Before reading this blog its important to take note of the following: While every classic car is unique and approaches each situation its own way, we speak in generalities, averages and majority figures when discussing the matter of driving a classic car long distance. Furthermore when we mention classic cars, we are discussing stock cars or vehicles very close to that. It is important to note that when you bring modified classic cars into the matter, it becomes a different story entirely.

We would also like to point out that every car generation will have different requirements and approaches to being driven long distance and that due respect must be given to the terrain and environment that these cars will be driven under. 

Driving a classic car long distance – Is it possible?

Driving classic cars for long distances is definitely possible. But not all classic car generations can handle it. Generally speaking, pre 1920s cars cannot handle this kind of trip. Vehicles from the 1950s to  the late 1960s could reach the necessary speeds required for such a trip, but maintaining these speeds will tax these vehicles heavily. The cars from the late 1960s and the 1970s upwards were built to withstand these kinds of trips and if they were maintained properly will handle this kind of trip easily.

What is a long distance trip?

In our measurement, a long distance trip is any trip that involves the use of highways with a minimum speed limit, and that lasts around two hours or more.

Pre 1920s Classic Cars

Ford Model T

Pre 1920s classic cars existed in a time where paved roads weren’t that prevalent, and when they were found they existed in the form of one lane roads. Cars from this period were traveling on top of a lot of gravel and dirt, but they didn’t need much suspension since these vehicles’ average speeds were 20 mph. Vehicle’s under this category are usually only permitted to drive on internal / service roads and are often limited to not exceed a certain mileage each year. It is for this reason that driving these cars for long distances is usually out of the question.

1930s – 1970s Classic Cars 


The 1930s to the 1970s was a time where more roads were prevalent and the average speeds of cars increased to between 30 mph to 60 mph (depending on the car). Yes, some of these cars could travel at higher speeds (90 + mph) but it’s important to note that these weren’t the average speeds.

Cars from the 1950s to late 1960s

Cars from this period had short and narrow tyers (as compared to today’s tyres) . However, there wasn’t a lot of aerodynamics on these cars and therefore they were easily buffeted by the wind at high speeds. 

It’s also worth noting that the vehicles pre 1960s weren’t designed with powerful engines that could sustain speeds of 70 mph (the common free way minimum speed) for long intervals.

Cars from this period are a bit handicapped when it comes to long distances, especially if that involves the use of highways / freeways that connect interstates due to the aforementioned minimum speed limit. Although these vehicles can manage traveling at these speeds, they would be using every ounce of their strength to generate the required speeds. Sustained and extreme bouts of effort like these could take a toll on the cars wellbeing. 

The alternative route is to use as many two lane and inner roads with no minimum speed limits and drive at a maximum safe speed of 60 mph, while enjoying the beautiful countryside scenery.

Cars from the late 1960s to the 1970s

By the early 1970s roads and infrastructure connecting far towns and cities to each other were built in regions like the USA. During this transition period (late 1960s to 1970s)  car tires started to grow in size becoming bigger and fatter, cars were equipped with better brakes and engines, and vehicles could comfortably sustain speeds of 60 to 70 mph.

It was in the late 60s and early 70s that interstate classic cars were born. During this time, tyers became taller, so did gears, steering became faster, and brakes got bigger. Even though it may sound like these vehicles are being taxed when driven at 60 to 70 mph on interstate highways, they were designed to maintain these speeds for days at a time.

How long can a normal car drive?

Most modern cars with properly functioning engines can run for 15 hours before needing to refuel. However it’s important to note that even if your car can go for long hours without breaks, your body is not the same and it is advised to take a 15 minute break every few hours.

How long can a classic car drive?

For the purpose of long distance journeys, classic cars that can withstand and maintain speeds of up to 70 mph can generally be driven for three to five hours. Newer classic cars can be driven for longer intervals but that all depends on the vehicle’s specs.

Preparing for a long distance trip on a classic car

Before your trip make sure that the vehicle is well maintained and that the most risk averse parts are in good condition. This includes parts like car batteries, tires, and engine cooling systems. But for classic cars specifically it’s important to have a specialist look at the car before you engage in this kind of trip.

It’s also important to note that a classic cars mileage affects its value negatively, so be selective with how often you embark on this kind of journey especially if you own a classic car as an investment.

Now that you know more about driving a classic car long distance, you could make use of the information on our “most reliable classic cars to buy” blog. Click on the previous link to read more on that.

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If you enjoyed this blog about driving a classic car long distances, then head over to our classic cars Dubai page for more blogs like it.

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