What Do We Mean, Nostalgia?

  Calvin Fisher


 8 Aug, 2019

Car Nostalgia

Calvin Fisher takes a trip down Retro Lane. Hasn't returned.

Yes. I drive two old cars. Yes, they remind me of a more interesting time in motoring. No, I don't think that is as far as it goes. See, design is in an intrinsic thing inside our DNA. And I reckon when we spot something old and get a warm fuzzy feeling, it has a lot more to do with ourselves than the car. Let me explain.

So, you see a 1980s Ford Cortina in traffic. It's a 30S, not even the XR6 flagship or the limited edition Mzansi only Interceptor. Your immediate reaction is 'wow, groovy throwback that' and dismiss it as a classic shape that harks back to a time in your life where you lusted after such an example.

My thoughts on this, you're completely correct. But you've only begun to scratch the surface - I think we are hard wired to recall so much more than emotions, but also a genuine desire for the sensations of that era too. Shapes and surfaces specifically. Perhaps it’s the designer I was in a past life that brought me to the realization that the nostalgia doesn't stop with your relationship with that car. Instead, to that timeline specifically - to the fashion, the food and even the dirty habits we associate with those eras. I've never been a smoker but suddenly Marlboro and Camel logos manifest themselves in my mind’s eye.

Perhaps this is tied into our love of classic Formula One cars, with their timeless liveries. Design. Look again at that old Cortina and you'll appreciate the straighter lines in the profile, clues of a simpler design process - one influenced by toasters, air conditioners, wireless radios - hallmarks of that period's industrial design.

Don't believe me? Next time you see a classic car, check out the driver's outfit and tell me it hasn't been influenced by his wheely indulgence. I'm not talking about a hipster-like penchant for retro things either, not even a respectful dof of the hat. More an influence radiating from the car itself, perpetuating its heyday unknowingly in the driver.

I grab the keys to my 1983 Supra and my musical tastes drift towards a more synthesizer-esque soundtrack. Hop aboard my 1975 Chevy 4100 and I'm cruising to the wailings of Jimmy Hendrix. Remember those 'vinyl sounds richer, warmer' arguments between audiophiles of that era vs early adopters of compact disc technology? With cars I'm beginning to appreciate that there is A Tactile Something that we are yet to quantify.

Perhaps when I said old cars remind me of an interesting time in motoring, I meant to simply say they remind me of an interesting time. A time imbued into the metal by the pen who penned its lines. It's nothing less than time travel, baby. And its freaking me out.

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