The car you drive can have an impact on how people respond to you. Turn up to an event in a brand new Ferrari and the impressions people will have about you will be very different to turning up in a beaten-up old Mondeo or a highly modified R32 Skyline GT-R. Think about it yourself. If you were at a fancy wedding and those three cars turned up you might well decide what sort of person is driving them well before they’ve even stepped out of the car. It’s a shame, but stereotyping is often a natural instinct, a proof point that the old adage “first impressions count” is not without a strong element of truth.
That’s why people with not much interest in cars, but a lot of money, probably buy supercars and the like. They want people to know they’re doing well. It’s probably why we modify cars too, aside from the desire to make things better, we want to show people we don’t want to be like everyone else…we want to be faster. We may also feel that by modifying we’re proving we know about cars, even if others may look and tag us with labels like “boy racer”.
But there’s one type of car that can transcend stereotypes and makes the game of first impressions a lot more fun: timeless classics. They’re cars that you could turn up anywhere in and people would find it difficult to label you instantly. Classless cars in effect.
Take for example a Land Rover Defender, old and battered. Is the driver landed gentry who uses it to stomp across his acres of land, is it the work tool of a builder or the expedition vehicle of an adventurer? You could buy one for under five grand and be whoever you wanted to be.
And the Lotus stable has a few classics that would keep people guessing too. A Lotus 7, for example, might be the vehicle of a sideways obsessed hoon, a track driving addict or a classic car enthusiast who might rarely see the redline, but revel in open top country driving. For under fifteen thousand pounds you could be any of those people.
The Lotus Europa is another car that fits this group. Not the balls-out performance of an Esprit, the Europa is a true classic that would have people checking it out as it drove by. You might have swapped your newish Fiesta for one just to commute from a one-bedroom flat to work in, or you might be giving one of your classic car collection an outing. For less than the price of many new cars you could have people stumped when it comes to trying to stereotype you.
Even old performance Fords could fall into this category. While a Cosworth or an RS Turbo was once (and still is) the type of car tuners delight in, winding up the boost and shredding tyres for fun, the price of some examples now means you’d never be sure who was driving it. Some years back we ran a clean Series One RS Turbo, a classic even then. Of all the high performance or tuned cars (including some outlandish looking creations) we’ve driven, no other car received so much attention at petrol stations or had people come and talk to us about a car as that one. We weren’t any different…we still worked around modified cars, lived in the same place, thought the same things. But somehow, the classic nature of the car didn’t make us ‘scary’ anymore, we weren’t seen as a ‘boy racer’ so much; somehow the car we were driving seemed to influence how people viewed us. It might not fit the timeless classic theme so much, but it was one car that you could have taken to a Ford show, a classic car show, a modified car show or a race event and have been universally accepted.
So if you ever want to drive a car that would let you experience as many different parts of car culture as possible and to not be stereotyped by your choice of wheels, then a well-chosen, affordable classic might just be the way forward. And once you get bored of that…start the tuning!