Monday, December 3, 2012

The Future Middle Class Classics

The Future Middle Class Classics

Here’s a forecast of the cars I believe will be the future average Joe’s classic cars from this recent time period (1980 on). There’s been a lot of consideration regarding future classics lately, and frankly I haven’t seen one I’d put stock in so I decided to make my own. For example, although Jay Leno is a great ambassador for the collector car world, he recently named the first generation Ford Taurus, the Honda Insight and the Pontiac Aztek as future collectibles (you can see that article here).  As I flipped through a recent Classic and Sports Car magazine I noted a prominent hot rod designer guessed the Subaru SVX would become a modern classic largely in part due to it’s super-car-esque windows (you can see a similar prediction by Motor Trend here).

Leno's Picks - Honda Insight and Subaru SVX

The men making these predictions believe that cute or interesting now will equate to collectible down the road.  I beg to differ.  I’ll make my point by example.

First, see below Bricklin SV-1.  Note, the Bricklin employed a mid-engine layout, wedge shape, all resin body (no need to paint), was billed as one of the safest cars in the world, and had gullwing doors.  Innovative it was, to say the least.  And boy did it incorporate some of the key super-car features of the day (at the time of it’s production mid-engine super-cars were the hot ticket, including the Lamborghini Countach, Ferrari Dino and De Tamaso Pantera).


Did the Bricklin gain fame as a classic?  Not a chance.

Recently someone offered me a Bricklin in exchange for my MGB.  True, it was ratty, but so was my MGB.  And I didn’t take it (although sometimes I wonder if I’ll regreat that decision).

The Bricklin is a great example that incorporating super car elements does not make a future average Joe’s classic car.

Now, let’s address that argument for flat out unconventional and environmentally friendly cars becoming classics(such as the Honda Insight). Let’s look at the Chevy Chevette.  In a period of gas guzzling monsters it’s small body and fuel efficient engine achieved 28 MPG city and 40 MPG highway (Wikipedia).  Not only that, they were the top selling small car in America for 79 and 80.

Chevette and Honda Insight (Cousins?)

Where are they now? 

A quick perusal of Craigslist pulls up running Chevettes in my area for $500 dollars.  The outside the box design (perhaps not the right turn of phrase for a Chevette) and economical gas mileage did not make a future classic.

Goodbye Honda Insight, you will never be an average Joe’s collectible.

So what will make a future average Joe’s classic (by average Joe, I mean able to afford only 1 realistically priced recreational vehicle and, for the most part, not likely to stray into the unknown)?

To know where we’re going we must know where we’ve been.

Where have we been?

We’ve all heard that the much beloved Ferrari’s were often designed with a woman’s shape in mind.  Being that they originated in Italy, that’s not entirely suprising. When touring the art museum/school in Florence, much talk is given to the ideal S shape of the woman.  An S shaped figure will always have lasting appeal.
Look at those curves - Ferrari California

Also, classics have to be fun.  The MG Midget wasn’t brought to America by pilots that were stationed in England because they were economical or environmentally friendly. They looked like a blast and the pilots wanted to have that same fun when they got home. Some claim that this group of returning service men, and their newfound sports cars, triggered the sports car craze of mid-century America.

And the last of the historical key three ingredients to make a classic, they must be reliable or able to be worked on.  You can pick up an early 80’s 700 series BMW for next to nothing because no one can work on them and parts availability is lacking.  Contrast that with an ugly, simple Bug Eyed Sprite from the 50’s.  There’s nothing to a Bug Eyed Sprite and a poor example will still set you back $5000 because people are endeared to their simplicity of design.

Bug Eyed Sprite

Now an average Joe’s classic car doesn’t have to have all three (although the best do), but a heavy weighting in one or two can make up for a shortfall in a third area.

So what are my picks for 10 future, post 1980, classics?

In no particular order:

5th generation Corvettes - A great s shape, and still with the hideaway headlights.  The 6th generation ‘vettes Porsche-style headlights will make it less popular, but still sought after, in part due to amazing road holding capabilities.  The Corvette has always been the poor man’s Ferrari, and will continue to be such.

Mitsubishi 3000GT – Another great S shape, and many of them came in red.  Bulges and vents in the right places help the overall looks as well.  They are a poor man’s imitation super-car.  On top of that, they’re Japanese and lots of them were made so it’s not hard to find parts.

3rd generation Mazda Miata, but also the other generations – In a rare circumstance, a later car gained style that eluded it’s older brothers.  The third generation Miata’s curves elevate an already very fun car (rear wheel drive and a blast to auto cross) into the s curve class.  Reliable and easy to find parts for, these cars will be gracing sporting events for a hundred years if our bubble boy culture keeps racing.

The Honda S2000 – a curvaceous 240 BHP at 8300 RPM car, with a limited slip rear end, and made by the most reliable company on earth.  Need I say more?

The modern Mini-Cooper (post 2000) - Yes, every 55 year old in your suburban yuppie neighborhood with a little money to spend bought one because he remembered how fun the old Mini-Coopers were when he was young but wouldn’t actually own one.  But now that it’s made by their favorite, BMW, it’s game on.  And that’s exactly why they’ll live on.  Cause now their kids will believe their dad that a mini cooper is the most fun you can have in a car. The Mini Cooper is yuppie speak for sports car for generations to come.  Are they technically even a sports car?

Fifth and sixth generation Honda VTECs – Yes, we’re giving Honda’s a second helping. Why?  Because they were reliable and fun.  With the VTEC you could get a quick car with great parts availability for relatively cheap.  And drive them people did.  How many customized Honda’s did we see in the 90’s and early 2000’s (labeled tuners or rice rockets)?  That flame won’t die easily.  Even if you would prefer it to.

On a separate note, how did Honda lose that customer base?  It’s unfortunate but I don’t see the modern Honda’s being tuned as the older one’s were.  They may someday regret losing that market.  Although, it may be an economy issue.

Nissan 300 ZX – They have rear wheel drive, are tunable, exhibit a subtle s curve, and enjoy great parts availability.

The Ford Mustang – American men will always like Mustangs; they’re programmed to, and only the rebellious resist.  Highlights will be the 80’s 5.0’s because yes, although ugly as sin, they can run great and they’re easy to tune for big HP, and the post 2005 redesign cars because they got the shape right.

The Subaru WRX - Unlike the SVX discussed above, people drive the WRX and love it.  And when I say love it, they have pictures of it in their wallet. With its rally success and street racing credibility, the WRX has brightened many a young man’s smile.

And to round out the group… you can’t mention Mustang without…
Camaro - Yes, they can be horribly tacky, but they can also be great.  I think you’ll see a small resurgence of popularity for the third generation Camaro due to it’s unique body styling that defined an era (and has been used heavily in circle and track racing since), relatively simple mechanicals, and good parts availability.  You’ll also see the fourth generation continue to slide in popularity and find itself with the late 70’s Camaros in terms of appeal.  Sure, a few SS cars will stand out but until the re-invention of 2009 Camaro had become an ugly word (literally) to the world.  So third generation and fifth generation Camaros will be popular with 4th gens regarded about like 70’s Mustang IIs.

There are some notables left off my list; the Acura NSX, Toyota Supra Turbo and Buick Grand National.  All of them saw limited productions and are shooting upwards in value.  Although they will be collectible, they're unlikely to be an average Joe's weekend project, but rather an extreme hobbyists.

To be an average Joe's classic in 30 years, cars will have to be affordable, show an attractive shape, be tunable with good parts availability, and represent fun.  The 10 listed above have all of the characteristics of a classic, or a heavy weighting of at least one of the elements.  Don’t agree?  Then make your own list.  I’d love to hear what you think.  Even if it just makes me laugh; you’ll be in good company with Jay Leno and Motor Trend.

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