If modern cars are so great, why do we enjoy classic cars so much?

By Colin Wood
May 26, 2021 | Ford, Shelby, Peter Brock, Columns, Classic Cars

Photography Courtesy Ford

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 Motorsports now.

Join Free Join our community to easily find more Ford, Shelby, Peter Brock, Columns and Classic Cars news.
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 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.



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 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 GRM+ Memberand 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.

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.

You'll need to log in to post.

Our Preferred Partners