What is Vintagism?

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Sir,
Looking back through some old issues of Motor Sport, I found (in the December, 1952, number) an illustration of a rather fine 2-litre Crossley. The caption stated: . . . a 1931 model, actually a year too young for true vintage classification . . .

Now, why? The Vintage Club’s restriction of interest to cars produced over a certain period of years ending in 1930 has always seemed to me to be a curious piece of dogmatism. By implication, it asserts that there have been no vintage motor years since 1930 — which is sheer nonsense. Just as many bad cars were produced in the ’20s as in the ’30s, and just as many good cars — perhaps more! — were produced in the ’30s as in the so-called “vintage” years. According to the lights of the self-styled Vintage Movement, there can be no such thing as a vintage Jaguar, yet who can deny that Jaguar cars have enjoyed some real vintage years in their comparatively short but distinguished history. Probably our Vintage Club friends include the post-war Jaguars, Aston Martins and other great motors in their oft-parroted classification “modern tinware” —a term which is as corny as it is ignorant.

An acquaintance of mine says that the Vintage Movement is a form of inverted snobbery. Another suggests that the whole thing is just a racket designed to boost the sales value of decrepit vehicles which happen to have been made during the “magic years.” Perhaps these views are a little uncharitable, but this question of what-makes-vintage-tick is worth examination. One can readily understand the enthusiasm of the veteran devotees, who with infinite care and patience restore ancient carriages to a state closely approximating to their pristine glory. But this does not seem to be the principle guiding the efforts of many vintage monomaniacs, one of whom — known to me — gained the acclamation of his cronies by having a 4 ½-litre Bentley power-house installed in place of the original engine in his Blue Label tourer. This operation, carried out by a “Bentley expert” at considerable expense, presumably had the object of bringing the somewhat staid performance of the Blue Label a little nearer that of some of the modern tinware. Certainly it is very difficult to solve this strange problem. Over a number of years I have mingled and conversed with the vintage boys, but all I discovered was the existence of several fairly common denominators: —

(1) The almost desperate conviction that there have been no “men’s cars” built since 1930 (with the possible exception of a few Bentley monsters born in the early ’30s).

(2) A tendency to rate the quality of any motor vehicle from the volume of noise emitted by the exhaust.

(3) An alarming ignorance of the wider facts of automobile engineering.

(4) A casual dismissal of modern motor racing as being “just a boring procession of machinery, lap after lap, round Silverstone and other places,” and an eager willingness to watch elderly Bentleys and Bugattis doing the same thing, rather more slowly.

(5) An addiction to quaint headgear. (This is, of course, just a harmless form of exhibitionism comparable with the sartorial tastes of Teddy Boys, and has no real bearing on the main problem. Or has it?)

So far, not one vintage fanatic has given me a single cogent reason for placing the so-called vintage years on a pedestal of such lofty height as to be unattainable by other years of motor car history. Perhaps some of your readers can enlighten me?

Until they do, I shall hold to my view that the vintage movement is, nothing more than besotted bigotry.

I am, Yours, etc.,
E. Rawnit.
Romford.

[Before we leave Mr. Rawnit to the mercy of the 2,000 or so members of the V.S.C.C. we must point out that he, too, is rather ignorant of the facts. The V.S.C.C. was formed in 1935 and it was then that its sponsors stated that “no real motor cars have been built since 1930” — so Mr. Rawnit must search for “vintage” cars in the years 1930-1935. Since the war this club has recognised “Post-Vintage Thoroughbreds” to embrace the better cars of 1930-1939, although criticism might be made of some of the cars which they pass as such. The quaint headgear cult is that of rally crews in modern cars, surely? And can it be that Mr. Rawnit has mistaken the B.O.C. for the V.S.C.C.? After which, sir, we throw you to Tim Carson and his Committee … — Ed.]