What do you think of when you hear the word “classic car?”
But what about something a bit more ordinary?
Can “boring” cars be classics?
While the MK4 Toyota Supra, for example, is clearly an example of a modern classic, would a Toyota Camry of the same age be considered a classic too?
In this edition of Car Facts we are going to discuss a bit more the idea of mundane, conventional cars being classics.
The genesis for this particular article is that one of our editors recently saw someone driving a mint condition 1990s Honda Civic – similar to what is pictured above. Not a Type R, not even a GTI (yes there was a Civic GTI, at least here in New Zealand). It was just a middling-spec model but in fantastic condition.
Although there are plenty more exciting cars on the road, there is something so interesting about seeing what would have been a modest car at the time still driving around almost 30 years later, and in great condition.
This got us thinking about the role that originally mundane, ordinary, “boring” cars have to play in the world of classics.
Long story short, can cars that were uninteresting in their time suddenly be desirable and interesting now?
Please note that no scientific research or fact-finding has gone into this article. This is purely conjecture and opinion.
As such, we welcome your take on once “boring” cars as classics – leave a comment below to get the discussion started.
Do Boring Cars Have A Place In The Classic Car Ecosystem?
In our view, yes they do.
Cars do not need to be exotic, or fast, or even particularly interesting to have some desirability from a classic perspective.
While a vanilla Honda Civic is never going to be as appealing as a Type-R, for example, there is still a certain allure and charm in seeing what was once a common sight on the roads still being driven 20 years later, and especially in good condition.
These “mundane” cars that were built for utilitarian transport carry more than just passengers – they carry nostalgia for a bygone time, they carry memories of a different era.
It might be that a Toyota Camry was what your dad had as a company car when you were growing up – and although a brand new Toyota Camry is leagues ahead, having what your dad used to be proud of is a great feeling.
Maybe your dream “boring” classic is a car that you learned to drive in, and you want to have another trip down memory lane now that you are able to drive without crashing every five minutes.
Just because a car was built for reliability and economy in its heyday, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be considered interesting or exciting in the modern context.
Boring Cars Can Be Great Fun To Drive
One of the editors of this site has an old 1978 Fiat 131 Mirafiori, which was picked up for a steal many years ago.
In its day, the Fiat 131 was a fairly basic economy sedan (which was considered robust enough to find its way into the former Eastern Bloc, where it was produced under a few different ‘badge engineered’ variants such as the Polski Fiat).
However, despite its weak-by-modern-standards 75hp engine and simple suspension and brakes, the little ‘Mirafiori’ is one of the most exciting cars any of us have ever driven.
The truth is that “boring” cars can be extremely good fun to drive.
This is not because of particular handling prowess or power, but often because of the feeling of connection you have with the vehicle and the road beneath it.
This will only become more noticeable as the internal combustion engine is gradually replaced by electric motors.
While EVs like the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model 3 are great tech (and realistically are the future of motoring for the average person) they struggle to capture the same “mechanical magic” that comes with ICE cars, especially older examples where the driver feels more connected to the car due to a lack of sophisticated systems.
One of our favourite car YouTubers/vloggers, JayEmm on Cars, talks about this in his recent video on a poverty-spec 1992 Nissan Micra – explaining why this very basic, bland car is actually rather special to drive and enjoy.
What’s even more interesting is watching this video and then checking out the YouTube comments – the vast majority of which all express a similar opinion; that driving a basic, plain car can be massive fun and is in many respects the true essence of motoring.
You don’t need 500 brake horsepower and a 10 speed dual-clutch transmission to have fun.
An old, slow car built to get people from A-B as cheaply and reliably as possible can still provide massive laughs and enjoyment … and for that reason these “boring” cars deserve a place in the Pantheon of classics.
As with most things in life, there are “levels” to the classic world.
It’s unlikely that a 1997 Honda Accord with cloth trim will ever be as desirable as say a Ferrari 250 GTO.
However, plain and ordinary cars from years bygone will be able to cement their status as junior classics as age and mileage starts to take its toll on the fleet.
If you’d asked people in 1998 whether there was anything interesting about a 1997 Honda Accord, then you’d be looked at as if you were from outer space.
But nearly a quarter of a century later, it is quite legitimately an interesting sight if you seen one roll past you at an intersection, especially if it’s in good condition.
There’s something rather magical about seeing a car doing what it was intended to do many years later, even when it would never have been purchased with the intent of being viewed as a classic one day.
This will only become more noticeable as ICE cars give way to electric/PHEV vehicles – which can be great cars in their own right (and packed with interesting tech) but which seem to have a tendency to be rather “soulless” compared to older cars.
What do you think about cars that conventional opinion would regard as boring or uninteresting being classics?
Can a white Toyota Camry with beige cloth trim ever be something special?
Leave a comment below to share your opinion! As we said in the intro to this article, there is no scientific fact or research in this piece – it’s just our take on the role that ordinary cars have to play as they age and become rare enough to potentially be considered classics. All opinions are welcome … there is no right or wrong answer here!