There’s no denying that new technologies make modern cars more environmentally friendly. New vehicles also have more creature comforts, are generally safer, and, in most cases, are more reliable. So why are a vast majority of people having a love affair with old cars?
Classic car owners don’t always embark upon a journey to reach a destination, but instead, the journey is the destination. Even a drive to and from work in a classic can be a therapeutic experience. There’s something to be said about driving a piece of automotive history, whether it be the sweet smell of old leather, the unique feel of the steering wheel fitting perfect between each finger, or the harmonic engine notes and smells of the great outdoors combined with the old school mechanics hard at work. Maybe it is the sense of pride and responsibility that comes with owning a classic, and the desire to preserve such an experience for the younger generations so our history will not be forgotten.
In a classic, your senses are heightened: You can hear all of the sounds and feel all of the feels. You aren’t in an overly-soundproofed bubble, and driving an old car is a bit more involved. The steering and brakes may not be as responsive, and every classic has its quirks when it comes to honing your driving technique, but that’s not a bad thing. Classic cars involve the driver in the full experience of driving instead of setting everything on autopilot, which sequentially could allow people’s minds to wander and tempt them to cure their boredom with something other than keeping their eyes on the road. Which reminds us, there are no gadgets or bright screens on the console to distract you in a classic. (Put that cell phone down.)
Operating a classic car requires a great deal of manual input from the driver, such as adjusting the air/fuel mixture with the choke. Or for manual transmission cars, hand-selecting gears based on the car’s speed and RPMs, and then effectively controlling the engagement of power to the wheels with the clutch. Learning the proper technique is more challenging than operating a modern vehicle with an electronic ignition, automatic transmission and electronic driver aids, but it makes for a far more rewarding and satisfying driving experience.
Have no fear if you don’t know how to operate a stick shift vehicle. You certainly aren’t alone. The first automatic (hydromatic) transmission vehicle was released in the 1940s, so there are plenty of cool cars out there that you can operate without having to shift gears. That’s not to say you shouldn’t learn. After all, owning a stick shift nowadays makes for an excellent theft prevention measure, but it also makes the relationship between you and the machine more intimate.
Regarding old car ownership and maintenance, and in comparison to the heavily computerized modern vehicles, classic cars are simpler creatures that are easier to repair, provided the parts are available. The availability of remanufactured parts is quite vast, depending on the vehicle you own. That’s because the booming automotive industry recognizes just how many people love, own, and work on classic cars.
Nostalgia plays a large part in the passion for these vehicles. Each is a piece of rolling art with a story to tell about where they’ve been, what they’ve seen, and why they are still in operation (or not). Every one of them has a history, be it interesting or bland. These machines were the enablers of a better life and provided freedom in the form of mobility during a time when such privileges were rare. They accompanied their owners on major life events, survived wars and economic and environmental threats, and live to tell the tale in their own way. Cracks in the leather, faded paint or dings and dents are seen by some as imperfections that must be fixed, but to classic car aficionados, signs of wear are chronicles of the car’s life that add to its character.
Classic cars don’t just appeal to car lovers, but also to people who love engineering, design, art and history. While new car technology advances year after year, classic cars exist on a different level: They define the automobile manufacturer’s heritage. Love for these cars is not all about efficiency and speed. It’s about the experience, style and craftsmanship, all of which are universal and timeless.
“Understand this; old cars are called “classics” for a reason—they’re old. And to break it down in the most simplistic way, and regardless of what you tell yourself, they are not better than modern cars. They’re not as safe, not as efficient or reliable, and if you drive old American stuff, the fuel economy alone can be enough to send your wallet into cardiac arrest. On the flip side, I have yet to find a new car that can stimulate me in the same fashion as when I’m cruising down the road in one of my classics. Hell, even our new 840-horsepower Dodge Demon doesn’t generate the same type of inner emotion that I feel when I’m behind the wheel of my ’68 Charger. For that reason alone, my inner-argument for the classic daily will always be justified.” – Mike Musto, quoted from Hagerty article, The Pitfalls and Triumphs of Driving a Classic Car on a Daily Basis