The sleek lines, powerful engines and machine strength of muscle cars have captured our imaginations since the late 1960s. The Dukes of Hazard’s Dodge Charger and the Mustang GT driven by Steve McQueen in the movie Bullitt are two of the most iconic classic cars in history. And, then there are the more exotic motors such as Ferrari and Aston Martin, which are universally accepted classics.
But, as time moves on and the old beauties become harder to come by, a new generation moves into the category, re-defining what’s considered ‘classic’ in the hearts and minds of those in the motor scene.
What makes a classic car, classic? Can anyone agree?
The classifications and descriptions vary from club to club. Some would put specific age limits on the definitions, while others would say that only special variants would qualify for classic status.
The CCCA defines classic cars as a ‘fine’ or ‘distinctive’ vehicle, produced between 1925 and 1948. And, to fall into the ‘classic’ category it generally had to be high-priced when new and was built in limited quantities.
However, what is considered classic is not as clear-cut as the CCCA’s classification and in most motoring circles this is considered too rigid a definition. The market does seem to have a lot of say in the matter, and an upsurge in demand can turn an older vehicle into an instant hit, even if it falls short of the typical ‘classic car’ club class.
And, nobody could argue that if you find yourself walking across the road to get a closer look at a car’s enviable smooth lines, or an emotional response is triggered when a car from your childhood drives by, then the word ‘classic’ would definitely spring to mind.
Appreciating the value in the old
Charles Ware of the Morris Minor centre in Bath, England coined the term Durable Car Ownership over 30 years ago. His work was in conserving the lifespan of vehicles to outlast the modern designs. These modern vehicles, typically of monocoque construction place the emphasis on cost and built in shelf life, rather than longevity. Their “crumple zone” design mean that while you might walk away from a collision, the form of the vehicle could be wrecked forever. Repairing and restoring a vehicle like this, rather than a “body and chassis” vehicle, can be trickier and in many instances uneconomical to the average owner.
His idea was to stop people from wasting their money on a vehicle that would depreciate with age, and opt for a rolling restoration, where you take a solid car and gradually upgrade it over the years.
Interestingly, it was Charles Ware who helped influence and promote the continual survival of many classic cars, not just the Morris Minor. And in turn, he inadvertently contributed to the concept of ‘Emotional Durable Design’, which is all about valuing the lifespan of a product in our throwaway society, where there is a dire need to become much more consumer savvy. “Good design should be synonymous with longevity,” says sustainable and ethical writer Tara Gould. In this way it is less expensive and friendlier to the planet to keep and care for the same item, including cars, over a longer period of time.
And more importantly, Emotional Durable Design is about investment. When we invest our time into something, it is likely to hold greater meaning and we are more likely to want to hold on to it. Rather than turn it over to the scrapheap in ten years time when its run its course and lost a place in our hearts.
What is today’s predictions for tomorrows classic cars?
Jamie Orr of Orchid Euro, which specializes in selling UK and European spec VW parts to owners in the U.S, put together a list of cars which he believes will be future classics. Keeping in mind that the goal is to catch these cars when they’re at the bottom, before they become more valuable. Of course, values do vary from year to year, so like any potential investment there are always risks involved.
The Pontiac Solstice Coupe and Saturn Sky – which have recently been discontinued – are a good timeless design and super cheap to buy at the moment, according to Jamie. Same goes for the under-appreciated Pontiac G8 GXP and 04-06 GTOs – an Australian V8 car with a “very good looking body.”
Also, ‘special’ versions of standard favorites such as ‘any’ fancy Corvette or Mustang with ‘limited edition’ badges are a classic forerunner. A Porsche Cayman R or 996 GT3 sits in the same category. Along with older versions, including the 1960s Porsche 912s and the 1960/70/80s 911, which are undervalued in the U.S market compared to parts of Europe.
“Their timeless design and shape, together with simplicity, means you shouldn’t lose any money and maybe they’ll manage to become big ticket cars in a decade or two.”
Other cars to watch out for are the VW Golf Rabbit (Rabbit is what they call the Golf Mk1 in the U.S), as they had a limited run. And, the VW Golf GT TDI is a popular choice, especially considering the diesel component, which is becoming an attractive alternative in the U.S market.
“While the other manufacturers are catching up to VW in their diesel passenger car offering, VW are moving forward with a sporty and very powerful, small diesel car, something which has not been witnessed before in the U.S. Europe knows and loves GT TDIs, but they have only just arrived on U.S shores.”
And, “What’s there not to love about the 2013/4 SRT Viper?”
Cars such as the Morgan will never lose their value. The British car manufacturer has been making cars since 1910, and in 2007 produced a limited number, all assembled by hand. Even though they are new cars, they have hardly changed in time.
“The same could be said of the Mexican VW Beetle, which stopped production in July 2003. If the models from 1950/60s are classics, and the Mexican model takes the same overall form as the earlier models, then by default it too is a classic, even it is only ten years old.”
In comparison, the Golf Mk1 is over 30 years-old and considered classic by most. The Mk2 model launched in 1983 and is more comfortably labelled a ‘modern classic’, in certain circles.
While some may consider it tricky to source parts for the older cars, such as the VW Golf and Rabbit models, there are a number of specialists, such as VW Classic Parts in Germany, who can help you find service and maintenance parts, as well as those sought after obsolete genuine items, which make all the difference when putting a project together. It’s business’ like these that make owning an older car easy and accessible.
As Jamie points out, definitions change over time and is largely dependent on what the market deems worthy classic material. What will become classic in the future can either be written in stone, or is anyone’s guess.
“Heck, maybe even the 944/924/928 Porsche could rebound from their bargain basement. Although, if it needs a new clutch it would add a couple of grand to its pricing so, maybe not.”
Who knows, he could be right – only time will tell.