Is the Volkswagen Thing safe to drive around a small town?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 2001

Dear Tom and Ray:

Before I went away to college, I bought a '74 Volkswagen Thing that I keep at my mom's house. My mom ("Miss Nader") won't let me drive it. She says it's "unsafe at any speed." Would you please tell my mom that the car is safe enough for small-town driving? It has a roll cage. Or if the car is, in fact, a safety hazard, can you encourage my mom to buy me a car with a better safety record, like a new BMW? -- Bradley

RAY: For those of you who don't remember the short-lived VW Thing, it was a remake of a World War II-type personnel carrier. Basically, it was a German army jeep, and VW re-created it in the '70s, using a VW Bug chassis.

TOM: The Bug was not a safe car to begin with, and the Thing was basically a Bug without the added structural protection of a roof. So it was a death trap, in my opinion, Bradley. And I agree with your mom. I wouldn't want any of my kids driving around in this Thing.

RAY: But if you're in college, you're rapidly approaching the age at which nobody can protect you from yourself anymore. So I'm going to suggest that your mom treat you like an adult and compromise with you (unless she can't get her way, in which case she should go back to guilt and threats).

TOM: If you've proven to be reasonably sane and trustworthy (not a given), then I'd say she should let you drive the Thing around town -- provided you promise never to go over 40 mph.

RAY: And if she absolutely can't stand the idea of you driving around in this death trap because she actually likes you and wants you to be around for a few more years, then she should help you trade it in and buy something safer and mutually acceptable ... like a Dodge Viper.

TOM: By the way, Bradley, it's clear that, wherever you're going to school, you're majoring in negotiation.

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