Why do we love classic cars?
The modern car is designed to remove all friction, resistance and effort. It is a well-oiled machine, effortless in its efficiency.
But where’s the fun in that?
The modern car may be faster, more reliable, more comfortable, cleaner, safer, more economical, more environmentally friendly and have better handling...
...but we still love classic cars.
And we love them with a passion.
Is it the challenge they offer to restore and to drive? Or is it their sometimes timeless and sometimes historic design? Or maybe it is the sheer nostalgic pleasure?
It’s hard to say.
But, much of it is explained by that crucial element that most modern cars seem to lack: fun.
The classic car is fun.
It’s fun to own, fun to display, fun to drive (once you’ve mastered its foibles), fun to research and fun to restore.
Let’s take a look at why so many of us love classic cars.
In an age where the primary consideration of designers was not aerodynamics and safety, and where design was made by the human flow of a hand controlling pencil over paper rather than the programmed logic of software, elegance and flow could take precedence over concerns such as streamlining.
How else can you explain the gorgeous front wing of a Jaguar XK120? Or any of Ferrari’s trademark profiles?
Certainly you can say that the modern rigours of crash testing and aerodynamic performance assessment barely impinged on their delightfully contoured bodywork.
It’s not just at the design stage that the classic car benefitted from the human touch.
These car’s forms were often improvised and embellished during the prototype phase so that they followed a more ‘natural’ line. Their final forms almost willed themselves into being during their translation from design to actual car.
It’s all very different now.
The classic car is often said to be full of character and this has been eschewed by modern cars in favour of meeting standards and creating efficiencies. The production line, the simulation, the robotic hands: it’s a long way from the manual process carried out by craftsmen using simpler tools and the judgements of their eyes and dexterity of their hands.
Part of the fun of a classic car is the opportunities to tinker that it invites and almost demands.
It doesn’t even matter if you do the tinkering yourself or enjoy it vicariously as someone else carries out your maintenance, tweaks and restorations.
Whereas modern car engines are largely sealed, and not for the tinkering of an amateur, the classic car invites the tinker with open arms (or an open engine at least).
The modern day electronics that control the engine’s response also leave the driver somewhat removed from the whole driving experience.
This is not so with the classic where the driver is a true extension of the mechanical system. We respond to the engine and it responds directly to our actions. There is no electronic filter. It is gloriously inefficient, but makes driving an art rather than a passive exercise.
Dare we say, it makes us feel alive behind the wheel once more?
There’s the choke to calibrate the fuel and air, that physicality of changing gears and that sense of connection as we engage the clutch.
It’s more challenging, of course. But it’s more fun and, somehow, more authentic.
It makes driving itself the pleasure. Who wants to always have another goal or destination in mind? Let’s just enjoy the drive.
History is far from bunk. It is fascinating, rewarding and instructive. The past is indeed a foreign country where they did things differently and this is precisely its appeal.
Some cars have history almost inscribed into their bodywork. There are race winners and cars with famous past owners. Or those cars that distinguish themselves through quirks and historical oddities that make them nigh on unique.
And of course there are cars that are simply icons: models with an almost talismanic hold over our imaginations.
Some cars become almost moored from history thanks to this mystique, yet others speak their history and time as though it is an irremovable part of themselves. When else but the 1960s could the Alfa Romeo Duetto have been made?
The pleasure principle
Anyone can own a car but not everyone can own a classic: by definition they are in short supply.
It’s not easy either: you have to work hard at it, search them out and maintain them. And we all know that the harder you work to get something the more you enjoy getting it.
You become part of an exclusive club through your classic car. There are events to attend and strangers will smile at you as you drive past in the joyous act of recognition and fraternity.
The car becomes very much a part of your identity in the way that a modern car rarely does.
This all adds up to a great deal of pleasure.
What’s more whereas your joy of owning a modern car is quickly eclipsed a couple of years down the line as new, better models emerge. Your pride and joy is very quickly outclassed.
The classic car, however, just keeps giving. It becomes more of a pleasure to own as the years pass, more of a point of pride.
Why we love classic cars
Let’s face it.
There’s something a little obsessive about it. But without obsession there is no passion.
And without passion there is no pleasure.
It’s the challenge, the authenticity, the tinkering, the fraternity, the history and the sheer pleasure of the drive.
That’s why we love classic cars.