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Lifespan of OLD cars (Brass Era)
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humanpotatohybrid
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Hi all,

I was wondering this recently and thought I'd post here. So for context, we all know that the average lifespan of a car in the 40's/50's was much less than today (to quantify things, a car would depreciate the same fraction in 5 years as a car does today in 9). I know we can argue endlessly about what the lifespan of classic cars should/could be given proper care and maintenance (however one defines those terms) but I think it's pretty reasonable to say that due to mostly a combination of rust issues and mechanical wear that after 5 years or 60k miles most cars of the time were decidedly on a downhill slope.

My question is, what tended to be the life expectancy of cars in the really early days, say, 1910? How much time or mileage did it take for these to become unreasonable financially to repair, succumb to rust or weathering, or just become obsolete? Anyone have an idea of depreciation for these? Many people feel that Packard made of of their highest quality cars ever in this era, but were they actually racking up like 50k miles over a decade, or were they discarded much more quickly?

I wasn't able to find really any info online, so I'm interested in people's thoughts here. Obviously this can include other makes, I imagine Packard would have been a higher bound on vehicle life.

Posted on: 2022/12/29 23:03
'55 400. Needs aesthetic parts put back on, and electrical system sorted.
'55 Clipper Deluxe. Engine is stuck-ish.
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Re: Lifespan of OLD cars (Brass Era)
#2
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jw4
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I would just stipulate that, aside from the physical depreciation of cars due to wear and tear (which would likely be of primary importance when assessing the residual value of industrial equipment), for personal vehicles we should also account for the "moral" depreciation, caused by the loss of their exchange value due to certain advances in new car production

In other words, how many people decide to get a new car, because it is no longer cost-effective to maintain the old one (and that, alone, already depends upon several factors of modern production), versus because it is no longer fashionable, or is somehow outdated, unreliable, "old", etc.? And how these trends differed throughout the years...

Posted on: 2022/12/30 8:20
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Re: Lifespan of OLD cars (Brass Era)
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Jim in Boone
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Don't know if a benefit to your thoughts or not, but dad purchased a new 23rd series 49/50.

Car was kept in a garage, and we didn't drive that much in those days, maybe 28,000 miles when we moved in late 57.

Just an uneducated guess that in the early days, folks with cars didn't drive much and likely were wealthy.

Posted on: 2022/12/30 10:15
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Re: Lifespan of OLD cars (Brass Era)
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humanpotatohybrid
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Yeah it's certain that people didn't drive as much in the early days because cities and society as a whole were constructed around slow transport. So I wonder what distance you'd end up driving a car, when you don't drive much and 10 years in the future the technology is so much advanced.

Posted on: 2022/12/30 10:19
'55 400. Needs aesthetic parts put back on, and electrical system sorted.
'55 Clipper Deluxe. Engine is stuck-ish.
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Re: Lifespan of OLD cars (Brass Era)
#5
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Owen_Dyneto
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In the era of early brass cars, they generally became technologically obsolete before they became functionally obsolete.

Posted on: 2022/12/30 10:38
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Re: Lifespan of OLD cars (Brass Era)
#6
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Ernie Vitucci
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Dave…Can you remember when cars of the 20’s generally disappeared from every day use? Ernie in Arizona

Posted on: 2022/12/30 12:02
Caretaker of the 1949-288 Deluxe Touring Sedan
'Miss Prudence' and the 1931 Model A Ford Tudor 'Miss Princess'
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Re: Lifespan of OLD cars (Brass Era)
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Fish'n Jim
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Not sure it's fair to generalize about this from that view. If you bought a new 1920 Duesenberg, you might have done well to keep it/pass it on even today.
The depression hit in the late 20s and that changed the landscape of cars dramatically as did the war eras. Majority of makes went out of business and even the top brands had to
downsize/merge to survive, both numbers and quality/bling reduced. The early brass era cars now are pretty soft, except for a few exotic survivors.
Get a book or two on the history of the auto industry and much of your inquisitiveness will be satisfied. It a circuitous journey not a straight forward calculation.
If you depreciate "equipment" then at the end of "life" it's only worth salvage value. But in collector cars there's residual value which can increase or decrease with the market for them.

Posted on: 2022/12/30 14:15
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Re: Lifespan of OLD cars (Brass Era)
#8
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JeromeSolberg
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Not that I am an expert on this or anything, but given the poor state of roads and the resulting lower speeds, using mileage is probably not a good yardstick for comparison - "hours" might be better. Going 20 miles over to the next town in the Brass Age was quite a bit more involved and stressing on components than it has been since, say, the 1950's. Reading the Model T forums, minor overhauls were common after 10,000 miles, and the whole car was considered good for perhaps 100,000 miles.

Posted on: 2022/12/30 14:22
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Re: Lifespan of OLD cars (Brass Era)
#9
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Fish'n Jim
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Hours are OK, but are dependent on the distance traveled for the drive train.
An hour meter will continue to run when vehicle stopped and idling so that will indicate the engine wear, but not the running gear.
eg: at 30 mph it takes 1000 hours to cover 30000 miles. But at 60 mph you can cover 60000 miles in 1000 hours, and that's a heck of a lot more wear on the suspension, tires, etc. than the engine. Due to gearing, the engine won't need to turn twice as fast.
Not many hour meters in that era, except maybe on tractors, trucks, etc. Some won't even have an odometer and may lack a speedo too. Very simple instruments, if at all. eg:
https://car-from-uk.com/ebay/carphotos/full/ebay147653959768874.jpg

Today, with digital, you get much more info. eg; My tractor keeps track of both engine hours and time moving.

Posted on: 2022/12/31 10:47
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