Dear Tom and Ray:
I'm hoping you can assuage my fears. My 24-year-old daughter told me today that she is buying an old VW bug. She spoke with her father, my ex-husband, and he was very supportive. He also advised her to not let her mother talk her out of buying one! I had a VW myself when I was her age, and I know how cool they are. However, I also know that the heaters and defrosters don't work, they rust out and they are not safe in collisions. I am concerned for her safety. Do you have any words of assurance for me regarding this issue, or any information I can pass on to her that might convince her otherwise? Thanks much!
Tom: Well, now we know why he's your EX-husband, Maryann. Unfortunately, it's two against one now, so you're going to be hard pressed to talk her out of it.
Ray: But of course you're right. The old VW Bugs were death traps. They provided almost no structural support in an accident. In fact, if you look closely, you can see "Swanson Hungry Man" stamped on the body panels.
Tom: They leaked gas, they handled poorly, they blew around in the wind, they had lousy brakes and they couldn't get out of their own way. And that was when they were new!
Ray: Age, disrepair, rust and the increased size and weight of other vehicles on the road have only made them less safe to drive now.
Tom: And, of course, old Bugs have none of the modern safety equipment we take for granted these days, like crumple zones, door beams, antilock brakes, air bags and stability control.
Ray: So I see two options for you, Maryann. One is to decide that this is a perfect time to move to Bali for a few years and study jewelry-making. That way, you won't be around while she's driving this Bug, and you won't have to see her in it every day and worry constantly.
Tom: The second option is bribery, which has a long and successful tradition. You can offer to help her buy something that's equally appealing but a lot safer. I don't know what her tastes are exactly, but if an old Bug appeals to her, perhaps a newer Bug might, too? Or a Mini Cooper? Or a new, very cute Fiat 500? Or a 1972 Lincoln Continental?
Ray: It'll cost you, Maryann. But poor spouse selection always does. Ask any of my brother's ex-wives.
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)