To non-believers classic cars make little sense. New equals progress, and progress is associated with being better; whereas old is associated with being past it, a bit tired and old-fashioned – not as good as the freshness of the here and now. The industry will tell you that new is faster, new is better built, new is quieter and more refined; new has more grip, new is greener, new is quicker and new is more impressive. What it won’t tell you is that new has a shorter life and if you attempt to make new outlive its five year lifespan then things will start to get expensive. As if paying out for dealer labour and parts rates, big-buck big diameter tyres and meteoric depreciation wasn’t enough to put your bank account into shock.
A classic is obviously different, so when driving one of these out-of-context machines you will get all the right kind of attention for minimal financial outlay.
Classic cars reflect the style, distinction and personalities of the people who designed, engineered and built them. These machines are different throughout – be it their interiors, engines, drivetrains, suspension or bodywork. They are not merely clones of the same old 40-year-old layout repeatedly upsized by 10% (yes, Volkswagen Polo, I’m thinking of you). Or the same ‘face’ slapped on its entire model range making identification nigh on impossible (take a bow, bearded Audi).
Then there is the way in which classics were built – where quality, ingenuity and workmanship were placed ahead of bottom-line robotic profitability. All of which means that classics are interesting machines which attract enthusiasm and cultivate passion, whilst moderns cars are disposable goods with all the romance of a tumble-drier.
Drive a classic and you, and you alone, are in control. There is oodles of feedback through the control surfaces, total involvement and design which is as stylish as modern cars can be gaudy, cheap and crass. The best bit? This dynamic indulgence is served at speeds which won’t earn you infamy in the Daily Mirror and which comes with a soundtrack that will give you goosebumps because that’s the way it is – not because it has been artificially synthesised, tuned and tickled.
When classics do go wrong you can fix them. Open the bonnet and you will see individual components with room around them, not a big grey plastic codpiece covering a heaving scrum of wires, black boxes and hoses which seemingly declare ‘don’t even think about it’. A hulking great bank of computer diagnostic equipment and software is not required. Engine fault codes are a thing of the future. If something breaks, then you can either fix or replace that individual component – rather than forking out for a throwaway modular sub-assembly that can cost several hundreds of pounds. Frequently rendering moderns ‘beyond economic repair’ and forcing their owners to buy another one, because once you’re on the new-car treadmill it is very hard to escape.
Look after a classic and they will hold or even rise in value, but to view a classic as an investment is somewhat grubby, greedy and rat race-ish. And haven’t you just broken free from all that deluded consumerist nonsense? Ultimately the question of classic versus modern cars is an easy one to answer. So buy a classic, drive it, enjoy it, polish it and play with it – and wonder why anyone in their right mind would travel any other way.