Dear Car Talk:
My friend Rick just told me that he and his wife are expecting their first child. Rick wants to buy a 1960-'64-era Ford Falcon ... he plans to add electronic ignition, improve the suspension and put on disc brakes. In short, he thinks he can make a car of that vintage a safe vehicle. I told him he's CRAZY -- that a 50-year-old car never can be as safe as a newer vehicle, no matter how much it's been updated. Who is right? Rick, or me? I told him to get a used Honda Civic or Accord ... something a bit more practical than an ancient Ford Falcon.
This is why mothers exist, Ken: to protect their children.
You've heard the famous expression "Like a mama bear protecting her cubs"? That's because Papa Bear is out playing pool and dreaming about taking the cubs to play at the local rifle range while wearing bull's-eye T-shirts.
This is a lousy idea, Ken. Rick could spend $100,000 installing seat belts, air bags, anti-lock brakes, stability control, a padded dashboard and steel I-beams in the doors, and it still wouldn't be as safe as a 2011 Nissan Versa (the cheapest car sold that year).
Not to mention it would still be a 1960s Falcon! They had trouble getting people to buy them back then.
In terms of safety, an early-'60s car just wasn't designed to crash the way modern cars are. Modern cars are built from the ground up to have crumple zones that absorb the forces of an impact in a crash, and protect the passengers. So a modern car is, by design, 100 times safer than anything he can make out of an early-'60s Falcon.
I think, in his heart, Rick knows that. He's just resisting the onset of true adult-hood.
He suddenly pictures himself driving a minivan and wearing his favorite leather jacket with spit-up all over it, and he's freaking out. That's natural. Most men panic when faced with giving up their youth and freedom. But hey, we all got used to it!
So have a little sympathy for Rick. Tell him he'll love fatherhood. Tell him that when his kid is a teenager, he can get a '60s Falcon, and he and the kid can restore it together. It'll be a great bonding experience. And then once it's restored, his wife can still refuse to allow her child to ride in it.