People just love classic cars. They adore them even though many are stick shift with gas-guzzling engines and long enough that parallel parking on a city street can require a colossal feat of engineering.
If they own a classic car, they give it ample amounts of tender, loving care. I believe some owners even have their vintage vehicles hermetically sealed.
An example of this long love affair was the 14th annual Fleetwood Rotary Club’s Show of Wheels that had a record turnout of 383 vehicles at Fleetwood Community Park on June 8.
The American landscape is dotted with such classic car shows where people’s minds dart about like trapped animals from car to car, from memory to memory. A classic car show burns a path across the window of time, enabling people to bivouac with yesterday.
So why do folks love vintage cars almost as much as their significant others when modern cars are faster, better handling, more reliable, more comfortable, safer and more fuel economical?
I’m definitely not a gearhead, but I think the explanation starts with the design of the car.
First off, classic cars have grilles more dazzling than Julia Roberts’ smile.
To my eye, today’s cars are mostly cookie-cutter. If you’ve seen one SUV, you’ve seen them all. They are about as exciting as Tuna Helper.
Not the case with the cars of yore. A 1973 Cadillac Coupe Deville is easily distinguishable from a 1969 Camaro or a 1967 Corvette Stingray or a 1962 Ford Thunderbird or a 1957 Chevy Bel Air or a 1956 Packard Clipper.
They all are well worth the sacrifice of making eye contact.
Classic cars were created in an analog world where designers used pen and paper to create elegant shapes and flowing lines that are not possible to replicate with today’s computer-based design.
Granted, designers back then were unencumbered by such constraints such as crash tests or aerodynamic drag coefficients. Instead, they created shapes that reflected the mood and trends of the time.
The design of classic cars gave them character, which today’s mass production systems can’t create.
Modern cars also mute the human equation. Modern car engines are essentially a sealed unit with components that are largely unserviceable by the average person.
When’s the last time you saw a guy working on his car in the driveway? Heck, you need to remove half the engine these days just to replace a headlight bulb.
Modern components are controlled by a central electronic brain overseeing the throttle system, traction control, electric steering, electronic clutch and torque vectoring system.
These systems improve efficiency and safety but often rob the car of its feel and character. Older cars have mechanical systems with hundreds of individual parts all tuned to work together in harmony. Talented mechanics finely tune such engines like a Stradivarius.
The driver in classic cars is a direct extension to the machine, providing input and receiving direct feedback through the controls, resulting in an authentic driving experience that is not possible with modern equipment.
Driving a classic car requires a good deal of manual input from the driver, from adjusting the fuel/air mixture manually with the choke to selecting gears and controlling the engagement of power to the wheels with the clutch.
OK, this is more challenging than merely going along for the ride courtesy of electronic ignition, automatic transmissions and electronic driver aids. But driving a classic car is a more rewarding and satisfying experience.
Classic car owners mostly don’t embark upon a journey to reach a destination, but instead the journey is the destination. For them, all roads are like the road to Hana.
Nostalgia plays a big part in the fascination with vintage vehicles. Folks and classic cars have a shared history.
With classic cars, it’s not just about efficiency and speed. Rather, it’s about the experience, style and timeless craftsmanship.
While age usually turns sour on you, restored classic cars seem forever young because they remind people when they too were young.
To classic car lovers, it never will be time to let go of a fond memory when a guy’s girl could sit next to him in the front seat because there was no console and seatbelts back then were only found in racecars and airplanes.
Mike Zielinski, a resident of Berks County, is a columnist, novelist, playwright and screenwriter.