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Is the End of Petrolheads Nigh?

I might be asking this question a bit too soon but bear with me. How many of you realize that car enthusiasts have been following a cyclic pattern over the last 80 years or so? Because in my opinion that pattern might soon come to an end.
Let's talk about cars that are considered classics, for example. Classics have been a major part of the car loving communities since as long as the 1950s, when hot rods were just beginning to roam the streets of the U.S.

That's when the Kustom Kulture began, and it was first represented by the greasers. Most hot rods of those days were, of course, modified pre-war classics. The greasers were soon replaced by the 1960s drag racers and muscle car fans, which gave way in the 1970s to the lowriders, and so on.

During the 1980s and the 1990s, things began to slightly change, though. Of course, as the years passed, some classics began to be replaced by others. For example, the children of the 1970s lusted after cars from their own time, so now when they're all grown up those are the perfect classics for them.

The majority of kids from the eighties (including yours truly) probably had a Lamborghini Countach, a Porsche 930 or a Ferrari Testarossa poster on their bedroom wall, so so-called youngtimers are probably the closest thing to a classic car they might one day own.

Of course, as years passed, some classic cars either became garage queens, part of a continuous restoration project, or are currently rotting in a car graveyard somewhere. That's actually the main problem in my honest opinion.

Some yesterday cars prolonged their life with the help of petrolheads and gearheads, who grew up when gasoline still had tons of lead in it, cars rolled on ply tires, and you could practically repair or restore any car using a fairly fixed spectrum of tools.

What about modern cars, though? After the old-school enthusiasts and real petrolheads pass away, how many will bother to take over this heritage? Sure, youngtimers are still very much connected to the older ones, despite the introduction of fuel injection and numerous other electronic parts. That said, the cars of today have almost nothing in common with them.

Who on Earth will bother to restore an aluminum space frame Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG in twenty or thirty years from now? The mechanical and most of all electronic complexity of today's cars is not something your average old-school petrolhead can master using just a couple of wrenches.

On top of that, most cars now have a lifespan of around seven years, after which a new, even more complex modern "generation" takes its place. In other words, modern classics are somewhat of an oxymoron. They are just finite means of transportation until a new one comes out.

In my opinion, the latest cars to be soon considered classic will probably be the ones from the 1990s, when computers were used mainly as a diagnostic device rather than a vital repair tool like now, when it has almost completely removed the human factor from the equation.

Modern vehicles can't even be serviced without the use of computers, as most car problems today consist of tiny software glitches that cannot be cured with an old-school wrench and some paint.

I don't even want to bring the whole "integrated assembly" problem. In the old days, you just had a chassis, an engine and a transmission. Everything else could be customized by hand in a barn. Nowadays you have monocoque construction, integrated electronic systems, sensors that communicate with each other and cannot work unless a computer remedies a "glitch in the matrix" and so on.

In other words, the future has brought us safer cars, more powerful and fuel-efficient engines and more gadgets to entertain us during a drive. It has also brought the end of the original petrolhead, who will slowly disappear from our culture.

You will no longer hear stories about a teenager and his father working together in the garage to restore a classic, since the very definition of those cars will probably mean "obsolete means of transportation" in the future.

And that's the real shame if you ask me. The future is slowly killing the very core of automotive culture, transforming it in just another appliance industry.

 
 
 
 
 

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