Back when I was a kid, my mother drove a red four-door ’89 Saab 900. It had a long hood that led to a nearly vertical windshield, and to me the metal can of a car looked exactly like the front end of an airplane’s fuselage. It didn’t fly when I opened all the doors, and as a car it was a less than perfect machine—one time, my mother was well out of the Bread & Circus parking lot before she realized she was driving off in somebody else’s red Saab 900—but to my brother and me its shape was burned in our minds as what a car looks like.
A few years ago, my brother bought his first car—a two-door ’89 Saab 900—his a sort of gun-metal gray that changes to blues and blacks depending on the season’s sun. He starts it with a screwdriver in the ignition, and the floorboard’s been growing a hole on the driver’s side since last winter. His girlfriend won’t ride in it, and the suspension rumbles so loud that we’ve considered wiring aircraft headsets into the radio so we can better communicate our thoughts on whatever Jonathan Richman song happens to be playing at any moment. It is, evidently, a less than perfect car. But it is the car, and some primordial instinct keeps him pouring cash into keeping his magnificent machine running.
“The desire to own a classic car is fueled by passion, nostalgia and perhaps eccentricity, rather than necessity,” writes Chris Haddon in the introduction to his new book, My Cool Classic Car, which pays homage not just to the stylings of classic and vintage cars, but also to that undefinable, spiritual other that drives owners to put up with the ludicrous requirements of owning a completely impractical car. “No two people share exactly the same reasons that symbolize the ‘beloved’ status of their pride and joy,” Haddon writes, “but the following cars are all worthy of the esteem in which they are held by their owners.”
The cars featured, and the stories their owners tell, all differ from each other, but through them runs one commonality—each is a red Saab 900 of the mind. —Alex Oliveira