automobile traffic to a large university produces many times the pollution output of an event like the Dream Cruise.

Well meaning but misguided environmental advocates often find high profile victims, such as the Dream Cruise, but never tackle the real issues. This is a very slippery slope. If a 'cruise in' event with limited numbers of participating cars is made the object of environmental scorn, what of the waste of energy and the resultant pollution of events like professional and college football games where thousands upon thousands of people drive, only to sit for a few hours and then drive some more. Should we outlaw suburban shopping and holiday travel, or end trans Atlantic flights? After all, these activities are of limited value to the world at large.

No, of course not. Like so many other things in life, those activities that do not appeal to certain segments of society are deemed "unnecessary" and therefore, "time for them to be over.” Those who would demand that the legal activities enjoyed by others should be banned, must be careful that they do not suffer the same fate in their interests and hobbies. Who is to dictate what should be allowed and what should not? Careful review must be made and reasoned decisions must take precedence over wild accusation and thoughtless claims. There are certainly larger, much more important environmental polluters to corral than a bunch of folks getting together to enjoy their old cars together.


When I read the article "Cruises in the Crosshairs" I picked up my magazine and my coffee cup and headed straight for the computer to respond. I consider myself a true environmentalist. I am also the owner of a collector car ('57 Chevy) and two vintage BMW bikes. A Cruise-In of classics is NOT the place to protest carbon emissions.

It always disappoints me when sincere greenies pick the wrong battle. I like to get out there and do the positive things like litter patrol and recycling. (Antique car people are the original recyclers!) I bring my canvas bags to the grocery store and dry my clothes outdoors and ride our excellent local transit system. It is the small choices we make every day that can build a more green and sustainable society.

Maybe car clubs could organize roadside cleanups or tech days to help people keep older vehicles operating at peak efficiency. And we all need to ask American Auto Manufacturers to be once again on the leading edge of new technologies. I want the next new car I buy to be green, built by union labor and still be the coolest car around. Every time I roll up the garage door and admire my chrome covered beauty queen I am reminded that American cars used to set the standard for the world. We should expect no less from them now.

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