Everything Old Is New Again
Auto designers take a look back to make cars for the future.
After one look at the mixed bag of newly designed nostalgic automobiles in the 2002 line-up, it’s evident that automakers want to take us back to the good ‘ole days. And the overwhelming response to the previous reincarnations of Chrysler’s PT Cruiser and the Volkswagen Beetle is a good indication there’ll be plenty of passengers along for the ride. “People will definitely buy into the nostalgia,” says Tony Berry, sales representative for Honolulu Ford. “Hawaii, especially, will take to it because it fits their needs. All of the baby boomers’ kids are grown up now.”
At press time, Honolulu Ford was preparing for the long-awaited arrival of nearly 20 Thunderbird convertibles. The model borrows its lines from the original post-war era T-birds. True to times past, the modern T-birds are equipped complete with a wide-mouth grille and porthole windows in the removable hardtop. Berry says he expects the cars, which will retail for around $45,000 (upwards of about $50,000 fully-loaded), to fly out of the showroom in the first week. He’s received a lot of calls from the dealership’s target market of older car buyers, but he also hopes that upscale youth will find the retro version of Ford’s classic simply irresistible.
“Neiman Marcus showcased the model last year, and that’ll definitely give demand a shot in the arm,” he says. “Plus most baby boomers are familiar with the original and are sentimental about it.”
But nostalgia-prone fair-weather drivers aren’t the only ones whose eyes are misting over the current back-to-the-future styling. Children of baby boomers, and even their children, are all aboard the retro craze. “The young guys want something unique and cool, while the older guys get it because they remember it,” says Patrick Ah You, general manager of Cutter Ala Moana Volkswagen Mazda. “It’s really unique because you catch both ends of the spectrum. When we first got the Beetles, out of the first four we sold, two were to people over 70 and two were to people in their 20s.”
Ah You says the recent outpouring of newly designed classic automobiles has probably influenced the fall 2002 release of Mazda’s newest offering, the RX8, an update of the RX7, a sports car the company did away with about six years ago.
Granted the RX8 isn’t exactly a time-honored automobile, but it speaks volumes about carmakers’ willingness to incorporate retro designs with technology light years ahead of the cars they’re patterned after. “The great thing about these cars is that there’s already a market for all the loyal owners that had ‘em when they first came out, but it’s also opening up new markets to younger people that want a nice handling car that goes fast and is just in style,” says Justin Scrofani, “subject matter expert” for the Mini Cooper at BMW of Honolulu, of the 2002 BMW Mini Cooper. The boxy car hasn’t been imported into the U.S. since 1967.
BMW is expecting the car to be so wildly popular that it is building an entirely separate showroom, complete with its own subject matter expert to show it off. Scrofani says the price for the British-built Mini Cooper is not yet known, although Cars.com lists an average cost of $18,000. BMW expects to produce 100,000 units per year, 20,000 of which will be sent to the United States, with around 300 ending up at the Kapiolani-based BMW dealership in March 2002.
“I’ve been getting so many calls, I think we’ll probably be sold out before the first day we’re open,” says Scrofani, who adds that the Mini will be the shortest, lowest, and widest car on the road. The Mini also features large, thin-rimmed windows, which make it all the easier to stick your head out to enjoy the scent of nostalgia in the air.
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