Future Average Joe's Classic Car Blog (a consideration of future "classic" status of cars made after 1980)

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Chris Martin
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MJL wrote:

Chris Martin wrote:

By the way, although I guess it is, I never really thought of the Mazda MX5 (or Miata) as a Japanese car, probably because it was created by a Ford owned company, designed in Sussex, England to a brief which said let's do a new MGB. And that they succeeded so well means it is now probably the only Japanese car that is assured a strong parts support worldwide.

Chris M.

Apart from the fact that Mazda was never 'owned' by Ford and at the time of the design of the Mk 1 MX-5 Mazda was not even part-owned by Ford, it was designed in California, a fibreglass bodied 'mule' was made in Worthing (which gives an idea of its design influences) and its engineering was completely Japanese  (except for French input on the soft top), you are right.

MJL

 

Ok, more MX5 pedantry coming up.

Quotes from Wikipedia;

From 1979 to 2010, Mazda had a partnership with the Ford Motor Company, who acquired a 7% stake in 1979 and by 1996, owned 33.3% of Mazda. Under the administration of Alan Mulally, Ford gradually divested its stake in Mazda from 2008 to 2010, with Ford currently holding 3% of Mazda stock and severing production as well as development ties.

OK, not owned outright, but Ford did own a share at the time of the MX5's gestation..

the concept development was turned into a competition between the Mazda design teams in Tokyo and California.

The Californian team proposed a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout, codenamed Duo 101, in line with the British roadster ancestry, but their Japanese counterparts favored the more common front-engine, front-wheel-drive layout or the rear mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout.

The first round of judging the competing designs was held in April 1984. At this stage, designs were presented solely on paper. The mid-engined car appeared the most impressive, although it was known at the time that such a layout would struggle to meet the noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) requirements of the project. It was only at the second round of the competition in August 1984, when full-scale clay models were presented, that the Duo 101 won the competition and was selected as the basis for Mazda's new lightweight sports car.

The Duo 101, so named as either a soft top or hard top could be used, incorporated many key stylistic cues inspired by the Lotus Elan, a 1960s roadster. International Automotive Design (IAD) in Worthing, England was commissioned to develop a running prototype, codenamed V705. It was built with a fiberglass body, a 1.4 L (85 cu in) engine from a Mazda Familia and components from a variety of early Mazda models. The V705 was completed in August 1985 and taken to the US where it rolled on the roads around Santa Barbara and got positive reactions.

So, to be precise, conceived as a clay model in California, with the running prototype designed and built in Sussex.

The project received final approval on 18 January 1986. The model's codename was changed to P729 as it moved into production phase, under head of program Toshihiko Hirai. The task of constructing five engineering mules (more developed prototypes) was again allocated to IAD, which also conducted the first front and rear crash tests on the P729. While Tom Matano, Mark Jordan, Wu Huang Chin, Norman Garrett and Koichi Hayashi worked on the final design, the project was moved to Japan for engineering and production details.

End of story? Not quite, as some time in ’94 I visited Hawtal Whiting Design & Engineering in Basildon, Essex for a meeting with former Ferrari and Williams F1 designer Enrique Scalabroni, who at that time was designing a top secret F1 project for former Japanese racer Tetsu Ikuzawa. They had rented a design studio and facilities within Hawtal Whiting’s offices, where a MX5 was proudly displayed in the reception area. When I asked what its significance was as I thought it had been designed by IAD, I was told there had been some engineering input by HW on Ford’s behalf but this was kept quiet.

Two other even spookier coincidences, Hawtal Whiting was based at Christopher Martin Road, Basildon, Essex – What? They named the road after me? Flattering, if a bit over the top.

Also, when the Ikuzawa project was canned the design was bought by Stewart Grand Prix in ’96 as the basis for their first F1 car as with limited design and manufacture facilities the new team had get a move on if SF1was to be ready for the start of the next season. I left the TWR Arrows team to go to work for SGP at the same time.

And who was underwriting the Stewart F1 project?

Ford.

However, this is not a 'who knows more about the MX5' competition. Obviously you are the expert, and I was just airing my views and opinions on a car that I had only vague recollections of from magazine reports. The above info copied in italics came from a few minutes on Google.

Neither am I denigrating the car, it's enduring popularity and record production figures mean it has been a great success. Just because I am not a fan, need not concern anyone else. 

So, ok, it IS a Japanese car!

And probably the one model that will escape the recycling plant in the largest numbers.

So we have one more that answers the original question - Average Joe's classic of the future may be a Mazda.

But there must be more ?

Chris M.

 

isaiah1000
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Good info Chris.  Very informative and well thought out.

I'd love to be more active but once vacation is over it's back to the project.  Which, coincidentally, is very British.  It leaves no time for any other project or blogging about other things but I like it just  the same.  You can see my MGA project at:

www.budgetmga.blogspot.com

Chris Martin
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isaiah1000 wrote:

Good info Chris.  Very informative and well thought out.

I'd love to be more active but once vacation is over it's back to the project.  Which, coincidentally, is very British.  It leaves no time for any other project or blogging about other things but I like it just  the same.  You can see my MGA project at:

www.budgetmga.blogspot.com

Hah, so you are having the last laugh!

Getting us all to worry over the next generation of so called classics when you already have it figured out with a 50s MGA.

But seriously, there may be some that will survive, but they will need both exceptional qualities to separate them from the masses, and a good parts back up. Those I listed earlier qualify using those guidelines (except maybe the parts supply for the CX?) and now we can add the Mazda Miata.

I doubt there will be many joining the list.

Like the blog too.

Chris M.

 

Nuno Granja
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isaiah1000

"I enjoy Classic and Sports Car because of the richness of the articles.  It's truly a great magazine and we have nothing to match it here.  There's a much thinner, less in depth classic car magazine that I'll still buy on occasion but it doesn't give me the reading time, or knowledge of C&SC.  Even if, for a lot of the cars, I don't even know if they were imported to here, I appreciate the history lessons given in the writeups.  I like knowing who the designer was, I enjoy the quotes, I enjoy knowing the models competition history, etc.  C&SC does their homework and it shows."

i think the same, all tthe other questions and facts on discussion here, differ from one head to another, as is natural..

nuno granja

MJL
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I hope your MGA turns out well, Isaiah. It is a beautiful car.

I hope the blog will continue as I'd like to see what an MGA on two-tone paint looks like.

MJL

 

 

isaiah1000
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Thanks guys, I appreciated the conversation and encouragement on the A.  Yeah, I don't have a dog in the game with future classics, but it's still interesting to think about.  My dad talks all the time about the cars he wishes he'd known were going to shoot through the roof in terms of price.  It's interesting to contemplate.  I can't help but wonder if there'll be any surprises.

Chris Martin
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This discussion has been around here before, and there were several theories put forward as to why late model cars may not become classics.  Now I am not saying none will qualify, but most will not have either the fan base to start with, or the parts availability and expertise required.

To explain for those that did not read the earlier thread.

Obviously some of the more expensive and exclusive models that are bought by enthusiasts who have the money to pay for specialist service will survive; for example the obvious brands like Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin etc.  These are mostly already beyond the reach of Isaiah's theoretical 'Average Joe' except maybe when some of them reach their lowest market value, say, where the Silver Shadow is now, but that is still not going to be the cheapest car to keep serviced properly. These brands also know their future depends on them protecting their own heritage, as that is all that will set them apart from some supercar from Shanghai in the near future.

As for what are now accepted as classics from previous generations of the ordinary man's car, (Isaiah's 'Average Joe) again examples might be Ford Cortina, MGB, Morris Minor in the UK (and many others of course), or Mustang, Model T or fifties Chevy in the USA, it is hard to see where the modern equivalent will come from.

In my previous posts I was not knocking Japanese cars for some strange racist reason, rather that apart from the Mustang and Corvette all the cars Isaiah mentioned were Japanese. Given that the Japanese manufacturers took an ever increasing market share throught the eighties and nineties this is not surprising, and of course they too have seen their share eroded in recent years by Korean, Indian and Malaysian brands, and soon of course it will be the Chinese that produce the most cars, but the logic will remain the same, even applying to the few remaining European marques; Renault, Opel, Seat or whoever.

The reasons have been discussed here before but to keep it as simple as I can they are as follows.

All manufacturers now have to cater for the world market, which means meeting several different requirements and different national rules and regulations.

Most countires now have some sort of emissions regulations and even without these, the consumer expects ever improving fuel consumption.

Most countries have tough crash test and passenger protection requirements.

These latter two dictate the shape, materials and aerodynamics required, which combined with ever more sophisticated computer simulation, and modelling have led to cars becoming ever more similar with only limited opportunties for minor decorative add-ons to tell them apart. Less innovation in the mechanical or styling of these cars leads to less of an individual identity.

So we now have a choice of similar looking cars from brands that do not have much history, and therefore no established customer base to stick to the old notions of 'brand loyalty', all of which are marketed as having the latest computer technology, which on it's own means instant obsolescence and are therefore sold like other consumer white goods - pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap, there will be a new model next week.

How many of us have heard of an old family relative who was always a "Ford/Dodge/Rover/Alvis/Citroen (fill in your own marque) man" because he stuck with what he knew, and probably with the dealer or garage he knew. Then there were those of us who grew up worshiping our racing heroes, so sporty brands like MG, Lotus or Porsche became our favourites, and as soon as we started earning enough we found some of these dreams attainable. A common sentiment that drives the classic market is nostalgia, whether it is memories of mum's Morris Minor, the  Lamborghini poster we had on the wall. or faked nostalgia such as the success of the film American Grafiti through the 70s increasing interest in the cars and fashions of the fifties and sixties; "where were you in '62" indeed.

So, what if the hero of some soap opera drives a Hyundai Excel, does that mean these will be collected and coveted? I doubt it, as it is harder to identify with brands in a shifting market, and therefore I can not see where the interest will come from in the next generation to want to preserve many of the 'Average Joe' cars of the past thrity years.

Finally, if there was the will to keep such cars beyond their planned five year life-span, the manufacturers will not want to continue supplying spares for obsolete models, and it will need a lot of members to join the Hyundai Excel Owners Club to make it feasible to re-manufacture ignition modules, crank angle sensors or plastic body mouldings.

I have mentioned above a few exceptions that may be saved for posterity, but of course the final nail in the coffin that will see off all old cars is the attitude now prevailing amongst ill-advised headline-seeking politicians who if allowed to continue this 'Green' lunacy unchecked by the electorate will legislate everything and anything they can think of off the road - even your orange 1972 Raleigh Chopper !

OK, rant-of-the-week over.

Chris M.

 

Gruffalo
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Chris Martin wrote:

So, what if the hero of some soap opera drives a Hyundai Excel, does that mean these will be collected and coveted? I doubt it, as it is harder to identify with brands in a shifting market, and therefore I can not see where the interest will come from in the next generation to want to preserve many of the 'Average Joe' cars of the past thrity years.

Chris M.

Hmmm, I think the above comment says more about the generation gap really.
You have to ask why previous generations of “Average Joe” cars have become classics. There is a large element of “my dad used to have an etc...” but popular culture is also largely responsible for many cars success.
And that’s where the future “Average Joe” classics will come from. Your disdain for the Subaru WRX, although understandable, implies you have little knowledge of popular culture of the last 10 years or so. The WRX, Mitsubishi EVO, Nissan GTR, Mazda RX7, Toyota AE86 and many other Japanese cars have already reached “cult car” status in Japan, and are worth significant sums of money. The MX5 in its original guise is also getting there.
I’ve been to Japan many times over the last 15 years or so, and it’s quite heartwarming as a classic car enthusiast to see the local brands supported so well. I’ve seen many wonderfully preserved “Average Joe” cars in Japan. A mid-eighties Nissan Bluebird? Pretty awful back in the day, I remember many of them as mini-cabs in the UK. Still not worth anything in Japan really, but, if you’re a young guy who can’t afford the latest gadget laden car, and want to be a little more individual, boring 80’s sedans fit the bill. They’re even reliable!!
We’d all love a classic Italian sports/German saloon/American muscle car (delete where applicable) but the supply outstrips demand in many parts of the world. So those with fewer funds but equal enthusiasm have to look for alternatives.
The great thing about classic car culture is that there are no rules; one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Chris Martin
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Gruffalo wrote:
Chris Martin wrote:

So, what if the hero of some soap opera drives a Hyundai Excel, does that mean these will be collected and coveted? I doubt it, as it is harder to identify with brands in a shifting market, and therefore I can not see where the interest will come from in the next generation to want to preserve many of the 'Average Joe' cars of the past thrity years.

Chris M.

Hmmm, I think the above comment says more about the generation gap really. You have to ask why previous generations of “Average Joe” cars have become classics. There is a large element of “my dad used to have an etc...” but popular culture is also largely responsible for many cars success. And that’s where the future “Average Joe” classics will come from. Your disdain for the Subaru WRX, although understandable, implies you have little knowledge of popular culture of the last 10 years or so. The WRX, Mitsubishi EVO, Nissan GTR, Mazda RX7, Toyota AE86 and many other Japanese cars have already reached “cult car” status in Japan, and are worth significant sums of money. The MX5 in its original guise is also getting there. I’ve been to Japan many times over the last 15 years or so, and it’s quite heartwarming as a classic car enthusiast to see the local brands supported so well. I’ve seen many wonderfully preserved “Average Joe” cars in Japan. A mid-eighties Nissan Bluebird? Pretty awful back in the day, I remember many of them as mini-cabs in the UK. Still not worth anything in Japan really, but, if you’re a young guy who can’t afford the latest gadget laden car, and want to be a little more individual, boring 80’s sedans fit the bill. They’re even reliable!! We’d all love a classic Italian sports/German saloon/American muscle car (delete where applicable) but the supply outstrips demand in many parts of the world. So those with fewer funds but equal enthusiasm have to look for alternatives. The great thing about classic car culture is that there are no rules; one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Generation gap possibly, but from what I see of the interest in the cars you mention (at least here in Australia) they are mostly bought by youngsters who just want the fastest high performance car they can afford for a few dollars. More of them are being thrashed, drifted or street raced than being preserved by serious collectors, so by the time they are on the up in both rarity and value there will not be many worth saving. I can't speak for what is regarded as 'classic' in Japan, but elsewhere these models have yet to reach Classic status.  I don't doubt the MX5 already has a worldwide following and will continue to be popular, but I suspect part of it's popularity is due to it's simplicity, a quality some of the other all-wheel-drive turbo whizz-bang models lack.  My comments about the WRX were not so much disdain as a question about it's relevance and long-term collectability.  Of course there will be some who recognise it for the competition history, dominance in rallying and outrageous performance, but the bland styling and complicated engineering will mitigate against it being suitable for Average Joe.

Here in Australia, there has long been a major interest in the rotary engined Mazdas and there seems to be a strong support industry to help restoring the RX7 (and others) so maybe in time, the WRX will acheive the same.  The Skylines too have a cult following, probably due to their history in racing at Bathurst in the eighties, but again the more complex - and faster - later models have already fallen into the wrong hands, so how many return from being written off at high speed around a lamp post remains to be seen.

To sum up, I don't doubt these cars have their fans, but I suspect future parts supply and bland styling will deny them serious 'Classic' recognition. I am always prepared to be proved wrong though, it would not be the first time!

Chris M.

 

Gruffalo
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"...by the time they are on the up in both rarity and value there will not be many worth saving..."

That's EXACTLY why they'll be classics. Rarity, increased asking prices and a generation of buyers who grew up wanting one but, for whatever reason, couldn't afford one. Isn't that a recipe for a future classic? 

"...I don't doubt the MX5 already has a worldwide following and will continue to be popular, but I suspect part of it's popularity is due to it's simplicity, a quality some of the other all-wheel-drive turbo whizz-bang models lack...."

I work with a few "Generation Y" lads and watched in awe how they can tear a seemingly complex 4wd Turbo charged whiz bang car apart and put it back together to be faster and scarier than its maker ever intended. With a bit more maturity (and sense of taste!), I wouldn't doubt the abilities of the kids these days to come up with something a little less offensive. Also the after market industry already supplies a vast array of parts for all manner of Japanese cars that the manufacturers have long since stopped supplying.

"...My comments about the WRX were not so much disdain as a question about it's relevance and long-term collectability.  Of course there will be some who recognise it for the competition history, dominance in rallying and outrageous performance, but the bland styling and complicated engineering will mitigate against it being suitable for Average Joe..."

I've addressed your complicated engineering comment already. Bland styling and competion heritage? Ford Escort anybody? Try finding a tidy example at reasonable money. Truth is even down here in NZ, a good original old Escort now commands "proper" money, and guys are spending "seriously proper" money restoring them. I'm very confused at why I can own a mint, original, Guigiaro designed mid 70's Alfa for less money than an old Ford Escort. But that's the way it is!

"...The Skylines too have a cult following, probably due to their history in racing at Bathurst in the eighties, but again the more complex - and faster - later models have already fallen into the wrong hands, so how many return from being written off at high speed around a lamp post remains to be seen..."

Fair comment there, I believe the "original is best" mantra rings true.

Basically, what we wanted as youngsters, we can afford as adults. Therefore the kids of the 80's will lust after the cool cars of their childhood, and likewise the kids of the 90's, and so on.