Is it cruel to drive your vintage car in winter?

1985 Audi Quattro

Winter is already descending on much of the country. Many owners are focused on getting their collectible cars tucked safely away for the season, but perhaps that raises a question—why not drive your classic year round?

Let’s not forget that the old cars we love now were, in many cases a simple means of transportation for their original owners. There are, of course, exceptions in the case of cars that were always collectible, but the vast majority were functional machines that got people to work even when the weather was nasty. And with the proliferation of aftermarket reproduction parts and restoration facilities today, there’s never been a better time to pile on the miles no matter what the season.

Winter gives many classic owners pause, the main fear being rust and corrosion amplified by salt and wet roads. Fortunately, a trip to a rust-proofing shop can put these concerns at bay, and you can even do the deed yourself with the right equipment. A mixture of oil and grease or wax-based sealant can be applied to the underside of the vehicle to prevent road grime from latching onto your precious ride. Typically it isn’t a permanent coating, unlike the many undercoating products that respected restorers loathe. As always, washing the vehicle on a consistent basis can prevent any corrosion from starting.

snow covered car

Another issue is traction. Many classics ride on smaller-bias ply tires that often scratch and scrape for grip on cold and icy surfaces. Removing period-correct tires and fitting modern all-season or (even better) winter-specific tires will have dramatically transformative effects on drivability, traction, and confidence. We even proved this theory in 2011 when Hagerty’s own Jonathan Klinger made a 1930 Ford Model A his daily driver for a year. Even Northern Michigan winter snowfall couldn’t stop the Mighty Model A, which was equipped with a set of 19-inch stock-size tires that were siped to mimic the tread of a winter tire.

All that said, we want to hear from you: Join the conversation for this Question of the Week and let us know, would you/do you drive your collector car when winter comes a-knocking?