Classic Car Blog: Classic cars...why?

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Let’s get this out of the way right now, I loved the 80s - vivid colours, big hair and wild fashions were the order of the day. But as a child of the 80s my memories are far more main stream and many could say mundane.

The computer revolution was really taking hold, home computers were becoming far more affordable and the screeches of a ZX Spectrum loading up echoed around the country each Saturday morning. Computer technology started to show up everywhere even on the big screen but the fictional capabilities far outstripped the actual reality of the systems.

One prime example of this is in the hit TV show Knight Rider. Launched in 1982 it told the story of a lone warrior in his battle against criminals who operated above the law, aided by an artificially intelligent computer-controlled supercar called Knight Industries Two Thousand. Adorned with digital dashboard, TV screens and microprocessors, today this seems so normal and run-of-the-mill but in 1982, this was a revelation. During the wet winter months, Britain’s streets would be awash with the sounds of starter motors churning over, drowning out the prayers of the driver for the engine to spark into life before the battery went flat.

Those who were lucky enough to have their engine running had the pleasure of waiting while the heater fans attempted to de-mist the windscreen with the hurricane force of a butterfly flapping its wings behind a tree....in Japan. It would be another decade for computers and electronics to find their way into mainstream models, terms like Fuel Injection and 16v were the big thing in the 90s and every car displayed these inclusions with pride. But fast forward to the present day and things like electric windows, Satellite Navigation, climate control and Bluetooth are the norm.

So why have the cars from yesteryear become so popular? Why are these rattling, thirsty old sluggers so revered and held in such high esteem in comparison to their modern electronic tour de force counterparts? And why are shows like the fledgling London Classic such a hit?

The answer to these questions will likely vary from person to person but I will try to answer with widespread reason and my own opinion.

One of the strongest reasons is nostalgia. Looking back at the cars people were driven around in, remembering their childhoods and evoking memories of loved ones passed and good times had.  This is a very sound reason but I think there’s more to it. Today everything is hyper efficient and at people’s fingertips; mobile phones are a communication centre, a camera, a diary, a games console, a waffle maker and a hover board all rolled into one.

Everything is so instant, so reliable and so electronic; this makes for a very sterile world where thought, design and character are passed over for efficiency, reliability and safety. Modern cars start on the button regardless of the temperature, can be warmed to your favourite degree while doing 60mpg and all this is happening while the electronic nanny looks over you making sure the decision to press the accelerator further is in your best interest. These modern tools such as laptops, cars and phones are designed with skill and intelligence but they lack one thing, character. And, they are completely disposable.

Classic cars, however, represent a time when vehicle manufacturers designed cars to be fun, individual and cool. These machines did sometimes fail to start, they did require regular adjustments to keep them in their prime and if you were not paying attention or lacked a bit of skill when it came to pressing the fun peddle they would attempt to kill you. A lot. In a shower of cogs and springs.

So how can this possibly make these cars better than modern motors? Well, in many ways, they aren’t but their foibles, quirks and weaknesses make them imperfect and that gives them a human quality. They weren’t just the family run around; they were part of the family, a character with soul and heart which would have bad days.

If your grandfather clock stops working you get it fixed, if your laptop breaks you throw it out and get a new one, this perfectly sums up classic cars versus new. One is a disposable camera, good for its purpose but once its done throw it away and get another. Classic cars on the other hand are the grandfather clock, made with passion, skill and having a presence which cannot be denied.

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