What Was Your ‘Gateway Drug’ Into The Classic Car World?
Most of us have had the “sickness” for longer than we can remember. So obsessed with the automobile, we’re unable to recall the short period in our life prior to when these machines didn’t consume our every moment. My petrolhead grandfather and great grandfather were the first to really introduce me to pre-war and classic automobiles. Gifted models of a 1950 Mercury coupe and 1965 Shelby AC Cobra 427 were the first petrolhead seeds planted, but it would be years before I fully appreciated vintage tin like I do today.
The LEGO Tupperware bins grew alongside the Hot Wheels collection. It wasn’t long before I had subscriptions to Car And Driver, Motor Trend, and Automobile Magazine. These texts unquestionably shaped my taste towards modern automobiles, and looking back it’s easy to see why. Growing up in the ’90s and early ’00s, I read about some incredible technological and mechanical progression. From safety advancements, to relentless horsepower wars between rival manufacturers, it was a monumental era for automobiles of every type.
I became obsessed with zero-to-60 and quarter mile times, horsepower-per-liter comparisons, and skid pad g-force test results. They were the reasons I read about cars—the endless one-upmanship was intriguing. What new supercar has the highest top speed? Which mid-sized performance sedan stops the quickest? Why aren’t we getting that model in the United States? These were the kind of questions I craved answers for. I had to know these things…until I got my driver’s license.
Suddenly I realized, these figures weren’t really all that important. I still loved new vehicles stuffed with gee-whiz tech, but my desire to mentally archive every tidbit of performance data virtually disappeared overnight after obtaining my golden ticket to the open road.
The more I drove, the less I cared for adding arrows to my bench-racing quiver. Instead of memorizing useless statistics, I searched for more brake bite, heavier tactile feedback from the helm, and palpable throttle response through the accelerator pedal cable. I became hooked on tangible driving, not sheer speed but through the sensation of speed—something numerical figures aren’t necessarily directly correlated with. It was a turning point: I was no longer a car enthusiast—I became a driving enthusiast. This was when my interest in modern began to fade.
Another factor that played a large part in preferring classics was when I started spinning wrenches. My parents didn’t work on their own cars, leaving me teacher-less in the arts of garage life. I did buy a Haynes manual and with some equally talentless but eager wrench turning friends, we learned the good-old-fashion way: through trial and error. Old cars are—for the most part—easy to work on. Ever pop the hood on a modern car? They may as well be powered by nuclear reactors—I haven’t the slightest clue what’s under all that plastic cladding and have no inclination to attempt working on them.
It’s only gotten worse (better) as I’ve gotten older. I’ve been fortunate enough to drive a lot of great classics and over the years I’ve even been lucky enough to purchase a few of my own—a tired Datsun pickup, a Japanese royal taxi, and a dilapidated Alfa stepnose project. It seems with every aging day my preference for classics grows tenfold. I’m not entirely sure when my partiality flipped, but I speculate it began when I started driving and, subsequently, starting [trying] to fix my own car. Today, I know my reaction to a modern performance car is an acknowledgement at best, “Annnd… there’s another F12berlinetta,” versus when I see, say, a jalopy British roadster, “Honey, look! It’s a [barely running] MGB GT!”—I have such an irrational love for those buggers.
For me, I’d say it’s been a progressive change in taste. I’ve always had a liking for classics but they weren’t always where my allegiance was. I want to hear from you—when did you start lusting after classics? Have you always preferred older cars, or was there a moment that changed your passion?
Photography by Otis Blank, Rémi Dargegen, Jayson Fong