Does heritage matter?
Nearly everything we know and love about cars hangs on it, so I'd say yes.
I've never really liked the Porsche 911. I've also never driven one, but it just seems a bit dull. And owning one would imply you're a businessmen who keeps a spreadsheet of barcodes for everything you've ever bought.
I read a bit about the latest edition when it came out a few months ago, and I won't name the journalist but he said, "To the untrained eye it isn't obvious, but designers of the 992 have paid homage to earlier-generation cars." Which is strange, because I'm fairly certain that if I were to show my mother a picture of a modern 911 and then a picture of a 1980's one, she'd wonder why I was showing her the same picture.
It's all to do with heritage. In the beginning, the 911 had a rear-mounted, six-cylinder boxer engine, a manual gearbox, round headlights, and of course, the same silhouette. Therefore, according to many of the businessmen with barcode spreadsheets, that's the way the 911 should stay. It has succumb to a few pieces of modern technology over the decades - despite enormous resistance - but sticking to the recipe is what sets it apart and in a way, I respect Porsche for that.
But even if you're like me and would rather have an Alpine or McLaren, heritage still matters. Think about it - the only reason the modern MINI exists is because the original Mini existed in the 1960's. Which, in turn, is also why we complain about the MINI Clubman being the same size as a Mazda 3 and having the rear doors of a refrigerator.
Of course, the communists will be out there protesting in the streets with signs that read, “Embrace the MINI for what it is rather than what it was”. To use their favourite expression, heritage is nothing more than a “1950’s social construct” which ties up change and progression. A harking back to a bygone era when children were slaving away in coal mines and you died of cholera at the age of 35.
But what if is this is the way we like it? Not children slaving away in coal mines or dying of cholera obviously, but there's no doubt the past has set precedents. Some things are meant to be a certain way in honour of those precedents, and if they aren’t, well, there’s not much point them being here.
The elephant in the room at this point is, of course, Holden. The General Motors company that prided itself on being put together by your fellow Aussies. Leaving to the side for one moment that this meant they weren't always well put together, it's no longer the case. Now Holden has said they'll only offer SUVs and utes, imported from the US and South Korea. So what stops you buying an SUV or ute from the likes of Toyota, Mitsubishi, or Hyundai, all of which are doing a better job of them anyway?
There are others. Peugeot – makers of brilliant pepper grinders, the 205 GTi hot hatch, and many other things – went through a stage when all their cars looked like plastic containers you might keep your dentures in. And we hated them for it.
MG – a British company started by a man in a shed modifying Morris Oxfords. Like what M is to BMW, or AMG to Mercedes. In 1957, Stirling Moss broke the land speed record in a car built by MG. And now look at them – pathetic little Chinese hatchbacks, with optional emoji roof stickers. And then they have the audacity to say on their website, “Since 1924. A heritage brand.” Next, an online chat man pops up with a message that reads, “Right now get a $500 deposit match on deposits of $500 or more on any new MG.” I absolutely loathe them. Call them anything else but do not put that MG badge within a hemisphere of them.
Rant over, but we’re also seeing a lot of similar discussion around SUVs. Particularly when the likes of Aston Martin and Ferrari make them.
I personally came face to face with this at a car show I went to recently. It was a British car show which meant there were lots of flat caps and “old girls”, Triumphs, Jensens, Bentleys, and of course, Jaguars. Such classy, sleek, gorgeous machines. But then to one side under a tree was the new E-Pace. And it dawned on me - a large chicken egg would have looked less out of place.
All of this undoubtedly reaches its climax when you take a revered badge and stick it on a car that is both an SUV and electric. Otherwise known as the Ford Mustang Mach-E.
Spot the wolf in sheep's clothing. (Ford Media)
You could say all of this is just the misty-eyed ramblings of an old man in a tweed wingback. But there’s also more to this than heritage, or the glories of the past. And I'm 20 and sitting in a sleek IKEA office chair.
We all like the roar of a mighty V8 engine. Many would prefer if the Tesla Cybertruck looked less like a door wedge. And why does every electric car appear to have been inspired by either a computer mouse or a toaster? At least to some degree, we like things to be the way they have always been.
When my wife and I went to Indonesia a few months ago, I ordered a pizza and a Black Russian cocktail for dinner, so I'm hardly one to talk about adventure. But if I were there for a few weeks, I probably would have tried more local dishes. And I may well have even liked the coffee extracted from the turds of mongeese, but the point is, this takes time. Even more time if it's something you'll have to first pay a lot of money for and then live with for years. I don't think I'm alone in this.
According to some, we’ll all be riding around in electric, autonomous pods by the end of the next decade. No, we won’t. I don’t want to sound like my mother, but cars have by and large followed the same pattern for the last 50 years. You can’t just wake up one morning, decide to change that, and then expect all of us to greet it with open arms.
In the meantime, I do still admire cars for being a bit different and standing out. It's why I'm not a fan of the Porsche 911, but I am a fan of the new Honda Civic Type-R. You've probably noticed this, but when a company is working on a new car, they usually present a concept version at a car show. It has laser lights and gigantic wheels and an interior from a spaceship, and everyone gets very excited. Then at the end of the show, it's wheeled away and a few months later the production version comes out, and all the magic has been sucked out of it. It's been turned into something normal and ordinary. That's where the Civic Type-R was different, however, because they changed virtually nothing from the concept. It still looks mad.
Although I don't quite want to buy one just yet. I’d go for the Golf GTi, or Hyundai i30 N, or maybe the Mercedes A45 AMG. And that, I think, settles that.