These Are the Days, My Friends

Matt Howell

This article first appeared in Hagerty Drivers Club magazine. Click here to subscribe and join the club.

David Zenlea’s story about whether we are in the waning days of affordable sports cars that go very fast reminded me of a recent driving adventure in which I drove a car that goes very slow.

The car: a 1903 Knox made in Springfield, Massachusetts. Top speed: about 26 mph if I gunned it and was going downhill. With a tailwind. The occasion: the 2023 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, the oldest car rally in the world, dating back to 1896.

I participated in this glorious slow-motion tradition for the first time in 2007, but my steed—a borrowed 1904 Rambler—wasn’t up to the task of chugging 54 miles from Hyde Park in central London to the coastal town of Brighton. Instead, to my great disappointment, it broke down outside Westminster Abbey. Twelve years later, I completed the journey aboard the Knox. We finished again last November, along with hundreds of other Veteran cars, some of which have completed the Run 60 or 70 times. Think about that. Vehicles over 120 years old still driving on public roads—albeit early on a Sunday morning. These were among the first cars ever built, and yet all these decades later, they haven’t lost their ability to transport both our bodies and our souls, mine included. It’s an amazing experience, and it gives me hope for the next century of motoring fun.

Which brings me back to David’s splendid think-and-drive piece, which tests out five fantastic new sports cars—with, key point, manual gearboxes—that you can buy right now for $50,000 or under: the Acura Integra Type S, the Mazda Miata, the Subaru BRZ, the Toyota GR Corolla, and the recently refreshed Mustang. I’m sure you’ll agree that these are all inspiring machines in an era when many cars barely get our attention. I would love to drive all of them on a twisty road like the ones our editors found in southeast Ohio, and I bet you would, too.

That alone tells me that we aren’t in the end times of affordable sports cars at all. To the contrary, I think it’s proof that we are living in—and have been for some time now—a golden age of motoring performance. I’m quite serious. I’ve been a sports car fanatic since I can remember, and I can’t think of a time when there were more sports cars—foreign and domestic—with today’s combination of drivability, dependability, affordability, and raw power. Can you?

There are those who will say, “Yes, but it’s all going to end soon!” Car people are the best people in the world, but we do like to worry. The concern, of course, is that EVs will ruin everything. But what if they change nothing? Or very little? Porsche has already said it will keep producing gas-powered 911s for as long as it can. They get it. Others do, too, I suspect. I personally know many of the executives running our car companies, and I can tell you they bleed high-octane fuel and are committed to serving enthusiasts.

Maybe there will come a day when no one makes gas-powered sports cars anymore, but even so, that doesn’t mean the fun is over. I’ve driven some of the best EVs out there, and they are truly a blast. The torque alone wins you over. They add to the sports car world, not detract from it, in my view. The more, the merrier. EVs will be an ever-increasing part of the mix, but it’s not a zero-sum game. The sports car market is likely going to be a hybrid environment—a mix of electric and gasoline engines—for the foreseeable future. Let’s also not forget that the millions of cool, fast internal-combustion cars that are already out there aren’t going to disappear overnight. Like my Knox, a lot of them will be on the road and in our garages for a long time to come.

Love endures. So do great cars.

I would love to hear what you think. Please be sure to leave a comment below.


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    I agree that “we” (car people in general) tend to panic a bit quickly when the EV topic comes up. Yes, government regulations have great influence on what is offered to us, but in the long haul, the OEMs will provide what the market demands. Otherwise, they don’t sell product, a problem that many are seeing right now. Things will swing this way and that – but eventually the market prevails. That isn’t to say that EVs are doomed to fail – they are and will continue to evolve and will ultimately come to the top, possibly to even be replaced themselves by the “next big thing”. After all, we only really ride horses now for entertainment, but they used to be number one. Coal-fired train engines once ruled the rails, but they are mostly static displays or July Fourth choo-choos nowadays. The point is that what we once use almost always gets pushed towards the rear when new tech takes over – BUT – pushed to the rear doesn’t mean cancelled forever. While daily commuting and grocery getting might ditch the ICE, we who use them for pleasure can expect to use them for a very long time.

    No panic here but I do feel we are in the end times for fun to drive impractical cars. The advent of the EV is only one of many challenges the industries are facing,.

    Cheap and affordable cars are difficult to make even in high volumes like a Camry let alone a fun to drive two seat car. The C8 Stingray is a miracle it exist let alone a the price we have but even it is our of reach of many.

    As inflation continues it will be even more difficult to bring these cars.

    Second the market for these cars are very small. The cars Mckeel covered are not exactly volume cars or cars that are in great numbers vs what they used to be. Most are owned by older buyers and many younger people are just not in the market for a cool car anymore and many are unable to buy a new car. I paid cash for my first car in 1988 My son did it this year but that was due to a very good paying job most lack at 22 years old.

    The EV problem is far from solved. With states banning ICE sales even if Porsche keeps making ICE will we have to travel to remote locations to drive them if we live in the wrong states?

    The automarket is right now a seven headed monster and while many are saying one thing there is still a lot that needs to happen before we declare victory. I will not say all is doomed but we do realistically face many challenges. They will not be easy or always cheap. Some victories will be temporary and we will have to keep up the fight with agencies like SEMA and others that support our hobby and industry,

    Hybrids are the false answer to all this. They are more complex, more expensive, heavier, and more maintenance intensive. They are the kind of car that would make Colin Chapman choke.

    We are also going to see more about ares limited to ICE models to drive. Added Charges to drive them in cities. Soon I expect we will see bans on where you can drive or even own.

    This whole things is political and damaging to the MFGs. The world is not going to end if we just stepped back and let the EV models evolve on their time line not Washington’s Or California’s.

    Like Cell Phones they were bulkie, lacked good batteries. and were very expensive. Today they are very efficient and have all but replaced the Land Line naturally with many. This is the path we need to take with these new technologies. We also need to keep space for the past models too as our hobby is at stake if the wrong people win.

    Actually, back in the day cell phone batteries were fine. My old Nokia would go 10-14 days between charging and was on all the time I was awake.

    Then “smart phones” arrived with their power hungry needs! The rest is history along with 2 week charging cycles!

    People talk about inflation as if it were a new phenomenon. We have always had inflation. Most of you were around in the late 70’s and early 80’s when we had double digit inflation and double digit interest rates. Throughout a great part of our history inflation was higher than it is now.

    It has been a LONG time since there was significant inflation – probably back to the very early 1980’s, before the Fed broke inflation with tight monetary policy and the related high interest rates. Many were not alive then, or were children.

    “I think it’s proof that we are living in—and have been for some time now—a golden age of motoring performance.”

    Some people are living in that world, yes. The rest of us get to watch from the sidelines because we simply do not have the means to acquire any of the great pieces of performance out there. It is a great time to be an enthusiast if you view being a part of car culture as watching other people play with cars. Yes, the car hobby has always been relatively expensive but it’s more expensive and also more gate-keepy than ever.

    Porsche will build gas 911s forever! Cool, I guess. That’s a car that has an average price far above my household income (DINK household at that.) Just the idea of having an extra car just for fun is so far outside the realm of reality for people who are stuck in endless cycles of renting and just getting by while those at the top hoover up cash and tell us we should be lucky to be here. I couldn’t afford a new 911 if you gave me one for free, and I consider myself to be doing pretty good compared to a lot of what I see out there.

    Sure, these are the days–if you have the $$$. It really doesn’t matter how powerful or cool the stuff rolling off assembly lines is if enthusiasts can’t afford it. Glad you enjoyed your driving tour though.

    This is the golden era and that is due to the fact you do not need to own a 911 to have a great car cheap. A Z06 C5 right now is a prime example of a great to drive and play car that will not set you back a ton. Also you can still buy low mile examples 20 plus years yet today.

    But witht he pending issues the MFGs face much of us may be challenged in our hobby and this may finally be the end of the great ones if you like your cars mechanical.

    Inflation is obviously a big problem for people entering the hobby. “Average” stuff is now out of reach for many people between the inflation of prices and the inflation of interest rates and the inflation of what we need to live (housing, food, etc.) the disposable income is drying up for many. Then we have the dealer greed on top of that. We have amazing performance cars that are becoming things only a few can truly afford.

    I think today can be the “golden age of motoring performance’ if you have enough gold to participate.

    Golden age? Naw! There was a time when MG, Triumph, Sunbeam, Jaguar, Mazda (RX7), and others were available. Not just one model for each manufacturer but many. Now just a few.

    Another thing to consider is the oil industry. Yes, we now have plenty, but if the continued plastics industry needs more, it may come in sacrifice in gasoline. I hope not, but alternatives are not yet viable. My(3) 28 Y.O.
    cars aren’t guzzlers, but they’re no hybrids, either. I just hope my retirement income will keep up with the cost of the fuels….

    “I personally know many of the executives running our car companies, and I can tell you they bleed high-octane fuel and are committed to serving enthusiasts.”
    I don’t know Mary Barra personally, but if you believe in the adage “Actions speak louder than words” she does not bleed anything remotely resembling high octane fuel.
    Regarding EVs: No offense Mr Hagerty, but no; torque has not “won me over.” There are so many facets – beyond the raw performance numbers – to owning a special-interest auto, that to try and justify EVs as a replacement for ICE-powered enthusiast vehicles using the same old worn-out argument does a disservice to the enthusiasts that form the majority of your customer base.
    Finally, I have to disagree with hyperv6’s assessment of hybrids. Look at the sheer number of taxi fleets running Priuses. These are the folks that know better than anyone what it costs per mile to operate various vehicles. GM’s recent announcement of their return to hybrids is no coincidence either: until batteries become more energy-dense – as well as more environmentally sustainable – hybrid vehicles are both less expensive to purchase and inflict less damage on the planet than EVs.

    What an incredible journey through automotive history! Your experience with the 1903 Knox on the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run truly captures the enduring spirit of classic automobiles. As you reflect on the timeless charm of these vintage vehicles, consider adding a gel seat cushion to enhance your comfort during those leisurely drives. It’s a small addition that can make a big difference, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the nostalgia of motoring’s past while enjoying modern-day comforts. Check out the Best gel seat cushion –

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