"Not only do automotive fashions change, but technology also moves on"
Matt Prior
20 January 2017

It is a fact proved beyond all doubt that everything goes through an absurdly naff phase while on its way to becoming a classic.

All right, it hasn’t been proved at all; it’s my opinion, but hey, 2017 is just as post-truth as 2016, so I’m presenting it as fact on the basis of overwhelming empirical evidence. Or some evidence, anyway, hand-picked by me, to support my argument.

Take Brutalist architecture, those concrete-dominated edifices in urban areas, largely of the 1960s. Lots of people liked Brutalism when it was new, although it’s worth pointing out that quite a few people didn’t, too. So when, after a while, mostly in the 1980s and 1990s, those who weren’t entirely convinced by it in the first place started to complain about the crumbling concrete and how much more friendly things would look with, say, a glass or mock Tudor frontage, the writing for some Brutalism was on the cold, sometimes damp-stained and often graffiti-covered walls. So off theses places went, knocked to the ground. The Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth; that car park in Gateshead off of Get Carter.

Walk along London’s South Bank today, though, and the Hayward Gallery in particular, and the South Bank Centre in general, look terrific. Did they have a naff phase? If they did, they have come out the other side of it, thanks to the patience of those who’ve looked after them. Perhaps it’s because they’re arts centres anyway and that those in charge can resist the temptation – and there once was a plan to cover the whole lot in glass – to dilute the initial brilliance and have instead nurtured the buildings well. That’s not to say everyone in Portsmouth didn’t appreciate the Tricorn, whose bigger problem was the way it was used and maintained. Portsmouth City Museum even had an exhibition on it. Sadly, 10 years later it was demolished.

But this phase, where things look tacky and dated and the temptation is there to do away with them rather than give them the nurturing they need, happens with all kinds of things. Dunlop Green Flash trainers. Doilies. The prawn cocktail. Level 42. I’m pretty sure it happened with David Beckham and John Major.

Let’s not pretend that cars don’t suffer it too. The other day I saw a Mk2 Ford Granada estate and it looked magnificent. Before last week, the last time I thought one looked magnificent was in 1985, when I was 10. Between then and now, I’ve thought they were fairly ropey old things. But now I can imagine wanting one.

There are cars still in that dip, at risk of being Brutalised to death. I think the first Ford Focus, an early adopter of Ford’s ‘new edge’ design language, is thickest in it. The 1996 Ka might already be on the way out. The problem with cars is that not only do automotive fashions change, but materials, surfacing and edging technology also moves at such a pace that they just look dumpy or outdated. But as they gain rarity, they gain breathing space around them and it’s possible to see them for what they were in context – what rules they broke at the time.

Patience is needed. London’s South Bank received it. In thousands of scrapyards, there are millions of future classics that did not.

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Comments
12

20 January 2017
I had hoped that "off of" wouldn't cross the Atlantic.

20 January 2017
275not599 wrote:

I had hoped that "off of" wouldn't cross the Atlantic.

That jarred with me too

20 January 2017
"off of" isnt from across the Atlantic, its just plain old bad English and has been around in this country for at least 40 years.

TS7

22 January 2017
... as deliberate for humorous purposes. But then, I have a sense of humour.

20 January 2017
With cars, they dip through a "banger valley" stage.

The old fella had a mk2 2.8i Ghia X in the mid 90s, just over 10 years old, when most other mk2 Granadas were being thrashed as bangers an MOT away from the scrap yard.

These days a mk2 would turn heads.

Cars come out, they're new, they're desirable. Then they're nearly new, still desirable. Few years and they're a cheap runabout, a banger, almost disposable. This is when many end up scrapped. But the survivors live on, and start getting recognised as more desirable, before starting to appreciate in value and eventually reaching "classic" status.

Alfa 916 GTVs, about 8 years ago were starting to become a banger, now very much desirable.

Other 90s cars, even humble cars like mk1 pre-facelift Mondeos and the last of the mk3 Cavaliers are starting to be recognised - their predecessors, surviving mk2 Cavs and Sierras are very much there.

20 January 2017
My dad had a mk2 2.3GL Granada as his first company car , stratos silver with the black vinyl roof and spots at the front , it had an electric aerial and manual sunroof, never let us down on trips to Europe, loved it. Replaced by a Rover 2600S SD1, lovely looking car which I remember being honked at and high fived in Italy on our hols as the Italians clearly appreciated it's shape. It's reliability was another matter...!

20 January 2017
First, the only time I hear the phrase "off of" is on BBC Radio 1. You never hear it in the States, or at least the east coast. We would say the "one in/from" usually preceded by the phrase "You know". As far as fads and fashion trends and tastes they all change due to overexposure as much as anything else. If you see something everyday you tire of it. With a building the only ways not to see it is either move or knock it down. With cars the process is taken care of by time, economics and consumerism. To shift metal the car makers are always tinkering with designs to keep them fresh. The course of time is on a bell curve where there are few of the models when they first come out, then you reach saturation and then they start to fade away to the scrap heap. This happens as the population clamors for new metal and also when the economics of keeping an old banger on the road make no financial sense when compared to buying a new car. This bell curve is applicable in most cultural things and also, conveniently, matches the age progression from youth to middle age that also gets blamed for fits of nostalgia.

21 January 2017
Porsche 911

21 January 2017
I saw the teaser in the email and not concerned by the picture thought "now this appears interesting, right up my street". How disappointing then to discover it's just Autocar finding another way to bump up its tally of Ford mentions, no other marque getting a look in. The overall theme of the piece is good, but why not discuss other cars which have gone through the process such as the Datsun 240Z, Saab 900, Lancia Monte Carlo or MGB? Or some which are likely to emerge as classics like the Mazda 626/MX6, Rover 75, Mitsubishi 3000GT or Saab 95.

I don't need to put my name here, it's on the left

 

TS7

22 January 2017
... and then you mentioned MGB, Mazda and Mitsubishi.

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