Romeo Maasdorp, with a little help from his Ford Capri, points out that the future of South African classic cars looks rosy as more and more youngsters are attracted to the old machinery.
Often we are reminded, just by casually observing our surrounds, how fast technology progresses, and we equally marvel at how extensively this progress impacts on how we do things. Needless to say, these advances provide for positive changes, all aimed at making life more convenient and efficient.
However, much as all of this progress and development is for the better, I believe that a lot of ‘changes’, ‘advances’, and the resultant products that flood the markets, too often happen at the expense of quality and durability. So, in the name of technological development, mass production, and economies of scale, we sadly end up sacrificing quality.
For me, in the context of cars, some of the ‘victims’ of technological progress are distinctive design, unique aesthetic appeal and individual visual character. To put it bluntly, cars nowadays generally look like they come from the same mould, only distinguished by the shape and size of their light-fittings! Clearly the sad result of what I call ‘design aggregation’.
Not only that, but the fact that all of them are grey, silver, black or white, doesn’t really help to make any stand out. I believe that today’s youngsters are really missing out. They have been robbed of experiencing and enjoying the artistic designs as the youth of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s did. They don’t see modern equivalents of these elaborate flowing curves or the contours and grandeur of chrome.
It is for this reason that I own classics, and enjoy attending classic car shows. I marvel at the condition of the cars, forty to fifty years after their first year of production and admire the passion, sweat equity and the countless hours their gleeful owners have put into them, not only for their enjoyment, but also to preserve these heritage specimens.
Recently I was approached by someone who requested to use one of my cars for his wedding. As a multiple classic owner a request of this nature was not unusual, but what is remarkable, and which is what prompted this article, is the fact that most individuals showing a keen interest in my classic cars are relatively young. I estimate their age range between 18 and 28 years.
At a recent show I displayed my 1969 Ford Capri GT, 2-litre V4, which, except for the rims, is still very original and standard. It was brilliant to observe the level of interest from the various age groups. There were the older individuals, often accompanied by teenage children, who would smilingly approach my car and start reminiscing about their experiences in a Capri. It is unbelievable the number of personal experiences and jaunts that have been shared with me by complete strangers. They would then, almost out of courtesy, also enquire about my car, its history, its originality, and remark about its condition. At those times, it is as if my car can sense that it is the centre of conversation, and seems to boastingly grin and smirk as it stands there in the brilliant sun, flaunting its designer curves, straight lines and dazzling chrome. Truly, each classic car has a tale to tell, a heart-string to stir, a memory to rekindle. I cherish those moments, and truly enjoy sharing in the pleasure and warmth my car conjures among classic car lovers.
Then there are the younger individuals. They may not have personal tales to tell but their interest is in the real desire to own, drive and pamper a classic. Too often, be it at car shows, or when driving over a weekend, young guys give me an approving thumbs-up or approach with a complimentary comment. Some enquire where they could source one and others share their story of a restoration project they are busy with. Most of the car shows I have been to are also attended by young owners of classic cars, proudly displaying and enthusiastically telling about their ‘pampered ones’.
Yet these youngsters have all the choices of present-day cars. There are countless cars with the latest in technology, engineering prowess, fuel efficiency, maintenance plans, mechanical warranties, engine sizes, etc. But no, these youngsters are much more finicky and discreet in their preference of cars, choosing to steer clear of the trend, refusing to flock in the same direction as the herd. With a passion and commitment beyond their years, they opt to invest their sweat, free time and money into one purpose - living through, and for, their classic cars. They choose to have, and be seen in a rare classic, with body lines and design cues distinct from all other single-mould jellybean cars. And choose to live with the hassle of scarce parts, constant maintenance and occasional breakdowns. All this for the sake of owning a piece of automotive history.
I find it particularly heartening to know that so many discerning youngsters are flying the flag for preserving classic cars, cherishing and preserving heritage as well as showcasing taste, style, and the inventive ingenuity of past eras. They choose to have classic cars as part of their special moments like Matric balls, 21st birthdays and weddings where many people take photos of the cars, often with even the odd self-conscious ‘selfie’ thrown into the mix.
It is so satisfying to know that for many years albums will still show off the classics and our cars will live forever in the memories they helped to create. I am consoled that our beloved machines of the past are in good and caring hands, being dutifully and proudly preserved for enjoyment for many decades yet to come - just as my Capri GT, my Fairmont GT 351, my two Sierra XR8s, and my AC Cobra 351 are in good hands.
Surely, with these youngsters at the wheel, the future of our past is safe.