Guest Post: Are Classic Cars Cooler than their Modern Manifestations?

5 head-to-head match-ups of vintage vehicles against today’s tech

It’s fun to compare the past and present. Whether it’s debating how the likes of Stirling Moss or Jackie Stewart would fare against today’s stars like Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, or wondering how Muhammad Ali or George Foreman would stack up against the Klitschko brothers, we love to discuss how old school measures up with the new school.

Cars are no different. Comparing classic stars of decades past with their modern day descendants is not only enjoyable, it can sometimes reveal hints of what we value and appreciate in our contemporary lives. So how do some of today’s slick and super modern sets of wheels match up to superstar vehicles from back in the day? Let’s take a look at some head-to-head contests; let the battles commence!

1965 Volkswagen Beetle vs. 2012 Volkswagen Beetle

The Beetle is one of the best-selling cars of all-time; not surprising when you consider the original brief was to create a two-adults-and-three-children family car that would be affordable for just about everyone. With an immediately distinctive design that’s continued into the present day, the ‘Bug’ has been loved for decades – although it’s declined from its heyday of the late 50s through to the mid-60s when it was the car for American families. The newest model is fuglier than older versions, though, and looks set to struggle in its
endeavours to convince people they should buy into its new ‘sporty’ aspirations. Which they won’t. Considering this, the result is a no-brainer.

1965 cool factor: Lovable character
2012 cool factor: Misplaced nostalgia
Winner: 1965 Volkswagen Beetle. Easily.


1967 Jaguar XJ-6 vs. 2012 Jaguar XJ

The 1960s Jaguar was a beautiful machine; it was dynamic, aspirational and awe-inspiring. So it’s a pity it broke down so often. In fact, the ’67 XJ-6 had so many reliability issues that during 60s-set TV show Mad Men a number of characters joke that any Jaguar owner ‘needed an extra car for when they actually want to drive anywhere’. Today’s Jaguar incarnation is a different cat, and while a little of the style has been lost the 2012 XJ is a lean, elegant drive that has retained the life-affirming lustre, but has lost the reputation for glitches and other mechanical gremlins.

1967 cool factor: Desirable lifestyle accessory
2012 cool factor: Desirable lifestyle accessory (minus the breakdowns)
Winner: 2012 Jaguar XJ

1969 Porsche 911 vs. 2012 Porsche 911

For many people the late 60s 911 is a peak that Porsche have never bettered. Although, with a modern aesthetic sleekness that practically mirrors its automobile ancestor, some would argue that Porsche never tried. And why should they? ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ goes the saying, and perhaps by not trying to improve one of the most iconic luxury cars ever made, Porsche have made a very, very smart decision. So if the graph for the 911’ amazingness peaks in 1969, it would be fair to say that the decades that followed have seen a plateau rather than a decline. Both models are dwarfed by today’s larger standard road cars, but are none the worse for it. In fact, that makes them cooler.

1969 cool factor: Everyone is envious of a 911 Porsche. Everyone.
2012 cool factor: Still one of the sharpest tools in the automotive toolbox
Winner: It’s a draw!

1960 Chevrolet Corvette vs. 2013 Chevrolet Corvette 427

The Corvette (C1) was the first proper Chevrolet sports car to roll off the factory line at General Motors, and it was an instant classic. Stealing the limelight when featured in any TV show and movie set in 50s or 60s America, the Corvette is loved by pretty much everybody, from playboy Princes to, well, pint-sized popster Prince (he especially likes little red ones). With a curvaceous body and lovely interior, the 1960 Corvette is a serious animal, a tangible remember of a time when the USA was king – in more ways than one. The modern 427 Convertible is a different beast; it’s still a high-performance machine – boasting a 7 lt engine and 505 hp – but there is a lingering feeling that today’s Corvette is a little brash rather than merely flash; although, it has, admittedly, made a big splash.

1960 cool factor: The American Dream
2013 cool factor: Still sharp, but a bit of a show-off
Winner: 1960 Chevrolet Corvette

1970 Volkswagen Type 2 Campervan vs. 2012 Volkswagen California Campervan

For our last match-up we return to Volkswagen, and their versatile, lovable Type 2 camper. VW’s iconic campervan has long been enshrined in pop culture, and can trace its coolness roots back to the hippie counterculture movement of the 60s. Today it’s loved as much as ever, with entire sub-communities of fans maintaining, customising and exhibiting their own Type 2s at gatherings around the world. Something about the vintage camper oozes retro hipness; owning one is some kind of sign you value old school aesthetics over modern functionality. But what of the modern derivative, the revised California camper? Well, it’s an excellent vehicle; efficient, compact and, yes, functional. It does what it’s supposed to do. But where’s the charm? Where’s character? What is there to love about it? It’s a vehicle you’d take a well-organised family trip in, but it’s not the focus for a life-affirming journey.

1970 cool factor: Implicit spirit of adventure
2012 cool factor: A great camper, but utterly lacking in coolness
Winner: 1970 Volkswagen Type 2 Campervan

Verdict?

Classic wins. It appears that old school is indeed cooler than new school, with vintage aesthetics edging out modern variations. “Modern cars all look like electric shavers,” said Mickey Rourke in 2005’s Sin City. Perhaps some designers should listen to him and go back to the drawing board. Several years back, in fact, to a drawing board from about 1970.

Author Bio
Andrew Tipp writes for Adrian Flux, a UK-based insurance broker. Adrian Flux can provide cover for a range of needs, including classic car insurance. It has 30 years of experience in car cover, and can also offer specialist insurance for modified and imported cars, as well as off-road vehicles and kit cars.

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