Posts Tagged classic cars
Yet there might be another explanation: there are no appealing cars.
Whether they’re a recent college graduate or a high school student competing with a mother of two for a job at McDonald’s, young people today aren’t exactly having an easy time in the job market.
So it stands to reason that if a Millennial is looking for a new car, they’re probably looking for something cheap.
With a base price of $12,780 (including destination), the 2014 Nissan Versa sedan is one of the cheapest new cars around. It’s also tragically boring.
From its flabby exterior to its modest powertrain, the Versa seems to have been designed with indifference; a car built to a price. Then again, what else can you expect from the bottom of the market?
If you shopped for a small, economical car in 1971, you could have picked up a Datsun 510 two-door sedan–the Versa’s direct ancestor–for $1,990, according to Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car. That’s about $11,000 today.
Yet the 510 excels where it counts.
For one, the 510 is known as a great car to drive; Datsun used the BMW 1600 as a benchmark, after all. It was even raced by the likes of Paul Newman and Bob Sharp.
The simple styling has endeared this boxy Datsun to many, who view it as honest and, yes, cool.
The 510 is on its way to becoming one of the first truly collectible Japanese cars. Do you think collectors will pay attention to the Versa in 40 years?
Clearly, a cheap car can be cool. The Versa isn’t, which may be partly why Millennials don’t want to buy it and other cars like it.
Nissan itself seems to recognize this. At the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, the Japanese automaker unveiled a pair of concept cars, the IDx Freeflow and IDx NISMO.
In its press materials for the IDx pair, Nissan said it involved Millennials in the design process, and found that they wanted a basic, more “authentic” car. Sounds a lot like the 510 to me.
A production IDx wouldn’t replace the Versa or any other entry-level Nissan, but hopefully the concepts will show that subjective qualities are just as important as practicality, fuel economy, or reliability.
If people are going to continue viewing their cars as more than just interchangeable appliances, carmakers have to give them a reason to.
It was two days before Thanksgiving (and one day before Hanukkah). You could smell the anxiety in the air. The streets were stuffed with cars stuffed with stuffing. And someone decided it was a good time to take this heap for a spin.
This car is just as insubstantial as it looks. It’s old, Italian, and thus, unreliable. It’s a Maserati Biturbo.
No, really. It’s a Maserati. Can’t you see the trident emblem on the side?
That disparity between expectation and reality is one of the reasons why Biturbo routinely ends up on “World’s Worst Car” lists. Don’t take it from me, though. Here’s what Top Gear host and man-with-access-to-car-crushing-objects Jeremy Clarkson had to say about it:
I think people are too hard on the poor Biturbo, though.
Sure it’s hideously unreliable, but so is every other Italian car. It’s not very pretty (this example’s fake hood scoops don’t help matters) but that straight-edged styling was in fashion when the Biturbo was new.
The Biturbo isn’t a sleek sports car, but Maserati has made practical sedans before. It still makes the four-door Quattroporte and Ghibli.
The Biturbos fatal flaws were its poor execution and the fact that it wore a Maserati badge. Without that badge, it would just be a small turbocharged performance car.
That’s something that people seem to enjoy with a Saab or BMW badge, but it’s not quite good enough for the hallowed trident.
The Zimmer Golden Spirit is the product of two of the most dangerous forces in the car industry: retro styling and startup companies.
The Zimmer is a “neo-classic;” a car sub genre popular in the 1970s and 1980s that married exaggerated vintage styling with modern components.
That’s why, even though this Golden Spirit looks like a cartoon version of a Duesenberg, it’s actually a Lincoln Town Car.
That blending of elements apparently appeals to some people, including the owner of this example, which I found sitting on the field of the New Fairfield (CT) Lions Car Show with other, more normal cars.
Normality isn’t a good things when it comes to cars, though; it’s already populated the world with enough Toyota Camrys. If nothing else, the Zimmer Golden Spirit shows that not every car has to make sense.
A gorgeous 1962 Chrysler New Yorker wagon was the main attraction, but it shared space with a 1991 GMC Syclone and a 1977 Mercury Monarch.
Any vehicle over 25 years old is considered “vintage” (which makes me feel rather dated), but you don’t need to attend the Pebble Beach Concours to know that “vintage” and “classic” are not the same.
Cars from the 1960s or earlier have the strongest hold on the “classic” title, but lately I’ve noticed many cars from the 1970s and ’80s making their way into classic-car discussions.
This is partially because of economics: as cars get older, they become rarer and more expensive. Many of the most desirable classics have been priced out of the average enthusiast’s range, leaving him or her to get creative.
It’s more than that, though.
No one is going to deal with the trials and tribulations of an old car, unless they really want to.
People often collect cars (and other things) to recapture their youth, and not everyone grew up during the age of tail fins.
The nostalgia factor is often masked by a car’s other positive qualities; you don’t need to be a child of the ’60s to appreciate a first-generation Camaro.
However, as newer cars transition from cheap transportation to potential collectibles, people’s personal attachment to them becomes more apparent. Why else would you buy a Mercury Monarch?
The Monarch, and its Ford Granada sibling, have been the butt of many jokes, but perhaps that will change as people become nostalgic for the days of the Carter Administration.
If that happens, old car mavens will still be able lament about how “they don’t make ’em like they used to,” but people might answer “good.”
I spend a lot of time wandering around Manhattan, because I never know what I’m going to find. Last weekend, I headed to Alphabet City to check out the new (and slightly more spacious) Obscura, as seen on T.V.
On the way, I found plenty of other neat stuff, including a Hungarian bookstore and a few cool cars.
They’re not new, they’re not collectible and, out of context, they’re not even necessarily that interesting. It’s hard to say exactly what makes this random assortment of cars cool, but they definitely are. If you’re as obsessed with cars as I am, there’s something life-affirming about seeing an unusual model among the sea of beige Toyota Camrys.
Here are a few islands in that sea, in glamorous cellphone pic style.
BMW M3 (E46)
People in my neck of the woods (that’s not just a figure of speech) drive a lot of trucks, but none quite as awesome as this vintage Jeep. I’ve seen a few of these things in various places, and they always seem to be painted the same shade of green. I don’t have a problem with that.
Willys-Overland built this truck in an effort to capitalize on its purchase of the rights to build Jeeps. Willys and Ford, of course, were the two companies that built military Jeeps during World War II, although the actual design came from the American Bantam Car Co.
After the war, Willys put the Jeep into production as the CJ (Civilian Jeep), and quickly realized that it had a hit on its hands. The SUV boom had begun.
The CJ’s four-wheel drive traction was impressive, but not everyone wanted to drive around in a tiny two-seat convertible with rock-hard suspension. Willys built a slew of Jeep-based vehicles in more conventional body styles to attract more sales.
In addition to the pickup truck pictured here, there was a Willys Jeep Station Wagon and the slightly absurd Jeepster convertible. All three combined the original Jeep’s ruggedly simplistic good looks with a bit of 1950s flair.
The Willys Jeep Truck went into production in 1947, but this example appears to be a facelifted 1950-1961 model. These trucks started out with the 134-cubic inch “Hurricane” inline-four; bigger inline-sixes came later.
Willys/Jeep continued making the truck until 1965. Today, if you want a Jeep pickup truck, you’ll have to buy a Wrangler and an aftermarket conversion kit.
This car (admittedly not the best specimen) forms a tenuous link between these two polar opposites of the automotive world. That’s because it was designed by Bertone, the same Italian coachworks that was responsible for the Lamborghini Miura and Countach.
It’s a Volvo 780, a coupe version of the Swedish company’s popular 760. In the late 1980s, Volvo wanted a car that would push it further into the luxury market while still maintaining the brand’s core values, such as safety and subtlety. That’s exactly what buyers got with this car.
It may look like nothing more than a 760 minus two doors, but the 780 made quite a statement when it debuted in 1987. It was Volvo’s first two-door car since the ill-fated 262C, and despite looking just as angular as anything else from Gothenburg, subtle tweaks (such as a 1mm lower roof) ensured that it was completely different from other Volvos.
Today, despite the massive expanses of flat surfaces, the 780 does look much more trim than a typical Volvo. The proportions juxtapose traditional Volvo cues, like the accordion plastic bumpers and square headlights and taillights. It still looks like a Volvo, but one designed to do something other than haul camping equipment.
However, while the 780 looked fast, it wasn’t. During the car’s 1987-1991 production run, two engines were offered: a 2.3-liter turbocharged inline-four and a 2.8-liter V6. The V6 was similar to the engine used in the DeLorean DMC-12, which should give you any idea of just how little performance this car had to give.
The four-banger produced 175 horsepower and 187 pound-feet of torque, or 188 hp and 206 lb-ft, depending on the year. The V6 was rated at 145 hp and 173 lb-ft. The only available transmission was a four-speed automatic.
The 780 was based on ordinary, non-sporty Volvos anyway. Like most coupes derived from existing sedans, it was primarily for looking good.
And look good it did: It may seem like it was designed by an angry architect, but straight, crisp lines were all the rage in the ‘80s. This was the decade of the Subaru XT Coupe and TVR Tamsin, after all.
This 780 isn’t looking so good, but despite the tree growing through the front end, it’s still worth a second look. Only 8,518 780s were built, making this car quite rare.
In fact, this particular car has been a bit of a white whale for me. Several years ago, I found out that it lived near me and I tried to track it down. When it finally appeared earlier this week, I was much happier than was strictly appropriate.
There’s nothing more American than the “personal luxury car.” Just the idea that a person is entitled to not just basic transportation, but luxurious accommodations, of their own speaks to the abundance of resources available to American consumers.
It’s also a lot of marketing hype: these cars were almost always titanic coupes with remarkably little interior space. They’re put to shame by today’s top choice for solo luxury driving: the prestige-badged German sedan.
No German luxury sedan has quite the presence of the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, though. Although it was basically a modified version of other Chevys, it always had a feel and style all its own.
When it was introduced in 1970, the Monte Carlo was just a Chevelle with a stretched wheelbase. Nonetheless, it was considered a step up from its sibling in prestige, and today it’s much rarer, and thus, more interesting.
While the 1970 Monte Carlo pictured here was on its way to becoming a classic, things changed. In just 10 years, oil crises and emissions regulations forced Chevy to streamline and downsize its lineup, yielding the fourth generation Monte Carlo.
This car looks pretty baroque compared to cleanly-designed original, but its styling was in fact significantly toned down from a decade of ‘70s excess.
The car was smaller than before and, with the demise of the Chevelle, took up the mantle of Chevrolet performance. It was dressed up with a NASCAR-inspired front fascia and fastback rear window to cheat wind, becoming the Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe.
These two cars have little in common, yet they wear the same badge. Drivers of the 1970 Monte Carlo probably couldn’t have predicted that their car would look so different ten years down the road, or that it would eventually transition to front-wheel drive and disappear.
In the interim, these two cars found new owners: a lucky college freshman who wasn’t alive when his ’70 Monte Carlo was built, and an individual with poor taste in custom wheels. They’ve not only outlived the Monte Carlo name, they’ve outlived the entire concept of personal luxury cars.
Last weekend was Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer and car show season. I spent Sunday at the Sunday Royals Garage Car Show at Lime Rock Park, and saw nearly every type of car imaginable lined up on the same main straight that usually hosts Le Mans prototypes an Trans Am racers.
The show was a little small because of the weather, but there was still an outstanding variety of cars. Here are my top five favorites:
You may have seen Vin Diesel driving this car’s twin, the Dodge Charger Daytona, in the latest Fast & Furious movie. It’s a Plymouth Road Runner with the best aerodynamics the 1970s had to offer, making it the perfect weapon for a NASCAR oval. Today, the Superbird is one of the rarest muscle cars around, so I was excited to see this Hemi Orange example at Lime Rock.
You rarely see a car this old out and about, unless it’s a ubiquitous, mass-produced Ford. In addition to having one of the coolest names ever, the Blackhawk represents a time when most cars of a certain price really were one-of-a-kind, thanks to their custom bodywork. Stutz was also one of the first great American marques, known for the Bearcat sports car and its heated rivalry with Mercer.
It’s hard to argue with a wide-body 240Z in red, white, and blue, but this car had special resonance for me. Bob Sharp was one of the first American Datsun/Nissan dealers, and did a lot to promote the brand through racing cars like this one.
My parents bought our first new car after moving to Connecticut at what used to be Bob Sharp Nissan, so the local connection made this slick 240Z that much more special.
There were actually three copies of Nissan’s all-conquering sports car at Lime Rock, but that doesn’t exactly make it common. The GT-R is an all-wheel drive, four-seat coupe that can dice with a Porsche 911 Turbo at the Nurburgring, all for a (relatively) affordable price. Unlike that Porsche, or certain Italian cars that will go unnamed, the GT-R really is a performance car that you can imagine living with every day.
I heard the show’s MC talking about a 1980 Tercel over the loudspeakers and thought he was joking. I hadn’t seen the car.
Bringing a Japanese economy car to show that also featured an Audi R8, Aston Martin Vanquish, and three Nissan GT-Rs takes a lot of chutzpah, which this little car and its owner had in spades.
The car looks perfect slammed onto those chunky wheels, and under the hood is a souped up engine that was basically made from scratch. They don’t sell many performance parts for Toyota Tercels.
I was out with my non-smartphone again, so I don’t have a photo of my latest find. So you’ll have to use your imagination to conjure an image of a GMC Jimmy like the one above, but with dark blue paint and blacked-out trim, sitting on Bank Street in New Milford, Connecticut, the same street that was filled with Corvettes for the ending of Mr. Deeds.
The Jimmy was a copy of the Chevrolet Blazer. Like the Chevy, it started out as a shortened two-door pickup with a removable top, making it a de facto SUV. Both models eventually left General Motors’ full-size truck chassis behind, downsizing to the compact Chevy S-10/GMC Sonoma chassis.
The Jimmy had to change over the years as the idea of a convertible SUV fell out of favor (weird, right?), but now that idea is coming back.
Everyone laughed when Nissan came out with the Murano CrossCabriolet, but is it really any more ridiculous than this roofless wonder? The GMC gets a bit of a pass for having genuine off-road capability; it’s following the precedent set by the Jeep CJ and Land Rover Series I.
The Murano is a road-going crossover, so it can’t claim that inspiration. Neither can crossover “coupes” like the BMW X6 and Range Rover Evoque, although the latter at least looks good and has some off-road abilities.
That’s a problem, because removing the “utility” from SUV didn’t work for the Jimmy or its brethren. Vehicles like the Jimmy, Blazer, Ford Bronco, and International Scout were popular because they’re optional tops made them more practical than open-bed pickups trucks.
Once SUVs diverged from pickups and became more refined, the appeal dissipated. That’s why the two-door SUV is nearly extinct.
Will the newer, more car-like crossovers turn this niche around? It’s hard to tell, but the Murano CrossCabriolet definitely won’t look as cool in 45 years as this GMC does now.