Open mic

Open mic: What’s the best classic daily driver?

Driving a classic car on a regular basis is sometimes seen as a hassle.  In addition to problems with reliability, many enthusiasts say their car is not comfortable, safe, fast or efficient enough to be used as a daily driver.

While many vintage cars are admittedly outdated (try commuting 50 miles in a 2CV 4), finding an affordable classic daily driver is not particularly difficult.  We’re tempted to suggest a vintage Renault because we’ve spent a year driving a 1981 4 F4 on a daily basis and it’s been a robust, reliable car that’s never let us down.  However, the 4 lacks at least 10 – 15  horsepower in order to be a truly great daily driver.

Although there are countless options out there, our vote ultimately goes to the Mercedes-Benz w123.  Base models with a low-displacement engine are just as slow as a Renault 4 (if not slower, actually) but versions equipped with a larger engine are powerful enough to keep with modern traffic, reliable enough to drive on a daily basis and more comfortable than a lot of considerably newer cars.

How about you, readers? What do you think is the best classic daily driver?  For the sake of this article we’ll say a classic is any car that is over 25-years old.


20 thoughts on “Open mic: What’s the best classic daily driver?

  1. My wife uses her classic Series III Land Rover on a daily basis, now racked up 14K miles in 3 years. Once I have my 1960 Series II restored I’ll be using that daily too.

    True they aren’t as comfortable or quiet as a modern car but they make up for that in the massive increase in driver engagement which means they are far more enjoyable and rewarding to drive.

    Speed is irrelevant for most local driving as many of the rural lanes and local towns are speed restricted to well within classic car speeds.

    As for reliability then as long as they are well maintained there is no reason they should be any less reliable than any modern car, my wifes truck has actually been more reliable than my modern japanese pickup over the last few years. If they do suffer faults then parts for classic Land Rovers are far, far cheaper than parts for modern cars and in most cases it is easier to find parts for a 50 year old Land Rover than it is for a 10 year old Mazda!

    In my experience classic cars that are driven daily are often very reliable anyway as they tend to be maintained better and any faults rectified quickly in order to keep the vehicle running.

    • How long until your ’60 is fully restored?

      I spent a couple of weeks in Scotland in 2011 and I was surprised at how many vintage Land Rovers were still being used on a daily basis. Folks used them for every day transportation, and they also seemed to use them as work trucks.

      Landies truly are great vehicles, I’d love to own one some day.

      • In theory it is just a few months away from being complete, however that depends on having good weather (I do all the work outside on the driveway), the money and the time. As I have a wife, three kids and a 180 year old house to maintain too the poor old Land Rover takes second place to other demands.

      • I recently renovated a house so I know how that goes. On the plus side, it was a good excuse to buy a vintage van.

        Bytheway, I’d love to get access to the members-only section of your site once it’s up and running. Keep up the good work.

  2. I bought a Giulia 2,0 7 years ago. The last year or so it has been my daily driver – summer and winter. In the 7 years I’ve driven 80.000 kilometres in it and it’s been one of the most reliable cars I’ve had – including the new/newer ones! Strongly recommended.
    The Giulia now needs some TLC so last week I bought a 1985 Volvo 360 GL 2,0 as my new daily driver. Only 91.000 kilometres on the clock! I think it will suit me fine as daily driver – strong enough, enough space and well behaving mechanicals. Time will tell if it’s as reliable as the Giulia.

      • It’s a 1973. Converted to a blueprinted 2-litre engine 6.000 kilometres before I bought it in October 2006. Now it’s done 86.000 kilometres. It was also mechanically renovated at the time of the engine conversion. Renovated for use as a car for historic rallies and so on i.e. stiffened springs, lightened underpinnings, strengthened drivetrain and so on. It’s been a blast the last seven or so years:>) – but now it needs some TLC. New clutch, some electrics has to be sorted out, the gearbox makes sounds – and obviously some rust as I’ve used it summer and winter. But it drives:>)

  3. I have a 1983 W123, a 230CE. Drive it every day, and its great fun. A close second for a reliable daily driver would be a Golf/Passat/Jetta/Derby from the mid 80’s.

  4. Almost any MB would be a great daily driver I think. In my conutry (Argentina) I would choose a 1981 Honda Prelude or a Mitsubishi Sapporo Super Touring. As a second classic daily driver, my choice would be a Fiat 1500 coupé by Vignale -beautiful car, still affordable around here. The three of them are extremely reliable, quite efficient and enjoyable in the city or the highway.

    • Wow, the Vignale-bodied 1500s are still affordable in Argentina? That’s amazing, those are beautiful cars. What do they typically go for, on average?

      • yes i think they would still work very well but not sure about the interstates where the speed limits are 65 to 75MPH and most driver are at least 10 MPH over. i also do no know how the motors like the gas with 10% alcohol blend. thanks

  5. I have over 300,000 klm on my Alfa 75 TwinSpark. Both my son and my neighbour have one, we buy parts in 3’s and help each other. The TS 75’s handle brilliantly, & are amazingly reliable and economical, even with the Bosch moronic 🙂 engine management. There’s no real rust problems in Australia, away from the ocean, and with a 5 speed gearbox and 150 available at the top of third, these cars eat up the long distances and wide open roads. My second car is a 1950 peugeot 203.

  6. The best balanced classic for me would be an early (without cladding) W124 MB 300E. Had two of these. (300E-24 and 400E) Both were wonderful.
    #2 choice would be early Audi 100 Avant Quattros.

    In countries insisting on driving on the wrong side of the road, I’d take Y31 Nissan Gloria or S130 Toyota Crown, both Hardtops with 3.0 I-6

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