Monday, April 28, 2014

Wheels from Another Time

Cars are iconic masterpieces.  Besides the fact that somehow we have the technology to make four wheels spin in perfect unison, they are also beautiful works of art.  When we think back, especially in recent American times, cars have a certain look based on the period in which they were made.  And the time between the 1960s and the 1980s yielded some of the most strikingly American cars to this day.  But why, when shopping for a car, would you ever consider buying an old car without all the bells and whistles of a modern one?  You’d buy it because classic cars are unique, simple, and they give you a one of a kind identity that you simply cannot achieve with a run-of-the-mill modern car.
Most classic cars are one of a kind. You won't ever have trouble distinguishing your car from the other boring ones sitting in the parking lot. The uniqueness of a classic car is what most people find attractive about them; the fact that no one else on the road is driving the same wheels as you. Also, the changes and modifications you can make to an older car, as a personal statement, are limitless and something you simply can’t opt for with most modern cars.  Think about that special paint job you could give your 1965 Mustang--a candy apple red, or racing stripes, or flames on the hood--or, those spoke rims you want desperately for your 1949 Cadillac.  Modify the engine of your 1952 Ferrari to have more horsepower. The possibilities are endless.  With new cars, unless it’s a multimillion-dollar sports car, no matter what, there’s going to be another car exactly like it driving around somewhere.  Classic cars are not for everyone, but if you’re looking for something that says, “Hey this is my car and no one else’s,” an older, vintage car is just what you want.  Just the fact that there are fewer of these cars on the road, makes it a unique experience to own one.  To celebrate the uniqueness of these cars there is even an entire social scene associated with owning these relics: classic car shows and events; clubs dedicated to certain models; classic car rallies, and more. You can't get much more one- of-a-kind than by being a member of the 1967 GTO club.  
You may lose some fancy bells and whistles with an older car, but some would look at that as a relief.  There’s nothing to distract you, nothing making things happen without your say. You have complete control. In new cars, there are sensors that beep when you get too close to an object, which is a great feature, except when the sensors don’t work. When the sensors fail and you have developed a reliability on them, you will probably hit someone while backing out of a parking space.  In addition, the sensors are incredibly conservative, beeping like mad when you're still three feet away from the object.  In some new ford models, there is a new technology that actually stops the car for you if there is something in front of you; it also forces you to stay in the lanes unless your blinker is on.  Again, all of this is great for the perception of safety, unless the system fails and you find yourself smashing into things because you expected the car to stop by itself. If the car is driving itself, it takes all of the joy from the driving.  With an older car, you won’t have any of these things to rely on. You know the vehicles limitations and you are the only one responsible for controlling it. That seems a million times safer to me, no gadgets doing things for you, just you and your hands on the wheel.  New cars have displays, which allow you to operate a GPS, change the radio station, browse the Internet while driving, and even text on your in car display.  Do you really want all that distracting you from the one thing that requires 100% of your attention, driving? In fact, over the past few years the number of deaths involving texting while driving, has doubled those involving DUIs.  All this technology in new cars could be contributing to more distracted and unsafe driving. In addition, with modern cars, if anything breaks, even the tiniest thing, you practically need to be an electrical engineer to have any hope of fixing it. So, you take it to the dealer and they fix it for a ridiculous price because they know you can't fix it.  With an older car and a little bit of knowledge and determination, you can fix every single part of that car. Because engines back then were simpler, less mechanically complicated, and there was more space to work. Classic cars offer the owner the opportunity to fix every piece of it himself. Not only is it great to fix things yourself, but also knowing that if it breaks you can fix it, is incredibly rewarding.  With no distractions and useless nonsense, a classic car is safer and far easier to maintain.    
Sadly, in our modern world, you are what you drive.  People judge you on the model of your car, how clean it is, and how much you take care of it.  So, why not use that to your advantage?  With an older classic car, you can paint a picture of anything you want, except, boring.  You can be the cool guy with 1967 Camaro and leather jacket or the classy aristocrat in a suit driving a 1956 Rolls Royce.  When owning a classic, you are connected with it in on a personal level.  Whether your long lost uncle gave it to you, you rebuilt it with your own hands, or you just take care of it with a passion, it is all yours and you’re proud of it.  When people think of you, it will be you and your car they see.  Long time Tonight Show host, Jay Leno, an avid classic car collector, owning over 100 vintage models himself, explains it well.
“A few years back I received a letter from a woman in her 90s; she'd gotten married in a 1951 Hornet. In fact, it was the only car she and her husband had ever owned. After he died in 1996, the Hornet was parked in her garage. I went to look at it. Physically, it was fine. Mechanically, it was worn out. It had gone more than 260,000 miles. But it was all there. Every receipt was in the glove compartment. So I bought the Hornet. But really, I was buying the story more than I bought the actual car.” --Popular Mechanics, October 1, 2009

Up until recently, cars were designed with the intention of giving their owners a certain look and style.  “If one had to define the essence of a classic car,” Leno continued, “form over function would certainly have to be at the core of this definition.” Back then, the cars were first designed for a “look.”  The design was then given to the engineers and it was their job to make it drive.  The finished product was a car specifically designed for its looks: think the 1968 Stingray, or a 1963 Shelby Cobra, or the 1964 Astin Martin DB5.   For some people, it’s also a form of therapy having something to take care of,” Leno states.  “You don’t see classic cars in therapist’s parking lots.”  I wonder if today’s children will grow up with fond memories of their family car. I don’t think they will.  Forty years ago, cars were icons.  You bought them to make memories and to drive for as long as possible.  Today’s cars are built to be used, broken down, and then recycled back into the system.  The result is a car that has no originality because there are so many exactly like it driving around.  People drive and own modern cars with the mindset of “Oh when this car breaks down, I’ll just buy a new one.” they have no connection with their car besides that it gets them from point A to point B.  I would even question how this affects people’s driving, when they have little or no care for the automobile they are sitting in. I know I would be a safer driver if I was driving a car I had poured my heart into and was one of kind. Owning a classic can not only bring you personal joy and connection, but it could indeed change your entire perspective on driving.    

I’m not saying a classic is for everyone, that’s impossible.  But, if you’re the kind of person who wants something original, uncomplicated, and that you can identify with on a personal level, then a classic car is exactly what you’re looking for.


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