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A few reasons why vintage cars remain relevant, enjoyable, and collectible

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With the holiday season upon us and the weather too slushy to drive my old Buick, my mood regarding cars has turned a bit contemplative.

One of the main reasons why we continue to covet vintage cars is because interacting with them can make us feel young again, whether it’s from behind the wheel of a ride from our youth, or while turning wrenches on it. Just don’t catch a glimpse of yourself in the rearview mirror or the Twilight Zone-like fantasy will be dashed by a dose of reality in the reflection.

Out on a deserted backroad, however, the daydream is visually enhanced by gazing out over the hood or surveying the instrument panel and interior. The vintage tactility of the steering wheel, seat, shifter, and dashboard controls are realized, as are the sensations of acceleration, braking, and lateral forces through the curves. Engine induction roar, the tone of the exhaust, and music emanating from a decades-old radio contribute a soundtrack to the time travel vibe. In short, everything looks and feels different than it would in a new car.

Why do we sometimes crave the more antiquated driving characteristics of an old car over that of a modern one? Here are a few thoughts.

The First Car: Most of us who worked and scrimped and saved to buy our first car, be it old or new at the time, still recall the memories made with it, so it’s understandable that we would either want to keep it or find a replacement for it later in life. Even if your parents or grandparents bought a new car and gave you their old one, it was still your “first car,” so the same reasoning above applies.

It’s a Looker!: Though we won’t all agree on the same models, many of us know of a certain car (or cars), which possesses the power to stop us in our tracks to just stare at it. We appreciate its styling to such a degree that it actually makes us feel good inside just to look at it. Somehow, in that moment the problems of the day recede to the back of our minds and we feel more optimistic than we had just minutes before.

Get-up-and-go: For those who were raised in the days of high-octane fuel and big-horsepower figures, the muscle-car era provided a variety of mild-to-wild performers. Despite the fact that today’s late-model supercars are capable of performance levels that eclipse those of vintage muscle cars, the earlier car’s styling and exclusivity, and again, nostalgia, ensure that most examples remain highly collectible.

The Big Screen: If I had a dollar for every person who told me that they fell in love with the Pontiac Trans Am due to Smokey and the Bandit, I’d be writing this article from my own private island instead of a small office in the corner of my house. Some movie cars were already desirable in their own right, but their commanding presence in certain films contributed to making them legends. Short of providing a lengthy list of movies and their star cars, here are just a few prime examples: the 1968 Mustang GT and 1968 Charger R/T in Bullitt, the 1955 Chevrolet and 1970 GTO (looks like a Judge but doesn’t have “The Judge” exterior decals) in Two-Lane Blacktop, the 1970 Challenger R/T in Vanishing Point, and the aforementioned 1977 Trans Am in Smokey and the Bandit. Through their high-speed, tire-frying exploits on the screen, they became extremely popular and must-own vehicles for some moviegoers.

As Seen on TV: The desire for a star car is not limited to the silver screen, however. Television parked some of the most recognizable cars of their respective era right in our living rooms. Who could forget The Saint’s Volvo P1800, all the various Mopars used in Mannix and the Mod Squad, Starsky’s Gran Torino, Rockford’s Firebirds, the Duke’s “General Lee” Charger, or Knight Rider’s K.I.T.T. Trans Am? Few of us apparently, as some of these cars are still celebrated at cars shows and tributes of them are still built and revered today. There are many more examples for TV as well, but you get the idea.

The Mentors: Friends and Family Plan: Parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and neighbors have served as mentors to countless next-generation gearheads over the years. Thanks to their kindness, many budding vintage-car fans experienced their first ride in the coolest, quickest, loudest, or most beautiful car in their town, be it a GTO, a 4-4-2, a Z28, a Hemi car, a Mustang, an American classic or luxury car, or an interesting import model, etc. In some instances, those memories left impressions so deep that the young protégés later bought examples of those same cars.

Well Read: Enthusiast car magazines introduced many a vintage-car fan to the culture. Road tests of interesting models back when they were new educated us on their attributes and shortcomings in stock form, and articles on how to improve their performance and looks provided an understanding of their potential. These magazines helped shape our tastes regarding vintage vehicles and they continue to today, along with the vast amount of info offered via the internet.

Restoration and Modification Support: There is substantial restoration and modification aftermarket support to supply owners of various vintage cars and shops that cater to them with parts required to complete projects.

Easy Peasy: Many who restore, modify, and/or maintain vintage vehicles cite their simple design and basic engineering as significant attributes, and feel that they are easier to work on than the higher-tech later models. Consequently, these older cars can also serve as an initiation for novices to get their hands dirty, learn about the mechanical aspects of cars with less difficulty, and take pride in their work.

As the title says, a “few” reasons why vintage cars remain relevant were presented, so here’s your opportunity to enhance the conversation by providing your additional reasons.

Potent AMC’s await awards at Hemmings Musclepalooza this past September.