Steering You Right: Old for Young?

2013-08-28T09:00:00Z Steering You Right: Old for Young?By Sharon L. Peters CTW Features
August 28, 2013 9:00 am  • 

Q: My 17-year old daughter is obsessed with vintage (late 1960s, early ‘70s) VW Westfalia vans and wants to purchase one with money she has been saving since she was 13. Of course, we are concerned with her safety, being a new and inexperienced driver, and want to make sure it has airbags. There seem to be some online that have airbags added in recent years. Are these as effective as the more current models? Also, how do we go about shopping for this type of car? Can you advise us?

A: I love this girl’s passion and determination. And I dislike her choice … for this moment in her life.

As you point out, she is an inexperienced driver, and this is a big vehicle not particularly stable in many circumstances.

Although I am impressed with your diligence in thinking about add-on airbags (more on those in a moment), that is not the only safety equipment missing from vehicles of that era. She really needs electronic stability control, which can help prevent a rollover during a skid or too-fast cornering, which are especially big risks in a vehicle of this sort driven by a beginner driver.

As for airbags: Really? Add-on airbags? I’m having a lot of trouble even envisioning that. There is much debate even about the safety of using non-deployed airbags from junked cars in cars that require replacements. So I would certainly not be able to argue that placing a recycled airbag into a vehicle not constructed to carry and deploy one would be a good idea.

I hope your daughter can be convinced that more road time and greater maturity are the requirements for obtaining this particular vehicle. A more nimble vehicle loaded with all safety equipment available is what she should be driving at this point.

If you decide to make the purchase anyway, there are many online offerings. I implore you to finalize the deal only after you have seen it in person and test driven it. The vehicle of her dreams has become something of a cult favorite, and it is not unusual for a seller to demand upfront cash, claiming that a long line of would-be purchasers has formed.

What’s your question? Sharon Peters would like to hear about what’s on your mind when it comes to caring for, driving and repairing your vehicle. Email

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