What Is An Old School Car, Anyway?

Traction control, stability control, electric steering, brake-based electronic diffs, adjustable suspension, GPS — technologies that started trickling into the automotive world twenty or twenty-five years ago are now the norm. So what does that make old school?

The question popped into my head while I was watching the gorgeous Drive+ comparison between a 2005 Ford GT and a 2005 Acura NSX. They're presented as old school cars, with manual transmissions, rear-wheel drive, and nothing between you and disaster if you make a mistake at the wheel. Well, if you turn the traction control off.

To me, these are very modern cars. I very much remember sitting on the floor of my local newsstand reading comparison tests between the Ford, the Ferrari 360, and the Gallardo in then-new issues of EVO. I remember thinking how strange the NSX looked once they dropped the pop up headlights. I was a certain age, and I will always think of them as new.

I'm of two minds about this.

I could argue that the GT and the NSX are in no way shape or form 'old school.' Objectively, they are insulated, refined, electronically-managed machines. They even have fuel-injection.

But I could just as easily argue that in today's context, these two midengine sports cars offer a very outmoded driving experience. You'll notice it from the moment you take out your phone to check a map, because there's no GPS on the dash. You'll keep thinking about it as you look out of the low windows, lower than anything on sale today.

The takeaway is that the definition of what is 'old school' is always changing. I drive a car that was designed in the thirties, but all of my complaints about a carburetor or no crumple zones are nothing compared to the people driving around in prewar machines, with manually-adjusted spark, let alone manual brakes. I should be impressed my car is so new school that it comes with a pressed-steel roof. You were hot shit driving around with one of those back in, for instance 1919. Only 10.3% of cars made in this country had closed roofs at all back then, and few of those were made of metal.

So my question to you is how you define an old school car? What do you imagine it having, or missing? And how do you think the definition has changed over the years?

Photo Credit: Drive+