Following a recent poll I created regarding 'what we miss most about old cars', I thought I would make an article on it, highlighting the most common responses. Over the past few weeks I have been listening to the Chris Harris Podcast 'The collecting cars podcast' where he has talked a lot about his experiences with older cars and quite honestly, it sounds more fun than cars of today.
If you are also reminiscing/dreaming of the good old days when press launches were fun, then I would highly recommend reading 'How to be a Motoring Journalist' by Roy Lanchester. It is such a funny book on all that can go wrong...
Here are the top 10 thing we miss about old cars:
When someone mentions driver involvement to me, I automatically think about the Ferrari 308. To me, that is the one car which would be such an engaging experience to drive. Yes, there are others, but you can hardly say this is boring. I think people just miss the overall experience of owning and driving older cars. From the gearbox, to the smell, to the discomforts which we now look back on as comforts.
Pop up Headlights
This was a biggie in the poll. We miss pop up headlights! There seems to be something so satisfying about turning your lights on, and have them raise up and light up your path. Also, if you press the headlight button on the original Miata in a certain way, they will blink. Probably not intentionally, but that's why we love old cars.
I think everyone can agree on this one. Cars just don't look as good anymore. Yes, there is the odd one but not that many. For example, I really like the shape of the 80s Honda Accord, but now it looks boring. Damn these plastic bodys!
Easier to work on
Just look how simple and clean (maybe not this engine) this engine is to access. Not only is it easy to get around but it's small. There is no plastic covering everything like there is nowadays. I just think there's something satisfying about being able to look at the bare bones of an engine.
Simplicity - boxy designs etc
I have sort of touched on this one already, but thought I would want you to have a look at this, quite frankly stunning, Peugeot 505. They don't make them like this anymore. You really see the change in designs when you look over the history of Peugeot (like old Top Gear did). They used to make attractive cars such as the 504, 205, 505 but now, you wouldn't want to be seen within a hundred yards of a 3008.
The (Mechanical) Sounds
For me, an older car isn't just about the mechanical sounds but also the rattles and bangs. The sounds of a car is what makes it special. Let's say, your old 2CV rattles every time you reach 25 mph (if you ever reach that), sure it may be annoying but it's a part of the cars history. I'm pretty sure many BL cars came as standard with these sounds too.
The character of a car encompasses everything about it, from the smell, to the dents, to the rust. Many of us like a car which tells a story. Take this beetle above for example. I know nothing about it but I would happily have a long chat with the owner about it as I'm sure he is even more enthusiastic about it than I am. That is a big thing which we have lost. Talking to others about our old cars. Yes, people still do that but not to the same extent I don't think. For example I'm not going to want to talk to someone about their new Toyota Camry as much as someone with an 80s Rover Mini.
You cannot beat the smell of a classic. For example, I bet this Ferrari 365 GTB/4 smells really good. It'll be a mixture of the proper leather, the oil and a mixture of all the drivers' leather gloves and musky aftershaves. All this together creates a proper sense of occasion for me.
For this image, I decided to choose the dash from a Jag Mk IX. The real wood dash is something you just don't find as easily today. As well as that, I hate new cars with fake carbon fibre around the vents or on the dash. It is unnecessary. You know you have a proper wooden British dashboard when it gives you splinters just by looking at it.
A Proper Handbrake
If you want to show how manly you are, you will do a handbrake turn. We've all done it. Some are well executed, others not to much. This is a fairly recent thing to lose and a sad one too. There is still the odd new car with them but many car manufacturers have moved to this stupid button. The one thing that annoys me is that they aren't all the same. I'll give an example. The 981 Porsche Boxster one is a pull to enable it whereas the new Jeep Renegade you push it (it could very well be the other way around, but who knows at this point). Whereas we all knew where we stood with the old fashioned hand brake.
There you have it then. The Top 10 things we miss about older cars. It's shame to think what we perhaps don't have so much anymore but it is still very exciting to see where the automobile industry is heading. I'm sure we will look back in 50 odd years time and reminisce over the steering wheel.