Car Hack's Notebook: Tomorrow's Classic, Today

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My dad's love of classics always bemused me as a child. This was a time of radical leaps in horsepower, performance, styling, every facet of car design, and he was buried in some edition of Pipe Smokers and Classic Jaguar Lovers monthly, with a free anorak with every subscription. He clearly knew nothing...

Of course I was also convinced Baywatch and Beverly Hills 90210 were unmissable entertainment, wrestling was real, Cyndi Lauper was a sex goddess, Soda Stream was a good idea and that dressing like a bad rip-off of Don Johnson would have the girls flocking to my door. I was a child of the 80s and we made mistakes.


And now it looks like my dad can serve me a huge slice of humble pie on the car front, something that won't give him any pleasure at all. Oh no...

See I never quite figured out how we suddenly got turned on to old cars, how the process happened. The only kids that grow up liking old cars lose their hair at the age of 12 and go on to become Science teachers, so there's a breaking point involved — a rejection of modern values that lands eccentric characters on the humorous section on local news.

Mine came, behind the wheel of the BMW M5, at the age of 30. Not wishing to believe it, not wishing to accept this sign of passage into old age I refused to write this column, or anything like it, for nigh on a year. See, I grew up with Bimmers and genuinely believe they were the very best drivers' cars in the sector. They still are, which is even more depressing.

So, with this bias in mind the M5 got another chance, and another, and then the M6 got a crack, but it's not getting any better.


This is the advance of technology in all its glory, a comfortable four-seater with supercar performance. Not only does it come with the adjustable 507 hp powerplant, you can also adjust more or less anything, from the suspension and super clever seven-speed sequential's level of aggression right through to the time it takes the lights to dim when you switch it off at night.

It took three Playstations' worth of computing power to get all that done, and it feels like one too. On a games console you can blow the limbs off Armenian children all day without feeling a whiff of emotion. And you can hurl the M5 at the horizon at such velocity the sound of maniacal laughter should drown out the bang of your exploding heart, yet the World Staring Championship would be more exciting.


I hate it with every fiber of my being. It would be easier to bond with a Korean serial killer.

You can forgive crap cars for being crap, they're cheap, they're comfortable, they have something going for them. The M5 is a mass of muscle and speed, it should be great, yet it has the worst crappy-paddle gearchange, traction control that feels like it's driving for you and Necrophiliacs probably get more feeling, more warmth, from their "lovers."


And this pains me so, because the E39 M5 was arguably the greatest sports saloon of all time. This was a huge four-door saloon with subtle looks, monumental pace and the capacity to take every bend at progressively ludicrous angles, so it had the same strengths.

Yet the old-school M5's beauty lay in its simplicity: a well-balanced chassis, a proper gearbox and traction control that was either on or off. The car changed gear when the driver told it to, it slid wide when the driver told it to, it did everything the driver wanted to. We didn't need all the Starship Enterprise rubbish then and we don't want it now.


But that is the march of progress, wrapped up in one model evolution. And the start of a love affair that I don't really like. In 10 years, probably less, the E39 M5 will be a classic car, and in my eyes will almost certainly be better than anything that has replaced it.

I will be a classic car enthusiast, and my children, should some woman be so unlucky, will look at me as if I know nothing. I can always tell them those school-age kids are 35 years old and those brave wrestlers are far better actors, but such hollow victories will not compensate for the glaring defeat that now stares me in the face.


Kids be careful what you say about your dad's dream cars, for just like his waistline and his hairline, you are staring at your own future.

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