Surviving the first cycle of life is crucial
John explains how humble cars become classics
You’re looking at a picture, next to these words, of a Nissan Qashqai. Why? For four reasons, at least some of which apply to wider questions of what it is that makes a car a classic, and how such cars will survive into the future to ensure that our hobby continues to thrive.
First off: the type of car. It’s a modern ‘crossover’, and as such can be seen as the epitome of what has been killing off those car types we once knew and loved: saloons, estate cars, even large family hatchbacks. So, straight away, it’s anti-classic. Or is it? A considered view is that one of qualification for a car’s ‘classicness’ is that it set a significant car-cultural trend, became a benchmark of its type and that the buying public took it to its heart. The Qashqai, launched in 2007, did all of that. Nissan had despaired of making saloons, hatchbacks and MPVs that people wanted to buy in profitable quantities and worked out that what buyers wanted was something with the adventurous connotations and high vantage point of an SUV but without the aggressive vibes of a ‘Chelsea tractor’. There had been ‘soft-roaders’ before – Toyota RAV4, Honda C-RV and suchlike, but the Qashqai was more of a proper car than those, less of a leap away from the family hatch.
A recipe for success
It looked gently tough, its styling cleverly understated with the form speaking for itself without need of adornment. Its cabin was both plush and practical, the ride and handling were those of a proper car created by people who understood driving pleasure. It was built in Britain, and mostly designed and engineered here. And it proved to be a colossal success, far greater than Nissan had ever dared to predict.
Anyway, my daughter and her husband decided they finally needed a car to replace the Peugeot 106 she has owned for the past 16 years. It needed to be something a bit SUV-ish, because that’s what you have when you’re a young married couple in 2020. I recommended a Qashqai for the reasons above, so we went looking.
The first two we saw, 13-plate and 63-plate, looked good value in the ads, but showed how even a recent car can deteriorate if not looked after. They were probably ex-lease or company cars, scuffed, chipped, worn, unloved. Then we found one three years older, similar mileage (60,000), not much cheaper, but in a higher spec. I instantly had a good feeling about it: two private lady owners, an interior largely free from abrasions and damage, a car that had mattered to those who had lived with it.
So, we bought it. You see it here. It has survived the first cycle of a car’s life and its future is now assured for many years yet. That, ultimately, is how cars live long enough to become classic. The unloved ones, the cars-as-commodities, the dross, will continue to decline, will be run into the ground, will die. The classic cars we see today are all the result of a charmed life, cars that someone has decided are worth keeping and treating well, and now we are reaping the benefit. This Nissan is just starting that phase.
There’s something else that sets it apart from its hordes of corporately bought siblings. The colour, which is called Caffè Latte and looks cheerfully warm. Company or leasing-fleet buyers avoid such individual colours, defaulting to grey, silver, black or white as they think cars in such colours will be easier to sell on. So, the self-fulfilling prophecy continues and a generation of used-car buyers is condemned to a mostly monochrome roadscape. How do we ever get out of this, and back to the diverse colours of the last century? Maybe we’ll have a reaction to the joylessness of the past months of COVID-19, and the chromatic madness of the Seventies will return. I do hope so.
‘This car mattered to those who had lived with it: two private lady owners’
Yes, even a Nissan Qashqai can be a classic, says John. John Simister has been at the heart of British motoring journalism for more than 30 years. A classic enthusiast, he owns a Saab 96 and Rover 2000 TC.