Saturday, October 22, 2011

Budd's Top Ten: Future Classics

The Shelby GT350, the Dodge Challenger Road Runner, the E-type V-12, the BMW Issetta, and the Porsche 959 are all fantastically rare and highly sought after classics that only a select few will ever be able to own. Unique styling’s, production numbers and equipment have made them a step above the regular old cars that are sought after by those who enjoy quality craftsmanship which has long since been extinct in the automotive market, a victim of corporate finances and efficiencies.

However, with car makers building car designed to be intriguing for only a single model generation and built as cheaply in high numbers as possible, will there be cars from the last decade that will be considered highly sought after classics in the next 20 to 50 years. Eventually, anything powered by an internal combustion engine and is operated by human control will eventually become a relic, however, this is my list of vehicles that will someday become something special to the collector.
Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky
My list begins with an oxy moron – an American sports car. Yes the Yanks will argue emphatically that the Corvette, Viper and several pony cars are sports cars, however, they haven’t produce a proper sports car since the Pontiac Fiero was killed off in the early 90’s. However, just before GM went tits up in 2010, they were producing some of the best low cost sports cars available on the market. The uniquely designed Solstice with its wildly extravagant brother, the Sky, were roadsters that brought the fight directly to the MX-5, Z4 and SLK. Not only did they give a RWD hungry public what they wanted, they were also great fun to drive and even quite tail happy. With the turbo versions coming online, the possibilities of the cars performance future was limitless, however, like the Fiero, we will never know what could have been. In 2010 GM fell into bankruptcy and as such closed up shop at Pontiac, effectively killing off the dynamic duo well before their prime. With low numbers, such great designs and performance and the way in which we lost them, the Solstice/Sky will no doubt be future classics.
Alpha Romeo 8c
Eventually every Alpha Romeo will become a classic, however, the 8C is something a little special. I don’t think its possible for Alpha to make an ugly car, but the 8C is just drop-dead gorgeous. An old-school super small and low body powered by a Ferrari V-8 should make it one of the great supercars of our time, except for one blatantly painful downfall - the car handles like a pig. Unfortunately, all those great historical roots, stunning looks and equally hypnotic sounds are all for not, and as such, sales are not living up to expectation. For a car with such world renown winning traits matched by equally momentous failures, the 8C will enviably become a classic in time.
Honda S2000
Honda doesn’t make rear wheel drive cars, they just don’t, until the mid 90’s, after filling the globe with high strung front wheel drive Civics, CRX’s and Preludes, ripe for aftermarket modification, they built a car that didn’t need any. The S2000 was the only proper front engine, rear wheel drive Honda to make it to North American shores and they did the job right. An often-overlooked offering in the roadster field, the S2000 matched huge performance and reliability from a ridiculous 2.0L engine with huge grin factor. While the front wheel drives would play around in autocrosses and track-days, the S2000 was by far the daddy.
Lexus LFA
Since the killing off of the Celica, Toyota had lost their way with auto enthusiasts, opting to build mundane machinery to attract a higher number of customers. You know you’ve lost a piece of male anatomy when you start calling a Camry Solara a sports car. Lexus was equally as painful building some of the most forgettable luxury sedans and SUV’s on the market. But then they turn around and do something so rash, so opposite from what they’ve been doing for so long, it was like an atom bomb went off in Toyota City. One of the most boring carmakers on earth built one of the most exciting supercars of all time. The LFA was originally designed with an F1-inspired V-10, full carbon-fibre body and hordes of electronic gismos and doo dads. But then when it came time for production, they didn’t think it was wild enough, and started all over again from scratch. The result is a car that bombards the senses in every way – visually, ecoustically and thought provokingly. It’s said that Toyota spent $2-billion developing the LFA, which means they will loose over $3.5 million for each of the 500 cars they sell. For being such an instantaneous Jekyll and Hyde moment of lunacy, the LFA is already a classic.
Ariel Atom
Not even Colin Chapman thought of building a car without body panels. Well the resurrected Ariel company did just that, building a road legal track-day special that takes minimalism to the extreme. Nothing more than a steering wheel, pedals, suspension, seats, fuel tank and an engine lumped into the back, held together with a bit of scaffolding, the Atom makes what should be an unfinished homebuilt mash, a wonderfully artistic yet fantastically brutal bit of machinery. A car better than the sum of its parts with thinking so far out of the box matching performance that is greater than all but a few hyper exotics, the Atom is a sure classic to be.

International MXT
Is there anything more obnoxious than a Hummer? Yes, yes there is. When a Hummer just isn’t enough truck, you could go beyond and buy a vehicle that is nothing more than a statement. During the hay days of the early 2000’s, the International MXT filled that spot for the guy that just couldn’t stand not to be the center of attention all the time, a feat accomplished well by the MXT but was all but useless in daily life. It was horrifically expensive, required an onboard fuel rig, didn’t fit down any urban streets or parking lots and was generally just an eye sore that portrayed the owner’s obvious insecurities. Its only savior was that it could tow great loads. However, despite the hasty execution of the MXT as soon as fuel went up over $1.25/L, the big brute certainly did leave its mark as the biggest, baddest truck of them all. Along with low production numbers and huge character, the MXT may not become a true classic, however it will no doubt become a cult classic.
Hummer H1
Speaking of Hummers, the H1 makes up my next future classic. Ironically, GM built an entire brand around the “Desert Storm Hero,” yet it was their worst seller. The much more brittle, and pretty much useless H2 built on a Tahoe platform would become the darling of the brand, changing a customer base from rugged outdoorsman to metro-sexual urban gangster wannabe’s with similar insecurities as MXT owners. Eventually, a 300% price hike and new emissions regulations killed off the most testosterone pumped 4x4 on the market, well ahead of its time. With a story like that, how could the big brute not become a classic, as long as future owners own their own refineries.
BMW Z4 M-Coupe
All M-cars will all become classics over a short amount of time, however there is something uniquely special about the odd-shaped Z4 M-coupe. An “out of the box” design matched to the last of BMW’s properly true drivers cars with a 3.2L inline-6, with huge character and proper driving dynamics; this car is already a classic.
Pontiac Solstice Coupe
As I’ve mentioned before, The Solstice was the first proper sports car the Americans have built in decades, ideally suited to take on the BMW Z4, Mazda MX-5, and Mercedes SLK in the compact fun department. However, before GM killed off Pontiac during the 2010 bankruptcy, they managed to produce an extremely small amount of Coupe versions before the money all dried up. The added body stiffness and aerodynamics made this already proven contender an absolute weapon, but only a scant 1,266 ever made it to show rooms. With so much potential to be one of GM’s greatest accomplishments, only to be thrown in the bin with production only just beginning, the Solstice Coupe rates as one of my most likely future classic.
Acura NSX
The NSX is a phenomena within itself, as fantastically capable and exotic departure from Acura’s mostly mundane line-up, Honda allowed a great thing to go to waste, not making any improvements to the car until the last nail was already in the coffin, and even then, their efforts were almost insulting to the vehicles huge following. For lasting as long as it did as a neglected show of force to the exotic community, the NSX will only grow in legend.

That’s my ten, if you think I’ve missed something blatantly obvious, reply below and let me have it.