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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.

Four years ago, your author enjoyed the benefits of the best the Japanese automobile industry had on offer…

…and came away truly impressed. The 1989 Honda Legend Coupé performed almost like a modern car.

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.

What would YOU call these?

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.

RM Sotheby’s are selling 140 youngtimers from a single collection. (Photo: RM Sotheby’s)

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.

The collector was particularly fond of BMW’s.

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.

And the collector even embraced the newest trend of the emerging market of Japanese classics youngtimers.

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…

Erhm…unless. I am pretty sure a Starion is an inferior car compared to a Legend, so maybe it feels more classic as well? Many of the youngtimers are supposedly being sold without reserve too.


7 Responses

  1. Anders Bilidt

    I for one love youngtimers! But granted, I love classics even more!

    Claus, I still remember when you owned your Legend. The thing is, I’ve always admired its elegant roofline and slim roof pillars. Such a coherent and thoroughly clean design…
    At the time you were selling it, I literally had zero cash to spare – otherwise I would have happily bought it.

    Equally, I love some of those BMW’s up for grabs at RM Sotheby’s auction! The Alpina E12, E24 and E28 are just astonishing. If only I could…. Oh, and that applies to the Station as well….

    Hmmmm… which introduces the question: Is the E12 ’81 BMW M535i which I just introduced yesterday in “The Ski Jump” a proper classic yet, or is it a youngtimer? What say our readers?

  2. Tony Wawryk

    Interesting piece. Youngtimers are, obviously, going to be the next classics. Modern Classics magazine in the UK claims to be”bringing you the finest motors from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s”.
    I guess it depends on where you think the cut-off point is. Here in the UK, a car is deemed a classic (for taxation purposes) by the licensing authorities if it’s 40 years old or more. I’ve read that in other countries, 30 years is when a car is deemed a classic. But where does that time period start – the year the actual car was built, or the year the model range was introduced?

    Looking at some of the cars up for auction, I would have argued that the E24 (1976) and E12 (1972) are already classics; similarly the W107 (1971). Yet the E24 and W107 both remained in production until 1989, just 29 years ago – so does that make later cars youngtimers or classics? I would say classics…

    The BMW 8 series wasn’t introduced until 1990, so presumably a youngtimer, and equally definitely a future classic by any criteria. Great looking car (but give me an E9 any day).
    1st generation Supra – classic. 4th gen – youngtimer.
    Aston Martin Lagonda – 1974 to 1990 – classic, but very ugly.

    I’m also available to discuss how many angels can dance on the head of a pin….

  3. Claus Ebberfeld

    I’d like to book a seat for that discussion, @tony-wawryk!

    And @anders-bilidt , you “literally had zero cash to spare”? But I sold it for just about that amount, I vaguely recall!

    I think this in fact underlines one very important aspect of the attraction of youngtimers: You usually (well, always, actually) get much more for your money than with an already recognized classic. Look at the aforementioned BMW E9 versus the BMW E24 to see it – or extend your horizon to include the 8-series as well. It’s really no wonder that buyers looks towards the succesors to get what is in most practical aspects a better car at a lower price too.

    And @anders-bilidt , don’t worry: The E12 M 535i is of course a full-fledged classic.

  4. Dave Leadbetter

    Or to contextualise “youngtimers” another way; my house has until very recently been a bombsite of hoarded rubbish including old notebooks and folders from previous jobs, but we are currently having a proper clear out. As I used to work in the motor industry I found myself idly flicking through and then binning notes from meetings relating to cars that have since been launched, discontinued and largely scrapped (no priceless historical documents were harmed in this exercise). It became clear that even though they dated from the turn of the century, that was in fact ages ago in terms of car life cycles. Tired from this effort, I later zombie for a while in front of the idiot lantern, upon which there was a programme reminiscing about Christmas television shows from 1988. Although it seems like yesterday, the slightly fuzzy VHS quality, permed haircuts and the alarming festive knitwear worn by celebrities who are now long dead re-affirmed that 30 years had indeed passed.

    Rubbish will always be rubbish, but some of it is now quite old rubbish if nothing more. Some of the lots in the Sotheby’s sale however, there’s very little in there that I’d object to owning.


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