Flashback Friday with Editor-in-Chief D. Randy Riggs – Future Classic?

Future Classic? By D. Randy Riggs from VM issue 2005.1 – Jan/Feb 2005

Photo: D. Randy Riggs

Before modern day trial lawyers and liability insurance issues put an end to the fun, I loved to roam junkyards on an occasional Saturday afternoon-not necessarily to find a particular part for an automotive project-but rather to enjoy the variety of automotive treasures scattered about or in long rows before my eyes.

As a kid, my friends and I would hike with our fishing poles across the Bucks County farmland where we lived to our favorite fishing spot-a deep water gravel pit outside a little Pennsylvania town. That’s where I learned that a catfish can sting. One lazy summer day my fishing pal Sammy told me that there was a junkyard up over the big hill, so off we marched to investigate. And sure enough, there it was, without a fence or junkyard dog to keep us out. All of a sudden, I was in a warped version of automobile heaven.

We were fascinated by the carnage—smashed up cars sometimes with dried blood on the seats and a big divot out of the windshield where a head had made impact. No seatbelts in those days. We’d always look at the speedometer to see if the needle was locked onto the speed at the instant of the crash. There were cars we could sit in and pretend to steer and an old used-up delivery van that allowed us to make believe we were making the daily rounds-arguing over who was going to do the “driving.” The only foreign car we ever saw there was a sad old Austin Devon. Can you imagine some sissified yuppie parents today allowing their spoiled brat to roam a junkyard? Of course, our Moms didn’t know but even so…. Somehow, we managed to survive the junkyard and other childhood hazards like riding bicycles without helmets, but that experience in and around the auto graveyard struck a chord.

In later years while searching out some needed part at a wrecking yard, I found it impossible to stare at a rusted, smashed-up hulk, be it an old Buick, Ford or DeSoto, and not imagine the day when this same car was brand spanking new and driven home by a proud owner—the family and neighbors gathering in the driveway for a close-up look at the shiny new wheels. That car had probably taken its family to a drive-in on a warm summer night—Milk Duds dropped down between the seats, picked up Grandma on Thanksgiving or had a succession of Christmas trees tied to its top. Or maybe a couple of teenagers snuck a first kiss in the front seat. And now here it was—forgotten—ready for its final ride into some blast furnace to become something else again. Sad.

But I never saw a single sports car in any wrecking yard I ever frequented—certainly because they were far less in number—but also due to the fact that many sports cars were better taken care of—special cars sold to special drivers. Factoring in a high original price makes the survival rate go up—a well-off owner can better afford the upkeep, care and storage and consequently cars like this are passed on to the next owner in excellent condition.

But what makes it collectible—a classic—one that’s sought after some 30 years down the long highway of life?

Well certainly one saying that sticks is “desirable then, desirable now.” And I remembered that on a recent trip to Austria with Porsche to drive the 2005 Boxster models and visit Gmünd where the firm moved for safety during WWII, I thought about the Boxster’s predecessors and certainly the paragon of Porsches came to mind—the Speedster—a car that had no side windows, a minimal windshield and a price of about $3,000. Sports car fans did backflips over that car and still do—desirable then, desirable now.

Fifty years later, the newest Boxster fits all the parameters of what makes a sports car great—an object of lust for those of us afflicted with the aberrant gene that comes alive with the sound of a powerful engine and wind in our hair.

So, take good care of whatever new sports car you happen to own these days. In not too many years it’ll be “vintage,” and let’s hope it’s still on the road and not rotted away behind a razor wire fence, guarded by a mean old junkyard dog.