Why preservation classes feel like the elite acknowledging the everyday classic fans

| 10 Oct 2013

Anyone who has been an enthusiast any length of time will recognise how much the classic car world has changed in the past 20 years.

First, there are the events. From a few festivals and meets for the diehards, the calendar has exploded with a non-stop cascade of classic shows, meetings, festivals and race meetings.

You can't ignore the role of Goodwood in this because the Revival changed everything. Not only because so many others have followed suit, usually retaining their own personality thankfully, but also because it kicked open the doors to the wider public.

'Our' events are now attended and enjoyed by tens of thousands of casual or non-enthusiasts and such exposure can only be good for our hobby.

The same goes for media exposure. I always used to delight in the occasional spot of a classic in a print or TV ad, but now the airwaves are full of them. Great.

Then there is classic car usage, which has ballooned beyond comprehension. Having always owned classic (or in some cases just old) cars, they have always been my primary transport, but even when I joined C&SC and announced that I planned to commute every day in a classic and not even own a modern car, I was given some odd looks. 

In those early years I met loads of like-minded souls in the hobby, but we were still the minority. One of the things that makes me happiest, therefore, is to today gaze down on the C&SC parking spaces and see them packed with the team's daily driver classics whereas 17 years ago it would have been just mine amid some modern hatches.

Such usage has spread throughout the hobby, too. There has been an all-pervading change of mindset – again probably prompted by the events encouraging people to turn up in their classics, and then the people realising that there is nothing to be scared of – and both the cars and the hobby are better for it.

Forgive me for making it so cut and dried, I know there are thousands who carried the torch unrecognised for decades, but even they must accept the huge scale of current usage is a relatively recent phenomenon.

My absolute favourite thing though, is the introduction of preservation classes at concours. Even the hallowed fairways of Pebble Beach have embraced this principle of acknowledging and rewarding cars that have been preserved and whose souls have been retained alongside the money-no-object glitzy restorations.

OK, the preservation class may not yet be on an equal footing with the top awards, it may also be full of cars I couldn't dream of owning even in their oft-distressed states, plus fake patina is creeping in, as are the same big-time, big-wallet collectors for whom it is another trophy to acquire.

But the fundamental premise of saying that cars that are just kept running, just kept legal, can share the same space as the world's finest restorations somehow seems to welcome the rest of us, the vast majority of us who limp from one MoT to the next via the power of Oxy, into the classic car world's elite.

I have always adored the fact that to many in our hobby, the value of a car is irrelevant, that while crowds were cooing over a Lamborghini 350GT at a recent show, I spied the owner of the Lambo crawling all over a nearby Humber Super Snipe and enthusiastically quizzing its owner about it.

Likewise, though it may not be the intention, somehow the very existence of preservation classes is a great leveller. They make me, as the owner and user of classics that will never be invited to any concours – even in a preservation class – feel that those who can afford to own the finest, shiniest and most stunning cars in the world, are tipping a hat to the vast majority of us who don't, but love our classics just as much.

And for me that's what the classic car world is all about.