Posts Tagged car restoration

The future of nostalgia

Lexus LS600hL engine compartmentThe chrome gleamed in the sun as golden oldies blared on speakers. It was a car show where, like so many across the United States, the most desirable rides of yesterday lined up for their adoring fans. It makes one wonder: does this kind of thing have a future?

The foundation of the classic car hobby is the lone tinkerer who takes on a restoration as a weekend project; open a magazine like Hemmings Classic Car and you’ll find dozens of these stories.

The problem is that new cars, the antiques of tomorrow, are getting harder to work on. With yards and yards of wiring controlling everything, today’s cars are very complicated. Engines won’t start unless dozens of sensors for everything from the fuel pump to the gauges are connected.

Some companies, like Volkswagen, use specialized screws and bolts that make simple tasks nearly impossible if one doesn’t have the correct tools.

Patching a rusted steel panel is a relatively simple matter, but new cars include many materials, such as plastic, aluminum, and composites, that are difficult to work on at home. That also means replacement parts will be more expensive: the catalytic converters on a 2005 Subaru Outback are full of precious metals, and cost thousands of dollars each.

The problems aren’t just technical. There are some great cars on the road today, but people don’t seem to have the emotional attachment that collectors share with their chromed and finned 1950s cruisers or ‘60s muscle cars.

A new Corvette would destroy its vintage counterpart, or any vintage Ferrari or Porsche for that matter, in any race. Yet it doesn’t turn heads the way the 1960s Stingrays do.

Back in the day, cars loomed large in popular culture, but now they have to share the spotlight with other consumer items like smart phones and tablets (who knows, maybe those will become collectible).

Car show denizens shouldn’t despair, though. There are still plenty of dedicated gearheads (just look at the plethora of car magazines and automotive reality shows) who care about nothing else. As the saying goes, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” even if future car restorers have to learn a little more about software.

There is also a significant aftermarket industry that makes everything from trim pieces to tires for the current crop of classics. If enough people want to restore a 2012 Volkswagen GTI or Dodge Charger in 25 years, there will certainly be a business case for said companies to produce parts for those cars that can’t be fabricated in a garage.

The classic car hobby probably won’t go away, but it will face a few challenges. This hobby may be all about nostalgia, but even people who love the past (definitely not a crime) need to think about the future.

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