Blog : There’s nowt so queer as ‘classic’ car folk

Keith Adams

Rover SD1 after a thoroughly unsatisfying drive in sunny Northamptonshire...
Rover SD1 after a thoroughly unsatisfying drive in sunny Northamptonshire…

Great day today. The weather is nice, the summer holidays have started and everyone’s in a great mood. I live and work in Northamptonshire, and as places go, things could be a lot worse. Yes, the roads are crowded – as is the case with everywhere in the south-central corner of the UK – but we have nice roads here, and a residual car enthusiast industry. In short, it’s classic car country. Or it should be.

This weekend sees Santa Pod’s Bug Jam. I think it’s probably the largest Volkswagen themed event in the UK, and as a result, we’re currently overrun by what a friend of mine describes as ‘VAG Shite’. Everywhere you look, there are Beetles (all lowered with roof racks, of course), Campers (all lowered with roof racks, of course), rat-look Polos (all lowered with roof racks, of course) and German-style-plated Golf Mk2s (all low… oh, you get the idea). It’s clear that the ‘VAG Shite’ scene is massive here judging by the sheer number of cars, and the queues heading into the great drag strip venue.

So, there’s a much higher than usual old car contingent on the road today. With that in mind, I thought I’d take the freshly refurbished (and looking magnificent) Polski-Rover SD1 for a quick spin today. It’s funny how when a car looks, feels and smells as good as this, you find excuses to drive it. So, duly jumped in and went for a brisk run around the lanes. Well, blow me, but I see a few old cars on their travels as I do so… so I thought it would be nice to exercise the old car brotherhood by giving a flash and a wave in the process.

And do you know what… every driver I did this to ignored me.

Hmm. Does this mean, it’s uncool to wave at your fellow old car person? And people don’t like it? Or are they not seeing my Rover SD1 as one of the old car crowd? Either way, it was disappointing and slightly depressing. I kinda thought that if we’re making a statement to the world by driving our old cars, we’d be happy that someone else recognised and shared it. But seemingly not.

But then I thought a little longer about this. The cars I’ve encountered today on my short trip are all ‘scene’ cars. Yes, plenty of Beetles and Campers (so nothing from them is understandable). But not being acknowledged by the owners of the Ford Capri Mk3, Morris Minor Traveller and Triumph Stag I saw on their travels was a little sad. But then, I guess – perhaps – these are ‘scene’ cars too, and I just happened upon blinkered owners. Or perhaps they just didn’t see the Rover SD1 as an old car at all? Maybe it looks a little too new to be considered one of the old car clique.

I need to be told.

I noticed something else, too… drivers of said cars all looked bloody miserable. Why?

What do you guys think?

Keith Adams


  1. I drive my SD1 everyday as you know, and I wave or flash my lights at Classic Car drivers, when I see them. Very rarely do Classic car owners wave back to the SD1 yet if I take the Triumph 2000 out they all do – so yes I think the Rover has always suffered in the Classic Car world from its “Years ahead of it’s time” styling and is still considered a modern car even though it is 35 years since it was launched this year. I recently saw a Stag on the road and the owner looked rather surprised at the on coming car flashing it. He didn’t wave back!

  2. God knows Keith, it always used to be cheery waves when passing a fellow classic owner, but then it’s been a few years since I’ve owned a bonafide classic as such, so maybe attitudes have changed?

    Despite the SD1 knocking on for 40, it still looks fresh and modern, but, then you would expect an owner of a classic to at least be semi enthusiastic about the scene so should know what it is at least, especially if they drive a Firm car.

  3. As a Minor driver myself, I suspect that the Traveller owner won’t have had a flash facility on his headlights, and given that his only safety feature is a dished steering wheel he was probably reluctant to take his hands off the wheel to wave…

  4. Shame Keith… I would have waved at you.

    Last night when returning from holiday, on a winding B road in Yorkshire – driving within the speed limit, I was overtaken by a woman in an old T reg Peugeot 106, almost on a blind corner who kindly gave me the V sign after she passed… I had done nothing wrong! How nice it is to drive in Britain these days – NOT.

  5. I still can’t stop giving the No Worries wave at VWs. It was bad in 1995 when I was in a Jetta instead of a Beetle; it’s downright confusing for the poor beggars when I’m in a modern Citroën.

    The first thing suggested on RetroRides when I got the NSU was to “hit it with the stick” – i.e. lower it. Some people have no imagination whatsoever, and it all seems to be about fitting in.

    Of course, they haven’t figured out that they’re the automotive equivalent of hipsters yet. I just hate seeing good original cars trashed by inept “customisers” – plenty of the talented guys there can make a classic fit their taste without ruining the basic car. VWs seem particularly prone to it though.

  6. Keith, you need step no further than this website to see if you stray from the individuals chosen marque, the blinkers go on.
    As for VW’s they are as bad as the mini/2cv/MGB/Minor lot. I was scene taxing VW transporters years ago… they were called bangers then!
    It was telling at the Gaydon AROnline bash, that more than few attendee’s were not really “Firm” fans, but meerly “car” enthusiasts, with ex-VW Motoring dynasty the “Wagers” amongst us. So in conclusion:

    SOD ‘EM!

  7. Keith, every time people see SD1s the electrics are working intermittently, so forgive them for not acknowledging an SD1 with flashing headlights. (coming from an ex Vitesse and 3500SE owner)

  8. I had a similar idea when I had the ZR of waving at fellow ZR owners, got about 3 responses in the 12 months/15k miles I had it. Haven’t even bothered with the 75. Some people are just TWATS who got lucky and own a nice car, doesn’t mean they actually deserve it!

    As for the VW thing, I can sort of see the interest with the old Golfs, Beetle and Camper but the post 1993 stuff is just SHITE. Take the Mk3 Golf, they rust better than a Maestro, the MK4 GTi is so slow its beaten to 60 by the 14k4 engine in my old HH-R and they have the gall to charge a bomb for these cars versus class size equivalents.

  9. Perhaps they thought you were a Rozzer, Keith, and kept their heads down. Old habits die hard…

    Congrats on the new look site and the SD1 – always a joy to read (about) both.

  10. Up here in sunny Scotland (no, really it is) we get lots of waves from fellow MG F & TF owners,much more so than when we lived in Bristol.

    I even get acknowledged by fellow 75 & ZT owners when I’m out in the 75. Perhaps it’s a geographic thing, or people just don’t perceive the SD1 as an old car because it still looks so modern.

    I know what you mean about “scene” people. I experienced this with my ST183 Celica Convertible, other Celica Club people we pretty dismissive either because I had no plans to modify it to destruction or because it wasn’t a GT-Four.

    Perhaps that’s why I only kept it 6 months; selling it to buy a Eunos Cosmo. By contrast Mazda Rotary Club were a very welcoming bunch, perhaps due to the fact that the owners and cars covered so many more years and models. I would say the same applies to fans of anything BL derived that I’ve had the pleasure to meet – in show fields anyway.

  11. i often wave at other 75’s and the odd other mg/rover etc etc . but seldom get any feed back off them

  12. Years ago, when I got my first Alfa, fellow Alfa drivers would flash and acknowledge me – and that was a relatively new motor. Since I’ve owned this Alfa, it’s happened once. As for classic car drivers – they should be ashamed – especially the Stag driver. Saw some ‘VAG shite’ driving to bug-jam – I’m sorry to be negative about VW, but Mk1 Golf GTi aside (why do they have to be on those stupid F1-style wheels, with zero spring travel BTW?) I just don’t see the appeal. There’s no beauty, no real finesse, and very little engineering appeal. They are German shopping cars and vans for god’s sake!!

  13. I think a lot of what you experienced is down to one of two things:

    a) For some classic car owners the SD1 isn’t old enough yet. In other words, it doesn’t look old enough because it doesn’t have round headlamps, portly styling and a big chrome grille – even I still find it hard to accept the reality that the SD1 was unveiled 35 years ago, because it still looks like a more modern design.

    b) Some enthusiasts only wave to ‘their own kind’ who drive the same make and model as them.

    Here in Devon, for example, if you drive an old classic that has almost ‘iron-age styling’, owners of similar era cars do acknowledge you, regardless to what make or model it is. However, a friend of mine, who recently bought an immaculate, low mileage Volvo 240 of 1990 ‘vintage’, frequently finds that fellow 240 drivers will usually always wave to him when they see him. Likewise the same response occurs from fellow Saab 900 Classic owners when he takes to the wheel of his 1990 900 T16S Convertible.

    Perhaps take their lack of waving as a complement about how modern the Rover SD1 still looks to this day!

  14. Allegro gets some reaction, the DeLorean gets loads – guy in a Mk3 Capri was on the verge of exchanging addresses as we leapfrogged along the M1 last weekend!!!

    I had a Minor, got plenty of love in that.

  15. PS – I always wave at the 2 SD1’s I see hereabouts, never any reaction, even when I am in the Allegro.

    But had a long chat with the owner of a 3rd SD1 in Morrison’s carpark (when I was again in the Allegro myself)!

  16. I don’t drive a classic so I’d be silly to flash my lights at you. But I recall as child my SAAB driving father would flash at other SAABs and a get a wave or a flash back.

  17. The Alfa forum I used to frequent used to speak of the “Alfa wave”, especially in the “spotted” page, but when I had the GTV and waved/flashed to other GTV drivers, I used to get blank miserable looks.

    Got a flash from a 2CV driver when I had a ZX, which was a surprise as hardcore Citroen-ers usually hate the ZX for being mostly Peugeot and not having spheres.

  18. What’s the problem? I wave at people – not cars – as and when I like. If they don’t wave back I don’t mind, at least I think I’ve made a friendly impression. If people realise they are waved at, they problably already have past the waver…
    Why are you so negative about people you don’t know in passing cars you don’t like? I thought the classic car fraternity is a friendly bunch, but from the replies above I get another impression. And that is exactly what you project on drivers of ‘VAG Shite’.

  19. My theory is that most owners of the more obvious classics such as Minors, 1970s MGs and even E-Types choose their cars for lifestyle/image reasons, not because they’re intersted in cars. On the other hand, more obscure classics tend to belong to true petrol heads.

    As an experiment, one summer day last year I tried waving at drivers of those prolific models. Perhaps 70% of them ignored me. In contrast, I’ve always foud that the driver of an Alvis, Armstrong-Siddeley or the more obscure Jags such as a Mk10 will wave first if I don’t, and go as far as lengthy rubbernecking.

  20. My theory is that most owners of the more obvious classics such as Minors, 1970s MGs and even E-Types choose their cars for lifestyle/image reasons, not because they’re intersted in cars. On the other hand, more obscure classics tend to belong to true petrol heads.

    As an experiment, whilst out in the P4 one summer day last year I tried waving at drivers of those prolific models. Perhaps 70% of them ignored me. In contrast, I’ve always foud that the driver of an Alvis, Armstrong-Siddeley or the more obscure Jags such as a Mk10 will wave first if I don’t, and go as far as lengthy rubbernecking.

  21. Years ago I had a TR7. Headlight flashing was a real dilemma since you’d quite possibly only get a one-eyed wink, and if both lamps did raise then one of them might not go down again! Best to only switch the headlights on and off when stationary and able to get out and thump the offending item. And to ‘exercise’ them before going for an MoT…. Happy days!

  22. Although I have a relatively modern Saab 9000 Aero identical to Keith’s old one, I always give a flash and a wave to other Saab drivers, even brand new ones. Probably have a 50% response rate, the majority of Saab drivers appearing to be middle aged businessmen, who have no interest whatsoever in responding. Classic 900s always wave, other 9000s mostly wave, and surprisingly women in new convertibles seem prone to wave. If I see an interesting or unusual classic out and about, I’ll give them a flash and a wave – but rarely get anything in return.

  23. I have got a 5 year old Renault Scenic(please don’t laugh)whilst on Holiday in Devon in April a lady came the other way in the same model, same colour. Waving and flashing her head lights. I waved back of course.
    Had she not been waving I guess I would ignored it as an electrical fault that was causing the lights to flash constantly :o)

  24. Reminds me, sort of, of a story my older brother told me about a journey he and his wife encountered in the back of my grandparents car. My grandfather was getting on at the time and getting to that point where he probably shouldn’t have been driving.

    Anyway, he displeased the driver of an oncoming vehicle in some manner or another (probably driving on the wrong side of the road straight at him, or something equally trivial) and as the other driver went past he was seen gesticualting in the manner of somebody polishing a small rocket.

    My Grandmother piped up with “Who was that Bill? We must know him, he was waving at us” Cue uncontrollable laughter from the back seat..

  25. @Dickie524 – You need some sort of knighthood if you own an Allegro and a DMC12. My headwear is doffed, sir.

    Only this week I was idly browsing for DeLoreans for sale…

  26. I am reminded of the scene from the US TV show “Curb your Enthusiasm”:

    Larry sees another Prius going past and waves but the other driver doesn’t.

    Larry: See that? I waved to a guy in a Prius and he didn’t wave back!
    Jeff: I don’t wave to people in the same car as me.
    Larry: We’re Prius drivers, we’re a special breed.

  27. Larry: We’re Prius drivers, we’re a special breed.

    Special being the operative word……

  28. Driving my Ferrari Daytona, there is a mix of reactions. Other Classic Ferrari owners always wave but then chances are if you see another on the road you are going to the same event. Modern Ferrari owners either show their approval or look quizzically as if to say what’s that weird car with Ferrari badges on it?
    The classic community at large generally waves back if you wave at them, maybe their not expecting a Ferrari driver to be so friendly.

  29. I drove from Leeds to York and back in my SD1 on Sunday. Flashed my lights at 4 classics: TR6 (wave); TR3 (no response); MGB (no response); Land Rover Series 1 (wave). Maybe Yorkshire folk are just more freindly?

  30. I agree with those who have opined that sometimes drivers wave to ‘their own’ and ignore others – up to a point!

    When I am out in one of our Minis or the Hornet, I will get flashes and waves from other Mini drivers. When in the Midget it will be ‘classic’ MG owners and other pre-1980’s BMC/BL drivers. Never Fords, Vauxhalls etc. When I had my TF, you would get a glance from other F/TF drivers who had a look of ‘I want to flash and wave, but am worried I will look a prat if I do’ on their faces.

    Maybe the perceievd age of the car has got something to do with it right enough.

  31. Passed a white TR6 a couple of Sundays back (in my Stag), waved and the driver completely blanked me…. even though he looked straight at me.

    Could it be he was jealous of me driving a V8 as opposed to his straight 6?!!!

  32. @ Dickie524 “Just a sado-masochistic love for the unloved and obscure :-)”

    I totally agree. – With two Sunbeam Alpines (the thinking-man’s MGB), a Sunbeam Tiger, a Gordon Keeble and a Tatra 603 I was also contemplating a Delorean and I’m sure you can see why. Instead, I’ve just acquired a ZT-T 260 which is even rarer than any of them but certainly won’t be recognised by other classic car owners.

    It’s all down to personal conceptions of what a classic is. VW Beetle? What a diabolical travesty stolen from Tatra!! MGB? Nothing of note that hadn’t been done by Sunbeam three years earlier. No, I wouldn’t return a flash from either but if I saw another Tatra or Gordon Keeble we’d stop and find the nearest pub.

    Am I a classic car snob? – Probably!!

  33. I think its more the fact that people only wave at other cars the same as the ones they are in , I had 3 aircooled Beetles and always got a wave from other aircooled cars and vans , but nowt off people in watercooled dubs , most of who were just treating their car as a car , not a hobby.

  34. I drive a recently restored 2cv Dolly, get waved at by all other classics and some normal cars too. Motorbikes are a weird one, they’ll slow down on the motorway and give me the thumbs up.

    VW campers don’t wave, Beetles always do though.

  35. Couple of comments on Saabs, having driven a 9-3 for 2 years I’ve not had any other meaningful interactions with any other Saab drivers.

    Classic Saabistas shun it as it is a Vectra, modern Saabers shun it as they’re mostly driving one as it is a cheap alternative to a 3 series, other drivers think it’s a car for ditherers and tailgate it relentlessly, despite it being a 2 litre turbo that can leave an A3 lease-fleet-emissions-special diesel for dust.

  36. I used to go to the Volkswagen camper rally in Tynemouth every summer and it was a bit of a festival atmosphere with hundreds of enthusiasts turning up and owners exchanging stories and jokes. Yet should someone have turned up in anything VW made after 1978 when the Beetle and the Beetle derived camper were discontinued, then an owner of something like a Golf GTI would get some strange looks,as this isn’t consideres a real VW. To the enthusiasts it has to be strictly old school and air cooled.

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