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What Was it Like?

SaxMan

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For those who owned LBCs in the 60s and early 70s...what was it like driving these tiny cars in a sea of huge Detroit iron? I know sometimes when I pull up to an SUV or a pickup, I'm practically craning my head 90 degrees to see their passenger compartment. However, other than the SUVs, cars are a lot smaller than they were in the 60s and the 70s, so while the Sprite is still very small, the disparity between it and more "typical" cars isn't as great.

I remember as a boy seeing some LBC owners putting a tennis ball on top of their radio antennas. I guess this was in the day when right side view mirrors were the exception and not the rule. I know we used to talk about how small the cars were and the standard line about sticking your hand out the window and giving yourself a manicure. The cars always made one smile, though. That hasn't changed a bit.
 

nomad

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Many of the vehicles on the road today are far bigger than they were in the 60's. I had a 3/4 ton 67 chevy pickup that I could reach everything that was in the box while standing on the ground. Just try that today. Newer pickups need a step ladder.

The cars were bigger but handled terribly and stopped poorly so I think the traffic moved slower and was a little more cautious. Roads not near as crowded and a lot smoother as well.

Showing my age, aren't I!:friendly_wink:

Kurt.
 

HealeyRick

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Kurt's got it exactly right. I started driving my well-used Bugeye in 1967 and there were plenty of small to medium sized cars on the road. Not everyone was driving a '59 Caddy or '67 Bonneville 'vert. VWs were everywhere as well as all kinds of LBCs, new and old. My biggest fear was some of my buddies picking the Sprite up and putting it in the back of a furniture moving van. I'm more afraid of texters in SUVs today than whatever was on the road back then.
 

59diamond

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It was so different back in 1962 when I drove my 59 Sprite to College everyday rain or shine. I absolutely do not remember people making comments about how cute it was or ogling over it. Back then it was just another form of transportation. I do remember after I got it taking it over to show my Ex girlfriend (now my Wife of 50 Years in June). She went for a ride in it and said something like nice car, and then told me her Dad had bought her a sports car also. It was a Renault. I said nice car but it isn't a sports car. She still had it when we got married and for sometime there after. I remember coming to rescue her a few times after her "Sports Car" overheated on the LA freeway. I was so glad to get rid of that piece of junk.
Back to the Sprite. I was not afraid to take it anywhere, park it anywhere and did not worry that someone would steal it or damage it. Back in those days stealing any kind of car was a big big deal. People just didn't do those kinds of things.

I did take it to Tijuana more then once and never worried about it. Only one time did something happen. Some Persons lifted it onto the sidewalk and took my parking space, but did not harm the Sprite in any way.

Today is so so different. I do not leave my Bugeye anywhere where I can't see it. Lots of cars are stolen every day now. It is just like hit and runs. They were very rare back then. Now if somebody stops after a collusion they are almost looked at as heroic because they stopped at the scene of an accident.

Well enough blabbering about the good old days. I have to go shine up the Sprite for "Rollin British Car Day" this Sunday. Expecting close to 250 British Cars rolling along.
 

CLEAH

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When I was driving the BJ8 in high school ('79-'81) the cars around me were not so big that driving the car was uncomfortable. I never thought about it at all. Maybe it was because by then cars had gotten smaller (even my mom's Cadillac was a Seville, which was Cadillac's first smaller car). We had a first generation Honda Civic which was pretty small too. I will say that one major difference from then to now was that there were tons of small sports cars running around. We were living in Buffalo at the time, and it was not uncommon to pass multiple Big Healeys on any given trip. Lots of MGs, Triumphs, Fiat Spiders, Lancia Scorpions, Jags of any vintage, Sunbeam Tigers, Mercedes SLs--it was a great time and place to grow up as a car crazed kid. Maybe not as great as southern CA for that kind of thing, but great anyway.
 

Hot Wings

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For those who owned LBCs in the 60s and early 70s...what was it like driving these tiny cars in a sea of huge Detroit iron?

I drove my bugeye in the mid 70's on a daily basis. I don't remember cars seeming so large in comparison, but the average pickup truck in my part of the world was a hazard to be watched. I also rode a motorcycles and bicycles regularly and just assumed that I was not seen by the other drivers even when in the Sprite (they often validated my assumption). I learned to always leave myself an "out" kind of like when you fly you keep possible landing spots picked out just in case. Driving a Sprite turned me into a good defensive driver before I knew there was a term for it.

Cars today are not only seem to me to be bigger, they weigh more. Even the new Mini weighs nearly a half ton more than the originals.

"I'm more afraid of texters in SUVs today than whatever was on the road back then."

Ditto.
 

aeronca65t

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Agree with much of the above. Today's pickups, for example, are far bigger than the 1/2 ton pickup my Dad had in the '60s. Today's minivans are just as big as full-size vans from the 60s and 70s. And now, people feel safer (better brakes, air bags, etc) and this may lead to over confidence while driving.

And then there's the awful circumstance of people driving while talking on a cell phone......

Anyway, ~Here Is A Page of Photos~ I put together from "back in the day".
 
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SaxMan

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Great answers. Having been born at the end of 1967 and being little, clearly my childhood memories of the cars I would see on a daily basis made them seem considerably larger than they probably were, since my perspective was from being a small child. It sure seemed like every other car I saw was a '69 or '70 Buick Electra 225. I know there is a picture that I saw posted on the website of a Spridget navigating through urban traffic surrounds by HUGE cars.

I remember seeing MGBs, but don't consciously remember any other LBCs. (other than the Jaguar Mark II that was across the street). I can imagine that I thought that Square Sprites and Midgets were also MGBs, Lord knows I get that a lot driving around today. It sure did seem until the "Japanese Invasion" following the first gas crisis in 1973 that the import market in the U.S. was very eclectic. I remember seeing Ford Cortinas and Opel 1900s, and, of course, the ubiquitous VWs. I was such a car nut as a kid that I learned to read by sounding out car names from their badging.
 
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SaxMan

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I drove my bugeye in the mid 70's on a daily basis. I don't remember cars seeming so large in comparison, but the average pickup truck in my part of the world was a hazard to be watched. I also rode a motorcycles and bicycles regularly and just assumed that I was not seen by the other drivers even when in the Sprite (they often validated my assumption). I learned to always leave myself an "out" kind of like when you fly you keep possible landing spots picked out just in case. Driving a Sprite turned me into a good defensive driver before I knew there was a term for it...

It's an interesting analogy. I ride bicycles, too, and I treat every car as if it was trying to run me down. That carried over to the Sprite. I'm always thinking that I'm so small that people won't notice me. A friend of mine who rides motorcycles rode with me in the Sprite, and he remarked that the way I drive is similar to how he goes about when riding a motorcycle.
 

JPSmit

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It is actually fascinating to compare first generation civics to current - or BMW's, or, pretty much anything in terms of size - it is astonishing! It is also worth noting that design itself has changed - for the years these cars were built, (generally) long and low was the mantra - so, for instance, one of the reasons mini vans became so successful was because they went up - and provided usable space. Many (most!) of today's cars are not really longer - they are taller - obviously and especially SUV's and Trucks, and, of course added to this is my pet peeve that so many cars (and somehow sports cars especially) look bloated like they were initially designed as balloons and then overinflated.
 

nomad

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JP, I think it was Peter Egan that came up with the description of the modern vehicle as using the "Amorphous Japanese Blob" school of design. You are right on the money IMHO. The modern SUV handles great and stop's great but when pushed beyond its limit it roll's like a ball. A couple of years ago I was out on the interstate when I was passed by a "pod" of drivers all doing about 40MPH more than the icy condition's warranted. A few miles up the road 2 of the SUV's were rolled over in the ditch and the rest were either stopped or continuing very slowly. The cars of the 60's would have just plowed into the ditch. I stop to help motorist's in distress but not for idiots....I continued on my way.

Kurt.
 
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