Being retired and having already had a rich, or at least interesting, life to this point, I’ve recently become fascinated with old things. I guess it’s because I am one and, considering that I live in a Del Webb “Active Adult” community of about 5,000 homes, there’s a lot of it all around me.
Okay, but why the fascination? Rarity has something to do with it. When the Porsche 912 was still being made between 1965 and 1969, they were not such a big deal. They were considered an entry-level toy for folks like me that had neither the money nor the sophistication to fully appreciate the four (S, E, T and L) variants of the mighty Porsche 911.
But now, forty-three years after my 912 Porsche rolled off the hand assembly line on May 13, 1969, having one still in roadworthy condition is a big deal. Hey, just about any car made in May of 1969 that’s still on the road today is pretty special.
But, since only about 4,700 912s were made in 1969, seeing one today is a big deal to some.
The Lincoln Town Car I have seems to be on the same track. Each year it seems there are fewer of them because of all the usual, mostly unnecessary, reasons. The 1989 Lincoln Town Car was a fine car in most respects and still enjoys a fine reputation. But now, 33 years later, is seems quaint, if not dated or even old fashioned. My Town Car, for example, has three cigarette lighters (1 in front and one on either rear door armrest), but no cup holders. That’s “quaint” at best.
While Ford was already under great pressure to make more economical cars at the time, the Town Car’s 300 cubic inch V-8 does a Yeoman’s job of getting the car from here to there, but, at a curb weight of slightly over 4,000 pounds it is definitely not a “performance” car. The vast majority of today’s luxury cars doesn’t boast engines that large and they don’t weigh 4,000 pounds. They’re today’s standard and make my 33 year old Town Car something of a curiosity.
To my way of thinking, though, my 19 foot long Midnight Red Clear Coat Metallic curiosity is still a thing of beauty cruising across the desert between Palm Desert and Las Vegas. It is supremely quiet, doesn’t have a rattle on it and cruising at or below legal limits with the Cruise Control engaged, it produces a very respectable 26 miles per gallon in return for the TLC I give it between trips. To me, that’s something worthy of someone else’s fascination.
But there’s something else about many older things. For lack of a better term in this word-restricted Article, let’s call it “Design”. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, things were actually designed. Consider the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air 2 door hardtop.
To some, perhaps many, the ’57 Bel Air Hardtop is the epitome of mid-century industrial design – there’s been nothing like it before or since. People see restored versions here and there in a sense of extreme respect, even awe, because the ’57 Chevy Bel Air 2 door hardtop is worthy.
There’s another category of old things I’d like to mention. These are the old things that are no longer being made. The Porsche 912 is no longer being made, so it fits.
But I’m really thinking about some things from my childhood that evoke feelings of fascination within me and many others like me.
When I was 10 years old my father bought a two-tone green 1955 Packard Clipper Super 4 door sedan. The fascination level on that car today, if we can even find one, is very high, and for good reason. It had front seat ashtrays (Everyone smoked back then.) in the corner of the dash curve that extended around to the front door openings. Very stylish! The single radio speaker (This was before Mr. Muntz changed the world.) was in the center of the dash behind a perforated stainless steel surface. My child’s mind likened it to the cover over the blades on mid-century electric razors. And I still remember it after all these years.
A boyhood friend’s parents bought a new 1955 Kaiser Manhattan. The rounded “eyebrow” windshield on the Manhattan was considered quite “rakish” at the time. The last Manhattan rolled off the assembly line at the end of the 1955 model year, a commercial failure. But if you see one at a car show today, it will have a very high Fascination Factor.
I could go on, but I believe the point is made. Many of us have a fascination with old cars just because they are old, rare, strange, or in many cases, all of the above.