Owning a vintage car or motorcycle can be an exercise in trying to live up to other people’s expectations. Whether they are also owners or not, everyone has a firm opinion on how your vehicle should be treated, styled, and cared for. Right or wrong, this is a fact of life, and one of the most controversial topics for vintage owners is the amount the vehicle should be driven.
Our rides tend to be rare and complicated to maintain than the modern world of Jiffy Lubes and engine error codes is used to. We have strange things called carburetors and drum brakes. We have to change our oil seemingly every other day. Our cars cannot go for years without lifting the hood. For all these reasons, and the absurdly high worth of the rarer iron, has led many to lock away their vehicles. These owners choose to enshroud them under dust-proof covers, and only actually drive their machines a few miles a year.
These garage queens are indeed beautiful and pristine. Many look like they leapt straight off a poster, and more than a few are in even better mechanical condition than when they originally left the factory. They are nearly perfect pieces of art. Nearly, but not quite. You see, vehicles are not art. Cars and motorcycles have a purpose; they were engineered to do something. This violates art’s central tenant that it can have no use other than simply being art. No matter how beautifully or lovingly a vehicle has been designed and crafted it is not art.
It is, however, meant to be driven. From a Volkswagen Bug to a Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, regardless of their current value or mystique all vehicles were built to be enjoyed and *gasp* used on the open road. This is their raison d’être. It is just wrong to lock them away in dark garages and deny both them and yourself the pleasure of barreling down the blacktop. Teams of engineers devoted their careers to working on and perfecting your ride. You owe it to these men and women to truly experience their hard work and use the cars in the real world.
My vintage car is a daily driver. She has spots of rust and the chrome is not so bright anymore. I often get a loud crunch when slotting into reverse and the carbs are currently dismantled on my kitchen table. It may not win any concourses, but it wins my heart every day. No, I’ve never done a frame-off restoration on her or caressed her sheet metal with a silk square, but I would venture to say that I know my car better than those that have. I’ve driven my car on the limit. It has disappointed me and overjoyed me. We have a relationship and memories that can never be matched by simply looking at it longingly every night over a glass of dry Syrah. My car and I are more connected than any garage queen and her owner ever could be.
If you only want a perfect example of your model, or simply want to protect your “investment,” I get it. If you don’t want to see people’s faces light up as you drive by, bringing a touch of beauty into their lives, so be it. If you want to lock you vehicle away from the world except for special occasions, fine. But me, I’m going to drive.