Journal: What Was Your ‘Gateway Drug’ Into The Classic Car World?

What Was Your ‘Gateway Drug’ Into The Classic Car World?

Andrew Golseth By Andrew Golseth
May 25, 2016
23 comments

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

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Merrill Aldrich
Merrill Aldrich

I had the gene implanted in my DNA when, as a newborn, my father drove my mother and me home from the hospital in their BMW 600 with an “It’s a Boy” sign in the window. Then it got worse riding across western Massachusetts in the back of their ’72 Alfa Romeo spider under the stars. It was dormant until about two years ago when, on a fluke, I bought an ’88 Targa driver from a friend, and now I’ve got it BAD.

Melanie Y'lang
Melanie Y'lang

Playing with vintage Matchbox cars (remember when the doors opened?) when I was a little girl, that’s what started it; followed by the new car brochures my dad brought home from our rural Mitsubishi dealership after getting our car serviced – how I drooled after a shiny new Pajero 4×4, Cordia personal coupe or Starion sports car! Naturally, my first and most recent cars were Mitsubishis, as is my current modern classic, a Scorpion (Plymouth Sapporo / Dodge Challenger in the USA). I’m hoping to find a new love from a different country soon, though.

Robert Schneider
Robert Schneider

Gateway drug ? At age 15 I was foreign car crazy in a steel town & when time arrived to start searching for a 1st car The local paper had an advert for 2 Porsches- at a house auction ! So come auction day we drove to & saw- a Speedster ! The other car was in a barn (no joke) across town. Remember now, I’m 15 & this is 1974. All I knew was here was this cool old car that looked like a VW & what did I know ? As the bidding started someone came over to… Read more »

Ashwath Nair
Ashwath Nair

When? Probably when I was 5 and visited my uncle’s house for the first time. He’s got a wall-length display of over 150 1:100 scale classic car models. He then got me hooked on to the “Classic Jaguar” and “Octane” magazines.

Darel Matthews
Darel Matthews

When who, me? Maybe late ’80s. I distinctly recall the Isdera 033i Spyder on the cover of my first SCI in 1989. Now there’s a car I’ve never seen show up on Bring a Trailer. I think I still have all my old SCIs too, I had a subscription from middle school until I went away to college.

Darel Matthews
Darel Matthews

Probably “Sports Car Illustrated”, later “Sports Car International”, and also a book my aunt got me when I was about seven, that was an encyclopedia of literally every sports car ever made up to that point. It was about four inches thick, coffee-table size, with a two-page spread on every car. Every. Single. One. I still have that book, read and re-read hundreds of times until the binding is coming apart and pages are falling out. I gave it to my son last year after digging it out of my mom’s basement. It’s been gathering dust on his bookshelf ever… Read more »

Wes Flack
Wes Flack

From the 1970s until about ten years ago I was also obsessed with the newest, fastest, sexiest cars, and my passions were fueled by the stats and photos in Road and Track (as well as other magazines to a lesser extent). Then I had my first track day and realized I needed a car that I could race. Soon after, I drove an E30, a car that I truly despised when new (yuppy-owned, overpriced, with boring boxy style, the roundel appeared to me as a hideous label of conspicuous luxury consumption). But then I drove one. I bought the first… Read more »

Bryan Dickerson
Bryan Dickerson

@Wade K
I’m with you, man!

Wade K
Wade K

I own several Nissans, but about 2.5 years ago I picked up a 1983 S130. I consider that car to be the automotive equivalent to my first bag of weed (in “gateway drug” terms…..). In the process of restoring/mildly modifying it, I happened upon a 1979 Nissan PL620 Kingcab. There’s just something so simple, so unassuming, and so beautifully honest about these two vehicles, that I can’t explain it. Any time I get behind the wheel is an adventure — even if it’s just a drive to the market — that leaves me smiling uncontrollably. I like the analog world,… Read more »

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay

STP

Rusty Shackleford
Rusty Shackleford

I jumped in pretty much on my own without any sort of vicarious experiences. Although it wasn’t my first Porsche, I bought a 1958 Speedster in San Diego in 1970 and drove it back to south Florida. Since then it’s just been one adventure after another…..great cars, rallies, track days, car related events from Australia to Italy, but mostly wonderful, unforgettable people. The classic car world has really been my only passion, outside of my family, for more than 45 years.

Linda N Brian Schick
Linda N Brian Schick

I’ll never forget the ’57 fuel injected Corvette that was owned by a life guard at our town’s swimming pool. It was white with red stripes , 4-speed, and sneaker plugs that came out just behind the front wheels. It sounded awesome and gave me many an erection. I was hooked forever!

Steely
Steely

I have had this passion for cars for longer than I can remember, I grew up with matchbox cars and that bedroom carpet that had roads all over it, wallpaper covered in classic cars too, I remember a wallpaper that was covered in the F1 winning cars from the start of F1, I had various car top trumps, magazines, posters, later I collected scale models. My dad didn’t own very interesting cars, a Ford Granada was about the nicest car he had, but my next door neighbour owned a garage and drove interesting cars, including American muscle, I loved getting… Read more »

Bryan Dickerson
Bryan Dickerson

I’ve wondered about this many times. Reportedly, before I could talk I’d stare out the window, watch cars go down the street, and make car noises. By the time I was 4-5 the older kids would quiz me on cars. I very rarely couldn’t name them. I soon developed my favorites list: ’40 Ford, 57 Chevy, and Corvettes. Not much later I added anything Shelby. The real turning point came when my older brother started taking me to road races. I was almost as excited by the spectater’s cars as I was the race cars. Panteras, Europas, Daytonas, 911s, man… Read more »

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay

Yeah, I’m kinda the same way. I don’t really have a favorite marque or era or loyalties to anything, and old cars are still just the same cars I have always appreciated. At the end of the day, good design is good design, whether it is old or new, automotive related or not. Same goes for substandard design and/or craftsmanship. I just did a job on our beater Honda Civic, and I think I completed the task quicker than the dealership would have. My free time is so minimal that I don’t look forward to working on street cars, but… Read more »

Bertram Wooster
Bertram Wooster

Pop’s Big Healey (a 1960 Mk I) when I was a kid. Game Over.

What made it easy to like the older cars was that, getting my drivers’ license in the Age of Disco, none of the new cars of the time were worth a damn.

Aldy Ariffi
Aldy Ariffi

First of all, it’s sentimental. 70s, 80s, For me, it’s all about happiness back then. fj40 and fj55, my dad’s cars. Mercedes 280GE, w123 280SE, isuzu trooper, BMW e30 318, my uncle’s cars. Then secondly, this is very subjective, i think today’s car although powerful and comfortable they are not made to last longer. Combined with heavy ads and features that people dont really need, the car manufacturers tries very hard to make us believe that we need to change our cars every couple of years to keep up with the ‘technological advancements’. Same with mobile phones, digital cameras, etc.… Read more »

jolocho
jolocho

“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.”

Same for me. I wanted a fun car, but could only afford an older one. After wrenching on it I really appreciate the simplicity over the performance compared to newer cars. Really getting into classics happened because of magazines. I went from Grassroots Motorsports to Classic Motorsports then to Octane.

Brian Cohen
Brian Cohen

In 1999 I bought a Porsche 356sc coupe. Black with red. I drive it an average of 4 to 5,000 a year!! I’m hooked!

FH944
FH944

My dad’s 1979 Porsche 924 is what started it all, I’ve been with classics since day 1.

FH944
FH944

My dad’s 1979 Porsche 924 is what started it all, I’ve been with classics since day 1.

Evan Bedford
Evan Bedford

My first vehicle, of course: a 60’s era Ducati 100, which I shamefully tinkered with until it wound up in the landfill.

Derelict
Derelict

My dads ’79 MGB. Then, at 16, my first job was at a classic British car only garage and parts business.