What makes a car a classic?

Interesting, Others | April 11th, 2015 by 3
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What makes a car a classic? Thousands of people flock to car auctions and look for barn finds, all in hopes to find an old car to which they can restore and either sell or use as a weekend car. But what qualities makes a car truly special, so special that its charms last decades?

BMW has a couple of these cars. The 2002, E28 5 Series and the E30 3 Series, just to name a few. All three of those cars have many similarities, small footprint, light weight and pure steering. But those cars have little in common with some like a classic Corvette or Mustang and those are even more sought out by collectors. So what makes cars classic?

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I think it has to do with each individual brand. Fans of each brand enjoy the lineage. They enjoy looking at how their favored automaker did things many years ago. It’s also the essence of each brand. For instance, the essence of BMWs today was started by cars like the 2002, so it’s interesting to meet the car that started it all and drive it, interact with it. It’s like stepping in a time machine, all of the textures, materials and smells from another time come rushing back to you. The way the car drives and the feel through the steering. It’s all reminiscent of a time passed.

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What’s interesting, however, is the thought that these cars weren’t classics in their own time. Innovative and shocking, maybe, but it’s rare that anyone looked at them as future classics. Most people look to the future of a brand or product with optimism, thinking that the next one will be better. It’s odd thinking about a current car and imagining how it will be perceived in 30 years.

BMW has many great cars at the moment, but will any of them be future classics? Will any current model be looked at with the verve and passion of, say, a 2002tii? I’m not so sure, but then again was anyone sure of such things back when the 2002tii was new? It’s interesting to think of what might be perceived as the ‘good ol days’ decades from now.


There are a few, however, which can make a case for being classics later on down the line. The 1 Series M Coupe will be revered for many years to come, especially due to its rarity. The E92 M3 might also be considered a classic, as its the only M3 to even have a V8. And due to the fact that it’s the last naturally aspirated M3, and the V8 revs to 8,250 RPM, the E92 M3 could be the next E30 M3. Maybe the 2 Series will be a future collectors car, I could see the M235i being sought after in years to come.

What about the i3? As BMW’s first mainstream electric car and the first to use CFRP, the i3 could be very desirable. It will also show people, decades from now, what we thought was the future in 2014. It’d be like when we look at visions of the future from the 1950s, today. The i3’s design, which we think is quirky today, will most likely look dated and silly in the future. Maybe, the future is exclusively EVs and nobody wants an i3, and every collector wants something gas powered.

There’s no telling what of ours now will be desirable in the future. Enthusiasts bemoan the current BMW lineup, simply because it isn’t the old BMW lineup. Car and Driver can’t write an article without crying over the fact that every new BMW isn’t an E30 M3. But instead of complaining about how the present isn’t the past, we should embrace the present because one day these current cars may be the most desirable of all.