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A classic cars collection that lives on

Any intelligent fool can make things more brash, complex and unnecessary. Classic-car collector Ray Cobley reckons it takes a touch of artistry – and a lot of audacity – to head in the opposite direction.

South Africans love to collect things. Their motivation and methodology vary as much as their collections do. Some, like the rugby fan, will collect team memorabilia to express loyalty; others, like me, collect classic cars because it is comforting. A collection lives on, even though I will not. It helps me to connect to a time I feel strongly about. The ’60s and ’70s classics like the Alfa Romeo GT Junior, Jaguar XJ and Porsche 911 and 953 are part of my collection. They help to keep the past in the present.

This quest also allows me to experiment with arranging and presenting an era of bygone times, where in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity. Can the same be said of the latest crop of luxury cars?

At this point, I should mention the elephant in the room: the ‘big SUV folly’. Most SUVs are not taken off-road – they conquer only city streets and are good for looking loftily over the heads of others in traffic jams. They will always be less economical than cars like sedans or estates and, thanks to their high centre of gravity, their handling is not as sharp or pleasant. They cost more too.

Look at the new Mercedes-Benz G Class. Love it or loathe it, this heroic car is one of those precious few icons in the world that have remained unchanged for 40 years. Mechanical updates aside, it still resembles the 1979 original. Changes are made but design integrity remains, albeit slightly softened, and its familiar 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 now drives through a new 9-speed to make fuel consumption slightly less ludicrous.

Quite what business Lamborghini has making an SUV supercar is beyond me, but the new Urus is more stylish than most other SUVs. Naturally, this ‘supercar SUV’ laps Nürburgring in an utterly pointless 7.41, and is equally great off-road, which is also where almost no one will take it.

Car companies ‘tease’ their new models so far in advance that when they eventually do arrive in the showrooms, I am over it. Which brings me to the 2019 Porsche Cayenne. It has a new platform, and still resembles the Cayennes of old, which means it looks a bit contrived. But the Cayenne is a huge success for the Stuttgart brand. About 800 000 have been sold since its inception in 2002, so it’s probably me who is the ‘intelligent fool’.

In this automotive world where bigger is seen to be better, I think it’s time to take a more minimalist approach to modern luxury. Take the latest crop of Volvos. It’s clear to me that Scandinavian artistry leads the modern design interpretation of uncluttered luxury, with simplicities of yesteryear combined with the latest technology. But for now, I’ll stick to my classics.

This article originally appeared in Issue 41 of Private Edition.


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