The Great Classic Car Re-Birth
Envisioned by artists and created by craftsmen in an era when form took precedence over function, the beauty, elegance and refined allure of classic cars transcends time. Could their creators, some of them living a century ago, have anticipated how enduring their appeal would be to a modern audience? It is hard to imagine, unless they could envision a future where fine, sweeping lines had been replaced by boxy silhouettes, uniqueness by uniformity.
Modern cars do, of course, also have their appeal, yet it seems that the more we progress as a society, the more our motoring ideals regress. So what is it that feeds this continued popularity? People buy old cars for many different reasons. Some are driven by a desire to revisit a past they lived, or wish they had lived. Others want a way to break free of the monotony of mass consumerism and the omniscient pressure to conform to the norm. They don’t want to drive amongst the horde of modern cars that populate our streets and car parks, all painted in the same shade of silver, and blend in. Other motives are less artistic.
A Sound Financial Investment
As investments, classic cars outperform newer models. These cars continue to appreciate in value whilst their successors become ever duller, less reliable and less valuable. Even fairly mediocre cars will cost in the region of £15-20,000 when bought new, their value falling by thousands during the first twelve months in depreciation alone. The only guarantee when you own a new car is that every day of the year, rain or shine, you will lose money on it. Classic cars hold their value much better. For the owner of a popular classic - a Minor, A35 or Viva - routine maintenance will see their vehicle hold its value for as long as they own it. In some cases, their glittering steed may even increase its worth. Is it any conundrum to consider which of these two realities would boast a greater appeal?
Low Running Costs
Financially, running an older car makes a good deal of sense when compared to a modern car, although it does help enormously if you’re handy with a spanner. Cars from earlier eras were designed and built by humans, and as a result they would often be maintained by a home mechanic with little more than a basic toolkit on his workbench. Failed components could be removed, dismantled and refurbished as required, then re-fitted rather than thrown away. If your alternator failed today, however, most garages would consign it to the bin, order a replacement and present you with a bill for several hundred pounds. Owners of a classic, on the other hand, can do a lot of the work themselves, using second-hand parts and saving themselves a deal of money on mechanics’ fees.
The savings owners can make on road tax and MOT only adds to the charm of owning a classic. Cars built prior to the 1st January 1973 are registered as historic rather than private light goods, meaning that they qualify for zero-rated road tax. This is a real benefit of driving an older car, especially as the introduction of different tax bands in recent years has led to quite hefty sums being required to a tax a modern car with even the most modest engine capacity. In addition, MOTs are not required on cars built prior to 1960, making another small saving for those who choose to run a classic.
The Social Side of Motoring
Some people buy a classic car to drive around in every day, some to save money, others for different reasons, one of the most common of which is the social side of driving a classic. It is common for drivers of classics to nod or wave at each other as they pass, and this camaraderie extends beyond the road. Most makes and models of old car in the UK have clubs which host local meets where enthusiasts can congregate over a pint or two and discuss their motors. Road runs, informal shows, film nights and quizzes often form part of the member’s club experience. For those who don’t enjoy the purely social side, clubs provide a useful source of contacts when it comes to accessing technical information or hard to source parts.
Today, you can look in any supermarket car park and guarantee that you’ll see row upon row of over-sized hatchbacks and people carriers, painted black, white or a silvery hue which falls somewhere between the two. The cars will all burst with more technology than their drivers know what to do with. Some people are happiest blending into the herd and being like everyone else, and that’s fine. But others like to behave a little differently, eschewing the accepted way of doing things. They opt for cars (and clothes, houses, interiors, music) that are more reflective of their own slightly eccentric or individualistic take on life. One of the great myths about classic car ownership is that you must be a petrol obsessive, but the appeal of vintage motors extends beyond those interested in cars, to those who are unique and yearn to fill their lives with objects that reflect that, that don’t quite fit in the modern world any more, as out of place and out of time as they are.
Perhaps the main driver of the classic car phenomenon is nostalgia. In how many other mediums can one choose an era they would like to return to as a participant, not an observer? With classics, anyone can choose to relive the best time of their life, or a time that they wish had been theirs. They can pick the model, the colour and the songs which play on the radio. They can be transported back to any era that they want. They can create a virtual reality of sorts. Who among us wouldn’t want to live in a world in which they feel comfortable and at ease? Where their views and sensibilities are reflected in the world around them? That’s the true appeal of classics.
As an art form, classic cars grace the collections of museums throughout the world, as well as some of the finest private collections in existence, like that of Ralph Lauren. They say that you don’t see classic cars in therapist’s parking lots, and perhaps that’s true. They touch the lives of the millions who collect them – those who see them as an investment, art, therapy or nostalgia. For some, the art of collecting is itself therapeutic. Others enjoy the social aspect, sitting around with their friends and drinking a beer, the car the focal point of their conversation. For more again, there is serenity in maintaining their project, in spending long hours polishing the chrome, silently lost in thought.
Perhaps their most romantic appeal lies in the fact that they have evolved to become a hobby rather than a necessity. We should all have at least one thing in our lives which is truly beautiful to us, which rouses a passion and hunger for knowledge which lends colour to our dull grey lives. Their popularity is a love letter to the past, the cars a simple manifestation. For many, the classic harks back to a less sterile, more lived-in time – we feel a disconnection with the world, so we try to capture a little piece of what we lost. And if that piece is beautiful to us, then so much the better.
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