13 July 2011

900 miles in a '78 Lotus?

Are you considering a road trip in your classic car this summer? Hagerty magazine Associate Publisher Jonathan Stein undertakes the challenge in our latest video by attempting to drive a notoriously unreliable Lotus Esprit from Pennsylvania to St. Louis. Check it out to see if he – and, more importantly, the car – made it in one piece. In addition, read on for our tips to ensure your car goes the distance.

Long trips in a classic car are possible as long as you’re careful

 
Driving a long distance in an older, famously unreliable car may sound reckless, but we were anything but careless in our preparation for the trip. The precautionary steps we took before and during our journey can be put to work in virtually any car you’ve recently acquired. Before you embark on a long trip in a classic car, consider the following:

  1. Make sure you buy a good car. Inspect it personally or, better yet, have an expert inspect it for you. Starting with a reasonably well-cared-for car is essential if you want to make it to your destination.
  2. Insist on thorough trip preparation. We sought the expertise of Possum Hollow Motorsports before setting out and requested extra fluid and belt services. During that process, the mechanics found issues with the carburetors, fuel pump, timing belt and cooling system. Because we asked and paid for extra service, problems were identified and solved before we hit the road.
  3. Stock up on spare parts. Of course, if you buy them, you’re almost guaranteed not to need them. Nevertheless, make sure you have belts, hoses, ignition parts and plugs. Also take along basic tools, oil and a jug of water. Often parts for classics are difficult to find. As long as you have them with you, any number of shops can help get you back on the road.
  4. Stay ahead of problems. We checked every fluid every time we stopped. That way, if issues came up we were ahead of them. Lucky for us, none did.
  5. Don’t push the car’s limits. To ensure we didn’t exacerbate any underlying problems, we kept to the speed limit and took it easy with turns and acceleration. If the goal is to make it 900 miles, there’s no reason to test the handling. Once you’ve reached your destination, find a safe and legal location close to your home or repair shop to test the more exciting limits of your automobile.
  6. Plan for alternative means of travel. Because we were making a video, we had the security of knowing another vehicle was behind us and would help if necessary. Because a chase car will not normally be available to you, before you start, be sure to consider how you’ll cope with a breakdown before you set out.

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