22 February 2017

Automumble – Left-hand drive vs. Right-hand drive

You drive your car as equipped, right? And in the UK cars drive on the left-hand side of the road with steering wheels on the right side of the car. But buying cars from “the continent” is an option and those are all left-hand drive. Additionally, the “steady flow of American [classic] cars being imported into the UK, restored and enjoyed…” could be modified, in some cases, to right-hand drive. But as Hagerty’s UK office, including John Mayhead and Charlie Patterson, along with Ed Legge from Classic & Sports Finance, points out, no enthusiast would make that modification simply for an easier drive. Would you? Let us know what you think…

30 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Tom Wa state February 23, 2017 at 13:02
    I have a car from Australia. It's right hand drive. That's part of the fun of owning it.
  • 2
    Patrick Palatine, IL February 23, 2017 at 13:20
    Interesting discussion since I have two Morris's and an Austin all in right hand drive. I would never think about converting them over to left hand drive.
  • 3
    Diane Brandon Oregon February 23, 2017 at 13:39
    As someone who drove a RHD car for over 200,000 miles here in the U.S., except for times when I went to a parking garage with ticket access on the left, I found it remarkably convenient. In rainy western Oregon, it was very nice to park curbside and step out onto a sidewalk, and not on the street side with cars driving by always with a splash. And think about parallel parking in a RHD car here. Easy peasy. I imagine driving a LHD car in England, same thing...kind of makes sense. But being in this car "hobby" for decades, I know that a RHD to LHD conversion here will bring down the value of a car sometimes by 50%. In my area of interest, RR and Bentley, the RHD/LHD position is identified in the VIN so fakey-do's are easy to spot. If you have a RHD car and find it awkward, sell it and buy a LHD one. Not that I have an opinion...
  • 4
    Mike Birk Westfield, IN USA February 23, 2017 at 13:41
    I recently purchased a 1954 Bentley R Type with right hand drive. When looking at the valuation here I see that there should be a 30% discount for the right hand drive. I personally think that is ridiculous.This is a true classic that was built and intended to have the driver in the right hand seat. In my opinion, the driver's position reflects the tradition of this British beauty and lose part of it's allure if it had been produced or modified for the US. I think it should actually demand a premium.
  • 5
    JIm Kennedy Rehoboth, MA February 23, 2017 at 14:20
    For me, if it came from the factory with a LHD then it stays LHD, if it came RHD, then RHD it is. I wouldn't change a classic unless someone special already changed it (for racing, etc.). If that change made it more valuable, then I would think about it. I've never driven RHD and can't imagine shifting with my right hand or even think about what the pedals do - but I guess it's all what you are used to. Cheers!!! Jim
  • 6
    Norm Steerzer Ft Myers, Fla. February 23, 2017 at 14:23
    Just purchased a RH drive classic mini. No difference driving it except shifting with your left hand vs. right. Easy to get used too. Some vision restrictions while making LH turns but I'm contributing this to the height of the car.
  • 7
    Darren Los Angeles February 23, 2017 at 14:24
    I agree that "American" cars that are imported to the UK should remain original. However, I fully support that British cars exported to Left Hand Drive countries should be converted to RHD if brought back to England. I live in California but am married to an Irish woman. We have a house near Kilkenny that we intend to retire to so I am looking for a solid TR4 here in the states that I can restore myself and convert to RHD so that it's complete before I retire to Ireland. It would also enjoy the "cool factor" of British car/RHD while still in The States. I have bought and built MANY (some to restore, some to drive) cars over the years and have found that about half of the cars represented as "dry state" vehicles had significant amounts of rust on them. But, I recently purchased a 1966 Mercedes 250SE Coupe that had NO rust, even in the typical areas like around the window trim, boot seals, wheel wells, or the (always rusted) side wells inside the boot. And this car had lived near the beach its whole life. So, you never know what you will find. I contacted a local classic car dealer in Florida who was able to send his inspector/assessor to verify the condition of the car before purchase, it was well worth the $300 that he charged me, which included verifying the title and transferring funds and paperwork. Happy hunting, Darren
  • 8
    S. Wilson Vancouver area, Canada February 23, 2017 at 14:30
    My first collector was my '65 Austin-Healey 3000 that spent its life in this region, and I paid the price fixing the rust. 5 of the 6 collectors I bought since spent their lives mostly in southern states. You have to find out the history of the cars prior to purchase, and since I did, they proved to be solid. Ironically, the most solid original collector, an S-1 E-Type Coupe, spent its life in a heated garage in New Jersey, and only had documented 24k miles when the original seller sold the car in 2006. No rust! I have learned several lessons: 1 - don't purchase original condition cars that have spent their lives in rust belts, but there can be occasional exception; 2 - it is a lot easier and cheaper to purchase a car already restored, so let the restorer take the financial loss; 3 - the term "restoration" is a much abused term; 4 - I won't be funding any more restorations since there are unfortunately some in the industry who will take advantage of you if they can. I ended up going to court against one company and won, but fortunately my restoration was salvaged by a quality company; and 5 - collect because you have a passion for what you purchase, not because you think there is a quick buck involved.
  • 9
    Walter Meyer Eagle, Idaho February 23, 2017 at 14:33
    I've driven a right- hand drive Derby Bentley since 1961. Since I don't pass anybody, I've had no problems. I also have a right-hand drive R-Type and have no need to make a change.
  • 10
    Stephen Canada February 23, 2017 at 15:15
    I drive a right hand drive Jaguar E-Type in Canada. All round visibility is good but shoulder checking is even more important when overtaking. Still wearing its UK number plate on the bonnet it certainly stands out from other E-Types.
  • 11
    wes gray Dry State February 23, 2017 at 15:40
    converting LD to RD or opposite?! if one has the resources and the right parts are available...ok... but the complexity is clear, newe steering rack, the dash, instruments, wiring (likely must extend wires or reposition loom or replace also? Sounds like a snowball...) not for me. I had much fun driving UK many years ago, learning to shift with lefty, pedals the same.. the driver is the most complicated part of the conversion, ...mmm.
  • 12
    Kerrigan Portland, Oregon February 23, 2017 at 15:52
    Our 1971 Nissan FairladyZ is RHD, originally for the Japan Domestic Market (JDM), and is a real head-turner and show winner. Insured with Hagerty of course.
  • 13
    kenn young New York February 23, 2017 at 15:55
    I used to live in the only part of America that drives on the left side of the road ( guess where). Virtually all the cars there are US spec and have steering wheels on the left side of the car. I also have lived in Australia and drove RHD cars on the left side of the road and lived in New York driving LHD cars on the right side. My point is that you get used to anything quickly and I would not modify a car to suit its location.
  • 14
    Joe Mariani Seminole,FL February 23, 2017 at 17:11
    I would not recommend changing the steering. It would be best to leave it as built by the factory. [ORIGINAL]
  • 15
    Bill Darnell Calvert City, Ky February 23, 2017 at 18:17
    I have a right hand drive AC here in the States, I would never think about changing to left hand drive. As many people ask if it is hard driving on the wrong side, I reply your wrong and I am right, (side)
  • 16
    Ray Ottawa, Canada February 23, 2017 at 18:27
    Many British sports cars or other "exotics" were generally not driven in winter in Canada or Northern states, the Brits were not good cold weather cars and had mediocre heaters, etc., hence they were usually "second" or cruiser cars, hence many are not rusted or damaged even from "wet" states....
  • 17
    John Hinckley Washington, MI February 23, 2017 at 18:42
    In 1964, my first year as a GM Production Foreman at Willow Run, we got a number of Government orders for Chevy II 4-cylinder 3-speed manual station wagons, all of which had right-hand drive and went to Africa with huge "Hands Across The Sea" decals on the doors. Hardly any of them ran at the end of the line, and the clutch and shift linkage would have made Rube Goldberg proud. :-)
  • 18
    Jim New Jersey USA February 23, 2017 at 18:57
    I have five British cars, three Left Hand and two Right Hand. I would never change the right handed to left, or vice versa. Drive them as they were born and enjoy the history of where they came from. One of the left hand drive cars is a South African Knock Down TR3.
  • 19
    Shirley Bennett California February 23, 2017 at 20:06
    We have an 1959 Anglia.. still right hand drive..it is a kick to drive from the "wrong" side! I would not change it at all!!
  • 20
    James Shelly Long Island February 23, 2017 at 21:05
    We bought a R-type Bentley in 1983 and quickly discovered that the two main problems with a RHD car in the US were passing and toll booths. If you didn't have a front seat passenger, passing was a cautious exercise because you had to move a long way out into opposing traffic to see if the lane was clear and at toll booths one had to set the brake and slide across the car to pay up. Other than that, parallel parking was mostly easier. We did not even consider a mechanical change.
  • 21
    Andrew Brims British Columbia, Canada February 23, 2017 at 21:50
    When I drive here in North America, I get accustomed to driving the cars as built for this setup. And likewise, when visiting the UK, Australia or New Zealand, I can easily make the switch to driving on the other side of the highway. I would be very wary of attempting to drive a vehicle which is set up for driving on the opposite side of the road to the location in which I have moved. The unfortunate number of vehicle accidents on either side of the English channel attests too the hazard confronting drivers who fail to make the switch. You now have to drive to the curb instead of the centre line, not a comfortable place for proper control and sight lines. Whether or not to modify a collector car... not sure that I have the answer. Most British cars coming back to the UK with steering wheels on the left should have parts available to make the switch to right steering. It might depend on mileage and circumstances of being driven, and there is the cost factor.
  • 22
    Brakeservo Arizona February 23, 2017 at 22:39
    I have owned and driven RHD cars in America for many years - absolutely no problem, no safety issues AT ALL! If you're intelligent, passing, lane changing and all other maneuvers present no problem whatsoever! Occasionally I meet someone who looks at my cars and says "Oh dear, I could never drive a right side car" to which I reply that perhaps they should never then drive a left hand drive car either because it's the same - the pedals, steering wheel etc. ar all the same. You simply have another seat to the left of you. Then the issue of shifting gears comes up - aw c'mon - if you can scratch your nose with your left hand, you can shift gears with your left hand too. And some of my cars, mainly the Bentley and Rolls-Royce cars have the manual transmission shifter on the right anyway - between the seat and the door.
  • 23
    Michael Vancouver BC February 23, 2017 at 12:43
    Audio quality needs to be improved.
  • 24
    Fr John Tyrrell Jarvie Alberta Canada February 23, 2017 at 12:53
    I brought my MGF with me when I returned from Cyprus and ingood weather I drive it all the time. Driving on the right in a left hand drive country takes a little bit of adjustment but it works just fine as long as I am careful. The bureaucrats would like to ban RHD vehicles here but I don't think they will get away with it. I would never think of modifying the car even if it were possible.
  • 25
    Walter Bryant Englewood Co February 23, 2017 at 12:55
    I bought a 66 MGB with RHD in the early 70s and after maybe a week of driving her around, the seating and shifting feel completely natural. The biggest issue is being VERY CAREFUL when passing cars on the left. Otherwise, absolutely no problems and all the thumbs up and humorous comments from other people are very fun.
  • 26
    Sam North Carolina US February 24, 2017 at 15:48
    For 10+ years, we've spent 3-4 weeks a year in the UK and Ireland and have never had any trouble adapting to RHD rental cars. However, since the recent election we're thinking of selling out and moving to Scotland or southeast Ireland full time. To us avoidance is an acceptable strategy. Problem: my wife has a very nice 1969 Dodge Dart GT convertible that we would have to take over there too. As a red-head, she just looks too damn good in that emerald green Dart to leave it behind. Although the Dart was a "compact" car back then, it's still bigger than any RHD car we've ever rented. I fear for the passenger side's mirror and body work when she drives it down the wrong side of the road. Whatever, it may be worth the risk, if only to escape The Donald. We'll see.
  • 27
    Frank Florida February 24, 2017 at 07:02
    There are some right hand only cars that could be worth more in the US if they were left hand drive like TVR or some Japanese models because they aren't going to appreciate as classics anyway
  • 28
    Harold US February 24, 2017 at 09:04
    To change any automobile from its originality as it was manufactured and marketed, no matter left or right hand drive, in my opinion is a modified automobile and should no longer be considered a classic. Several automobiles today come in US and UK models, but not in the past.
  • 29
    Jay Salser Dallas, Texas Area February 25, 2017 at 12:57
    AutoMumble was the right title to give to this 3-guy symposium. jay
  • 30
    Matthew Arizona March 13, 2017 at 00:16
    I have a Postal jeep DJ5D which is rhd. I would never think of converting it to lhd! So much fun driving a rhd which prompts lots of comments from others! Drive- thru banks/restaurants do pose a problem unless I drive thru in the opposite direction!

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