In the countdown to this year’s Intermarque Concours, we take a look at the show’s St Valentine’s Day theme and find out what’s in store for visitors to New Zealand’s premier classic car event
ou’re never too old to fall in love — especially if your life has been a series of promiscuous affairs with one car after another, and you’ve racked up a high mileage. It may even be that you look like the one you love — according to Austrian researchers Stefan Stiegar and Martin Voracek of the University of Vienna.
About a year ago, they discovered that many owners actually look like their cars, or, at least, their car grilles. Dogs can also look like their owner’s cars — probably very appropriate if the car is a dog!
Whether those findings are valid, you can decide for yourself in the romantic St Valentine’s Day surroundings of the 43rd Ellerslie Intermarque Concours & Classic Car Show at Ellerslie Racecourse — that’s Sunday, February 14, if you’ve forgotten the date.
Look at some of the old-timers at the show — then talk to their owners. Is there a faraway look and mysterious smile as they recall some of their misspent youth on four wheels? Was there ever going to be another love like the first, or the ones that followed, or what they cherish now?
Does this all sound a bit like someone you know — or, more likely, see in the wing mirror?
You’re not alone — around a third of car owners have a love affair with their car, according to various American surveys. Men are significantly more likely than women to have ‘romantic’ feelings for their wheels.
Many car enthusiasts are faithful to one brand — and one-eyed about it. Others may keep a few marques on the side.
Certainly, many people see their cars as extensions of themselves — although baby boomers are less likely than, say, millennials to have a pet name for their vehicle.
But do we really look like our cars? Does the owner of an Alfa, Jaguar, or Porsche look like one? Do you look like the front of your Bradford, Bentley, VW, Jeep, or Mustang?
Many studies show that most of us see cars’ fronts as being like human faces, and attribute personalities to them based on these ‘faces’. And, according to our Austrian researchers, we tend to buy cars whose grilles and headlights make them look a bit like us.
Their study, printed in the Swiss Journal of Psychology, was based on photos of 30 people and their cars. Some
160 participants were asked to choose from a range of photos of likely owners. The researchers used only cars that the owners had selected themselves, rather than received as gifts or inherited. The real owner was invariably chosen most frequently.
It’s one of many studies that show we tend to subconsciously treat our cars like people, and not just because we sometimes name them and spoil them. Research back in 2012 showed that car enthusiasts use the same part of the brain to remember cars’ looks as they do human faces.
Classic love story
That brings us back to the face of the Ellerslie show and its theme for Valentine’s Day, which is, very appropriately, ‘Love Story’.
Many of the 75 participating car clubs will interpret that to compete for the Classic Cover Insurance Best Club Display Award.
The MG Car Club, for example, will reflect the marque’s “love of speed”, while another club is rumoured to be featuring members who look like their cars — though it’s uncertain whether that includes their rear ends as well as front grilles.
Unique or outstanding cars unaffiliated to a club or not part of a club display — but which undoubtedly will still look like their owners — will feature in a new area called the ‘Paddock’. You just turn up on the day and display your own special car. Arrive early, as space opportunities are limited.
Visitors should allow the whole day to see the 800 or so classics on display along with the latest prestige and performance models from leading dealerships. There’s more loveable heavy metal here than at any other event in this part of the world.
As you probably know by now, the concours showcases the astonishing skills of our internationally acclaimed vehicle restoration industry. Some of their best work, worth multi-millions of dollars, competes at Ellerslie in our equivalent of the US’S renowned Pebble Beach competition — the