Car Corner
Future Classics, Will there be any?

July 1, 2005
By Scott Lewis

Before I get into this month's topic I needed to comment on a recent announcement. I was reading the headlines to Automotive News. The headline read "Dodge plans a challenger for hot Mustang." Unfortunately this is a paid web site so all I get to do is quote the teaser paragraph which went on to say, "Watch out, Ford Mustang. Dodge is preparing a challenger. In fact, it's likely to be called Challenger. Chrysler plans to resurrect a respected name from the pony car era for a rear-wheel-drive Mustang fighter, industry sources say."

A quick Google search found an article from AutoWeek about it. They say the car will come out in 2009 on the "next generation" of the platform the Charger, 300 and Magnum are built on.

Personally I think that is far too long to wait. You need to strike while the iron's hot. They should easily be able to put out a two door version of the Charger with different bodywork in 2 years. Then give it a more distinct personality in 2009. As I approach my own new car buying decision in late 2007 this may have a deep impact. We'll see.

Future Classics

Now to this month's topic. I read an article on CNet titled "the end of the classic car." I know... what was I thinking reading about cars on CNet.

The point of the article was around the fact that current cars will not be restored like the cars we currently call classics. They seem to think nobody will be willing to invest in making replacement parts after the manufacturer stops supporting their cars. I can see this to some degree, but I think the article is almost completely wrong.

Let's take a stroll down memory lane. The Mustang sold around 680,989 units in 1965 (that actually includes what some people call 64-1/2, which there never really was as all "64" and "65" built Mustangs were registered as 65 models) and 607,568 units in 1966. People said that the Mustang would never be collectible because they made so many of them. In fact, Mustangs are VERY collectible.

You will always find someone that is willing to restore a car "just like the one they drove in high school." Granted, the CNET article makes some valid points about batteries in electric hybrid cars. You won't be plucking batteries from a Honda Insight in a junk yard to restore another Insight. However, a battery is a battery. Jay Leno has some electric cars from the 1900's and he keeps them running.

Back at the turn of the century (from the 19th to the 20th century, not the current one) it was not known what technology would prevail. There certainly weren't Exxon stations on every corner. Gas, electric and steam where all poised to become the dominant technology.

Certainly it is harder to restore cars that have unique problems, such as the toxic issues with batteries in an electric hybrid vehicle. But who says that you have to restore a 30 year old hybrid with the same batteries. We have cars that get restored with modern crate engines today. Couldn't any battery with the proper amps and volts do the job. 30 years from now a company could build a battery pack that can power any style electric car. You just need a kit to adapt it to the appropriate vehicle. That kit would include any voltage regulators or other electric gizmo to make it all work. It wouldn't be that much different then upgrading a sixties car with fuel injection.

There was a follow-on article on CNet. Here he listed some specific cars. One car he mentioned, the Acura RL, was partially dinged for its XM Satellite base NavTraffic system. His thinking was this thing will not even be around in 30 years. That's true, but 8-Track radios are not around anymore either. This doesn't stop people from buying new stereos and putting them into classic cars. Custom Autosound even makes radios that have many modern features (though not XM or Sirius satellite... yet) that fit into the stock locations of classics without damaging the original dash.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. Don't underestimate the rich guy that wants a car like his dad drove him to school in. It will happen. I certainly can see today's Mustangs continuing the tradition 30 years from now. When the cars become scarce is when people will want them again. It will happen. Count on it. I just wish I could tell you exactly which cars will be worth a lot later. Even if I did, how many of us have the means to buy a new car and store it in a controlled environment so that it will not rot in your home garage.

Buy your new car and maintain it as best you can. If you take really good care of it, you may enjoy that investment potential later in life. If not, at least you were able to enjoy the car along the way. If you stick you car in a barn, you will have one expensive restoration to handle in 30 years and will not have had the benefit of enjoying your ride.

When I was in high school in the early 80s we thought the Muscle Cars were cool, but a pain to put up with with high gas prices for crappy gas. Then the Muscle Car crazy of the mid 80s drove up the priced as investors started buying them instead of car guys. The car guys hated that, but still shunned the late 70s and early 80s cars. Now late 70s Camaros and Firebirds are worth more then they cost new. Sound familiar. Even cars from the late 80s are getting popular. Ever see a nice restored Buick Grand National.

I can even see restoring my 93 Camaro when it starts to take that turn and go up in value. In fact, that is the perfect lead into next month's article. But you'll have to wait until next month to see what it is.

Until then, happy motoring.