RE: Prior Convictions: Back to the Future

RE: Prior Convictions: Back to the Future

Friday 9th February

Prior Convictions: Back to the Future

How looking to the past is helping car companies survive in the present



News has reached PH towers of the launch of FCA Heritage, "a world of stories, events and services" surrounding old Alfa Romeos, Fiats, Lancias and Abarths.

Offering cars "reloaded by creators", then, which I think means 'rebuilt by mechanics, but near the factory', it is FCA digging into the back catalogue, restoring old cars, selling them to you, and creating some events around them. 


It is a place where, right now, you can buy an immaculately restored Alfa Romeo SZ. Which, given the wherewithal, is something I would do immediately.

It's happening because heritage is modern. Old is the new, er, new. Nostalgia, quite literally, ain't what it used to be: it is one of the biggest growth areas in the business.

FCA's venture, see, comes on the back of lots of other announcements. Jaguar says it'll make a series of D-Type Continuations. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity Jag said, with no apparent irony, about its third Continuation model in four years.


At the upcoming Geneva Motor Show David Brown Automotive, whose projects have so far involved recreating Minis and that weird Speedback GT thing, will launch another car. 

And so too will Manifattura Automobile Torino, who seem to have finally been given permission, from whoever they needed it from, to build 25 Lancia Stratos-esque cars underpinned by V8 Ferrari mechanicals.

Those are only this week's announcements. Aston Martin has been in on it too, Zagato also, while unofficially there are companies like Icon with 4x4s, Singer with Porsche 911s, and dozens of tuners, retailers and event-owners making classics a growth industry like never before, comfort-feeding our apparent unending fascination with the old-but-not-old. It's like some kind of automotive mid-life crisis, as we regress to avoid the muffin tops and lethargy brought to us by crash structures and emissions regulations.


All of which is fine, I suppose. Lovely, even. But is it right? Or does it stunt interesting new areas of the business because all of the interesting things are in the old section? 

Perhaps it is the car business moving as the horse business did more than a century ago, to become less about business, and more about leisure. I suppose we'll see, but I'd be surprised if it is a trend that goes away. There's little new in cinema. There are only seven basic plots in fiction. Today I will drink tea just like I did when I was twelve. Should we really be surprised that cars mirror life?

 

 

[Source: Autocar]

 

Author
Discussion

theholygrail

Original Poster:

191 posts

97 months

Friday 9th February
quotequote all
The Lancia Stratos thingy cloud9

Dale487

626 posts

52 months

Friday 9th February
quotequote all

Jay Leno stated that the car saved the horse, it became a toy not a work animal and that the electric car will do the same for the petrol car - if its going to be a toy, why not have a classic/re-imagined or reproduced car?

RedAndy

494 posts

83 months

Friday 9th February
quotequote all
theholygrail said:
The Lancia Stratos thingy cloud9
a tweak/bodykit and bigger tail lamps on a Lotus Evora and it's yours...

JeremyH5

301 posts

64 months

Friday 9th February
quotequote all
I don’t think it stunts other development at all, it isn’t setting out to be mainstream, just the industry exploiting another niche product area.
And very welcome it is.

anotherGreasyNut

3 posts

3 months

Friday 9th February
quotequote all
I remember visiting an international scool in Regents Park or Hyde Park in London around 2006 and a student had make a 'homage' to the Lancia.

Dull piece in many ways IMO crumple zones and emmissions both can be dealt with to a fair degree with a cage and a well tuned engine, how about things like the interior I doubt much of that would meet current regulations.

A pal uses a BMW '02 as his daily it has a boot that will hold an engine and gearbox or two, never in 8 years as it broken down, gets mid 30's mpg partly down to the 5 speed box. Oh and no tax, congestion charge or Dart bridge tax either.
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cmoose

41,535 posts

158 months

Friday 9th February
quotequote all
I think, in reality, it's not terribly viable to make interesting cars any longer.

You can start with a concept for an interesting car. But by the time you've made it commercially viable, it's just another oversized, farty exhaust, turbo, paddleshifting, direct injection, airbagged, massive wheeled lump. Even when it's not too big and fat, it'll have a horrid engine - 4C, GT-86, MX-5 (and soon to be Alpine A110, I imagine) etc

I just don't think the market wants interesting cars. It wants either domestic transportation devices and luxury goods on wheels / some ratio of the two depending on where you are in the food chain.

We're well past peak combustion car re driving enjoyment bar a tiny handful of remaining outliers. And the whole human driven combustion car thang is broadly on borrowed time in any case. So I think if efforts are diverted towards the classics, that fine.

samoht

717 posts

75 months

Friday 9th February
quotequote all

I'm not convinced that these 'official replicas' are really being run as a serious income stream, in such small numbers. I imagine that the point of Jaguar putting together another 25 D-Types isn't to profit directly, but to remind us all of their, to be fair, glorious heritage, and thus make us more inclined to buy, say, an F-Type of some variety.

The fact is that 'white goods' commodity cars are, well, commodities, and like all commodities their selling price naturally falls to equal the cost of production. Which is why companies like GM Europe etc are so often in the headlines along with words such as losses, restructuring, and redundancies. With lower-cost China coming on-stream as a car manufacturer, it won't even be possible for developed countries' factories to sell boring cars at break-even any more.

On the other hand, while anyone can make a car, only Jaguar can make a Jaguar, only they can present a car in styling and nomenclature as the true inheritor of the legacy of the C, D and E-type. You may be able to buy a cheaper GT car, but you can't buy a cheaper Jaguar. With brand value being the only reliable differentiator and source of profit, companies are now taking a long-overdue interest in supporting their heritage.

PunterCam

677 posts

124 months

Friday 9th February
quotequote all
I think these new old cars being sold for a small fortune are really sad. It's just a little money spinner really.. It's not that it dilutes the magic of the old cars or anything (although it does a bit), it's that they bring nothing to the world. They're just pointless. We've been there, we've done that.

And I think it's tragic that, with what,15, maybe 20 years left with petrol as the prime fuel of sports cars? That manufacturers aren't working towards creating something celebrating the fuel that has transformed the planet. Instead they're making throwback cars, or cars so completely focused on speed that the means no longer matter, as long as the result is fast. The joys of a potentially good car are lost in the dreary turbo engine noise, the excessive sound deadening (well obviously ones supercar cannot be compromised in any way... rolleyes ), the automatic fking gearbox... All of which will mean the petrol powered car will go out with a whimper, as children gather to whoop at the "numbers" the new Porsche all electric car posts. There'll be nothing to miss, they've lost most of what makes a petrol car great already.

Someone will create the pinnacle of analogue cars soon enough - not a computer in the car. No direct injection, no fuel injection.. A proper carburetor fed engine, but designed in the 21st century with the precision now achievable. The best steering of all time, the best brakes of all time, the best gearshift of all time. They'll get the core of the car absolutely "right" - the best a machine can be, compromises and all. It'll have timeless styling - not feminine, not aggressive, not showy, not subtle. It'll be made entirely from the most exotic modern materials. And when every car made after 1990 is dead and beyond repair, the simplicity of the mechanicals in this car will there for all to see. It'll be magnificent.

Good ol wine.

Earl of Petrol

76 posts

51 months

Friday 9th February
quotequote all
Stratospheric.

hammo19

1,775 posts

125 months

Saturday 10th February
quotequote all
Oh that Stratos is a thing of immense beauty and wonder. All these are iconic cars that someone has designed with their skill and vision but most of all heart. They create an emotional response and stir the soul. More of this nostalgia please.

irocfan

15,934 posts

119 months

Saturday 10th February
quotequote all
it's not even that recent though...

look at the Mustang S197, Ford GT or back a little further the Jag XJ40 or S Type. Porsche's USP up until the SUV range was a retro car

sparta6

690 posts

29 months

Saturday 10th February
quotequote all
Manufacturers have woken up to the fact that designs pre-dating stringent EU regs were far more striking and adventurous.

In an age of bloated homogenized blobs this trend is a good thing smile

And there will always be enough customers with discerning taste for limited run designs which create a halo effect for the brand.



Edited by sparta6 on Saturday 10th February 12:19

Revjunkie

12 posts

157 months

Saturday 10th February
quotequote all
I am all for these companies making these re-imagined classics. They are lovely and if they come with better reliability, performance, stopping etc great.

I've always said if I had the money I would have a classic cruiser such as a Mercedes(Such as a W108) with all modern running gear underneath and a upgraded interior as a daily rather than a modern eurobox.

Gemaeden

89 posts

44 months

Saturday 10th February
quotequote all
anotherGreasyNut said:
A pal uses a BMW '02 as his daily it has a boot that will hold an engine and gearbox or two, never in 8 years as it broken down, gets mid 30's mpg partly down to the 5 speed box. Oh and no tax, congestion charge or Dart bridge tax either.
Is Dart Charge not applicable to historics?

irocfan

15,934 posts

119 months

Saturday 10th February
quotequote all
Revjunkie said:
I've always said if I had the money I would have a classic cruiser such as a Mercedes(Such as a W108) with all modern running gear underneath and a upgraded interior as a daily rather than a modern eurobox.
so effectively a restomod (as our US cousins would have it)

Revjunkie

12 posts

157 months

Saturday 10th February
quotequote all
irocfan said:
so effectively a restomod (as our US cousins would have it)
Yep

anotherGreasyNut

3 posts

3 months

Saturday 10th February
quotequote all
Gemaeden said:
anotherGreasyNut said:
A pal uses a BMW '02 as his daily it has a boot that will hold an engine and gearbox or two, never in 8 years as it broken down, gets mid 30's mpg partly down to the 5 speed box. Oh and no tax, congestion charge or Dart bridge tax either.
Is Dart Charge not applicable to historics?
Found this on the website:

"Who is Exempt

Mopeds, Motorcycles, Tricycles and Quadricycles can use the crossing for free.

Vehicles that are currently exempt from the road user charge will still be exempt this includes vehicles exempt from excise duty,

if they are used by or used to transport someone with a disability.

It is the vehicle that is exempt not the person, so blue badge users still liable for the charge



Got a question

Dart Charge Customer Service 0300 300 0120

www.gov.uk/dart-charge"

irocfan

15,934 posts

119 months

Sunday 11th February
quotequote all
Revjunkie said:
irocfan said:
so effectively a restomod (as our US cousins would have it)
Yep
the same here. In the water cooler talk about 'the big lotto win' I've said I'd be after a restomod (and off to Kindigit designs!) rather than virtually anything new or a supercar

rudecherub

1,996 posts

95 months

Sunday 11th February
quotequote all
Niche marketing is great. If not for niche marketing we'd all be driving black Model Ts

The biggest niche in the Classic Car market has always been looks - retro-cool; design aesthetics.
Arguably the prettiest cars of all time were almost all designed in few years during the 60s.

The biggest bone of contention has always been how far restoration should go into modification. I've always been firmly in the resto-mod camp. Caveat being how rare is the car and the condition it begins with, because when there are only a handful of examples of a car then radical changes are probably unwarranted. But if it's that rare it becomes an exhibit, and not a car. A car is to be driven.

But when there are lots of any given model then why not?
Of course some parts of a car are consumable, and destined to be replaced, if so why not replace with better?

Dramatically changing the exterior appearance is another question altogether and takes the argument into customisation, which is a subjective, beauty being in the eye of the beholder. If you pays your money, you takes your choice - again the caveat of rarity is worth applying here, but otherwise more power to variety. I don't have to like it, to approve of the choice in principle.

In short making a car - any car, old or new out of the box, go better, stop faster, go faster, well that just seems right to me.

But then again I am of an age ( meaning I'm grown up enough now to be able to use the phrase, I am of an age) to remember the miserable era of the late 70s to 80s.
As a kid in the 90s, driving a Classic actually got you more bangs for your buck. Faced with the choice of Triumph GT6 vs a MkIII Ford Escort at the same price point, for me there was no choice.
In fact if you wanted a convertible there was a very limited choice, the only mainstream manufacture IIRC was Mercedes. For a young lad wanting an affordable car with go and style, you pretty much had go old. Old got you a more involving rear drive, and thanks to a Jensen Healey in my case wind in your hair. Back in the day when I wasn't grown up I had that hair ( of course it was the 90s so long at the front curtains style, so I wore a cap to keep it out of my eyes ).

Legislation, economics, and the industry consensus had all but killed the convertible, and stifled the sports car.

Legislation and wage costs made cars boxy, and ugly - IMO. The Jaguar XJ6 had curves, the XJ40s box shape was easier ie cheaper to press.

A lot changed. #MX5 And of course a certain British Sportscar maker gave birth to Pistonheads.
Tech changed these things. Last 20 years has seen more interesting shapes, and the convertible came back. But it wasn't because not having a roof suddenly became so much safer. (although Mercedes did that snap up in a micro-seconds roll bar) but because we the consumer were happy to compromise, and Marketing was a thing now. Welcome to segmentation.

But in reality we bought TVRs not because they were safe, or quiet, etc., but because they were fast, and looked great standing still.

To be honest the driving experience between an older - often relatively more expensive car, now depreciated vs a modern but newer box in the 90s was not so different, weight of powerless steering, heft of the gear lever, etc.
Today when the average super-mini satisfies the Classic definition of a GT car, 300 miles range at over 100 miles an hour, the difference in driving dynamics is less clear cut. Once luxury options, like power steering, windows, and air con are now so standard kids today don't know they are born, said my Granddad who never took a driving test about syncromesh.

Classics provide driver involvement, manual box, direct steering and brakes, but again these things are only as good as the aged components, which brings us back to restoration to modification.
And to looks.
While things are better than the boxy days of old, mostly, Bangle BMWs I look at you, for shame the ugly, the industry/safety/ and rounding from better aerodynamics has given us a new boxy, a mean look. ( I mean average not angry )
With the fat blocking your view pillars, and enlarging crumple zones - cars are often harder to see out of, and generally bigger.

I parked my Audi 80, that someone in Stuttgart had stuck Porsche bits on in the 90s next to a current 3 series, it look positively wee next to the Beemer, which probably has the foot print of the 90s 5 series.

My conclusion is that there is a market for resto-mods, (and I suspect coach building is coming back for the same reasons) because I want great looking ( subjective as that value judgment maybe ) cars that were designed to snap nicker elastic* not to please the passage of air in a wind tunnel. Great looking cars that stop faster and go faster, and start in the morning, because I am willing to trade passive safety, for active safety of better brakes and a great glass house ( or no glass house in the way of the convertible ) all in a smaller package, because size isn't everything. Actually check that, in the real world of my UK, size is a actually a great deal, if like me you want to be able to overtake on B roads.

Although it seems many people aren't old enough to remember overtaking. But that's another topic.

  • olde Clarkson reference.






PhantomPH

2,964 posts

154 months

Sunday 11th February
quotequote all
RedAndy said:
theholygrail said:
The Lancia Stratos thingy cloud9
a tweak/bodykit and bigger tail lamps on a Lotus Evora and it's yours...
I thought that one was the one that was based on an F430...or is that a different one?