Good morning, Autopians! It’s Friday, thank goodness. I was planning to eschew our weekly four-way roundup in favor of another pair of cars; Mercedes posted a car to our Slack channel the other day that’s so awful I can’t not feature it. But I couldn’t find an equally-awful competitor to it on short notice (yes, it’s really that bad), so I’ll look for something over the weekend and show it to you next week.
In the meantime, we’re giving the week’s losers another try, and for yesterday’s vote, that meant the derelict Mazda RX-7. It wasn’t a complete blowout, but it was a decisive win for the Infiniti. Personally, I don’t see the appeal; it caught my eye enough to write about, but I certainly wouldn’t spend money on the damn thing.
I would, however, very much like to own an RX-7 someday, and the FC generation is my favorite. This one is a little expensive for the condition it’s in, especially with the dinged title, but maybe someday I’ll stumble across the perfect specimen for the right price. When I do, you can be damned sure I’m keeping the rotary engine in it. It’s what makes the RX-7 special; why would you swap it for some ordinary piston engine?
I’m sure by now you’ve all read about our co-founder Beau Boeckmann’s latest acquisition: the legendary, and spectacular, Uncertain-T. It’s sure to become the crown jewel of an astonishing collection of famous hot rods, a collection which I have had the honor of seeing myself, briefly. The Uncertain-T was hidden away from the public for fifty years, patiently waiting for its time in the spotlight to come again.
Newly-uncovered cars are nothing new in the car world, of course; there are even books and TV series on the subject now. Every rusted-out piece of crap on Craigslist claims to be a “barn find” these days. But once in a while, someone comes across something really special, squirreled away in someone’s garage or barn. But what about fifty years from now? Will old forgotten cars still hold the same appeal?
That’s our thought experiment for today. It’s 2074. Gasoline is a distant memory. Most cars are electric, but a few enthusiasts cling to their internal-combustion engines, powered by a biofuel made from, let’s say, seaweed and dandelions. Any older engine can be easily adapted to run on this stuff, so you can party like it’s 1999 – as long as you fill out all the required forms, pay the exorbitant fees, and register the car as an environmental hazard. One day, you come across an estate sale, in which four old cars have been found in a barn – these four cars, in fact – in roughly the same condition they’re in now. You have the opportunity to purchase one of them.
BMW’s place in automotive history is not in doubt, despite its best efforts to sabotage it recently. “The Ultimate Driving Machine” will be the stuff of legends, long after cars are even more soulless appliances than they are now, and all the cool cars are banished to a country place no one knows about. Will anyone, in those days to come, know or care that this wasn’t the “cool” BMW?
Yes, the interior is toast, and the paint is shot. Yes, it has a weak engine and an automatic transmission. But it’s still the iconic E30 shape, with the proper number of doors, and the classic inline six. I think, despite the low-revving “eta” engine, this would make a hell of a barn find in the future.
The great titans of industry, for better or worse, are enshrined in our collective unconscious. It is impossible now, and will be in the future, to discuss the American auto industry in the late 20th century without mentioning Lee Iacocca. Without his leadership, Chrysler Corporation may not have survived the 1980s, and this car wouldn’t exist.
Whether or not you think that would be a bad thing depends on your feelings about the humble K-car and its variants. But like it or not, Iacocca’s K platform is historically (and culturally) important, and good examples of cars based on it are coming into their own as bona-fide classics. And this one, as a high-end example of its line, with a desirable manual transmission, would make a good collector’s item.
A hundred years ago, there were hundreds of automobile brands. General Motors alone had dozens of nameplates, some bought, some newly created. Pontiac came into being in 1926, as a companion brand to Oakland, a car company bought out by GM in 1909. Pontiac met its demise in 2010 in the restructuring fallout from GM’s 2009 bankruptcy. Its cars are already becoming the stuff of legend; I have no doubt that will continue in the future.
This particular Pontiac is powered by another GM legend: the Buick-derived 3800 V6. It might never be as famous as the Chevy small-block, but this engine’s place in the history books is not in doubt. I think a 3800-powered Pontiac will suffice to make any future GM fan geek out.
And speaking of famous engines, Mazda’s rotary, now fifty years old itself, won’t fade into oblivion any time soon. Many car companies dabbled with Felix Wankel‘s spinning-triangle engine design, but only Mazda picked it up and ran with it. Its most well-known application of this engine was the RX-7, which delighted driving enthusiasts for more than two decades over three generations.
This RX-7 already looks like a barn find, and I think the commenters who thought it originally hailed from the desert Southwest are probably right. At least it doesn’t have any rust. A car in this condition would be near-impossible to restore properly in the future; it would be hard enough now. But who knows? Maybe 3D printing, or some as-yet unknown technology, will provide replacements.
So there they are: your future barn finds in the year 2074. The robot auctioneer is ready to accept your credits. Which one are you bidding on?
(Image credits: Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace sellers)