Wet Dreams
GQ Style|Spring 2017

When the futuristic, wedge-shaped cars we lusted after in the ’80s and ’90s went out of style, they went all the way out of style. But a new generation of auto freaks has revived these vintage beauties. Nobody laughs or calls them ugly anymore. And prices are skyrocketing. THIS IS THE STORY OF SPORTS CARS, THE MEN WHO LOVE THEM—AND THE SHIFTING TIDES OF VALUE AND TASTE.

Luke Zaleski with Mary Marge Locker, Kyle Paoletta, and Will Stephenson

They were the last generation of cars to be designed using primarily pencil and clay, formed out of rectangles and wedges, before modern computers came along and made pretty much any shape that can cut through air possible. And that’s exactly why we love the sports cars of the ’80s and early ’90s: They will forever be the sports cars of the future. Just by looking at them, you can practically feel the designers crafting them by hand, straining forward into the digital age. Which, it turned out, was right around the corner.

The cars in these pages are automotive works of artbut with wild horsepower, Italian leather seats, and a rainbow of bad attitudes. Here, the experts break down exactly why there’s no cooler class to drive right now.

DREAMS MONEY CAN BUY

ADOLFO ORSI (co-author, ‘Classic Car Auction Yearbook’): The demographic of car collectors is changing. The buyers now are people in their mid-30s, early 40s, and the first cars they buy are the cars in their memories. They dreamed about these cars from the posters in their bedrooms.

ALEX MANOS (owner, The Beverly Hills Car Club): Things have changed drastically since 2010. There are a lot of people who were kids when these cars were out new. They had the posters in their bedrooms and were like, Wow, one day I could dream of having one of those. Well, now they’re adults and they can afford them.

TED GUSHUE (editorial director, ‘Petrolicious’): These cars represented power and performance and wealth and success—things that we didn’t quite understand as kids. We just saw them as fast, sexy cars. Then we grew up. Some of these guys started Facebook. Some of these guys made money in finance.

BRADLEY PRICE (founder, Autodromo): I feel like there were a couple of cars that never lost their luster from that time period. But then, others were almost a joke. Some survived as the cream of the crop, and others went down and came back up, like an actor who recovers his career in his mid-40s. In any style-oriented collecting type of thing, there are thought leaders—people who are ahead of the curve. Those people were buying these cars several years ago, and it’s now more mainstream. Although I don’t think it’s fully hit the mainstream yet.

TIM HUNTZINGER (professor, ArtCenter College of Design): Car styling, like any kind of styling, goes in cycles. You can dig into your dad’s closet and find the old skinny ties from back in the day, and now they’re cool again. Car styling is similar, but it’s got an extra layer of complexity because of the technology. Why now? There’s two parts to it. One is that these cars are rounding 30. Right? And so they’re starting to become truly classic cars. The second is because of how organic modern cars are becoming. In the ’80s and early ’90s, computers weren’t really used to design cars yet, but they wanted them to look like they were.... These cars were all designed on paper and with clay. Made by hand. As cars increasingly started to get made by computer, there were shapes that became possible that were not possible before. I think that’s why these cars fell out of favor. They weren’t as different as they used to be. But I think that’s exactly the same thing that brings them into the forefront now: They’re different again.

JAY LENO (comedian, car collector): When you see modern cars, they all have this sort of jelly-bean shape, and they’re all halfway between a crossover and an SUV. There’s a certain practicality to them. However, this type of vehicle [from the ’80s and ’90s] would serve no practical purpose of any kind. The Lamborghini Countach wasn’t even aerodynamic. It was a brick. I think a Volkswagen Bug is more aerodynamic.

PRICE: One of the most interesting things about cars from the ’80s that a lot of people don’t know is that a lot of them were designed in the ’70s. You think of, like, the Magnum, P.I. Ferrari 308, or you think of the Lamborghini Countach, or you think of the DeLorean. Many of these kinds of poster cars of the ’80s were actually designed in the ’70s, and they were so far ahead of their time. They were so futuristic that they were still futuristic ten years later.

PHILLIP TOLEDANO (photographer, car collector): People buy the stuff that they grew up looking at on TV, or they grew up admiring or lusting after, right? The other thing is that all the stuff from the ’60s is just insanely expensive, so people go, What else can I buy that’s really cool that doesn’t cost a lot of money?

DAVID SWIG (car specialist, RM Sotheby’s): People collect things that make them nostalgic for their youth. So if you’re a 40-yearold guy who’s getting into cars, you’re probably more interested in the 1988 BMW M3 than a 1933 Packard.

LENO : Twenty-something years ago, I got a letter from a kid. He’s, like, 12. “Dear Mr. Leno, I told my friends that you were my uncle and that you and I go driving on weekends. I was wondering if someday you could pick me up and take me to school.” I called the parents and said, “I’m happy to do it.” I pick him up, we park around the corner and wait for the school buses to unload, and we pull up. The Countach doors come out, and he says, “Thanks, Uncle Jay!” and I say, “All right, Billy! So long!” That’s a kid who will probably buy a Countach once he gets to a certain age.

STREET LEGAL

ELLIOT CUKER (director, Cooper Classics): The audience for classic cars is becoming younger and younger. They’re less interested in the earlier classic cars from the ’50s and ’60s, because they want cars that can move. They want cars that are fast. They want cars that are much more agile.

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