Future Classics, Part 1
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March 20, 2006
What's the difference between a classic and an old car?
Well, instead of trying to figure out what will make a classic, why not just look at what past cars are classics now? There are a few elements of each classic, although most classic cars rate favorably in more than one category.
Some of the great classics are truly rolling works of art. Especially certain pre-World War II cars, such as the Cord 812, Bugattis, or an Auburn boattail. Porsche's Speedster and Mercedes-Benz's 300 SL gullwing are also excellent examples. The 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air is probably the most recognizable classic car.
A few cars are historic icons, transcending automotive history and becoming a part of American (or world) history. Henry Ford's Model T has a place in history because of the assembly line it was built on. Preston Tucker and his 1948 car pioneered many safety features now on today's cars, were the subjects of a major criminal trial, and then the subjects of a major Hollywood movie.
Some classics aren't made on the street, but on the track. Due to homologation or financing, a lot of the most successful race cars are available as street models. Among these are the Ferrari Daytona GTB/4, although nearly any Ferrari could claim racing heritage as a reason for its popularity. The popular red color on Ferraris comes from the red that the Ferrari factory racing cars were painted.
The Plymouth Superbird was specially built for NASCAR, but Chrysler needed to sell them as street cars to make them NASCAR legal. Their outrageous styling made them difficult to sell back then, but a combination of their rarity, their style and a racing history that includes Richard Petty makes them among the most desireable cars of the era.
The most luxurious cars of every era tend to be classics, simply because they were the dream cars of the era. Duesenberg, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, Rolls Royce and Bentley regularly contributed to the list of classic cars throughout their histories.
The mention of classic high performance cars might generate a different response than one based on the most luxurious, but the reason is the same. The best cars endure in our memories.
Also similar to luxury, the cars that are classics based on being the fastest of their times usually come from a narrow range of manufacturers that specialize in this type of car. Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and BMW are regular contributors.
Note that the list of classic cars that one thinks of when performance is the criteria is similar to the cars mentioned for racing success. Similar, but not the same, because not every high-performance car is known for its track success and not every winning racecar translated into a hot street car.
Here is a list, based on the criteria above, of today's cars (or those made recently) that I think will be classics in the future:
©2006 Bill Crittenden
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