06 02 2017

So what are ‘Modern Classics’ anyway?

A few years ago, things were simple: classic cars were those built between 1930 and the 1970s. Everything older was vintage or veteran; everything newer was just a used car.

Then, at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, things began to change. The kids of the 1980s, who as spotty teenagers once sported ‘FRANKIE SAYS’ tee shirts, day-glo wrist warmers and blow-dried hair, suddenly came of age. They were 40 now: slightly overweight, with a wife, two kids, and a dog and drastically in need of a mid-life crisis. These men (and a few women) now had fairly healthy bank balances and a suburban double garage, and they weren’t afraid to use them.

The poster cars were the first to be bought: the Porsche 911 Turbo, Ferrari 308 GTB and Lamborghini Countach all rocketed in value. Next were the cars that their cool mates had once owned: the Ford Capri Mk III 2.8i, VW Golf GTI, BMW E30 M3 and Peugeot 205 GTI. Suddenly 1980s cars were big news in the classic car world.

The problem was one of supply and demand. As 1980s classics were simply ‘used cars’ for so long, many didn’t survive, even the nice ones. Remember the scrappage scheme? This accounted for hundreds of lovely cars including Renault 5 Turbos, Ford Escort RS2000s, Audi Quattro Urs and a grand total of 52 Porsche 944s. Others lay and festered on driveways or were written-off after the most minor of shunts.

So when the Generation X-ers pulled out their cheque books and started buying, good 1980s cars became scarce pretty quickly. They had to look elsewhere: along came the 1990s to save the day. Porsches led the pack again: the 911 (993) was hailed as the last ‘real’ air-cooled 911, and prices went bananas. Aston Martin DB7s started to rise as did, lower down the pecking order, prices of interesting, high- spec models like the Alfa Romeo GTV Cup, the Fiat Coupe and the Ford Escort RS Cosworth.

Then the Millennials started to get involved, and things became even more interesting. Suddenly cars built in the 2000s started to become collectable - not just supercars, but sports cars too, like the Porsche 911 (996), the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA and the Maserati 3200.

Now, I know some people who stick to the old dogma that a classic is pre-1980, and explode with the ire of an angry baboon whenever the term ‘modern classics’ is used, or when are they/ aren’t they cars like a Westfield are mentioned. I do have some sympathy for them - their cosy pastime has been rocked in recent years - but I think they have missed the point. This hobby is all about cars and how we perceive them, whatever the age of the machine. That people are collecting and cherishing ever- more modern cars has to be a good thing, as it brings new blood to the classic car world, both in terms of vehicles and owners. Is it a passing fad? Hagerty don’t think so – we are in the process of amending our coverage to embrace more modern cars.

So what is a modern classic? I think it is defined by the relationship you have with it. Whatever the age, if your car gives you a tingle up the spine every time you see it, if it makes you smile every time you drive it, and if you spend more time and money than is absolutely necessary on its upkeep, then it’s a classic. Go out to the garage right now and give it a hug.

Join the Discussion

7 reader comments

  • 1
    K M Booth West Yorkshire July 24, 2017 at 2:44pm
    I couldn't agree more with this article and wholeheartedly second every single word and the phrases and sentences that they become. Sadly, last month I lost my partner of 42+ years so I now have 2 "modern classics" and I wouldn't be without them. They gave each of us a "thrill" as we drove to shows (no trailers for us!) and the memorable days at shows will never be forgotten. We loved to share them with others and hoped that they got as much pleasure as we did out of them. To honour my partner, I will carry on showing the cars although I hasten to add not driving both at the same time and whilst some may not consider them to be anything special, I do and that is really all that counts/matters. We are all entitled to our own views on what is classic or vintage or whatever but we should all respect each other and each other's opinions.
  • 2
    Mike Oxford July 24, 2017 at 2:44pm
    As an owner of a pair of well, fairly rotten Fiat Uno Turbo's (1989 mk1, 1992 mk2) I know the reality of them just being 'used cars' for so long. It depends if we are looking at it from a total package perspective or a singular system on the vehicle (i.e. engine). So at the moment, I'd love a Mercedes-Benz BiTurbo V12 unit (it sounds like an old aero engine when it starts up!) so it only comes (for two years!) in the CL and S-Class bodies. If I conversely just wanted an S-Class, I'd go for diesel or a V6/V8 petrol but a top wack spec. Yes expensive to buy, run, etc but when you compare it to making body panels for a base car (like the article regarding the Vauxhall Viva not long posted) that have long since gone out of production, something large German and stupid makes sense. Albeit for a short time.
  • 3
    TonyR UK July 24, 2017 at 2:44pm
    If in doubt just look at the price of Merc 2.5-16 Evo 2. Best so far sold for circa £297,000 and they generally fetch above £150K. There is no doubt the modern classic is here. Try buying any mid to late 90's Porsche Turbo if in doubt.
  • 4
    Tin Norfolk July 24, 2017 at 2:44pm
    Agreed. Having a debate about great 90s cars with friends - Fiat Coupe, Honda NSX, Mitsubishi FTO, TT, A2, Mk1 SLK (really!) - with not a huge amount of money (and a large barn) these would be a better investment than almost any other commodity over 10 yr+
  • 5
    Roger Devon July 24, 2017 at 2:44pm
    Great article,regret selling my 993 a couple of years ago can't replace it now for anywhere near what I sold it for. But I am lucky to own a TR6 which we have owned for 23 years and had wonderful times with. Also a TR4a which I rebuilt,and a very nice Capri 2.8,34,000 miles from new.
  • 6
    Duncan Hart Southampton July 24, 2017 at 2:44pm
    I've been trying for a while now to find out what cars are defined as classic, collectors, rare, possible future classic and how to go about finding their worth. I own a 1993 Mazda 626gt V6, it totally original with air con, cruise control, elec seats etc. I have looked on the how many left website and according to this there are only 6 in the country and a couple with the same spec as mine, unfortunately mine has been sat in a garage for the last 8 years or so but I am looking to get her back on the road, fortunately very little is needed to make this a reality. I'm not going to get rid of her but I would like to know if she will be a future classic and what she may be worth, I'm not expecting the fast ford, 205gti, Renault gt prices but hey, don't ask and you wont know.
  • 7
    Barrie James Shanklin, Isle of Wight July 24, 2017 at 2:44pm
    I've been very fortunate over the years, and have owned many cars which are now regarded as 'Classics'. Everything from the sublime to the ridiculous, from a 1956 Bond Minicar Mk D, Family Four, to 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom I, with a Weymann body. Others have included an ex-Royal 1934 Daimler Hooper bodied Limousine and a 1938 Lagonda V12 Drop-head. More recently I've had Reliant Scimitars. Most of these cars I've bought in need of work, which I've completed and have then sold on. The interesting part for me has always been working on the cars. Not that I've made much money, the Lagonda, for instance, cost me £185 and was sold-on for £185. Mind you, this was in 1964. As age is beginning to take me over I find I'm not able to do my he necessary work to keep a classic on the road. So, to keep me occupied I sold the last Scimitar and bought a 2000 MGF Wedgwood SE Devon a friend who found it very difficult to get in and out of. I must admit it seems to get the same reaction as my Scimitar did when I brake it to shows. Many times I've been told that I'm very lucky to have such a nice 'Modern Classic'. To me it's just a nice car, as most of them have been, and I'e just worked out that it's my 82nd car, give or take. I really think that your car is a 'Classic' if it gives you real pleasure to own and drive, and also that you spend what's necessary without worrying about the cost.