Photos by author.
Automakers are constantly pressured to bring out new and fresh products, virtually being required to reinvent the wheel, if you will, to get customers into showrooms. Of course, they can never let go of their best cars and ideas from years past, something all of us here in Hemmings Nation know all too well.
1969 Nissan Skyline 2000GT-R
At the New York Auto Show, which we recently attended on the press preview days, the automakers showed an awful lot of vintage iron to go with their latest and greatest. From Japan to Germany to Sweden and even the good, ole U.S. of A., automakers had either new versions of their most legendary cars or simply some sweet samples of those cars that established those legends.
1995 Nissan Skyline GT-R (R33)
On the occasion of introducing an improved version (we’d be hard pressed to call it all new) of their GT-R supercar, Nissan trotted out several previous versions of their world-beating Skyline GT-Rs, dating all the way back to the 1969 S20-powered Skyline 2000GT-R. The only Skyline officially sold here in the U.S. has been the GT-R since 2008 and that model (R35, as it is often referred to by the faithful) does not actually carry the Skyline name any more.
1973 Nissan Skyline 2000GT-R
Still, Nissan’s space was largely filled with vintage iron in shades of silver and gray(ishness), though we expect that to change when the crush of consumer comes to the Javits Center on New York’s west side in the next 10 days. The turnstiles will likely cross the one million mark again this year and those consumers will likely see a Nissan stand filled with current models.
Red BMW M1 takes its lofty position above more modern machinery from Munich at the BMW stand
The floor of BMW’s stand was packed with the modern, technology-laden cars that their customers have come to love, along with a nice chunk of space reserved for the likes of their M sub-brand dedicated to performance cars and the thrill of driving. Unfortunately, the only new BMW the featuring a manual transmission was the 200-hp S1000RR superbike. Fortunately, BMW made up for that by displaying the original car bearing the M logo, the M1, a wedged-shaped, rear-drive Seventies supercar that still looks stunning more than 35 years after its debut. Displayed in a loft above the show floor, the M1 seemed to be looking down approvingly at the modern equipment below.
1968 Porsche 911T, setup for rally competition.
At an off-site reception, Porsche rolled out a 718 RSK spyder, their extraordinarily light and capable racer from the Fifties, along with a 1968 911T setup for rally competition and complete with external fuel filler and a roll bar. Of course, Porsche has long played on that heritage and their racing bona fides. Perhaps the 911T was just a reminder that there really was a time not all that long ago, really, when you could buy a Porsche in the showroom and immediately be competitive at the track.
A little over 10 years ago, Ford debuted their GT supercar, a very modern riff on the original GT40 wrapped in a skin that was all but a copy of the original. Once again, the GT is back, playing on that same GT and GT40 heritage.
2017 Acura NSX
Acura, too, has gotten into the act, after years of teasing their new hybrid NSX, a follow-up to the groundbreaking NSX of the Nineties. Those letters may not have the gravitas of nearly 60 years of GTO at Ferrari, but there are plenty of people who find them just as authentic.
Mazda MX-5 RF
Perhaps the most exciting debut at New York was the Mazda MX-5 RF, otherwise known at the Miata fastback, a non-nonsense sports car based on one of the all-time most popular roadsters. And if you think that the Miata is simply “too new” to have any legacy, it is now in its fourth generation and those first-gen cars are being actively sought by collectors. Given the likely low take rate for new Miata customers, we suspect we’ll see this car gain collector cult status sooner rather than later. But, make no mistake, the Miata already has a strong following with collectors, sports car aficionados and just general car guys alike, And that’s why people were quite excited to see this new MX-5 with its retractable targa top and fastback styling.
Like BMW, Volvo kept their vintage machine up high, with a pair of P1800s on platforms above either side of their display. Heritage, legacy, retro—whatever you want to call it—people have a strong attachment to certain older designs and the manufacturers not only know this, but are actively building cars that appeal to that sense.