The era of the barn-find might almost be over. When it comes to vintage rubber, smoke ’em if you got ’em

Side swipe

Tim Keen

THEY DON’T make nostalgia like they used to. You probably read about that barn-find Falcon GT-HO which some clever – and lucky – son of a gun restored and auctioned off for more than half a million. Who exactly forgets about buying a car, let alone a GT-HO? I’ve forgotten about cars before, once or twice, but those were loaners, review cars, not something I’ve paid my own money for; and it was always when I had something more exciting to drive to distract me. I think I once had a Mazda 6 sitting forgotten in a garage somewhere, and it would probably still be there now, lurking like a barn-find waiting to happen, except I found the keys in my desk drawer while I was looking for some aspirin.

We might be in the last great era for car nostalgia, a sweet spot peculiar to the here and now. I bet no-one in 1970 was paying five hundred grand (even in the equivalent 1970s money, which was about eighty bucks and a carton of Winfields) for a car from the 1920s. And in 2064, will anyone be paying half-a-million EuroYen for a 2017 GTSR? Probably the only cars that will be auctioned will be the same 1962 250 GTO and ’55 D-Type getting passed back and forth on spreadsheets, without ever leaving their climate-controlled car-humidor in Monterey, like Van Goghs and Renoirs that change hands purely as investments in a sealed Swiss bank vault.

Finding a BMW i3 under a tarp decades from now would be like finding an old Nokia brick in the crap drawer in your kitchen.

You’d think “Hey, look at that, I remember that old thing”, and you think about turning it on just for a giggle, but you can’t find the cord that charges it and, now you think about it, you probably threw the plug away in that box that also had a broken Wii and a Furby in it.

It’s just hard to imagine many modern cars appreciating in value that much.

Old cars age like, well, not like a fine wine – more like a fine T-bone, which is to say, in all but the rarest conditions they start to fall apart into a rancid mess, which means in time they become scarce, and thus valuable. Modern cars age like a McDonalds cheeseburger – they just sit there, wilfully not biodegrading, just getting dusty and a little wrinkled, and then one fine day you stumble across it in essentially pristine condition and realise its cousin is probably in a similarly untouched state somewhere in your lower intestine. Or maybe that just happens to me. Anyway, essentially, if you go stick a Tesla Model S in a barn now – or, say, 10,000 VW Golfs in a disused air force hangar waiting for President Trump to dial emissions standards back to 1976 – when you come back in 20 years it’s going to look the same. It’ll be a little dirtier and the tyres a bit soft, but basically untouched. Which means two things: one, that instead of getting joyfully grimy for nine months restoring it, you’re just going to be staring glumly at out-of-date software and obsolete battery technology. And two, it won’t be rare. There’ll be any number of them being wheeled out every year, being pushed by owners who’ve come to realise they’re never going to hear the end of this from their wife.

The era of the barn-find might be almost over.

And besides all that, the way developers are turning old farms into new suburbs, 20 years from now there won’t be any barns left.

When it comes to vintage rubber, folks, smoke ’em if you got ’em.