There is a scene in the film Raiders of the Lost Ark where one of the archaeologists takes off his wristwatch and explains to another actor in the scene something like this: “Take this cheap watch and bury it in the sand and in 500 years when it’s found it could be worth a fortune.” The same can be said of many old cars built within the last 100 years. However, if they were buried in the sand, they probably would be seriously rusty.
But why do car people like us admire old cars? There could be many reasons. I personally enjoy old cars because they bring back memories. I’ve collected both American and foreign cars, but prefer small cars rather than large. Why? Maybe it’s because of my early association with sports cars and racing. And practically, you have to admit, it’s much easier to clean a small car.
Small foreign cars are my preference because most of them have small engines and design details very different from American cars. Sure, I’ve had my Ford V-8s and love those old flatheads, and a love affair with Ferrari V-12s, who hasn’t? But those simple 1300 cc MGs motors and those charming and beautiful aluminum engines in Alfa Romeos were beauties to see and hear. Even the old VW air-cooled motor was something a little special. Hell, it was even at the wrong end of the car. Dr. Porsche souped it up and put the motor at the wrong end of another car, on which he put his name. Speaking of small motors, the sweetest Porsche motor ever made was the baby 2-liter engine in the original 1965 series 91I. It only produced 130 horsepower, but at 6,500 RPMs it sounded like a serious event..
I’m sure a lot of you out there have your reasons for liking old cars. Perhaps you’re a Ford guy because your dad taught you to drive in his Country Squire. Many Chevy guys probably had a poster of a Corvette on their bedroom wall when they were in high school, and now have a show quality ’63 Stingray nestled under a warm cover in their garage. Heck, you treat that thing better than yourself.
The Ferrari, Porsche and Mercedes collectors are a different breed. They really don’t like old cars, but they do like expensive toys. As Zero Mostel said, “If you got it, flaunt it.” There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. If I ever “got it,” I would own every great Ferrari and Porsche and Benz ever built. If you want to make me jealous, pull up in a mint Ferrari 275 GTB-4 Longnose, or a Porsche Carrera Speedster or, especially, a Mercedes 300SLGullwing moving on Rudge center lock wheels. Oh, the 300SL doesn’t have to be “mint,” I’ll salivate over one in any condition.
Then there are the car collectors who like oddball cars, like Fiats, Studebakers, Saabs and Edsels. Truth be told, these guys like odd cars because they themselves are probably a little off-center. You know, the guy on the block who painted his house blue. Or who dresses like a Serbian. They are the kind of folks you shy away from at car shows. Nice enough people, but you just don’t want to bond with them.
So why old cars? Maybe they’re a lot like people. Interesting, each a little different and if not well taken care of, they show their age.