A post on the Hagerty Instagram page a couple months back regarding converting classic cars from internal combustion to electric motor is the reason for this latest post. Or rather the hew and cry from all the petrol heads in the posts comments section. Predictably, most were against it, citing the cars would no longer be a classic in doing so. Some actually commented that we weren’t in a “Mad Max” situation, so we should continue the use of petroleum. Despite all the news and scientific evidence that the Earth can no longer tolerate this practice. Ok, Boomer.
I’m a car guy. As a kid, I built model cars. I loved them all. I grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and remember the first Corvette Stingray, Mustang, Camaro, Road Runner (Meep! Meep!), Charger and Challenger. All the Muscle cars. They were fast and loud and I wanted one badly, despite my lack of income.
My love affair also included the other side of the pond since we owned several Volkswagens in our family. And a SAAB 99, my father’s personal Waterloo, since it was a lemon. A real Sob (SAAB) story…Beautiful to look at and fun to drive when it started and continued to run. The SAAB shared a power plant from Triumph and I suspect the electrical system too. The running joke in our family was the reason the English drank warm beer was due to them having Lucas refrigerators. Lucas electrical was collectively referred to as The Prince of Darkness. My mother, being English, was not amused. After escaping the SAAB, my parents bought the dullest car imaginable: a 1971 beige on beige Volkswagen fastback over my protests and pleading to get a Datsun 510. Or at least a better color VW. I hated that car. But kids didn’t determine what car was purchased then.
I lusted after the Porsches – the 356, 911, and yes, even the 914. I remember the first Datsun 1600/2000, the 510 and the drool-worthy 240Z; Mazda’s RX2, RX3 and RX7. The Celica GT and Mercury Capri 2800 were the cars to have in my high school days. If you had rich parents. And a job.
And then there were the truly unobtainable’s. The no way in hell are you ever getting that car. The exotics or Europe/Japan only. Sigh.
Now that I am older, and actually have the wherewithal to consider buying one of those classics, I’m at a crossroads. I’m still priced out of the classic Mercedes, Porsche market, or rather, I unwilling to pay a ridiculous price – the 356 and 911 prices are through the roof for a car that has no crash worth safety in the world of ridiculously large SUV’s and pickups. So, THAT shit ain’t happening for me (still), but I have largely made my peace with it. Just a little bitter… I never really wanted a Ferrari or Lamborghini…well maybe the Miura. A truly impractical car if there ever was one. Unobtainable then and now. But so beautiful.
Now I live in an area filled with both very high end new and classic automobiles. They match a lot of the mid century architecture that drew us to live in the area. They are both stunning to look at and be in. And I’ve lusted after more than a few. Friends and acquaintances have classic cars here and we have taken a few rides in them. The excuse I use from actually buying one is most of them won’t fit into our garage. But that’s not the only reason. I can change the oil, fill the radiator and tires, and change a battery. Beyond that, I’m pretty useless in auto maintenance and repair. Old cars need a lot of all of that. Plus, they’re old. Age takes its toll no matter how well they’ve been cared for in their previous life and maintenance for that is expensive.
I thought I had it worked out by considering buying a replica of the Porsche 356 Speedster. I know, not a REAL Porsche. But affordable, drivable and insurable. To make the purists out there really apoplectic, I was planning to have it powered by a water cooled Subaru engine. Total blasphemy. This would provide more power, something I know could be accomplished with a larger available air cooled power plant, but I also wanted air conditioning. A must for the desert. And my wife.
I obsessed about it. Selecting the paint, leather seats and interior, options, etc. I imagined driving it on a dark, desert highway, cool wind in my hair, warm smell of coIitas…(insert needle record drag here). I even figured out a personalized vanity plate for it. I told anyone who would listen about it. Showed them pictures, whether they wanted to see them or not.
And then I started checking the on-line owners group about the manufacturer I selected. There were enough horror stories about shoddy workmanship, a lack of basic customer service on build issues, and even a few cars that caught fire and burned. Not a good thing for a fiberglass bodied car costing upwards of $45K. More money than the Kia Sportage I currently own. Which for the record, has never caught fire. Yet. Plus, in the back of my mind, I knew the pollution would still be a factor. No catalytic converter on any of the engine options – smog exempt. I wrestle with that in my head.
So that dream bubble popped. Or maybe the air escaped slowly, making that sad, high pitched sound when you stretch the balloon opening. You know the one. You’re hearing in your head as you read this.
To say I’m disappointed is putting it mildly. I waited all these years, buying practical cars: a 1983 Honda Civic Wagon; 1994 Nissan King Cab pick up; 1989 Taurus SHO (admittedly a rare, performance car, but a lemon and a huge mistake. I justified its purchase because it had four doors and, I see a pattern here- my personal Sob/SAAB story; a fucking mini van (!); 1996 Chrysler Concord; 2003 Volkswagen New Beetle GLX Convertible Turbo; 2005 Jetta GLX Turbo. Okay the last two are are stretching it regarding practicality. The Jetta did have four doors. And people were amazed at how much we could fit in the Convertible on a Home Depot run. They were both great fun to drive, but it’s been 11 years since the lease was up on the Jetta and we sold the ‘Vert before moving to the desert.
That leads me to my current ride, the Kia Sportage. It’s been a great, practical car. Decent gas mileage, comfortable, able to carry all our stuff on long trips, etc. But nobody is stopping me to ask questions about it or have their picture taken next to it. Unless they are thinking about buying one. Especially in the land of the Bentley. Yawn.
I really wanted that Speedster replica. I mean really. As in, wanting a Speedster since I was 10 years old, really. Its just within reach. And I can get an electric conversion at a starting cost of $51K. That’s a lot of coin for a vehicle without airbags or any sort of safe crush zones. Not to mention a relatively low range of driving before a recharge. And infrastructure in the country to do so. For that price I could get a practical, low end Tesla. Or a Prius. Or some other hybrid. I’d be doing my part for the environment. Plus we bought a small trailer, so there really isn’t enough space in the garage now.
Insert sound of air escaping the end of the aforementioned balloon here.
In the time its taken me to write this piece and revised it, I’ve had some random thoughts. Those classic cars aren’t going into the crusher anytime soon. People are driving them. And there are no shortage of Bentley, Rolls, Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren drivers in the Coachella Valley.
So am I really just justifying getting one while the world literally burns?
Curses! Foiled again!