Column: From youngtimer to classic

Written by Kurt Schleier | Saturday, 24 May 2008 12:32

As of late I have been asking myself, for no obvious reason, when a youngtimer becomes a classic car. It seems there is no real definite answer. But this doesn't keep me from trying to find out. Generally 25 years is taken as rule, or at least by governments.  But if you take for example a Lotus Esprit S1 and apply this rule, it turns out this rule isn't really applicable as the Esprit still looks so modern and not at all like a classic car. It looks as if it has just landed from space with compliments from its alien mothership.

Is it the stage then at which even the most original youngtimers start to disintegrate and dissolve into nothing more than a bit of iron powder? No. Mainly because most do so before they even enter youngtimer status. Take for example the previous Fiat Panda. They could be seen on every corner of the street. Now though, have you seen one in the last year or so? And those cars are definitely not youngtimers.

Is it the desirability? Perhaps, as the beforementioned Lotus Esprit S1, has gone up in desirability over the last couple of years. But this still doesn't make it a classic car. And in the case of an Austin Allegro, a classic car, desirability certainly doesn't make it the classic car it is. As it is basically as desirable as a turd. Especially in that hideous brown colour with 70s bathroom green upholstery. And don't even start about the prehistoric technology used in the car.

Actually is the stage of technology a determining factor for a car to become a classic car? Hmm, let's face it, cars with electronic gizmos like fuel injection are not generally seen as classic cars but cars with live axles, carburretors and leaf springs are. Good example is really the series 3 Ford capri; young enough to be a youngtimer but seen as a classic car. Unlike an Audi Coupe of the same era with its 5-cylinders, sophisticated suspension and fuel injection.  The capri just looks and feels sort of classic. Actually isn't it all about the feeling, it's a subjective thing.

In classic motorsport this doesn't seem any different. A topic on which much has been said is why are certain classic racing cars still not allowed to go racing. Isn't it rather ridiculous that 80s formula cars are not allowed in their respective classes even though they have passed the 25 year mark. Of course they're faster than a 70s equivalent but that shouldn't necessarily be a bad thing if one uses a clss system. It would mean even bigger grids which can't be bad for both organisers and spectators. And surely, the more cars the more fun and competition, which is what it is all about isn't it. Beside that it would mean another challenge for drivers of 70s cars. Especially if you ban the ground-effect used on most 80s single-seaters and stipulate them to drive flat-bottomed. Like they did in France with the F3classic championship. They allow F3 cars upto 1984 and have the cars run flat-bottomed and have a lovely and close championship. So why not do the same with the F2 championship and British historic F3 series.

The F2 cars will still have Kugelfischer injection, no electronic gizmos yet, BMW M12/7 engines and with ground-effect banned they will only be marginally quicker than their earlier equivalents. Provided they have a good driver of course. The only thing that pops up in my mind why organisers and drivers alike protest against newer cars seems to be a potential drop in value for older cars. Surely though, it isn't the feeling that seems to prevent them from classic status.