I don’t often get to chat cars on The Tonight
Show. But a while back I had a grandmother, in fact
a great-grandmother, who has clocked up 576,000 miles in her 1964 Mercury Comet. She has had it
from new and always run it as her daily driver. It’s
had half-a-dozen sets of shock absorbers and even more exhaust mufflers. She has really looked after it.
Sadly she cannot drive anymore as her eyesight is too bad. She is 93. She got the car half a lifetime ago. But all she has done to keep it running well is look after it.
I worked at a Ford dealership when I was growing up and rust was an issue with most cars of the period. My boss would sell customers rust protection and then ask us to spray what they said was under-body rust protection. In fact it was just black paint. It’s amazing so many have survived.
Most people think 576,000 miles is pretty amazing. Of course it is, but really anyone can get a car to last a long time with some care. There’s a sense with many people today that a car is worn out at 60,000 or 70,000 miles. That’s crazy. A car is just bedding in at that mileage. A friend of mine bought a BMW 7-series with 45,000 miles on the clock for next to nothing. It was like it had been thrown away. Discarded.
I have a 6.3-liter Mercedes with 324,000 miles on the clock. What’s that, 12 times round the world? I bought it with 308,000 miles and it cost me less than some refrigerators.
I remember a NY Checker cab. The ones in the TV show Taxi with the Chevy V8. One cab driver had run up 508,000 miles or thereabouts. All he did was change its oil once a week. But, hey, it was his bread and butter. He looked after it. But maybe once a week was a bit overkill.
America is covered with pit-stop lube places. Normally near shopping malls, and you can get your oil changed as fast as you can get a drive-through burger. They run hilarious ads saying you must change your oil every 3000 miles and show the odometer reaching 2999 and as it turns 3000 the crankshaft breaks. What rubbish.
Of course it’s good to change your oil regularly but I have friends who lease, not buy, their cars and don’t even open the hood for the three years they have the car. That’s not smart either but modern cars and oils have much much longer change periods than they used to.
My McLaren MP4-12C has 10,000-mile service intervals and it is a 200mph supercar. It has a sealed gearbox too, which shows the way cars are going in terms of maintenance. Or not. Will we ever have a car that needs no oil change from the first day off the dealership to the day it ends up on the scrapheap? Maybe.
Supercars often end up being underused. Owners get paranoid putting miles on a car and reducing its value, so the cars sit for months without moving. I try to drive my cars as much as possible but even a few weeks without exercise and the fuel can start going bad and hoses start cracking. Tires flat-spot too.
There is a court case here where a guy took his Ferrari Enzo in for a service. It had reportedly done about 900 miles. As part of the service the car was taken for a 50-mile road test. A proper test, not a joyride. So the car now has a thousand-and-something miles on the clock according to the owner – who is now suing because he claims the car has been devalued by having more than 1000 miles on the clock. It’s actually going to court.
Cars are made to be driven. Here in California there are lots of old cars in use on the road every day. I see a ’65 Buick every day I go to work. We are lucky because of the weather but it’s not only great to keep the cars going, it’s green too. Using the same car for so long cuts down on the pollution from building new cars.
It’s not the old lady from Florida in her Mercury who holds the record for miles on a car. Nowhere near. Not even with enough miles to have taken her to the moon. And back.
A Volvo driver holds the record. Has done since 1998, with one of those great P1800s. A 1966 apparently. I heard he had two million miles on the clock but I read now that he might be on his way to three million. Where do you drive to clock up three million miles? That’s coast-to-coast across the States a thousand times. And at five days a time, that’s almost 14 years of driving. Fourteen years in a car 45 years old. Maybe it’s not so hard.