19 August 2013

Use your cars or pay the price

Cars were designed to be driven. Once you’ve shown your car, drive it and use the heck out of it. I have an Arnolt Bristol coupe, for example, that I’ll restore and take on the Mille Miglia. I’ll show it at Pebble Beach, then I’ll drive it some more.

The only cars you really shouldn’t use are original cars that will deteriorate. If the paint is cracked or flaking, it could get worse. I have a Hudson Italia with original paint and original tires, but I want to drive it, so I’m having another set of wheels made.

A lot of people let their cars sit and it’s the worst thing, because fuel deteriorates and leaves a gooey deposit. Floats stick and needles get blocked; it’s the same with injectors. And if a car isn’t run, the oil doesn’t circulate to keep seals and gaskets soft. Meanwhile, moisture collects in the brake fluid and it wreaks havoc with the master cylinder and wheel cylinders. Then they drive the car and say, “What a piece of junk.” It’s not the car’s fault.

Even people who drive their cars regularly park them in the winter. If you have a dry winter day, don’t just start it, drive it! Get the fluids up to temperature and drive 10 miles.

I just bought a 1988 Mercedes 560SL with 750 miles. The owner used it slightly every few weeks. After he died his widow sold it. Even though it has super low mileage, it’s never suffered from sitting.

Contrast that with a Ferrari 275 GTB/4 we restored and took to a regional Ferrari meet. After it won best of show, we rolled it into the garage. Though it was started regularly, it wasn’t ever moved. One day I dropped by the garage, and the tires were low and flat-spotted, the wheels were corroding, the leather was moldering, the brakes were stuck and the undercarriage was rusted. From sitting!

I like to see a collector car driven about 1,000 miles a year, but that doesn’t happen most of the time. But any restored car should be used. And if you get a paint chip, just fix it.

I don't get to enjoy cars as much as I used to because I'm so busy, but I try to make the time. Today, it’s beautiful outside and I’m going to take one of the cars and visit my mom. So go visit your mom, and make the drive in an old car.

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