As investments, classic cars have outperformed both the Dow and the S & P on an annual basis over the past decade. During the past 24 months in particular, those whose portfolios included investment grade classic cars were able to take solace in the fact that these cars continued to appreciate in value even as their 401Ks became 201Ks.
As an art form, classic cars grace the collections of museums throughout the world as well as some of the finest private collections such as that of Ralph Lauren.
Nostalgia is the driving force for many collectors. In what other medium can one choose an era to which they would like to return as a participant, not an observer? Choose the year you would like to return to, pick a car model, pick a color, tune in to your favorite AM radio station, and you’re instantly transported back to a time and place of your choice—a virtual reality of sorts for those who were born before the term “virtual reality” existed.
“You don’t see classic cars in therapist’s parking lots.” Whether or not this old adage has any basis in fact really doesn’t matter, as most classic car owners use their car as therapy in one form or another. For some, the act of collecting, the hunt so to speak is a form of therapy. For others it’s a central point around which one can sit with friends while enjoying a beer in the garage, or a glass of champagne at a concours car show. Still for others, it’s a place to silently get lost in your thoughts while doing light maintenance, or polishing the chrome.
Even those who feel no attraction to classic cars can’t help but notice when one turns the corner, or pulls up behind them at the gas pump, if for no other reason than that it stands out from all of the generic cars produced by manufacturers today.
If one had to define the essence of a classic car, “form over function” would certainly have to be at the core of this definition. Whatever your definition of “classic car” might be, and there are many definitions, almost all would agree that with few exceptions any car that would be considered classic would be at least 40 years old. And going back 40 years and earlier we find that cars were designed by designers whose main concern was form. Once the car was designed, engineers were tasked with figuring out how to make it function. Hence, form over function.
Designers such as Bill Mitchell (Cadillac & Corvette), Virgil Exner (Chrysler & Studebaker), Ferdinand Porsche (Porsche), Sir William Lyons (Jaguar), Ettore Bugatti (Bugatti), and Battista Pininfarina (Ferrari, Maserati, Rolls-Royce, Cadillac, Jaguar, Alfa Romeo and Lancia) have penned some of the worlds most beautiful and collectible cars with the vehicle as an art form foremost in their mind.
The automobiles of today are designed by craftspeople with titles such as stylist, aerodynamicist, metallurgist, cad-cam engineer, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, and other such names as befit their highly specialized field of expertise. Function, not form, is at the heart of their design, and understandably so when priorities include fuel economy, crashworthiness, reparability, and even the ability to be completely recycled when it’s reached the end of its useful life.
We simply can’t imagine our lives without classic cars.
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