junkyard scene from the movie the Brave Little Toaster

Hooniverse Asks: Why do we buy these old cars?

Do you ever think it would be nice to have a modern car to use on a daily basis? Sometimes I imagine what it would be like to say goodbye to my car from 1991, my car from 1986, and the car from 1984 that hasn’t had an engine in (let me check my notes) about nine years. Of course, that thought flits on the breeze like an annoying gnat that wants my attention… and I have no mind to give it a proper thought. I love older cars. I love searching for them, buying them, complaining about them, and smiling and driving them when it all works together properly.

Still, what compels us to buy what someone else might consider a shitbox? I think I may have found the answer, and it all circles back to a cartoon from 1987. At least for me. I didn’t grow up in a household with a strong love of the automobile infusing daily life. There wasn’t a dislike in the house, but my dad is no wrench, and my mom was happy to drive whatever we could afford. I’ve always thought my love of cars arrived from shows and films like Transformers, GOBOTS, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Back to the Future, and all the other great shows that featured a car as part of the cast. Pushing deeper, beyond the fancy, flashy, or … robotic, I guess; the show that brings me to my point of wanting to save “worthless” cars goes back to a specific cartoon.

In fact, it goes back to a specific scene in a specific cartoon. I’m talking about The Brave Little Toaster and the junkyard scene:

I came across this scene last night while staring at my phone for far longer than I should have… I should’ve been in bed. But now I’m rewatching this old scene at a 240p resolution and getting misty-eyed for anamorphic cartoon cars that have reached the end of the road. Maybe there were a few powerful IPAs and a CBD gummy involved too. Regardless, the point is that this clip from the cartoon sparked remembrance of younger me.

I was seven when this came out. My daughter just turned seven in July, while I turned 42 a little over a week ago. And no, I’m not planning to show her this movie which was traumatic as fuck for those who watched it the first go around (I still love it, though). I’ll show it to her when she’s old enough to handle it… maybe 30? My point, though, is that I hope to instill an appreciation and respect in her for those whom others deem worthless. Be it mechanical things or just people who need help.

Anyway… what’s your story? Why do you like saving the “worthless”?

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12 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: Why do we buy these old cars?”

  1. GTXcellent Avatar

    Hellya to The Brave Little Toaster! In my box of VHS movies that I’ve actually held onto: Youngblood, Slapshot, The Last American Hero, Days of Thunder AND, The Brave Little Toaster. I can still remember that feeling too when that evil magnet chases that pickup to his doom. Come on, he can still drive! Why is he there? He could have been saved.

  2. OA5599 Avatar

    Kind of an odd question to have to ask. Do you think an architectural forum has a similar question, “why do we prefer our comfortable bungalows instead of McMansions in the suburbs?” Character, utility, history, comfort…

    By the way, we had a lot of cars when I was growing up, and they filled a pretty wide spectrum: old, new, luxury, plain, runner, project, whatever. Back when the average new car had a four-figure MSRP, it wasn’t unheard of for my dad to make a three-figure purchase followed by a five figure one, followed by something in between. A couple of them got painted in the driveway, and more than a few were both purchased and sold as unfinished projects.

    1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      It’s a question that arises from recent conversations with people who loves cars, but were tired of recent woes related to their older cars.

      I’ll never stop buying the fun old stuff. But I was curious how others felt.

      1. OA5599 Avatar

        People with new cars still within warranty have woes, too. Sometimes they have to wait a month or more for the parts to come in from overseas. Remember when the airbag recalls were in the news and the DMV had all those posters up that said YOUR CAR HAS A BOMB IN THE STEERING WHEEL [if you own something with Takata unobtanium replacements]? Sometimes the service department is so backlogged that there aren’t any loaners available. And no new car customer really wants to have to pay subscription fees for features that are already built into the car, or to have no right to repair their own car in the manner they find most economical.

        1. Tiller188 Avatar

          Oh yes, Pepperidge Farm remembers, and so do I. Also, I might have broken a trim-retaining clip on my G70 in the process of installing a dashcam and routing the wiring under the A-pillar trim, and that proved to be surprisingly difficult to 1) figure out the appropriate part number for and 2) actually source from anywhere. There’s definitely a sweet spot between too old and too new in terms of parts availability and maintenance. I would have thought my WRX was squarely in that range at the time that all the Takata airbag recalls started, but a recall with a range that all-encompassing I’d argue is pretty rare, so I guess I can still claim that the WRX was in the maintenance sweet spot and was just hit with a once-in-a-rarity event.

    2. Sjalabais Avatar

      Well, it’s still a good question. Back to the roots of an idea makes sense, sometimes, for yourself and the people around you. I’ve had to explain my Centennial purchase so many times, I eventually landed on “mid life crisis car”. I can’t say I’m in any crisis, but people who don’t understand the desire, have a whole drawer of stereotypes to pick from when I say it – so they just bugger off after a hearty laugh.

      Understanding the fact that also newer cars have troubles is more recent to me, and it makes the added prices paid even less attractive. With EVs, we finally have new cars that bring something interesting and more value to the table, but I’d rather be inclined to have maintenance free go-fast-tech merged with interesting cuboid shapes than going all new anyway.

  3. mdharrell Avatar

    You mean I have a choice?

    1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      You? No.

  4. Salguod Avatar

    I’m too old for The Brave Little Toaster (if I did the math right I was graduating high school) but that clip is terrifying.

    The tech and the reliability of my wife’s 2021 Accord Hybrid is nice (when it works), but it doesn’t have the charm of the older stuff. There’s something very satisfying about a 300K mile Tundra or a 160K Protege still getting it done. Plus the satisfaction of knowing that you had a hand in keeping it going.

    Also, my old cars have cruise control and maybe an automatic but otherwise don’t try to help me drive. It’s all me and I like that.

    1. OA5599 Avatar

      It’s even more satisfying when your older car only has a five-digit odometer and you know it is already into six digits, but not sure what the first number should have been.

  5. Neight428 Avatar

    It’s an immersive experience. They sound, feel and smell different. There is a subculture around old cars that is very welcoming if you paid the price of admission, which can be as low or high as as you want. But as frustrating as the temp needle that won’t go down or the game of guess-that-fluid might be, when you fix it, you have a sense of accomplishment that feels different to what passes for added value in “today’s information economy”. You’re understanding systems, developing plans, and devising workarounds when things do work like you thought they would. Hearing a smooth idle coming from the engine that I personally hoisted into place sounded like the song of angels.

    That and I suck at golf.

  6. Andy Avatar

    Loved the blog. What an irony, people spend shedloads on buying vintage cars because of the rarified looks, or mostly for the leverage to hold premium aluminium pressed number plates that are legal only for the cars that were registered in the UK in 1972 and before.

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