A few years ago, things were simple: classic cars were those built between 1930 and the 1970s. Everything older was vintage or veteran; everything newer was just a used car.
Then, at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, things began to change. The kids of the 1980s, who as spotty teenagers once sported ‘FRANKIE SAYS’ tee shirts, day-glo wrist warmers and blow-dried hair, suddenly came of age. They were 40 now: slightly overweight, with a wife, two kids, and a dog and drastically in need of a mid-life crisis. These men (and a few women) now had fairly healthy bank balances and a suburban double garage, and they weren’t afraid to use them.
The poster cars were the first to be bought: the Porsche 911 Turbo, Ferrari 308 GTB and Lamborghini Countach all rocketed in value. Next were the cars that their cool mates had once owned: the Ford Capri Mk III 2.8i, VW Golf GTI, BMW E30 M3 and Peugeot 205 GTI. Suddenly 1980s cars were big news in the classic car world.
The problem was one of supply and demand. As 1980s classics were simply ‘used cars’ for so long, many didn’t survive, even the nice ones. Remember the scrappage scheme? This accounted for hundreds of lovely cars including Renault 5 Turbos, Ford Escort RS2000s, Audi Quattro Urs and a grand total of 52 Porsche 944s. Others lay and festered on driveways or were written-off after the most minor of shunts.
So when the Generation X-ers pulled out their cheque books and started buying, good 1980s cars became scarce pretty quickly. They had to look elsewhere: along came the 1990s to save the day. Porsches led the pack again: the 911 (993) was hailed as the last ‘real’ air-cooled 911, and prices went bananas. Aston Martin DB7s started to rise as did, lower down the pecking order, prices of interesting, high- spec models like the Alfa Romeo GTV Cup, the Fiat Coupe and the Ford Escort RS Cosworth.
Then the Millennials started to get involved, and things became even more interesting. Suddenly cars built in the 2000s started to become collectable – not just supercars, but sports cars too, like the Porsche 911 (996), the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA and the Maserati 3200.
Now, I know some people who stick to the old dogma that a classic is pre-1980, and explode with the ire of an angry baboon whenever the term ‘modern classics’ is used, or when are they/ aren’t they cars like a Westfield are mentioned. I do have some sympathy for them – their cosy pastime has been rocked in recent years – but I think they have missed the point. This hobby is all about cars and how we perceive them, whatever the age of the machine. That people are collecting and cherishing ever- more modern cars has to be a good thing, as it brings new blood to the classic car world, both in terms of vehicles and owners. Is it a passing fad? Hagerty don’t think so – we are in the process of amending our coverage to embrace more modern cars.
So what is a modern classic? I think it is defined by the relationship you have with it. Whatever the age, if your car gives you a tingle up the spine every time you see it, if it makes you smile every time you drive it, and if you spend more time and money than is absolutely necessary on its upkeep, then it’s a classic. Go out to the garage right now and give it a hug.