Best car for new teen driver

I posted this question last week but as there is a lot of content on this website, I can’t seem to find it. :frowning:

Anyway, my ex- is fixing up a '72 Chevelle four-door for our 15 year old daughter. He’s chopped the top off and may be planning on converting it to a 2-door.

Would this all-metal car be safer for our daughter in an accident versus driving one of today’s plastic cars? For a time I was driving my grandfather’s 1970 LTD that was hit three times by other cars. Each time the damage to my car was minimal and the other cars took on significant damage.

I just don’t know about my daughter’s safety? Which is better-metal or plastic with airbags and crumple zones?

No, your daughter is much more likely to be killed in the Chevelle, even before the body modifications that eliminate the rollover protection by deleting the roof, and will therefore smush her head into jelly if she rolls the car in a wreck.

1970’s cars are unsafe in comparison with modern cars already, and removing structural bits of them does not exactly lower that safety deficit.

Modern cars are not made of plastic. Even the plastic-bodied Saturns were not plastic underneath.

What you should realize about your anecdotes from the LTD is that the LTD was not damaged because it’s a very solid car. Well, here’s the problem with that – the energy from a bad crash is going to break something. If it doesn’t break your car, then it’s going to break you. Solid old cars are great when you hit something at 10mph, but a 60mph headon collision is like hitting a wall at 120mph. If the car isn’t designed to absorb most of that energy before it’s transmitted to the driver, then the driver is going to have a bad time.

Crumple zones are a good thing. They help dissipate crash energy before that energy can do damage to the driver. It’s like falling off of a ladder onto a mattress vs falling off a ladder onto a concrete floor. You want the impact material to have some give to it, because if it doesn’t then your body is going to be the thing that gives.

I drove a 4 door 1969 Buick Skylark through high school and college. Same basic car as the Chevelle. Shadowfax has given you a good technical explanation, I will just share my experience instead. One week from graduation a van turned left in front of me. For a car with power disc brakes it would have been a hard brake but no accident. The Skylark had 4 wheel manual drum brakes and no amount of effort could have avoided the crash. The brakes were in good operating condition, they just weren’t capable of stopping that much mass. The car only had lap belts. A foor door Malibu with the roof cut off would be a death trap.

The car was wrecked and I was banged up, but with no obvious injuries. Fifteen years later I found out the discs in my neck are deteriorating as a result of this accident. Surgery is inevitable but I will hold off as long as I can. My wife has already had disc replacement surgery from an accident 10 years previously in her 86 Dodge Colt.

One of today’s “plastic” cars would have easily avoided the wreck and if not the occupant would have been protected at the cost of the vehicle. Cars are a lot cheaper than disc replacement surgery.

For your daughter’s sake please reconsider.

Ed B.

I’m afraid you have some very mistaken notions about what makes a car safe. A hacked-up 1972 car is far less safe than any of today’s cars. As shadowfax says above, you want the car to absorb the crash energy so that the people inside don’t. I’d really like to see you abandon this plan.

Your ex is creating a sexy death trap for your daughter. Even the cheapest econo-box like the Hyundai Accent is light years more safe than the Chevelle. I had a 1966 Chevelle with those “manual” (non-power) brakes and stopping ion a panic was real work!

It is hard to describe a MORE dangerous car for a teen driver than a '72 Chevelle with top cut off. DO NOT GIVE THIS TO YOUR DAUGHTER! Any newer car would be FAR safer.

I don’t think the top is actually cut off but chopped. That means making the top lower than factory which is a major alteration. It seems anyone would know that modern day vehicles are much safer than the old classics as we call them.

OP said “chopped the top off”…

texases - I doubt if the OP really knows what is going on.

@“VOLVO V70” I agree, OP doesn’t know what’s going on, and doesn’t understand modern vehicle safety design. All of this leads me to believe that OP does not know what “chopped” means in customization parlance. I suspect the top has indeed been chopped off.

Even if it was only chopped in the way we mean it when we say it, you’re still slicing the roll protection structure and then re-fastening it somehow.

That the ex thinks this car is a good idea for a new driver indicates he, too, probably isn’t all that into vehicle safety, which further suggests that it’s not exactly going to be re-attached in a manner that renders it safe. Wouldn’t shock me if he gets a stud plate tie from Home Depot and screws it to each side. Or JB Welds it. :wink:

Unless your ex is a real pro, the old Chevelle is dangerous for anyone to drive. I wouldn’t even want her to ride in it. Convertibles have extra bracing welded in under the car to make up for the body rigidity lost when the top is removed.

I agree that the OP (and her ex-husband) is absolutely clueless regarding what constitutes a safe vehicle. Even if that 40+ year old car hadn’t been…modified…it would be far less safe than virtually any vehicle built in the last 10 years or so.

That ancient Chevelle wasn’t designed with crumple zones, it has brakes that are truly pathetic in comparison to even the cheapest modern car, it doesn’t handle particularly well, and when you add in the factor of probable rust deterioration of the chassis over 4+ decades, that “all metal” car is not safe at all.

Then, when somebody is so ignorant that he “chops the roof off”, you wind up with a vehicle that lacks even the marginal structural rigidity that it originally had.

You couldn’t even get me to ride around the block in that bomb, and–IMHO–you are using extremely poor reasoning if you allow your daughter to drive it.

I am still wondering about OP’s plastic car statement.

This project sounds like your ex creating a car he’d like to drive. He should keep it for himself for weekend driving and your daughter shouldn’t be let near it. If she really needs a car and you and your ex are going to get her one, make sure it is no more than a decade old, not at all sporty, reliable, not too tiny, and boringly practical. Oh, and let your daughter help pick the car as long as it meets the criteria listed. Get a copy of the Consumer Reports Used Car Buying Guide as it has all kinds of useful info, most critically reliability ratings. They aren’t perfect, but are good for comparing similar cars. They also have basic safer info and lots and lots of lists of recommended cars in various classes.

If it were my daughter I’d be looking for a boring Asian compact or mid-sized car. Unfortunately, that is exactly what every other used car buyer is looking for, so you may have to compromise a bit. Hondas, Toyotas, and Subarus go for a premium over other similar cars, so aren’t usually great deals. Mazda’s are very reliable and usually go for a bit less, so can be quite attractive. Either a Mazda6 or Mazda3 would be very suitable. Their predecessors were the 626 and Protege.

The Ford Fusion was made in Mexico, but is loosely based on the Mazda6 and has its virtues. It is kind of boring, but very reliable (with the four cylinder engine), very common, and reasonably priced. I don’t know how much you’re prepared to spend, but if it isn’t much you may not be able to swing a Fusion a they don’t go back that many years. The Mercury Milan is essentially the same car except for minor trim differences. Domestic cars are typically less reliable, but if they’ve been maintained really well they can be acceptable buys. Consumer Reports will give you a sense of which models are complete dogs and what the weak points are to watch out for.

When you’re looking at older or high mileage cars condition matters above all else. That’s why it is a very good idea to have a mechanic look over a car before you buy it. If you can find a well maintained car with complete maintenance records, super, but for older cars that can be hard. At the very least you need to know what major bits have been repaired/replaced. For cars that have timing belts you need to be sure it was replaced if was supposed to be, and budget for its replacement if it is overdue or upcoming.

Good luck with this. By no means let your ex talk you into letting your daughter have the Chevelle. I’m sure it’s what he wishes he had owned at sixteen, but that was then, not now. Your daughter may not even want it that much. If she does, work the safety angle. Look up how much higher traffic fatality rates were in the early seventies. It will alarm you, if not your daughter.

The OP is almost surely one of those folks who say…They just don’t build them like they used to… without comprehending that modern cars…handle better, have far superior brakes, are usually better at accelerating onto an expressway, have designed-in crumple zones and many other safety systems that the old cars lack, and are far more durable and far more reliable.

Every time that I hear some ignorant person say…They just don’t build them like they used to, my reaction is…

Thank God!

Please listen to all of these good folks’ advice and do not let your daughter near that car. Underneath the plastic that you decry on new autos is a significant metal frame, along with many other safety devices. Without even considering the modifications your ex is making, modern cars are far safer than older ones. Just Google videos of old v. new car crash tests and see for yourself.

OP writes …

I posted this question last week but as there is a lot of content on this website, I can't seem to find it.

If interested, it’s possible to easily find your first post. Look near the top of this page, you should see your name. Click on it. Then click on “Discussions”.

George–This thread is the OP’s one and only posting on the Car Talk site.
So, either she posted her question in a different forum, or her computer-related skills are just as deficient as is her understanding of auto safety.

I’m a trusting kind of guy, but given that we haven’t heard back from the OP, and the odd combination of details (chop off the roof, make it a two door, etc.), I wonder if this was a prank post…

I bet @dagosa created another username just to pimp us! The scamp…