Love is... two-stage dash lights, or illuminated seatbelt latches

| 1 Apr 2012

What's the best thing about your classic? Forget handling for a moment, or power, noise, performance, ride, comfort – in fact, forget all of the traditional criteria by which you would judge a car's abilities.

Likewise, leave aside styling and aesthetics, because these are taken as read: chances are that one of these qualities – or more likely a blend of two or three – will have been the reason you bought the car in the first place.

No, what I'm talking about are the little things, those charming intricacies that you only appreciate through long-term ownership and intimacy with a car, the quirks that would be insignificant to any objective assessment, but that always give you an inner smile.

I'll kick things off with my 1957 Magnette. The roof-mounted clock is a bit too obvious (and doesn’t work properly), so I'll go for the two-stage dash lights. Long before Saab came along with its Nightvision switch, the Magnette's illuminations would allow you to light up all of the instruments with a soft green glow, or simply the fabulous half-octagonal speedo. A completely pointless feature, perhaps, but a source of endless delight for me.

With the Volvo 1800ES the MG replaced, it was the glass tailgate, in particular the delicious fluidity of the beautifully engineered rotating catch that locked it. A close second was the illuminated seatbelt latches so you could find them in the dark. Could any detail be more Volvo?

My Suzuki Whizzkid offers similarly tactile pleasures. That little car is all about immediacy and agility, and that is somehow perfectly encapsulated by the window winders. No electric motor could hope to rival the speed of this manual system, which drops the glass in just a single rotation. It's always a surprise to passengers more used to the stiff, low-geared systems of older British classics.

So come on, share those little details of your classic that make it so special to you.