Remember The Italian Job? Not the cheesy American remake but the 1969 original set mostly in Turin with classic cars, proper minis and the bloody doors. Of course you do. When you see it in the TV schedules you bookmark it to watch even though you can probably recite the whole script. In fact, you probably have the DVD.
The year before, Steve MacQueen starred in Bullitt. Actually, the Mustang GT390 and the Dodge Charger were the real stars and, as the movie progresses, you get the nagging sense that maybe Steve’s performance was not so much cool as wooden. Is saying that actual heresy? I think it might be. Nevertheless, as a petrolhead, you probably own that DVD as well, regardless.
The trouble is, we tend to view the past through sepia tinted glass; men were men, the women compliant and the cars had muscle and style. They had proper gear levers for example and it truly felt like you were operating machinery. Our memories tell us that those where the days.
I admit – and even today I sometimes wake up screaming – that I once owned an Alfa Romeo Alfasud. I fondly remember how well it drove even if I could never get comfortable because it was built for Italians, who, as we know, have long arms and short legs. Casting nostalgia aside though, the truth was that I could stand next to it and watch it rust away in real time.
I had an elderly neighbour who swore by Morris Marinas (usually in remote roadside locations) and yet continued to buy a new one every year as it was British made and not one of those johnny-come-lately Jap jobs. Of course, as we now know all too well, the fondly remembered British car industry wrote its own death warrant when the first Datsun arrived on our shores.
Many of us will remember our old cars. It is these memories that should be treasured just as we should treasure those old classic cars themselves. In an age where driving has a big frown on its face and the cold, dead hand of bureaucracy fiddles about with our lives like a creepy, insistent relative we can at least don the sepia-tinted specs once again and wallow in a bit of good old-fashioned nostalgia.
Just for a change then, why not visit some classic car shows and motor museums and recall how great, in their way, the old cars used to be. Our memories may be selective at best but at least it takes your mind off the EU debacle for a few precious minutes. Geoff Maxted