There have been a lot of distressing items in the news lately about the future of the automobile as we know it and while we cannot predict with much accuracy what will transpire in the years to come, we are sure that it will be a different world from the one that we have known for so long. Fresh on the heels of similar news from France and Norway, the United Kingdom recently announced that it intends to ban the sale of all diesel and gasoline powered automobiles by 2040. This announcement comes not long after Volvo decided to focus on building only pure electrics and hybrids by the end of this decade.
A few months ago I read something from Bob Lutz (formerly an executive at Ford, Chrysler and GM) proclaiming his gratitude for having lived through the golden age of the automobile and personal autonomy (the implication being that such an era is now over) and his is not the only voice that has spoken longingly for a time that seems on the way out.
What does this tremulous future hold for classic automotive enthusiasts?
I think it will be an even better time than ever to drive a real classic sports car. As we surrender our personal transportation to autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles, we will feel the urge (now more than ever) to drive a car under our very own control.
With inspiration from James Earl Jones, I think that for reasons that we cannot fathom we will feel compelled to lift up the bonnet and tinker with the carbs or set the timing because it will fulfill an elemental need that we all share to fix things and make them work when they are broken.
Robbed of anything with a sonorous exhaust note, we will want to hear the noise rumble from the tailpipe as we step on the gas and yearn for the sound of the typewriter-like noises from our pushrod valve trains. Even those that have no real experience with these cars will thirst for the view from behind an iconic banjo wheel. As Terrance Mann said in that Iowa cornfield: “The memories will be so thick that they’ll have to brush them away from their faces … They remind us of all that once was good and could be again.”
As long as British sports cars survive in drivable form there will be drivers who want to drive them and we will be here to supply the parts. The coming decades may be the proverbial time of cholera for true car lovers, but maybe not. More self-driving vehicles may mean less less traffic and reduced danger for those of us in our Little British Cars. Whatever happens, there will always be stretches of open road (they may exist in special driving preserves or we will have to pay for the privilege) where we can exercise our MGs, Triumphs, Jaguars and Healeys to our heart’s content. People still ride horses and have enjoyed them throughout the automotive age, they just no longer serve any meaningful role as day-to-day transportation. Hopefully, the classic car can avoid such an ignominious fate where our cars are reduced to mere diversion (even though they are mostly that now as we haul them out for shows or putter around on the weekends.)
The only way to stave off this off is to continue driving our cars with abandon as the workers at Abingdon, Longbridge and Coventry intended. The more people that see these cars on the road, the more there will be new owners to covet them when it comes time to pass them on.
“People will come, Ray, they will most definitely come.”