You wouldn’t know it by listening to self-assured talking heads pushing for autonomous cars and essentially declaring that the traditional concept of an automobile is all but on its death bed. But as far as I can see the passion for the “traditional” internal combustion variant is alive and well. Don’t just pull the plug yet!
At Old Cars Weekly we write about the “Classics” and hold their lore as the cornerstone of our collecting hobby. Much of our love affair with classic cars stems from our lingering memories of them. As with all memories we tend to glaze over the faults and emphasize the positives. Sometimes the stories take on a life of their own and certain aspects are embellished and become legendary. Every MoPar had a 426 Hemi, every Torino had a Cobra Jet and every Camaro was a COPO. Don’t get me wrong, I love every single one of the classics, but were the “good old days” the pinnacle for collector cars?
Before the pitchforks, tar and feathers enter into the discussion, I acknowledge the old cars’ design aesthetics and over all awesomeness will always set the high mark. Now that we have that disclaimer out of the way, I would like to look to the present and future and recognize the virtues of the next breed of cars to carry the torch.
As you have probably noticed we [OCW] have been broadening our scope of classics lately. With articles about the “malaise era” cars we are expanding the collector car scope into cars that normally weren’t thought of as collectible in the past. The late ‘80s-early ‘00s check many of the boxes in the collectors’ tally sheet. A huge aspect of the car-collecting hobby is the connection with the owners’ youth and what part the car played in it. That connection was present in past generations of collectors who sought out the ‘50s-‘60s cars of their youth and consequently have made those cars the “gold standard” in the hobby today. Though the ‘80s-‘90s historically have been seen as the “lost years” with the lack of power and style (subjective), these cars were the cornerstone of the Gen X – Millennial groups’ childhood and adolescence. I have seen more and more cars of this vintage making their way into the shows lately. This year at the Iola Car Show I gawked over many fine examples of ‘80s Monte Carlos that harkened back to my own high school days. They seemed right at home next to the Camaros and Bel Airs.
The ‘80s-early-‘00s are not the only cars that have piqued interest. Modern iron is as hot as it has ever been. The prevailing sentiment has always been that the heyday of horsepower was in the 1960s. Somehow the planets aligned and some of the burliest and power-crazy inspired vehicles made it to showroom floors. For god sakes the winged MoPars were considered “too fast” for racetracks and somehow were available for the buying public. Fast forward and Dodge is at it again with a new Demon that once again is “too fast” for a production vehicle on the quarter mile. Granted, it is not easy to get your hands on one of these special beasts, but they are available nonetheless. Bench racing aside it is hard to deny that these new muscle cars are something special. The power levels and handling are insane and they would more than likely trounce the muscle cars of yesteryear. Many will argue, but numbers do not lie. We are in the greatest era of automotive power ever! In the past I had speculated about who would hit the 1000-hp number. It didn’t take long; there is a 1000-hp Corvette (2019 Yenko/SC Corvette Stage II ) available at GM dealerships. These absurd numbers will rarely be tested on the street because most of these mechanical miracles will become investments tucked away for years to come. These halo cars are not the only cars that are packing a punch. Even lowly base models are pumping out around 300+ hp. Will these become future collector cars? Absolutely. I am sure there is a kid who is sitting in the back seat of the family sedan Charger or Taurus unaware of how they will someday be drawn to the car Dad or Mom used to drive them to soccer practice in. Many will also long to have one of those “cool” Mustangs, Camaros, or Challengers or, dare I say it… a Kia Stinger. That is what car collecting dreams are made of. This is how it was for the kid in the 1980s longing to get his hands on a menacing looking Monte Carlo or Grand National.
I do not see that fire being extinguished any time soon. The older I get the more I catch myself starting to slip into the old-as-time lament that the past was always better and the kids do not get it. Apparently they do get it, and the hobby is far better for it. It is easier moving forward looking ahead than looking behind. Although many only accept the gold standard we must accept the silver and aluminum standards because they are what will drive the hobby into the future. Don’t look past the car you drive today because your kids might make it into the classic of tomorrow.