Dear Car Talk:
My wonderful husband, Bill, 76 years young, is having some kind of old-car fetish crisis. While I am not jumping for joy about this, I am not totally opposed, either. My questions are more about safety and reliability. Here are the cars he's looking at: a nice-looking, restored 1951 Willys Jeep Station Wagon with a Mustang engine, transmission and rear end; a 1972 Ford F-100 pickup with a V-8; a 1979 VW Bug convertible; a 1988 Toyota Land Cruiser. My question is: Which of these would be the safest/least dangerous? Thanks very much. He is a great fan of "Car Talk," and will respect your answer. -- Roi
They always promise they'll respect us after the answer, Roi.
I'm going to lean toward the Land Cruiser. Your primary question is about safety, and I think the Land Cruiser, due to its size, weight and higher seating position, would be the least dangerous of the options you list.
Forget the '51 Willys. While it's true that steering and brakes had been invented by the time they designed that vehicle, Willys didn't make a wholehearted commitment to the technology.
And forget the VW Bug. That car would be the underdog in a collision with a size-13 cowboy boot.
The '72 Ford pickup is fairly substantial, and I do like it for its simplicity. It'd be relatively easy to fix, and the cost of repairs wouldn't wipe out your retirement savings every time you need brakes.
But the Land Cruiser is a beast. And since your question was which one do I think would be the safest, I think the Land Cruiser has the edge. Even better, if he'd be willing to go as far as the Clinton administration era, he could get himself a Land Cruiser with an air bag ('95 was the first year). Then he could crash all he wants.
And while the Land Cruiser is expensive to repair, that might hasten the process of Bill getting sick of this whole old-car thing, and get him to go back to his 2009 Camry, which is safer than any of these heaps.
Good luck to you and Bill, Roi.