In recent years the car world have been dazzled by this rather bewitching word – “Modern Classic”. We live in strange times, where enthusiasts widely understand that cars of today are at risk of losing the essence of driving. With safety and environmental regulations in place, we know that the future is here and cars will only get more autonomous from this point on. Which leaves us, driving enthusiasts lost between the world of the analogue and the digital.
But do words like this just get thrown around? Looking back at even a decade ago, we were still accepting cars like the Audi RS6 and Mitsubishi Evo X which I would say is pretty digital age by then already. Yet by today’s standards, nothing of that caliber may excite us from the unadulterated essence of driving like say, a 1998 Honda Integra DC2 Type R. You would have heard of this word, may it be on Social Media, Youtube videos, Teh Tarik sessions or even in fact, from us at NoEqual even! But what does it truly mean?
How Do You Define A “Modern Classic”?
There is a periodic sweet spot where manufacturers were at their absolute crack. People used to think that the 70s and 80s were the epitome period, but to be honest this was a time of crisis and most manufacturers were just barely surviving to push their cars into production. Any well-endowed motoring journalist will tell you that somewhere between the mid-90s to early 2000s is the peak. A period that packed a balance between the Analogue and Digital that defines the Modern and the Classic feel and characteristics of a car.
With period confirmed, there are various factors that defines a true Modern Classic car. According to the internet, there are about four or five factors depending on where your Google search take you. But to us, facts don’t matter but how do us Car Enthusiasts define a Modern Classic status on a vehicle. So let’s break it down…
If you think about it, every major car manufacturer was going racing in the booming 90s and all they literally did was to homologate and put their motorsports knowledge on to their road cars. Between Rallying, Touring Car Championships, Endurance and Circuit Racing; this was the period where we were able to see the cars that were going door-to-door blasting, were on the streets or even on our neighbour’s porch. Cars like the Mitsubishi Evo and Subaru Impreza were true icons of the late 90s and early 2000s with their success in the World Rally Championship, hence these cars as we see today are born and bred modern classics. And when we consider races like British Touring Car Championship, we will explore icons like the Volvo 850R and the BMW 3er. Enthusiasts will jump at the light of seeing one, especially if the come with the racing stickers and liveries in period.
Every other car from two or three decades ago that we love today would’ve gone racing one way or another. And when cars go racing, they naturally build a cult following with them…
It is a form of celebration by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts, in sharing the unmatched passion for cars and driving. Although opinions may differ, like how most petrolheads today will always look to the Germans and Japanese when it comes to these cult cars. Yet there is also a massive cult following with rather indie choices like the French Hot Hatches and the American Muscles. This is usually connected to a Modern Classic’s motorsports pedigree.
For a car to have cult status, it needs to leap from being just a basic mode of transport to a cultural icon. Sometimes these cars don’t even look great, or is even fast like the VW Type 2 Bus yet they’ve garnered a huge number of followers that it becomes a culture. Why JDM sports cars naturally own the right to a cult status is because the genre has created a whole automotive lifestyle – hence naturally why we adore cars like the Nissan Skyline, Toyota Supra, and Mazda RX7. There are car clubs and a whole culture built around the world based on them, putting these cars on the global map almost instantly. And once immortalised on the TV Screens like Initial D and Fast & Furious, these cars become icons.
There are car enthusiasts out there think that a car with “character” is one that breaks down after every 50 mile drive. I blame our Top Gear influence during the Jeremy Clarkson days. But the thing that makes character are the little flaws that make it better. For example, a lightweight car lacks a decent NVH rating yet it adds on to the connected rawness with your feel behind the wheel. Or a V8 engined car has a growling symphony that adds theatre to the whole drive experience. It all falls back to the way it makes you feel.
The 90s and early 2000s was a period when manufacturers were experimenting a lot of their technological know-how into their cars. And with little to no restrictions on how a car should look, sound, or feel, it was a time when creativity sparked a whole generation of car enthusiasts. Between FWD hot hatch like the Focus RS and Civic Type-R EK9, RWD sports cars like the BMW M3 and Nissan S-Chassis, and AWD power houses like the Skylines and Evos, they each delivered a different feel behind the wheel. So if a car brings a fizz like no other when you’re behind the wheel, then you’re on the right track to a modern classic.
You may think that ‘Desirability’ is a subjective factor. Non car people will think that a Rosso Corsa Ferrari is the definitive answer to a ‘desirable’ car but we car guys are a lot more complicated than to just like something bright and presumably fast. Sure, cars like the Porsche 959 and Ferrari F40 paved the way but these weren’t cars for the blue collar enthusiast.
The cars we desire are very simple. Enthusiasts love a car that we can drive like we stole it. It doesn’t have to look fancy, but it will make us feel like we’re driving the fastest thing out there, even if its just at 110km/h. We desire cars that elevate our social status from just a man, to a car enthusiasts. Cars badged with the GT-R, Type R and GTI moniker are amongst the few that we get an appetite for. And when the car ticks the above boxes here – Motorsports Pedigree, Cult Status, and Character then we have the right traits to a desirable Modern Classic!
We see today that cars are holding a different kind of value on the auction and used car markets in the world. There was a time when cars were deemed as depreciating assets but these modern classics are living proof to our wives and parents that housing property isn’t the only kind of asset a man should own. As late as 8 years ago, I remember a Skyline BNR34 GTR V-Spec would hover around the RM120k price range but today the number have at least tripled. And the value proposition aligns with many of the major modern classics today. Cars like the Civic EK9 and DC2 Type-R used to be an accessible sports car of the 90s, but with the growing cult and desired demand, you’re looking at at least RM100k with light of the prices increasing to RM150k-RM180k in the next 3 to 5 years.
I’d say that those who owned these cars and still have it today are lucky. When we speak to ex owners, they’ve all regretted their decision in selling theirs many years ago for pennies on the dollar. To own a Modern Classic today may be a challenge for many, but the topic of value could be the bit that excites many to jump into owning one tomorrow!
All this is great and I want one. How do I own one?
There are no definitive favourites. It’s hard to choose between them all but undoubtedly there are a few cars that automatically comes to mind when we speak of the Modern Classic topic. Each and every one of them deserves a place in automotive history and we thank the stars that these cars exist. For those lucky ones who’ve had the opportunity to own and experience any one of these Modern Classic cars, what a blessing. The rest of us are just itching and wanting to own them. They definitely don’t make them like they used to anymore! But how do you do it?
Unlucky for us in Malaysia, cars about 8 years old will have difficulty to get financing. In fact, most of these modern classics are definitely beyond the age limit hence your only chance at owning one is through outright cash purchase. And let’s be honest, only the lucky few will be able to park their hard cash up front for one of these. But even if you have the money, sometimes you can’t even get the car. They’re rare on our shores and you can’t legally import them in until it hits the 35 years classic car mark. Obviously, those that have been spoken for will need more than just money to convince them to part ways with theirs.
Cars like these are not purchased with sense from the head. They’re bought because the heart wants what it wants. I count my blessings that myself and the team have been able to get first hand experience to drive some of these Modern Classics from kind and cool owners. These cars are ageing treasure and will yield better returns than most generic assets that comes to mind. But if you’re buying these cars because of the rising value alone, then you need to question yourself what kind of car enthusiasts you are…
Written By | Qhalis Najmi