Cars Aren’t Cool Anymore

The current crop of super/hyper cars don’t seem to grab the general public’s attention like they used to 30 years ago…

Us car guys are a dying breed. It’s sad to hear but the current generation just aren’t into cars like us crusty old bastards. And there’s more than just one reason too. In this blog, I’m going to give my explanation as to why I think that’s the case.

The Environment

Put simply, it’s now looked upon as selfish and irresponsible to be seen driving a “dirty” internal combustion-engined car. They’ll say the petrol and diesel engine is a relic of the past that needs to make way for cleaner forms of propulsion, like electric or hydrogen. I’m not going to get into the details here of which one is the future, only to discuss people’s attitudes towards the old technology.

What I will say, however, is that those of us with classics or hobby cars don’t put 12,000 miles on them a year. They come out for car shows or meets, at weekends, bank holidays or for track days. Pointing the finger at these people is like getting angry about a cigarette burn on the living room carpet when there’s a blazing inferno burning down the kitchen. 

It’s not just the general public’s attitude that has changed, governments across the world are placing the car as public enemy number one when it comes to the environment. Emission zone charges and pedestrian-only zones are starting to come into effect with many European cities looking to implement a total ban on the ICE in the near future. In my opinion, tailpipe emissions aren’t the only environmental factor we should be concerned about…

Throwaway Society

Easy access to cash through cheap loans and attractive finance and lease terms, have brought cars that were once reserved for the wealthy, into the reach of the ordinary working person. At face value that sounds like a great thing, why should those rich folk have all the fun? Well, there’s obviously going to be a downside. Living above your means is fine in the short term but it’s far too easy to get tied into chopping and changing cars when your deal is up for renewal.

There may be nothing wrong with the old car, nothing may have ever gone wrong with it but people will trade it in for a new one anyway. This is today’s throwaway society. In a world where we’re told to act more responsible in an effort to save the planet, it’s not just what comes out of the tailpipe of a car that damages the environment. 

Building a car is a very labour intensive process, there’s the extraction of the raw materials out of the ground, a variety of metals to make the body and chassis and oils to make the plastics and then the transportation of these materials. These materials then have to be refined and manufactured into the components. These components then have to be shipped to the assembly plants, from there the car begins to take its form and once complete is then shipped again to the showroom where it will finally find its new owner. Through every step of this process, it can potentially be an international affair, with transportation taking the form of aircraft, cargo ships, trains and lorries. None of which are friendly to the environment.

Your average car has a lifespan of 10 years and once that is over, some are lucky enough to work their way through the second-hand market but many meet their end being stripped for parts or crushed and sent overseas to be further stripped for the raw materials. Again, not exactly a green process. No one is campaigning for a ban on making any new cars, there are too many jobs at stake and it’s just not realistic to end up like Cuba driving round in 50-year-old cars that are bodged together by home mechanics. What many ask for is a more sustainable system with less chopping and changing, this I believe, will lead to the car being less vilified.

Health and Safety

Anyone who grew up before the days of every household owning a computer will know of Top Trumps. One of the stats on the cards was top speed, whoever’s car had the highest, wins. Talk about your cars top speed to a non-car person today and instead of getting an excited response and maybe a quick glance at the top number on your speedo, you’re more likely to be asked “where can you actually do it?” or “don’t you think that’s irresponsible?” 

I’m the first one to say you don’t have to drive fast to have fun, a 1.6 MX5 is one of the best cars I’ve owned but if you’ve got a red Ferrari, isn’t it nice to see 200mph on the clocks? In the same way, a Rolex submariner is rated to 300 meters water resistance, not every owner will be scuba diving to that depth on the weekend but it stands more for a sign of engineering quality and I believe it’s the same for cars. 

Back in the day, everyone knew when the Ferrari F40 became the first production car to crack the double ton. It was seen as an exciting triumph, an endeavour like breaking the 4-minute mile or climbing Everest, there were those who maybe only years before said it couldn’t be done. Yet here we are in 2020 and a Bugatti Chiron has just gone past 300. Not 300kph, 300mph. And nobody cares. Not a single person has brought it up in conversation and that is rather disheartening. 

Ok, that sort of speed is irrelevant on the public road but what’s happened to giving praise to those willing to push the boundaries? The Bloodhound supersonic car, in its quest for 1000mph, has been stop-start more times than the UK’s Covid lockdown, because no one really cares. Look at how restrictive car adverts are on TV, any notion of speed and they get banned. AWD systems, including ones on sports cars, are now marketed as being safe rather than aiding performance. Even Forza Horizon an open-world racing game drew criticism for glorifying speeding on public roads. With this being the case it’s hard not to see a future of dull, unexciting if not, safe modes of transport.

Show of Wealth

Us car guys are in an unfortunate position in that our money pits are on permanent display outside of our homes should they not be tucked away in a garage. Having a nice car is often seen as a vulgar show of wealth. It doesn’t matter if you vote for the left or for the right, whether you spend a fraction of your vast earnings on your hobby or every penny of your small wage, people can get jealous and think you’re a flash twat. 

My dad bought himself a diesel BMW 1 series (definitely not flash) a few years ago and when a neighbour saw it he remarked that he wished he had the sort of money to own a BMW. Thing is, my dad bought it second hand for around £6k and the same neighbour had a brand new Ford Focus that he’d paid north of £20k for. It seems that the general public has no idea what the second-hand market looks like and they just presume by its badge or style what it’s worth. 

It’s disheartening to see videos online of people vandalising sports or supercars for no other reason than they disapprove of them. There’s even cases of the owners being spat at or objects thrown at them while driving. Why can’t we just be happy that people have worked hard and have enough money to enjoy their passion? I for one love seeing those sorts of cars out and about.

Cost

My final point is one of cost. Many young people just can’t afford to own a car. More people than ever live in crowded cities with limited access to parking and if it is available, often at a huge cost. Filling a car up with petrol or diesel can cost into the hundreds of pounds depending on the tank size and in many performance cars or classics, that full tank won’t get you far.

Road tax is more than what it used to be too but the stumbling block for many is insurance. My first car a 1998 Vauxhall Astra 1.6 petrol cost me over £1400 a year, more than what I paid for the car! Having spoken to some young people recently, it’s often more than that now and many insurance companies require the installation of a black box to monitor their driving. If the youth of today are priced out of car ownership then what reason do they have to get excited about it?

What I Think the Future Holds

I think there’ll always be a place for landmark cars, ones that are seen as art, ones that achieved milestones and ones that serve no other purpose than to be driven for fun. The demise of ICE cars for regular every day use however will come to an end. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing though. 

Jay Leno once said, that when the horse stopped being used as a tool for hauling carts and pulling farm machinery, it left it open to be used by people who love the animal and for it to be used in hobby riding. He and I share the same view that the same will happen to the car. The dull, uninteresting commuter cars will be replaced by whatever method of clean propulsion takes over and those of us who wish to take our beloved classics to shows or our performance cars to race tracks will still be able to. My only fear is that we may have to empty our pockets to have the privilege.

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