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Why these classic cars are redefining what's cool

Published 27 July 2015

There’s always been something cool about owning a classic car. Who hasn’t, at some point, imagined themselves popping on their Ray-Bans and slipping behind the wheel of a chrome-bumper early Porsche 911?

Yep. That’s a pretty cool way to live. But early 911s aren’t within reach of most of us, and there’s just as much fun to be had in running something more ordinary, more mundane, more mainstream, but in many ways just as exotic due to its sheer rarity value. If it turns heads and gets people talking, and more to the point, you enjoy owning it, it’s a classic.

This message was driven home to me when I visited the 2015 Festival of the Unexceptional at Whittlebury Hall. On the way there, the A43 was jammed with traffic due to the neighbouring Silverstone Classic. The laybys were full of overheating AC Cobras and faltering Ferraris. Those that weren’t delivering their owners expensive surprises made up one of the most valuable traffic jams I’ve ever witnessed.

I, meanwhile, was driving a beige Rover 800 Fastback, and just behind me in the queue, my mate Dave was piloting his yellow Citroen Visa. And you know what? We got more looks than any of the cars worth 200 times as much…

Maybe I’m imagining it down to my own car leanings being in the direction of the ordinary. Maybe they were looks of derision from people who spend millions maintaining their Aston Martins. But I don’t think so. I genuinely think there’s been a huge upsurge recently in the interest shown in common or garden cars of the 1980s and 1990s, and I think there are two reasons for it.

The first is a general shift in nostalgia. Just as 1960s and 1970s cars took a while to morph from bangers into classics, the same thing is happening to those from a decade or so later. Car nuts in their 30s and 40s are finally buying the cars they always wanted when they were in their teens, and there’s no accounting for taste. It’s why I, for example, have an inexplicable fascination with the Rover 800…

The second reason, though, is much more encouraging. You only had to look around the visitors at the Festival of the Unexceptional to notice the sheer number of young people driving 80s and 90s Fords, Vauxhall and Austin-Rovers (for the most part) to see that there’s clearly something cool about being seen behind the wheel of the cars that Mum and Dad had when you were a kid. Perhaps, for the most communication-focused generation of all time, a car that’s beautifully simple is the perfect tonic to a constantly connected lifestyle?

There’s a whole new group of classic enthusiasts breaking through the ranks. They’re driving Rover Metros, Vauxhall Astras and Ford Sierras, and we have the hipster generation to thank for it.  

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