Humans have the unique capacity to appreciate things that do not really exist. We are pretty much the only species that pays attention to our heritage. We have built all kinds of museums to highlight and preserve the glory of ages past. But now we may be facing some trouble.
The main reason we teach people to appreciate history is because of our species’ collective struggle. Freedom, inventions, discoveries – these things came at a cost. It would be disrespectful not to bow in reverence to the sacrifices made. What happens then, when our history is no longer written in pain? When no sweat goes into art, no craftsmanship into machinery?
Let’s explore how the pace of innovation will have us pay a different price. For that, we will use the automotive industry as our case study. Let’s see if our technological progress will not rob us of our ability to appreciate technology altogether!
The price of easy development
We are at the turning point where new inventions do not cost us much. They do not require sacrifices anymore. And that should be a good thing, right? Yet the mass production of innovation has left us disconnected from our modern history.
The automotive industry serves as a perfect example of this. Think about it – why do we care about cars? We cherish classics now because they are pieces of art just as much as they are machines.
On the other hand, with modern cars, it is a whole different story. For most of us, they are more of a tool. Being factory-made with little to no human input has made them better technically, but worse sentimentally. Where does this leave us?
The last generation of old-timey classics
We seem incapable of appreciating something, when there were no tears poured over it. This is why some people believe that the classic market is going to get flooded by cars, which no one actually likes.
That being said, there still are current models, which will deservedly take up the “classic” mantle. Cars like Bentley Continental GT are the perfect fit for that. They come in a style that will not fade through the years. Chrysler 300C also seems like a good candidate. Volvo has many recent models that would become worthy classics too.
But we are still talking about “old generation” cars. No matter how we slice it, their days are numbered. EVs are the new kids on the block and they are here to take it over. Faster? Check! More technologically advanced? Check! Easier to maintain? Check! Cheaper to run? Check! More character? Uhm…
That is the wall we are just about to hit. We get seemingly better cars, which look soulless nevertheless. I have no idea why most manufacturers think that EVs have to appear incredibly futuristic. Firstly, you will not win over “regular car” fans with such designs. Secondly, the lack of imagination makes them all look pretty much the same.
There is a glimmer of hope with designers like Pininfarina, who try to make actual artwork out of cars (even modern ones). Sadly though, most manufacturers fail to impress. Which begs the question – if their cars look bad today, how will they be regarded 25 years from now?
The challenges of future classics
If I ask you to name a few vintage cars, what will they be? The old Mustangs and Chevies always come to mind. We also have the German classics with the likes of Porsche, Mercedes, and even the VW Beetle.
What is the most notable thing about these vehicles? They have memorable aesthetics, reliable builds, and have stood the test of time. Many classics also have an important history behind them. If we try to apply the same criteria to recent vehicles, things get a bit tough. We have already taken a look at possible future classics from the 2000s in another article. To sum it up though – there are not that many candidates.
While design can be subjective, reliability is not. Unfortunately, most cars nowadays are not built to last. The car parts market has become a lucrative niche, so I will let you connect the dots yourself. I do not want to imagine what will happen when the new cars get old and parts are no longer manufactured for them.
That gets even worse with the next generation of cars, most notably the EVs. We are not talking about cars being mechanical things anymore. They are computers with the ability to drive you around. When their systems fail you do not go to a mechanic, you wait for a team of programmers to fix the issues. And last time I checked, old technology always has a due date on its software maintenance. What problems may that bring?
The classic car crisis
I think the future of automotive history is in danger. If we want cars to get better from now on, we have to give up on their constant reliability. A similar thing happened to watches. Yes, mechanical watches can last you a century, but they will never be as precise as modern digital ones. Guess which we regard higher though.
With time, car manufacturing will only get cheaper, EVs will be the norm and new systems will be developed. Driverless cars are just around the corner too. This is great if we look at cars as mere tools. However, it also means that fewer and fewer of them will be worthy of the classic mantle.
Can we then say that vintage cars are a truly finite resource? Are we about to see a gradual cutoff when new vehicles will simply never become classics? To be honest, this may be quite likely. The market itself can evolve into something different though. That leads me to look at a few possible solutions for the classic car crisis.
How can we save the future of classic cars
We have to remember that people change. Kids that are growing up today will be the car collectors of the future. They will definitely have quite the different idea of what the automotive industry is. It is entirely possible that they consider today’s weird-looking EVs as priceless history gems.
However, even if that does not happen there are a few other ways that can ensure the continuation of the classics. Here are some of them:
- Restore the oldies – We have an article about classic vehicles with modern engines. Whether you like them or not, this may just be the future. It has implications beyond reviving the old classics though. For example, it may not be farfetched to simply buy a 30-year-old EV and update it. That way in 2050 you can drive a Tesla Model 3 (which will definitely be a classic by then).
- Just manufacture them old – You can buy a new mechanical watch nowadays. It is going to be more expensive (especially if it is handcrafted), but you know, it will have character. I believe the same can be done with vehicles in the future. Take the design from the ’80s, slap modern machinery, take out some features to make it look more authentic, and there you go. This may sound sacrilegious now, but as I told you – people change.
- Give up on driving them – Even now some collectors do not want to drive their classics. If we all give up on wanting our classics to be operational, the whole hobby can still live on pretty much as is. Alternatively, maybe we could drive them only at designated places (like tracks). This seems rather feasible.
These are the solutions that seem the most plausible to me. I am not saying that they are great, but we may not really have a choice. Regulation and innovation will seriously change the market, even in ways we cannot predict. Maybe the whole niche will go away.
Will the classic car market disappear completely?
Of all the conceivable outcomes, the end of the classics as a whole is the bleakest one. Is it likely though? To be honest, it is entirely possible that personal cars will cease to exist altogether. At that point, the classic car market will definitely change and become even more niche.
No matter how you look at it, you would not be able to drive your classic in the future. At least not on the streets. The progress towards automation and fewer emissions will have old cars banned. In one way or another, we will have to bid them farewell. The very experience of driving them can become something that only a few people will have in their lives.
Let me know what you think though. Will we see the end of the classic car as we know it? Or are you convinced that they will live on one way or another?