On a retro-site like this one, I’m fairly certain all readers appreciate a fine classic car. Or even a not-so-fine. But youngtimers? Well, as they – by pure definition – are NOT classic cars, I know there are some of you who aren’t convinced. However, I am. I even want one.
And here’s why I should not buy one.
Or should I say, “another one”? The thing is, I have been there before. And loved it at the time. A few years back, I owned a first-generation 1989 Honda Legend V6-2.7i Coupé and before you laugh – it was a wonderful car. Really, really wonderful. In fact, it was probably one of the smoothest and best driving cars I’ve owned, and I truly enjoyed wafting along on accomplished suspension, relishing the smooth power of the ever-willing V6, using its brilliant manual gearbox more than was actually necessary because it too was just so good. Well, it was even good looking – at least I thought so myself. However traditionalists were not impressed: Good it might be, classic it was not.
They were right, of course. And back in 2014 this whole “youngtimer”-thing was, at least in Denmark, not as strong as it is today. But a very fine youngtimer the Legend Coupé certainly was and is, and I am in fact very glad to have owned what was back in 1989 when new, the most expensive Japanese car on the Danish market ever. One of my ViaRETRO-colleagues was not amused, but agreed to join me on a trip to Techno Classica in Essen: After a short burst of criticism he fell asleep like a baby in the velvety (literally) comfort of the 140 km/h speed-controlled Autobahn cruiser. Trust me, it was good.
Paradoxically, this has me in two minds about this youngtimer-thing: They are simply TOO good. I mean – I like classic cars. But when an old car is so good that it feels like a modern car, why would you choose one? Well, I chose the Legend Coupé because it was available and the experience was new to me – and as said, I enjoyed it. But I haven’t really revisited this type of youngtimer since, as I realised I want a classic car to feel classic when I drive it. In fact, I want it to feel classic even when just looking at it. The Honda was just too good, too easy to live with, and too much like a modern.
However, I’m slowly realising that some people – real enthusiasts even – actually like the fact that starting an injected V6 is without any drama. That shifting gears is like slicing a warm knife through butter. That ergonomics are well thought out. That ABS, powersteering and airbags are nice to have. That the feeling of driving the “classic” does not demand any masochistic tendencies of you or your passengers, nor make you fear for your life on a frequent basis.
I also realise that this type of enthusiast is a hastily growing group of people in our already huge hobby of classic cars. As they tend to be younger, they are quite possibly also the future of the hobby. I even see signs of the hobby accepting this, as the younger classics are becoming more and more numerous at the different shows, and some shows are even starting to make special arrangements for them. And this December, even the distinguished auction house RM Sotheby’s announced that they are selling off a 140-car strong collection of only and purely youngtimers – see the cars at their website here: The Youngtimer Collection.
True, they are not all your average youngtimer as some clearly belong to the higher ranks of the youngtimer genre, but still: At the time I was wafting around in my Legend four years ago, an auction house like RM Sotheby’s would never even have bothered with these cars.
So I believe it’s safe to say that we’re seeing a shift in trends during these years: The cars some of us traditionalists see as merely old used cars, are surprisingly fast becoming appreciated as classic cars by a new audience. Due to insufficient age these cars can’t really be called classics (yet) – but to most effects the new audience are treating them as such. And so should we. We just don’t have to buy them.
It goes without saying that we should also welcome the owners of these cars within our trad circles – assuming they can behave. Maybe that’s what RM Sotheby’s are also testing: Interestingly, they are selling off the 140 US-based cars over four different auctions, three of them in Europe and the biggest of them at Techno Classica in April. I’ll hopefully be watching that one live from the room and will naturally be reporting back to ViaRETRO headquarters with the results. But I will not be buying anything…