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Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
5/25/21 8:02 a.m.
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Modern cars are often faster, safer, more reliable and more comfortable than classic cars, but why, then, do we often find ourselves pining for a drive in some old-school street machines?

Automotive legend Peter Brock has an idea why, and you can read his throughs on the subject over on Classic Mo…

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calteg
calteg Dork
5/25/21 8:11 a.m.

Driver engagement, which has been greatly diminished by (among other things) eletric powered steering

Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter)
Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/25/21 8:17 a.m.

IT's because we enjoy different experiences and older cars offer that, not a better or worse experience, but a different one.  Yes a 60's car is awesome to drive, lighter controls, more effort and involvement, but I wouldn't want to drive one in stop and go traffic in rush hour in the middle of summer or winter.  We've domesticated horses, built bicycles and cars, but I still like to walk sometimes too.  

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
5/25/21 8:26 a.m.

In reply to Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter) :

I think you've summed it up perfectly. I couldn't agree more.

pirate
pirate HalfDork
5/25/21 8:28 a.m.

Nostalgia everyone wants that car they day dreamed about in high school/college but couldn't afford or it wasn't practical to own at the time. Also the simplicity of the driving experience.

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/25/21 8:41 a.m.

I know when I get in the 67 LeMans, it will start.  It will never fail because a throttle position sensor wire broke, a catalytic converter became plugged, or the ECM recorded a temporary lean condition on bank 1.

Air
Fuel
Spark.

Done.

On a side note, the gas that is in the tank is now 2.5 years old.  I go outside and start it a couple times a year and drive it around the block (didn't pass inspection so I just keep her legs limber until I can start the project) and it starts and runs every single time.  No jump start, no charger, no nothing.

When the tires get low, I put air in them all by myself without a warning light on the dash.  When the fuel gets low, I put gasoline in the tank even though the ECM doesn't audibly ding and estimate how many miles I have before the engine dies.  When I need my headlights, I turn them on manually.  When I need to slow down or stop, I use my foot on the brake pedal instead of radar/lidar sensors and AI algorithms making choices for me.

Newer cars seem like layers upon layers of NHTSA fixes, then performance fixes to counteract the weight added by the safety fixes, then convenience fixes to prevent a tire from being 2psi too low, then another performance fix because the other company has more performance fixes than you do.

We've made an entire generation of wicked powerful, wicked heavy, and wicked safe behemoths.  Some of the new cars have as much road feel as an Abrams tank.  They pump in engine sounds through the stereo on some cars... some to enhance, some to cancel.  WTF people?  Just how much technology (weight) do we really need.

For a long time I drove a 74 Maverick 302.  Why would I drive a heavy, wheezer-era pile like that?  Because it weighed the same as a WRX, had the same hp, and twice the torque.  People marvel at what we have today.  I've driven a Hellcat.  So disappointing.  Take nearly 4-figures of HP and drop it in a 4500-lb limp-noodle unibody car with nannies, traction control that you can't really defeat, and surround it with luxury and things that take away your feeling from the road, and it doesn't feel like 4-figure HP.  But 750hp from a blown big block in a 3200-lb Chevelle?  THAT is something I can get into.

I agree.  Something different.  I used to be able to tell a make, model, and year.  Now a lot of cars kinda looks the same, generation to generation.  Also, the ooh and aah factor.  Sometimes, they are just easier to work on. Classic by definition can mean traditional or enduring.

Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter)
Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/25/21 9:17 a.m.

I don't agree with the argument that old cars were simpler so they lasted longer.  That's been comprehensively disproved many times over the years.  We've more than doubled the age of cars on the road over the last few decades, heck even since 1995 the average age has risen from 8.4 to 11.8 years.  I seem to recall back in the 70's the average age of cars was only around 5 or 6 years.  

Fitzauto
Fitzauto Dork
5/25/21 9:27 a.m.

For me its because older cars have flaws that make them feel almost human. I love newer cars for the daily grind but taking one of the old ones out feels like hanging out with an old friend.

iansane
iansane HalfDork
5/25/21 9:40 a.m.

Deep down as much as I hide it, I'm a narcissist. I like to be noticed and expressing myself with a loud, weird piece of archaic iron that most others can't keep on the road satisfies that weird pit inside me.

NOHOME
NOHOME MegaDork
5/25/21 10:52 a.m.

Style. Very few new cars are distinctively recognizable and if they are, it is because they are based on a classic car from the same company. 

 

Truth is, most  classic car ownership experiences are akin to dating a coke-fueled supermodel. Worth every second of it.

Driven5
Driven5 UltraDork
5/25/21 11:04 a.m.

Originally, in the human-car system, cars were the weak link. Over the years, cars improved faster and to a greater degree than humans. Beyond that, humans had a much more limited ability to improve. It was inevitable that humans would gradually become the weak link on more and more circuits of the system. We are beyond the point where humans are the weak link in most of the system, but the remaining ones are some of the most important... And we're quickly approaching the point at which we'll be the weak link at the remaining circuits as well. At which point, the human will no longer be necessary to the system.

The more our 'improvements' remove the human from the system, the less engaging the experience. The less engaging the experience, the less of an emotional connection we make with it. Right now cars have become so 'good' that most have to provide an unsustainable growth rate of performance extremes just to inject any real sense of drama or passion into the driving experience.

As intelligent lifeforms, improving life through the use of tools and technology, we tend to fall fall prey to the idea that moving closer to technical perfection is better... When the reality is that from an emotional standpoint, sometimes 'better' isn't.

Tom1200
Tom1200 SuperDork
5/25/21 11:27 a.m.

So as someone who drives a lot of new cars at track days but races old cars I will say this:

New cars offer a level of precision no old car can; driving one is like being machinist, it's all about increments.

Old cars move around on the tires and tend to skate from one spot to the next; they are like wood carving, one works around any inherent flaws. 

 Or for a more basic analogy; it's Ballroom Dancing vs Slam Dancing................I like punk rock. 

Saron81
Saron81 HalfDork
5/25/21 11:27 a.m.

Nostalgia certainly plays a part in it as well. I have two much newer,  much nicer, and much more powerful everyday drivers, but 4 out of 5 days a week, I'm still driving my 97 Ranger to work. It drives just like the 93 I learned to drive stick on my when I was 13. If you have a similar car (or better yet the same car) to one you made memories around in your youth, it's pretty powerful. Remember riding in that MG with dad? I know I do. 

Wicked93gs
Wicked93gs Reader
5/25/21 11:33 a.m.

To me its about feel. I drive my '66 Mustang and I sit down in a vinyl seat, put my hands on a wooden steering wheel, shift a manual transmission, manually adjust my mirrors, turn my wheels and operate my windows on my own, the car gives real feedback. Everything I touch is wood, metal, or vinyl. and feels solid.

 

Then I go and drive my wife's 2012 Fiat 500. I sit in a seat that feel like a nerf football, everything I can see or touch in the interior is cheap feeling plastic, the dash lights up and yells at me about tire PSI being 1psi low, the steering is numb, the automatic transmission less-than-inspiring, the engine is anemic at anything less than 3500 RPM. I don't feel like I am driving a car at all, I feel like I am riding along as a passenger inside a plastic egg.

AaronT
AaronT Reader
5/25/21 11:33 a.m.

Lots and lots of words that fail to address the biggest point: 

We lust after the cars that were quick when we were kids or young drivers. Boomers like pre-oil-embargo muscle, gen x and elder millennials like import tuners and rally inspired cars. 
 

If this were not true we would all be driving 32 Fords or some car that makes most 'classic' cars look modern and feature-laden.

SVreX (Forum Supporter)
SVreX (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/25/21 11:34 a.m.
Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter) said:

I don't agree with the argument that old cars were simpler so they lasted longer.  That's been comprehensively disproved many times over the years.  We've more than doubled the age of cars on the road over the last few decades, heck even since 1995 the average age has risen from 8.4 to 11.8 years.  I seem to recall back in the 70's the average age of cars was only around 5 or 6 years.  

Financial experts and leading economists have predicted 18 of the last 5 great economic downturns. The worst thing

Those facts are all true. I'm not convinced they prove your point.

Yes, cars on the road have doubled in age.  That's not necessarily because they last longer. It could also be because cars are so expensive now that now one can afford to replace them. 
 

Purchase price as a percentage of average income has also risen astronomically. 

Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter)
Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/25/21 11:43 a.m.

In reply to SVreX (Forum Supporter) :

Agree to disagree.  It wasn't that long ago that 100k miles was considered a good long life for a car.  These days a car that doesn't easily last 100k miles is considered a POS.  Cars just need less maintinance these days are are absolutly more reliable and easier to keep running.  

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa UberDork
5/25/21 11:50 a.m.
Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter) said:

I don't agree with the argument that old cars were simpler so they lasted longer.  That's been comprehensively disproved many times over the years.  We've more than doubled the age of cars on the road over the last few decades, heck even since 1995 the average age has risen from 8.4 to 11.8 years.  I seem to recall back in the 70's the average age of cars was only around 5 or 6 years.  

I kind of wonder if that is an economic thing as well as an engineering thing.  Even possibly a political thing, considering what the oil shortage did to redirect engineering muscle to different areas of the vehicles.

c0rbin9
c0rbin9 Reader
5/25/21 11:57 a.m.

There was a point in the 90s where cars reached their pinnacle, at least in terms of the things that make cars fun, such as engagement, on-road performance, refinement, packaging, durability, styling, etc. All the improvements since then have been in boring things like efficiency and safety. Look at a 992 911 next to a 993. The 992 is the same basic shape as the 993, just with 500 pounds of bloat.

Manufacturer's try to regain some excitement by adding things like piped-in cabin noise or artificially pointy steering, but these are just cheap gimmicks. I want a car to feel and sound the way it does because that happens to be the way it is after the engineers designed it the best they could, not because some committee decided that's what consumers like and artificially engineered it in.

Driven5
Driven5 UltraDork
5/25/21 12:03 p.m.
SVreX (Forum Supporter) said:

Purchase price as a percentage of average income has also risen astronomically. 

Correlation does not imply causation.

AaronT
AaronT Reader
5/25/21 12:18 p.m.

Another point: lots of people will compare their weekend toy to their DD when extolling the virtues of the old. The better comparison is sports car to sports car or commuter to commuter. A fiat 500 and a Ford pinto is the more apt comparison.

OldGray320i
OldGray320i GRM+ Memberand Dork
5/25/21 12:26 p.m.
Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to SVreX (Forum Supporter) :

Agree to disagree.  It wasn't that long ago that 100k miles was considered a good long life for a car.  These days a car that doesn't easily last 100k miles is considered a POS.  Cars just need less maintinance these days are are absolutly more reliable and easier to keep running.  

When they operate as intended - when something does go wrong, it can be harder to diagnose and fix when the code it throws can be several different things.   I think of the guy with a Camaro on here that had fits, or machinblau's (sp?) travails with that 124.

The engineering is better in terms of what it can offer, and cars today  require less involvement from "the general populace" keep them running well, to your point. 

But, there was the 250-300k mile Chevy wagon that went from family to friends "and wouldn't die",  my 275k mile e30 that ran and drove as well as my 88k mile 2012 Ford, the anecdotal evidence on here that some Cavaliers were unkillable even with neglect. 

As to why we "prefer" the classics, imo it gets down to the "feel" of the car.   A lot of feel has been engineered out because the vast majority of the driving public finds that "better". 

The E30, the Miata, the E36, my third gen Focus, my friend's 2011 Mustang, the ex wife's CRV are all better cars than the E21.

But there's something about the feel that the E21 gives in connection with the driving environment that none of the other cars can match. 

I can't put my finger on it except to say it connects well with it's environment. 

It's why for all the inactivity over the years with that thing and the self inflicted nits that make it inactive at times that I've never sold it.  

OldGray320i
OldGray320i GRM+ Memberand Dork
5/25/21 12:36 p.m.

In fact, they could engineer in BETTER feel and liveliness in cool cars, but all the cheap bastages on here won't buy them new, and the general populace would rate such as "inferior" and not buy them, which means they aren't available so that we could buy them when they depreciated.   Talk about catch 22....

RevRico
RevRico UltimaDork
5/25/21 1:34 p.m.

In reply to Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) :

Didn't pass inspection? It's a 67, put classic or antique plates on it, no more inspections.

 

To the original question? I think it's simple: old cars look better. 

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