6 Classic Cars That Are Way More Fun Than They Should Be
Fun is in the eye of the beholder, but I think we can all agree that classic cars have a lot going for them already. What often comes up around the office, however, are vehicles that are surprisingly fun. This list won’t be about Alfa Romeo’s greatest hits or how fantastic the Porsche 914 drives, because those things are known and not surprising. Would you believe me if I told you one of the most fun cars I’ve ever owned had just 29 horsepower?
Ah, the 2CV, a car I could write about for all eternity…should I be so lucky. Look, they’re not fast, but their frugality combined with great engineering on the parts that are on the car makes for a surprisingly fun experience. The right roads and friends make all the difference, here: though I’ve done multi-hour highway trips in a 2CV, it’s not where the car shines.
Slower in-town jaunts are what the car does well, in addition, tight, flowing, twisting country roads where you’re able to lean on the design pioneered by one of its leadfoot creators, the Monte Carlo Rally-winning André Lefèbvre. (Engineers even made it easy enough to lower the car using simple hand tools…) The car is still raced to this day in many countries…and it can’t be for its modest 29 horsepower output.
How quickly do you really need to go? Built across multiple generations, Volkswagen’s series of practical vans began with the 1950 Type-2 Bus and are still made today, albeit without much reason these days to fit a Jerry Garcia-themed vanity plate.
As a base of operations, a daytripping family van, summer cruiser, you name it—history has proven that Bus owners have a lot of fun, just about everywhere on earth. Its popularity, humble Beetle-derived underpinnings on early models, and Volkswagen Group parts bin sharing on later Vanagons and Eurovans helps to keep parts prices reasonable and mechanical know-how never too far from an unplanned rest stop.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta Berlina
Our founder Afshin Behnia has one that’s been fully restored in a much-longer-than-expected process, and he says of the car, “Most importantly, driving it is an absolute charm. The Berlina is much lighter than it looks and the 1,300-cc engine mated to a column shifter is perfect for this car. In the end, the restoration troubles are easily forgotten…” My advice for readers: find one for yourself while you still can.
Our films Bentley Boy, L’Art Novo, and This Oakland Racer Fits Just Perfectly are examples of how Pre-War cars can be molded, used, and enjoyed well into the modern age. Outside of the concours and auction set, owners of these vehicles often drive the wheels off of them, preferring back roads, garage repairs, and a hint of devil-may-care attitude.
Given the reasonable amount of money required to buy a Pre-War vehicle and their often straightforward construction, those of you with mechanical skills should take another look at this segment of the market—those appreciating in value like ’60s Porsches are the exception, not the rule.
Nuova Fiat 500
From 1957-1975, the “Nuova” 500 became Italy’s face to the world. Like its economy-minded post-war counterparts from France, Germany, and the UK, it quickly became one of the most loved forms of transportation. If the Austin Mini is the performance car out of the bunch and the Volkswagen Beetle is the most people-minded, the 500 has a character closer to that of the 2CV.
It’s close not in the way it looks, is constructed, or even drives, mind you, but I find that the two cars share an inherent eagerness to be driven as close to the limit as possible. In earlier cars, that arrives just north of 50 mph.
American luxury barges manage to sneak onto this list by virtue of being fun in a whole other sort of way, namely, that you’re surrounded by acres of car, faux-everything, and have room for friends plus their luggage. Our older feature on touring in an older Lincoln is still one of the most popular travel pieces we’ve done, for good reason: the Interstate was meant to be soaked up in vehicles like this.
I can’t include everything in these collections—so which classic car do you think is way more fun than it should be?
Photography by Afshin Behnia, Christie Grotheim Ted Gushue, blogspot.com