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60 years of driving the same car

In the latest “Tom & Ray” newspaper column, someone – presumably someone frugal – writes asking about the wisdom of purchasing a car now that will last them for 60 years, and 600,000 miles. Plus, according to the writer, it has to be parked outside!

I’m not sure about parking a car outside for 60 years. But let’s say for argument you could garage it so rust wasn’t a problem. Does it make sense to think a car could last 60 years and 600,000 miles? I think it possible. I got to thinking about it when I was taking a walk around the block the other day when I came upon a teenager, a high school student, playing basketball in his driveway. I asked him about the VW bug parked nearby. Was it for sale? I’ve always wanted an older VW bug to put around town in.

“Hell no!” he says. He explains it’s his first car and he likes it and drives it every day. He said it’s a 1962 model. He bought it for $100. It didn’t run when he bought it, so he pushed it home with a couple of his friends helping. He installed a rebuilt engine, prettied it up a bit, and now it is totally functional. The top speed is a little over 70 mph, and he says it gets good gas mileage, 35 mpg. The seats need some work, but the outside looks pretty good for a 50 year old car. I see no reason why it won’t last another 10 years. As long as parts and rebuilt engines are available, it may remain on the road another 50 years! A 100 year old car!

Anyway, what do you think? Is 60 year/600K possibile for today’s cars? Besides the VW Beetle, what other car would you even consider to keep that long? Cars worth keeping would have to be classics in some sense or the other. They’d have to be among the most popular cars ever built. My nominations would be the Ford Model A and T, the Toyota Corolla, and the Ford Bronco (pre-1976). Any others?

Crown Vics are well on their way…1992-20-- I’ve never seen a Bug that got 35 mpg…Most were lucky to get 25…Same as the Vic…But after 20 years or so they just start to SMELL so bad…

Plug-in hybrids are what’s next, like the Volt. The fleet average will be in the 50-60 mpg range and unlike the VW of your dreams, they will be safe to drive…

Oh, and maybe the Honda Civic too.

Air cooled VWs were doing well to exceed 25 mpg and engines rarely lasted beyond 100,000 miles. But they were easily replaced or rebuilt and usually declined slowly rather than failing catastrophically. They were somewhat akin to a piece of industrial equipment.

I had a 59 VW and hardly ever got over 25 mpg. It needed constant attention and sure wouldn’t have wanted that for 50 years. I think any car today with electronics is going to have a problem. Once the electronics start to go, you’d be replacing sensors, computers, wire harnesses, etc. to drive you mad.

My college room-mate had a 73 SuperBeetle. It got around 25 mpg as I recall. It would go faster too, 80 or 90 mph. But the older ones, the 1950’s and early 1960’s had considerably smaller engines. Didn’t they have something like a 35 hp? Maybe those older ones get better mpg? Or maybe the basketball kid was exagerating, maybe he measured it coasting on that long downhill from Lake Tahoe to San Franciso!

Here’s what Wikipedia says about it: “…production increased dramatically over the following decade, with the one-millionth car coming off the assembly line by 1955. During this post-war period, the Beetle had superior performance in its category with a top speed of 115 km/h (71 mph) and 0–100 km/h (0–60 mph) in 27.5 seconds with fuel consumption of 6.7 l/100 km (36 mpg) for the standard 25 kW (34 hp) engine”

I’ve heard from other people these older bugs smell. What is the smell all about? BO? Gas fumes? I don’t see why gas fumes couldn’t be fixed if that’s the problem, just find the source of the gas leaks. Is it more complicated than that?

Safety is a big problem, I’ll agree with that. But nobody is every entirely safe. A well-considered risk may be worth taking if the drive is fun. I think driving a VW bug just to put around town is at least as safe as driving a motorcycle, probably considerably safer, and I see a lot of those risk-takers on the road.

Aren’t a lot of police cars Crown Vics? Those cars seem to be pretty tough. I’d expect them to last well. I see quite a few on the road. One of my neighbors purchased one at a gov’t surpless property sale, and I see him driving it every day. When he got it, it still looked like a police car, with the white top and dark color body. For a while nobody would park near him as they were worried about a parking ticket!

If you don’t crash it too badly, if it does not, as you mention, rust and if you can easily get parts, then some reasonable possibilities are Type I and Type II VW Rabbits, Golfs and Jetttas from 1975 to 1992. Parts are still easily available for these cars. It remains to be seen if this will hold true for Type III and IV Golfs and Jettas as they have not been around as long but the precedent is there. It might be easier to live with a
Type I or II VW Golf or Jetta for 60 years instead of an old style VW Beetle.

I sure wouldn’t want one, just like I wouldn’t want to be driving a 1950 anything today. And engines typically can last around 250k, maybe 300k. So you’ll be replacing the engine once. But imagine how much better a 2072 whatever will be!

I don’t understand the poor fuel mileage on the old air-cooled VWs. The first one I ever owned was a '61 model with the 40 Horse engine and it would get a steady as a rock 41 MPG at 55 MPH; although 55 was about it. Excluding hills and headwinds of course. :slight_smile:

The smell you refer to is carbon monoxide. The heater system consisted of fan forced air through the junction boxes. The junction boxes were heater enclosures for the exhaust pipes and over time any leak at all would bleed exhaust fumes into the cabin. The only cure is fix the gasket leaks or replace the junction boxes and both were common problems.
The '61 I had was a joy in the wintertime on a 25 degree day with the RPMs up (higher the RPMs the more heat) and the windows cracked open while the eyes watered… :slight_smile:

There’s a local farmer here who passed away a few years ago and at the time of his death he was still driving 2 vehicles that he bought brand new; a 56 GMC pickup and a 65 Chevy Bel Air. The guy was loaded but was happy with those vehicles in spite of the drab appearance and age. I have no idea how many miles were on those things but he drove them almost daily and there’s no doubt if he were still alive that he would be soldiering on with them today.

Both of my antique Harleys have survived the years with one being 62 years old and the other about 68. Mileage is unknown as old HDs covered a lot of miles with broken speedometers or no speedometer at all; especially back in the customizing era of the late 60s and 70s.

Does anyone think that there will be internal-combustion gasoline engines 60 years from now?

Note to ok4450 carbon monoxide has no odor. Any smell is unburned hydrocarbons.

I for one never had a car that I wanted to keep driving that long. I buy good cars and take good care of them, so when I sell them at 18-20 years of age, they sparkle like new and run like watches, but I am tired of them.

There are a lot of good cars out there. You only live once.

The Chevy pickup I have right now is a 79.
At merely 33 years old it’s alzheimers is rooted in all things rubber or plastic.
Unless the parts manufacturers step up to the plate, a 60 year usable span will be hard to meet.

Engineering legend Bob Pease died in his 1969 Beetle last year.
Might he have survived in a newer, safer car?

http://www.edn.com/article/518568-Analog_engineering_legend_Bob_Pease_killed_in_car_crash.php

I don’t know about the 60 years lifetime, but my 24 year old 1988 Ford Escort has 518,5xx miles on the original engine and 4 speed manual transmission. The body on it is still pretty sound considering it wasn’t always kept clean and was driven on dusty/muddy construction sites for the first 12 years of it’s life. Most of the work that’s been done to it has been normal wear parts with the exception of a few electrical sensors so 600,000 miles is well within reach of today’s cars if they are properly cared for. With the amount of driving most people do now a 60 year old car would have in excess of 600,000 miles unless they had multiple cars.

I have a teacher friend who commuted 60 miles both ways in 30 year old VW beetles. This is in the rust belt, and these cars as well as his much older cars remain rut free to this day. The mileage for his commuting cars are under 300k. When they get to that point, they get rewarded to permenant non winter usage. Given how well my teacher friend maintained his cars, I can’t imagine that 60 years and 600k miles in anything but ideal, Southern Califirnia driving conditions could be done in a dependable car.

If you want to drive with a tow truck close by and on call, I suppose anything is possible. I’m with “mleich”…you may not even want to share the roads and punish your self compared to cars in the next twenty years, let alone 60. Why bother ?

FordMan, yours is the exception. In any group of things (cars, generators, bicycles, whatever) there will be a small number that, through a combination of excellent maintenance and, well, luck, last a very long time. Those statistical outliers don’t represent the average. Most engines need major work by 300k, or some other major system has died. That’s why you’ll find so few cars on the road with 300k+. Used to be 100k.

In the 70s a magazine had an article about a hardware salesman who covered Noth Dakota and kept his car, a 1957 Chevy for at least 500,000 miles.

His advice was simple:

  1. Select a manufacturer known for quality and service.

  2. Buy his best selling car in the mid price range; this ensures PARTS that are available well into the future.

  3. Don’t skimp on maintenance; prevent failure and be proactive in managing the vehicle care.

  4. Fuel mileage is important, but only 25-30% of overall ownweship cost. You don’t need a diesel unless you drive 50,000 miles a year.

Using this rationale today, you would buy a Toyota Camry or Corolla, a Mazda 3, or a Honda Accord or Civic. With the base motor and little extra equipment, such a vehicle would last 30 years or more and give you the lowest overall OWNERSHIP COST!

Ok4450, I’m surprised at you. You know carbon monoxide is odorless! The smell is the other exhaust components combined perhas with oil dripping on the exhaust. All of those coffee can engines leaked oil. I seem to recall four pots bolted to a split block/crankcase, the whole thing based on a 1940s design concept. Lots of opportunities to leak.

Mleich, there’s no doubt in my mind that IC engines will still be around 60 years from now, but they’ll be highly efficient and probably operating the generator for electtric motors, or somehow other used in a hybrid configuration. My guess is that they’ll also be tiny compared with today’s engines.

Look at the past 20 years and you’ll see dramativ improvenment in IC engines. Today’s engines are much more powerful per C.I.D., or, if you prefer, per pound. And they use less fuel. I suspect that as electric systems evolve to be more efficient and better store energy, IC engines will morph to become purpose-specific to run generators. I think 60 years from now the idea of using IC engines as a primary power source will seem archaic. And we won’t need transmissions either. Electric motors can already run a vehicle from 0-100+ all by themselves without multiple gears, and they’ll get better.

FordMan. That’s an interesting story. What about your clutch? Is it still original? Or how many times have you had to re-jigger it in those 500K+ miles?

I was wondering: What’s do you all think is the world record for most mileage on a passenger car clutch?

Same…“there’s no doubt in my mind that IC engines will still be around 60 years from now.” I respectfully feel differently.
There is no doubt in my mind that IC engines will not be powering cars and trucks on the highways 60 years from now. If so, they will be as antiques. There will be no need for ICs even as generator motors. The electric motor needs only an economical Storage device. IMO, that’s less then 25 years away. Within twenty years of that…by, by IC.

Well before then, we will be on the threshold of singularity? With technological creation of smarter then human intelligence, I doubt ICs will stand a chance, nor should they.