July 26th, 2089 AD
By 2040, it was impossible to buy a petrol or diesel powered car in a UK showroom. Sure, they were available through specialists who would import them from the countries that defied the ruling, but buying a 5.0 litre V8 Mustang from America wasn’t an easy process. The red tape and import costs meant only serious enthusiasts could afford to do it, and even then finding petrol wasn’t easy.
Classic car values started to drop by 2045, when it became obvious that the government really meant it. By 2050 the market had polarised… The most desirable, most superb, most beautiful and most historically significant cars were still climbing in price into 2055 as wealthy investors scrabbled to fill museums and collections.
Meanwhile, the market for what were considered ‘every day classics’ or ‘modern classics’ in 2017 had completely crashed by 2045. The market died. The price of fuel, road tax and of insuring a petrol car, combined with the various levies put on vehicles still powered by internal combustion meant that in 2052 we had to sell our classic… An immaculate 1988 BMW E30 325i convertible. We couldn’t bare to use the government’s ‘cash for scrap’ scheme… too many wonderful cars had been melted down to nothing just so industry could get their hands on scrap metal. That big fall out Donald Trump had with China in 2037 really changed things with the price of materials, which was all the more crippling after the UN banned all mining of raw minerals as part of it’s environment plan the year before.
I went to an underground collector, found through an old friend of mine. It was risky, but he said he’d take it. He gave me £30, and asked me not to tell anyone about the deal.
In 2057 it was still possible to host and attend a classic car show. Websites sprang up detailing the last remaining strong holds of the petrol station network, so enthusiasts could get enough petrol to make it to and from the show; however the cost of doing all this, the licenses, the paperwork and all, combined with the price of petrol signalled the death of the classic car show.
By 2073 internal combustion cars of all sorts were already banned from all cities and towns. The final nail in the coffin was the Classic Day Licensing Fee. This new government scheme was designed to limit the use of old cars. Those who could still afford to own a classic car and had somewhere to keep it would have to pay for a Day License to use it. Each council had an allocation of Day Licenses for petrol and diesel cars, usually around 10 for every 1000 people in the constituency. The office would open at 9am on January 4th each year, and by 10am every Day License for the year would be sold. On January 5th, classic cars would flood the market as owners who were unable to get themselves a Day License decided to sell rather than wait another year for a chance to drive the car. The sight of an MGB or a Volkswagen Beetle, Campervan or a MK2 Escort on our roads became a rare thing indeed. Indeed, seeing any classic was a rarity. Owners would wait until the most perfect day of summer to use their Day License, and with our post 2050 climate this was really only three days per year.
By 2085, the only classic cars that remained were on static plinths and in the foyer of posh hotels. The electric car scene had completely taken over. Classic car magazines struggled on, and were granted special licenses to go out and drive classic cars for the purposes of content and photo shoots, but by 2060 even those licenses were revoked. Without rolling photography, the magazines were forced to transport classic cars on electric trucks to shooting locations, which worked for a while… but eventually the circulation dried up as the interest in classic cars waned.
The biggest problem for the classic car industry was the youth. They simply hadn’t been brought up to own and drive cars. The generation born post 2050 would never understand the concept of the driving license, the thrill of passing a test and having the whole country available to you… This latest generation saw cars as a commodity, a necessity to get from one place to another. The concept of the road trip was an alien idea to these youngsters. If you wanted to go somewhere, you clicked a button on your smartphone and a pod arrived outside. It’d pick up your friends, drop you at your destination and charge it to your phone. No driver, no steering wheel, no problem.
The very last classic car auction took place in 2075. The auction hall was absolutely packed as more than 300 immaculate classic cars were sold, but despite 6000 people attending, all 300 cars were bought by just 4 collectors. Prices were exorbitant, even though it was unlikely that any of those cars would ever be driven again. The only bidders in the hall were the type who can spend $100million at auction like a normal person buys a pint in the pub. Seeing a ‘decommissioned’ Lamborghini Countach 25th Anniversary knowing the V12 would never fire again was sort of eerily tragic.
Now, here we are in 2089, and the landscape has changed. The roads are quiet, as autonomous cars know exactly how to navigate them effectively. The monorail, electric bus and roadways are busy, but the open roads are dead. Country lanes are overgrown, and motorways are down to 2 usable lanes thanks to nature reclaiming the landscape. Not that you can get out and enjoy the nature, the pods are auto locking above 15mph.
There are rumours that people are still making petrol, that underground car cultures are still out there, driving, late at night, in the wilds, but these may just be rumours…
I’m in my 80s now, and on quiet evenings I like to sit back in my favourite chair, close my eyes, and cast my mind back a long time, back to those days of driving a 6 cylinder BMW, roof off, foot to the floor, with the engine screaming and a big wide landscape opening up in front…