Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Car makers should resist the urge to do cover versions of their classic hits

A MATE of mine put it to me the other week that the Volkswagen Type 2 – known to surfers, hippies and holidaymakers everywhere as simply the Campervan – is the most depicted car of all time.

Just about every bit of tourist tat imaginable, from teatowels and tee-shirts to pint glasses and USB sticks has featured the rear-engined workhorse at some point in order to lend said souvenir a groovy air of free love. Everybody knows what a Type 2 looks like – even if they insist (normally incorrectly) on calling it a Volkswagen Campervan. 

It’s one of a handful of old cars that still have that cult currency no matter where you are – and one of only two, I reckon, that haven’t been shamelessly reinvented. The Mini, the Fiat 500 and the Volkswagen Beetle have all been done. There are only a couple of names which people really remember left – so why are the car makers still at it?

Take the Maserati Ghibli, for instance. If you’re a Champion reader who’s ended up on the motoring pages because you’re looking for the Sports section but got a bit lost then chances are you won’t be able to picture a Maserati Ghibli without consulting Google – so it’s got no resonance. If, on the other hand, you pride yourself on being a petrolhead, you’ll know it’s an old Italian supercar. So you’ll feel a bit fobbed off to discover the revived version isn’t a ground-hugging missile, but a diesel-engined four-door saloon. 

The other trip down Memory Lane which I’m still yet to understand is the new Vauxhall Viva. There is, of course, much to commend about the old Viva, but do you see it on teatowels and mugs at souvenir shops in holiday resorts? Nope. I understand why it’s a revival in a name only, but unless you owned one back in the Seventies or read Practical Classics, it’s just not a name that’ll ring a bell with your mates.

Redoing your old offerings as new models is duller than hearing those breathy-voiced Eighties cover versions that always seem to pop up in John Lewis’ festive ads, or seeing the best the cinema has to offer are yet more comic character reboots. I don’t want a new Ford Cortina or a revived Vauxhall Chevette in the same way I’d dread a TV remake of Only Fools and Horses or yet another outing for Do They Know It’s Christmas.

Why hasn’t there been a new Type 2, or a new Citroёn 2CV or Ford Capri? It’s simple; the manufacturers have resisted the urge to do cover versions of their classics because they’ve got more exciting and innovative things to show you. The makers of these great cars from the past were doing them as ‘new’ to their best of their abilities – and that’s why we cherish the good ‘uns as classics decades later. I applaud the people still doing that today, resisting the urge to do cover versions of their old cars and using their imagination to come up with genuinely modern – and usually brilliant – new cars.

More of that in 2015 please!

1 comment:

  1. I recon the reason there's been no new Capri is just to scunner Auto Express. They've been predicting a NEW FORD CAPRI! in big shouty red text in front of a dodgy mock up every 2 years for the past 2 decades now!