What makes a classic?


For me, a classic is a car which has had significant impact on motoring history.  It is also a vehicle which has been out of production for a number of years, so that the manufacturer’s advertizing claims and slogans have been forgotten.  “Safety Fast” was on all the brochures about MG cars, but when you think about it, very few of the very early ones (J2 through to TC) were ‘fast’ and even fewer were ‘safe’.

I believe there is a tendency in countries such as Thailand to confuse ‘old’ and ‘classic’.  For example, Fiat must have sold very well in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s judging by the number of battered old Fiat 1100’s that are still around.  Some of these are now half a century old – but does that make them a ‘classic’?  Were the Fiat 1100’s of that era special motor cars in some way or other?  Were the later Fiat 1100 D Riviera’s with the finned tail lights some technological breakthrough?

Porsche RS Carrera 1973 Porsche RS Carrera 1973

The simple answer has to be a resounding “no” on all counts.  They were just mass-produced utilitarian transport, the Italian equivalent of similar motor cars built by BMC, Renault or even Datsun (before they moved themselves upmarket and called themselves ‘Nissan’).

In Thailand, these older cars have also suffered from the fact that to keep going, there has been no manufacturer’s spare parts pool, and when you lift the bonnet on many of them, you will find that the original in-line four has been replaced by that from a Toyota Corolla, or even more shuddersome, the ubiquitous Isuzu diesel!

For interest, here are some of my entries for a classic car category: 1973 Porsche RS Carrera (the forerunner of the ultimate Porsches), 1964 Mustang 289 V8 (the first of the really powerful Mustangs), 1966 Morris Cooper S (the first of the mass market pocket rockets), 1946 MG TC (first introduced sports cars for the masses to America – but ‘safety fast’?), 1958 Ferrari LM 250 (what a shape, what a noise, what a car), 1936 Cord 810 (classic Gordon Buerhig design with the coffin nose and hydraulic shifter), 1931 Mercedes SSKL (the first road car you could race and win) and the 1955 Citroen 2CV complete with canvas seats (? First car made from roofing iron!).

Of course there’s lots more, but there are not too many in Thailand, I’m afraid (though there used to be a V8 Tatra in Chiang Mai).