We weren't raised wealthy, but we were raised in the 1980s, when conspicuous consumption was everywhere. We mostly came of age in the 1990s, when our weird punk geek friends made bundles of money in tech and bought us drinks and drugs, but it was cool to be (or appear to be) broke. As Ian MacKaye so famously sung, "Cool's eternal, but it's always dated." And if that line isn't as famous as it should be as a social critique, well, it should be. And now? Well, now we're in an age of some weird aspirational decadent affluence that seems like a strange melange of the self-consciousness of the 1990s and the weird rah-rah, score-at-all-costs innocence of the '80s. So what does this have to do with cars? Largely everything.
As we've mentioned before, we think cars, in some ways, hit a peak in the late '80s/early '90s. Not the way they peaked pre-1929, in 1963, 1957 or 1970. They were safe enough. They had begun to become fast again, but they hadn't entirely been weighed down by nanny-state devices that had to be counteracted by more and more horsepower and increasing amounts intrusive gadgetry to counteract said horsepower.
But it was an abysmal time for exterior design. What cars of that era were the sex? (We're officially tired of the "teh" meme, but we still like the phrase.) Not the Diablo, for sure. Ferrari was doddering along with uprated Testarossas that nobody cared about. The AMG Hammer and the early M3 were carrying the torch for Teutonic porn-club majesty. And they're both still rad today, frankly and will only get radder as time goes on. Only the Mighty Starion, its Conquest twin and the revolutionary NSX were carrying the torch for Japanese kogal smut in the USA. (No, sorry, your Supra still doesn't qualify.)
In America, the situation was more dismal. The Fox-body 5.0, while a straight-line bargain that could be turned into a fun road racer given a plethora of available aftermarket components, wasn't exactly hot. The Camaro and Firebird, while a no-brainer in the performance department for the cash, hadn't been genuinely pants-dropping since 1978. The Fourth Gen cars are so insulting ergonomically, they're sort of not even fun to drive unless you're at at least eight tenths. At which point, they're insanely fun, but you still look like an ass. What else did we have? Err...the C4, and while the end-of-series Grand Sport tribute models were actually pretty rad-looking, they're later in the game than what we're discussing here.
But, the correct cars of that era hit the balance between awesomeness, safety and weight. They offered a hoot to the average driver without stepping in and correcting him via electronics. This, after all, was the micro-epoch that gave us the original Miata, which, if not aesthetically, was essentially a Lotus Elan without most of the Brit-car drawbacks.
Which brings us back, finally, to our initial thesis. People still love old cars. There's a glamour to them that no Maybach can touch. Oddly enough, the only car to recently come close is the Chrysler 300C. Yet when you get in, it's a sea of cheap materials. The Aston DB9 hits the mark, but who can afford one? Rich guys. Rich guys who take their vintage cars to Pebble Beach. And oddly enough, a number of these characters are schmoes like us with more money. And after being there, you understand their rationale. You understand why our late, high-school teaching friend Dave Beeman was so proud to have been asked to judge at Pebble, and why he worked so hard to bring a concours event to our hometown.
You understand why Bill Mitchell used to buy a new Ferrari every year and park it outside the GM styling studio. You understand why motoring isn't just a way to get from place to place. It doesn't have to be a slog through traffic. None of us here at Jalopnik are exceptionally wealthy men, and frankly, most of us barely scrape by. But when you do something like the Bullrun or go to the Monterey obsession-fest, you understand why some people essentially decide to become rich to feed their car habits. And some of those guys don't let it turn them into assholes.
Women leave. Rock bands reunite and nearly invariably suck. But an awesome car that's stirred your loins for decades? That, friends, is forever. And you know what? We'll take cool every time. We don't care if we seem dated.
Rollin' Correct in a Saab: Eric B. & Rakim [Internal]