Can current cars become classic cars?

Again and again the question is asked about classic cars of the future. But hardly anyone can look 30 years into the future and say which vehicles will then still be ready to be driven as classic cars.

The way cars are built has changed completely since the 1980s. They are built in a modular fashion from many different components made of a wide variety of materials and require precautionary treatment if they are to see out the next 30 years. It is not only about the installed electronics, but all assemblies and aggregates of a vehicle, which must be maintained and conserved. But the supply of spare parts also plays an important role, because for many parts spare parts are not even kept ready for 10 years today.

Young and old

Body and chassis need protection

Modern car bodies consist of a composite of materials with different properties: elastic and high-strength steels, sometimes in combination with aluminum parts, plastics or even carbon fiber, form the extremely resilient airframe, which has to meet increasingly stringent crash test requirements. Car bodies are welded, soldered, riveted, glued, clamped and manufactured in such a way that special processes and tools are required for the repairs. Inside the increasingly bulky beams and spars, a classic car of the future needs corrosion protection from day one, affecting all cavities to prevent corrosion from moisture precipitation and condensation. This protection is only partially applied as standard – if you want to preserve your car, you have to have it refinished.

Accident repairs can often only be carried out by replacing the original parts, because if there is an aluminum strand in the steel door sill, for example, it is not possible to simply dent, straighten and weld it if the strength is to be retained. Once the appropriate replacement parts are no longer available, proper repair is no longer possible. Body and chassis must be safely protected from corrosion if a vehicle is to become a classic car (H license plate) in 30 years, because the repair welds that have been common up to now can only be carried out if the stamped and embossed original parts made from the original material are available. In the future, when interested in an older car, one will therefore always have to ask about corrosion protection first.

Modern plastics has a limited life

Plastic parts are attacked, leached out and become brittle by UV light, ozone and air. They must therefore also be protected and cared for. In addition, instrument panels, trim parts and seats, for example, are made from a composite of different foams that have different service lives. They cannot be repaired, but only replaced as a whole as long as new replacement parts are available. For many vehicles that are now 15 years old, these parts are no longer available – but who puts such parts in black, light-proof protective bags in the cool basement? The problem also affects bumpers and trim parts, which lose their plasticizers, become brittle and fragile, and no longer perform their functions. Even engine covers and engine compartment protection pans. Every gasket, every clip on a modern car is a special part for that particular model that will one day be needed for repair or replacement if you don't want to improvise improperly. The doors of many cars consist of a composite of stamped, embossed, drawn aluminum, plastic and steel parts that can only be replaced, not repaired.

Special parts in the equipment of modern cars

There are already lighting systems that were installed as gas discharge or lens systems in luxury class cars and are no longer available after 6 years due to further or new development. The daytime running light with the stylish LED strips is a special part for each model that can only be replaced as a whole. For many lighting systems, lamp replacement is a matter for the workshop. The same applies to interior consoles, air conditioning systems, navigation and entertainment systems and comfort equipment, for the replacement of which special tools are also required. In many cases, there are not even replacements for old airbags, let alone electronically actuated safety systems. Fancy interior lights, pressed and embossed trim, wood applications and insulation materials are, like any door seal and all rubbers, special parts that are needed if a vehicle is to remain true to its original design. Even the classic wiring harness is now a composite with digital components and light control technology, it must be protected from improper handling, because it is now so integrated into the structure that it can no longer be changed.

Electronics without memory

Skeptics to the oldtimer of the future usually mention first the feared problems with the electronics. In fact, it turns out that electronic solutions for older vehicles will always be available if the vehicle is attractive and distributed with profit promising unit numbers. Conversely, this is the death knell for the everyday car with no collector's value, because not only are the individual electronic components no longer available, but also in most cases the so called. source codes are not stored anywhere, which means that repairing electronic components is virtually impossible.

Those who want to take their car into the future should therefore take care in good time of replacement control electronics and components such as locking systems and on-board management, air conditioning, entertainment, … to the side. The extent to which ABS, ASR, ISP, lane departure warning, brake assist, headlamp leveling and individualization software will be available in the future also depends on the market significance of the vehicle in question.

In summary, everything has a future that can be maintained, repaired or replaced by a majority of craftsmen and vehicles for which there are suitable parts, if the base vehicle has been best preserved and dry stored since first registration.

These conditions alone are not met by most vehicles used in everyday life.