Journal: How Can Car Manufacturers Reclaim That Vintage-Car Driving Feel?

How Can Car Manufacturers Reclaim That Vintage-Car Driving Feel?

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February 28, 2013
31 comments

 

Today car manufacturers have a lot of obstacles to overcome in order to make a car that I can get excited about.  A lot of these obstacles were created by the manufacturers themselves, others are external, such like the dreaded pedestrian safety requirements that have rendered the noses of modern cars so big and bulky. Though I could write pages on all the reasons why modern cars lack excitement, for me it boils down to one fundamental reason: a lack of connection.

In a modern car, I don’t feel connected to either the road or to the car.  So much technology goes into modern cars to isolate the driver from the driving experience. Drive-by-wire, overly assisted steering, aggressive traction control, and excessive sound deadening, all make for a detached experience.

So, manufacturers: if you’re listening, give us a car that makes us feel connected!

– – –

Now we’d love to hear from you. What do you think car manufacturers need to do to help us reclaim the feeling we get when driving vintage cars? 

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Jose Delgadillo
Jose Delgadillo
4 years ago

One of the realities of vintage cars owned by enthusiasts, is the realization that these are vehicles that force you to make a lot of compromises. They are not every day cars for all around consumers. They don’t “fit” everyone. Sometimes they are too small like a Fiat Topolino or too big like a Cadillac Fleetwood. They are too much trouble or require too much involvement to drive. Manual transmissions, manual chokes, hand crank windows, poor heating, no a/c, raise you own convertible top. Starting takes a little finesse with old school carbs, gotta let it build up a little heat in the motor before it will accept more throttle. These are things that modern consumers will no longer stand for. I remember when all my motorcycles had kick starters. I agree that a real floor shifted manual transmission is an important link to the past. No mass producer of automobiles is going to build anything that is a chore to drive, there isn’t a market for it. Luckily for us, there are still thousands of old cars available to own.

Chris Boyd
Chris Boyd
5 years ago

Realistically if you want classic then you need to buy an older car. However if you want a modern car with the feeling of a direct connection to the road and driver, you need to look at things like the E36 BMW. They were modern (when they were made obviously) but are an epic driver’s car.
I also drove a 2017 Challenger RT in the states recently which I think captured the classic muscle feel while maintaining the modern comforts of climate control and an 8 speed auto perfectly. Having also driven a Zl1 Camaro and Shelby Stang the last time I was there, I’d say the Challenger captured the muscle car feel better than either (although I know both Camaro and Mustang are more leaning towards sports cars now.)

Alvin Woo
Alvin Woo
5 years ago

I think cars from the 80s-90s were the best balance of modern practicality yet not disconnected.

Nowadays, they are just trying to sell cars with spec numbers. So boring. Even the FT-86 which a few would say is the closest, lets be honest…its no where near with all the comforts and assists.
The focus was on the driver, now its on selling the car…but thats what drives their numbers. I guess we are all to blame?

mr smee
mr smee
5 years ago

I had a 1990 Cressida and it’s no sports car, despite Supra underpinnings, but, it had a lightness no recent car could match. At speed the steering felt like it was manual and not powered – and in a good way! My other car is a 2000 Lexus GS400 and even it feels old-school when I’m given a 2017 IS loaner from the dealer where I get maintenance done.

Simon Lockie
Simon Lockie
9 years ago

A couple of cars that spring to mind that have a ‘classic feel’ are the first generation Mazda MX5 (Or Miata to some of you). The designers certainly did their research and got a lot of things right. And also the new FIAT 500, while it has many concessions to modern life, it also remains a very faithful modern interpretation of the original 500. By which I mean, it does not drive the same, but it occupies the same space in the modern car world. Small, economical and stylish.

Paul Steel
Paul Steel
9 years ago

If you want that classic car feel, classic is the only way to go, apart from safety and other regulation, i don’t think there is mass market appeal, most people want a lifetime warranty and to be driven by the computer .
The type of car refered to, back in the day, made best use of the technology available at the time and was refined by certain manufacturers to be as good as it could be (at a price), cheaper mass produced cars occasionly got it right, often due to simplicity rather than design, but most cars were horrible to drive, and today its the same, a few cars hit the mark (usually at the top end), and there are still a few small marques out there catering for the enthusiast.
Automotive evolution, in years to come our ancestors we will be harking back to days when you had to touch a steering wheel.

Thomas Stevenson
Thomas Stevenson
9 years ago

I agree with a lot of sentiments above. It’s a hard question to answer. Manufacturers are always going to chase the profit and it leaves those like us with few meaningful choices. The SUV craze, these CUV oddities, the hybrid wave… Electronic nannies are here to stay. Airbags and super mega crumple zones and whatever other safety devices will continue to be stuffed into our cars with reckless abandon. My only suggestion is to cultivate the excitement the way my dad’s ’69 Mach I cultivated mine. Get that kid to stare slack jawed at a metal masterpiece driving by them. Then get that kid a job designing and making cars.

Bruce Stanley
Bruce Stanley
9 years ago

The question is very hard because I don’t think comfort and convenience and engagement to can exist together or be manufactured into a single platform. Part of what makes a great drive is the right combination of Noise, Vibration and Harshness, something that is starting to make a little bit of a comeback after years of being engineered out. Manufacturers are figuring out that some NVH is good, but the danger is that it could be over-engineered and sterile. The best ways to get NVH are stiff bushings and motor mounts, louder intakes and exhausts, thinner seats, manual steering, stiffer suspension tuning, all from which, manufacturers have been distancing themselves. The aftermarket has options to address these issues, however, so when I look at a newer car, I see it more as a blank canvas and try to understand how it can be augmented to be a more communicative drive.
Also, I enjoy cars that are deeper than my driving skill. I must respect that there is no safety net except my own skill. Cars that won’t let me make a mistake rob me of the opportunity to go outside my comfort zone. Going out of my comfort zone is what makes the drive thrilling.

Ae Neuman
Ae Neuman
9 years ago

the toyota 86 mention previously is good for a modern car but it’s talents don’t feel natural.
the whole thing smacks of contrivance, hence if it came to a showdown it would be an original ae86 over the pretender.

Travis Barr
Travis Barr
9 years ago

simple…. get rid of the plastic… that simple step will bring back the vintage and craftsmanship to the industry…

John Abrishamkar
John Abrishamkar
9 years ago

in my opinion, what defines a vintage feel is lack of perfection. when you drive a vintage car, you can feel and sense the imperfections of it. the steering, it’s cornering ability (or lack there of), the imperfect gaps in body work. These are things that give a vintage car the character it has, it lets the driver “learn” the car, and in my opinion, get attached to it. today’s precision in manufacturing, replaces that personality with a different one.
I guess what I’m saying is, car manufacturers should limit some of the electronic drivers aids and let the driver drive. as odd as it sounds, introducing imperfection would do it…after all, the imperfections are what makes any relationship enjoyable…

Gruns
Gruns
9 years ago

When Porsche discontinues the sale of manual transmissions, all hope will be lost.

Face it guys, we are the odd-balls. Everyone else wants an iPad on their dashboard. They want to drive a toaster. They want it big, quiet, comfortable, with all kinds of gadgets to keep the kids entertained, and they want it fast even though they’ll likely never exceed 75 MPH.

Government conspires with the appliance people. We get pedestrian impact standards, multiple airbags, traction control, ABS, auto transmissions, power everything, CAFE standards, hybrids, everything, and boring. You can get them in any color as long as it’s white, grey, silver, black, green, blue.

Face it. If we want that direct feel from a car, we’re stuck with classics and I think that’s great.

Reilly Dowd
Reilly Dowd
5 years ago
Reply to  Gruns

I think you have to be right; since you wrote this, cars are more detached than ever, beige is definitely a part of the colors you listed, and even the best of the performance-driven production have less character than it’s worth mentioning

Leucea Alexandru
Leucea Alexandru
9 years ago

Today only several car companies can partially reclaim this feeling and thus a better connection between the car and driver. I would say that Porsche and BMW for example, are still remembering their roots and remain faithful to the true driving experience with models such as the 911 or the 1M Coupe. From the above i have only experienced the Porsche, but i think BMW’s package is quite interesting. But that’s only if you can afford it. So what about the people who cannot? I say to the manufacturers, give us more possibilities. Give us more choices. I’m not talking about models, i’m talking about the options and equipment and the privilege to choose what do i need in my car or don’t, on a much larger scale. For example, the manufacturer produces a certain type of car and then the customer chooses if he or she wants stability control, ABS, drive-by-wire, traction control, assisted steering and all the other devices installed on a modern vehicle. Spare some parts on that sound deadening, electric everything and high tech suspension and there you have it. Basic car, vintage drive feeling. Instead, today’s cars come much more equipped as standard, when they should be less equipped in order to make them more affordable and feel more driver oriented. But that’s how things work these days. I’m not saying this should be applied on all the cars, just particular models that are meant to offer this kind of customization.

Lewis deSoto
Lewis deSoto
9 years ago

I believe that one way to restore driving feel is to have assisted steering work only during parking maneuvers and the like and that when one pushes the “sport” button, it turns off the assist completely, thus saving more gas and returning real driving feel to the steering wheel.

Ahmet Köseleci
Ahmet Köseleci
9 years ago

Absolutely no EPAS, more steering feel, less sound insulation, characteristic exhaust note, close ratio manual transmission and lightness, lightness, lightness…
Although i do not like its design, Toyota GT86 is on the right way.

Ahmet Köseleci
Ahmet Köseleci
9 years ago

I dream of a cheap Mclaren F1 LM :p

Darren Lane
Darren Lane
9 years ago

Get the car back to basics, I drive a series 1 lotus elise, rifle bolt gear change, no driver aids, mechanical steering, stripped out light, not big on power (circa 160bhp) but very rewarding to drive, you drive her smooth and the rewards are great, ok a fuel injected engine but it gives a sense of road feel that is unsurpassed to anything I have driven. And thats how a car should feel.. like when your a kid and you build yourself a wood gokart its raw, bumpy but loads of fun and the chance you may graze your knee in the process. Maybe I am a hopeless romantic.

Sid Widmer
Sid Widmer
9 years ago

I don’t know if I want my new cars to feel like vintage cars. Or my vintage cars to feel like new ones. What I do think would make new cars more enjoyable in a vintage car way is too make everything interface between driver and car more tactile. I wouldn’t mind paddle shifters if they felt like you were doing something. A nice crisp *snick* feel or “chish* sound or something. Steering feel needs to be engaging. Engine/Exhaust note should be unique. When I drive my wife’s ’12 VW CC I feel so disengaged from machine and surroundings that I can barley stay awake if I drive it more than an hour. It’s a great car for quiet cruising with a great motor (that you can almost hear if you turn the radio all the way down) but it’s like an isolation chamber. I think this is actually dangerous because it’s too easy to tune out the world around me and focus on the infotainment system which makes the most attention grabbing sounds and is the most engaging thing in the car. We call it “Swish” because that about sums up the driving experience. Get in …swish…you have arrived at your destination.

French Autodrome
French Autodrome
9 years ago

Very interesting question.
One reason of the actual car is that majority of drivers are not really driver but just “users”. A lot of people don’t care about drive feelings. They just want confort, equipment… And the manufacturers followed these demands to ensure their “happy” days…
To have a change the majority of people sould change point of view…and understand that less equipment could ensure more efficiency, so less panne, fuel consumption even better, lower purchase price….and lighter therefore more dynamic…and therefore more pleasure behind the wheel ! 😉 all this a bit philosophical 😉 That’s right that it still exists some fine models…but often inaccessible.

French Autodrome
French Autodrome
9 years ago

i forgot.
for those who are interested : http://thefrenchautodrome.blogspot.fr/
Thanks.

Hans Efde
Hans Efde
9 years ago

Buy a kit car. Build it yourself and drive it. Most rewarding automotive thing you’ll ever do and you will never be more connected to your car. Modern cars are like Iphones. They are full of gadgets (most of them you’ll never use) and when a new model comes out, the old model devaluates with 60\% and won’t be economical repairable anymore. Anyway nothing is properly fastened with nuts and bolts, it’s just beng beng slammed into place with plastic clips (check out the new Viper or Corvette build and you’ll see what I mean). So yes you can buy such a car from a manufacturer but it won’t be mainstream.

Josh Clason
Josh Clason
9 years ago
Reply to  Hans Efde

This is a fantastic idea that I don’t consider often enough.

Adam Holter
Adam Holter
9 years ago

Carburation, and everything that comes with it. Boom.

Andreas Lavesson
Andreas Lavesson
9 years ago

There are still some stripped down “club sport” or “cup” version, but they’re far too few. Also, keep the manuals! Even the Porsche 911 GT3 is an all automatic car these days and that’s just wrong. While fuel efficiency has got some manufacturers to realize that low weight is good, it’s done more harm than good. Drive-by-wire, electric power steering and all that shit is done in the name of “saving the planet”, but to enthusiasts those kinds of things are almost worse than death. Even the “back to basic driving pleasure” BRZ/FR-S has got electric power steering for crying out loud!

In essence: give me a lightweight fully mechanical car without the electric shizzle wizzle (I’d happily “pay extra” for gas) and without “creature comforts” with modern day passive crash safety and a manual gearbox and I’d be a very happy man. It would have to look somewhat good to ofcourse, but I’m afraid that crash safety and true beauty are opposites.

Mauricio Lizama
Mauricio Lizama
9 years ago

Leave out power steering and add a manual transmission that will make you feel connected to the road and car

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange
9 years ago

Skinnier tyres. Wheel and tyres are getting bigger and bigger at the expense of feel. The GT86/BRZ/FRS is a step in the right direction with that.

William Wagner
William Wagner
9 years ago

Offer more cars with manual transmissions

Inigo Loy Colmenar
Inigo Loy Colmenar
9 years ago

Manufacturers should give us a choice if we want the stripped down, lightweight version or the more comfortable, cushy and decked out one.

Adam Kellar
Adam Kellar
9 years ago

I agree. I’d like that option a lot.

Afshin Behnia
Afshin Behnia
9 years ago

I second that. I even miss having cloth as an interior option (used to be standard).