Today: Should Threat of Breakdown Stop Trip?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 19, 2012

Dear Tom and Ray:

My dad has a 1962 Studebaker Hawk that he bought three years ago, when he was in chemotherapy. He got it out of a barn in Wisconsin, where it had sat for more than 30 years. It has 80,000 miles on it, and it's in pretty good shape. The paint is worn out, and it needs some interior work. He loves this old car and wants to take my brother and me on a trip on old Route 66 next summer starting in Chicago and going to somewhere in Missouri. I'm 14, and my brother is 12.

Dad has done a lot of work on it. He's added seatbelts, modern disc brakes and dual master cylinders; he's converted the generator to an alternator; and he's added an electronic ignition and a modern carburetor. Mom is not thrilled with the road-trip idea. She says the car is too old and undependable.

For example, the gas gauge doesn't work (Dad says that he just has to know how far he's driven), it does not have air conditioning and he disconnected the heater. He promised to get the non-working AM radio repaired and fix the small hole in the front floor before we go. Who is right -- Mom or Dad? Should we go on this trip, or will we break down in the middle of some cornfields in Illinois? Are we going to melt in this old car? Dad says the vent windows and fender vents will keep us from getting too hot. The car is two years older than my dad. He really wants to take this trip. Thank you.

-- Zach

RAY: Will you break down in the cornfields of Illinois? Yes -- and lots of other places. Will you melt in this old car? Yes, especially when you're stopped or broken down, which will be often.

TOM: Should you go on this trip? Absolutely!

RAY: No question about it. It sounds like a wonderful adventure. And breaking down will just be part of the adventure. It'll give your dad a chance to show his sons how to handle adversity and solve problems, and how to take things in stride. And, since he's a guy who wants to make this trip in a '62 Studebaker, he'll also show his sons that fun can be had under almost any circumstances, even when it's 106 F in the breakdown lane.

TOM: I understand your mom's concerns. That's her job in the family -- to worry about things like, oh, life and death. But your dad doesn't sound reckless to us. He's given this car a lot of upgrades, including the addition of seatbelts. And he plans to take the old, slower Route 66, rather than risk your safety at 75 mph on the highway with tandem trailers whizzing by.

RAY: So my suggestion is to assure Mom that you're taking reasonable precautions. That means bringing two things along with you.

TOM: No. 1 is a cellphone, so that when you break down and your dad is unable to fix the problem himself, you can call for help. You may even want to download our iPhone app called "Breakdown Lane" from iTunes.

RAY: It uses your iPhone's GPS data to find the closest highly rated repair shops anywhere in the country -- whatever cornfield or city you break down in.

TOM: And the second thing you need to bring is a credit card. You'll use that to either pay for parts and repairs, or, if worse comes to worst, buy three bus tickets home and take the Studebaker's plates with you.

RAY: Either way, it'll be a great adventure that you'll all remember for the rest of your lives. So go for it. And have Mom call us if she needs some more convincing.

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