They say The Rolling Stones never retired. From 1963's “Come On” to this year’s “Hate to See You Go,” the band’s artistry evolved in one long, winding progression – kind of like the Mother Road, only with staff lines instead of lane lines. But at this point, a half century removed from The Stones’ first recording, which songs are now best defined as classic rock and which are contemporary? Which are destined to become modern classics? The same might be asked of collectible cars and motorcycles.
To get a feel for what defines a “modern classic,” I recently polled 10 car and motorcycle collectors, asking each of them five questions about the topic.
What year marks the beginning for modern classics?
For this essential question, the 10 respondents’ answers ranged widely, from postwar all the way to the post-2000 era. This alone shows a huge variance in interpretation about what makes a modern classic. “Postwar demarks the beginning of the modern classic period for me,” remarked Phil Scheinberg, a physician who owns five collector cars between 1963 and 1966. Jeffrey Barteet, an internet engineer and owner of a 1964 Chevrolet Corvette coupe, noted, “I've always felt some line of demarcation at California’s 'pre-smog' date of 1974.” But retired aerospace contracts manager Dave Dunlap sees modern classics beginning around the late ‘90s to early 2000s, in particular retro-themed modern vehicles.
Bottom line: Depends on your interpretation—a modern classic can range from postwar to current.
What features typify a “modern classic” but not a traditional “classic?”
Not surprisingly, with such varied opinions of what constitutes a “modern classic” – a range of nearly 70 years for the 10 respondents here – the features people feel define these cars also vary. “Plastic bits would be an excellent guideline,” said retired commercial pilot Paul Adams, who owns 30 classic cars and bikes from 1923 to 1973. “Electric start, fuel injection, disc brakes, traction control and lots of plastics,” agreed Roland Ortiz, a real estate investor who owns 14 motorcycles from 1957 to 1974. But leave it to a software developer to see through the clutter. “Computers,” said Fred Yeakel, the owner of three 1964 cars, including a rare racing Cheetah.
Bottom line: Modern features define modern classics.
What is an example of a great “modern classic” car?
“It’s gotta be exotic in some way – a masterful, up-to-date rendition of a recognized icon,” says mechanic Kirk Sloan, the owner of eight pre-1972 motorcycles and a 1940 Lincoln. Sloan singles out the 2005-2006 Ford GT and 1999-2003 BMW Z8 as examples. Ralph Hudson is a specialty constructor for theme parks and museums (and new 266.399 mph motorcycle record holder at El Mirage (Calif.) Lake!). He agrees with Sloan’s choice of Ford’s GT and adds the Bugatti Veyron, and even modern interpretations of the Shelby Cobra. “It needs to be groundbreaking either in performance or style,” he says. Meanwhile retired realtor Bob Bryson leans to the early Sixties for his “modern classic” fix. “My pick is a ‘61 Chevy bubble-top 409,” he admits. “I had one and would give anything to have her back!”
Bottom line: Being exclusive when new improves status down the road.
What is an example of a great “modern classic” motorcycle?
Advertising agency partner Scott Young owns collectible bikes from a 1930 Scott Flying Squirrel to a current Jaguar F-Type R sports car. He defines post-WW II as the kickoff point for modern classics, but is careful with distinctions. “The rarer the better,” he says. “Therefore, my old 1948 Vincent Rapide would qualify as a modern classic, but my current 1968 Triumph TR6 would not.” But ex-realtor Bryson does allow a more common ‘60s Triumph T120 Bonneville, Zundapp Super Sabre and Yamaha Big Bear Scrambler into his “modern classics” definition. And both pilot Adams and fabricator Hudson particularly pegged the Suzuki GSX-R sportbikes (which began in 1985) as modern classics.
Bottom line: High style and high performance help.
Will “modern classics” ever outpace the established classics in value?
Over half the respondents felt that modern classics will eventually exceed the value of traditional classics. Investor Ortiz frames it well. “Most Millennials have not driven a true classic car or motorcycle and will want something easy to drive that looks cool,” he says. “They don’t have the passion of working on or restoring a vehicle.” Dr. Scheinberg adds, “With a growing number of wealthy Gen Xers and Millennials, I believe the modern classics will continue showing increasing demand and values.” But not to worry, this doesn’t mean traditional classics will fall out of favor. “When the Boomers are gone, the majority of Gen X and Millennials will ascend toward the modern classics,” agrees aerospace man Dunlap. “However, there will always be a next generation of niche buyers that will cling to the original classics.”
Bottom line: However they are defined, modern classics have a bright future.