US vs. England: Magazines about Classic Car Restorations of Econo Boxes

England has at least two big thick magazines devoted to this subject. Both published once a month, Practical Classics, and Classics Monthly. Both tend to focus on widely sold popular cars on their day in Europe, 1970s-1990’s MG, Triumph, Morris Minor, VW, and Ford. Along with a few oddballs from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Maybe an occasional Jag. But most of the cars featured in these magazines were econo-boxes or borderline-econoboxes at the time. With engine displacements from 800 cc to 1600 cc. Rarely anything bigger than 2000 cc. And the restoration’s goal is pretty much to make it the same configuration as when it was new.

But here in the USA, I’m not aware of any magazines at all that focus on similar restorations of typical popular American econoboxes like 1970’s-90’s Honda Civics, Toyota Corollas, Ford Taurus’s, Nissan Sentras, cars like that. There are plenty of American car magazines about how install a 500 HP motor into a 1970’s Chevy Chevelle to make it a rocket. But not how to restore it to the modest car it was.

Any theories why there’s this difference in interest between the USA and England? I can’t figure it out.

“But here in the USA, I’m not aware of any magazines at all that focus on similar restorations of typical popular American econoboxes like 1970’s-90’s Honda Civics, Toyota Corollas, Ford Taurus’s, Nissan Sentras, cars like that.”


There’s a billion magazines sold about hopping up Civics. SR20DE/DET Sentras have a huge following, too. I suppose that culture is all about modification, not stock restoration, and "making sure the appropriate period-correct hose clamps are used…"

If I had to guess, I think it’s because Asian cars strike many as somewhat soulless in stock form, and seem to require some mods to not feel “generic.”

Gasoline is too expensive there to waste, so econoboxes rule.

“Gasoline is too expensive there to waste…so econoboxes rule.”

That’s the exact reason right there.

I see a lot of fun brands on the English list, like MG, Triumph, and English Ford. They weren’t quick, but were fun to drive. The Morris (Austin) Mini and tiny hatchbacks emulating them were a a lot of fun. I had a 1970 Austin America with an auto transmission and all of 60 BHP. It was slow, but incredibly fun to drive. Fast corners were a real adventure, especially for the passengers in the back seat. As long as the front end stayed planted to the road and I didn’t lift my foot off the accelerator, I didn’t care where the back end went. I just pulled it along and it eventually ended up where it belonged.

The driving environment in England is very, very different than the driving environment in the U.S. Travel distances are much shorter (the whole country is just over 200 miles wide), the streets in towns are really narrow, often barely wide enough for two subcompacts to pass each other, and the parking spaces tiny. Many bridges are one lane wide. Tiny cars and old classics work well there. Everything is in miniature. In the U.S. much of our driving is done at 75mph. Not so much in England.

I love England. If for some reason I chose to move to another country, that’s the one I’d go for.

Personally, I like most of those downsized Euro cars. Given a warehouse and enough cash I’d own a few hundred assorted makes and models; much to my better half’s chagrin.

Many years ago I was going to move to Australia for a gig as an aircraft mechanic. There was a sponsor family lined up to house me and acclimate me to things until I got settled in and on my own.

Unfortunately, this family had a cute blonde daughter who was apparently wanting to marry a Yank. She sent me a letter telling me about herself and a follow-up letter with a picture and hints about a not very far off in the future wedding.

My feet got ice cold very quickly because a wife after 10 minutes of courtship was not on the agenda. A week after the letter with the picture arrived I was in a car wreck and tore my right knee up pretty badly so that accident was likely a godsend…

I do love the Aussie cars though.

I too like the downsized Euro cars better than our bloated American cars.
Sorry about your knee, but it’s a good thing the lady tipped her hand before you left for the trip.

Of the cars that you listed, several are basically unrestorable – get a 1984 Honda Civic with a boatload of rust, which they all have unless they lived somewhere like Arizona their whole life – and you could almost buy a Maserati for what the body work will cost you.

The other cars, like the Taurus, are so common that restoring them isn’t worth it. If my '95 Taurus is crapped out, it’s cheaper for me to go buy someone else’s Taurus than restore mine.

We just haven’t looked back far enough. The Brit cars being restored are the very cars those owners grew up riding in with their parents. The love of that econo-car was formed in their youth. Given the state of post WWII Britain’s economy in the 50’s and 60’s, those cars were proud symbols of success.

Our version of that is the restoration of Ford Model T’s and A’s that was very popular in the 60’s and 70’s. These cars were the prized possessions of those affected by the Great Depression.

20 years ago the popular cars were Chevelles, Nova’s or Mustangs. All the econo-cars of the 60’s and early 70’s but with the BIG motors that appeared in the fast versions of those cars in the high-flying economy of the 60’s. Fast forward to today.

The cars of today’s middle class youth were minivans or small Japanese econo-cars. Both were uninspiring and throw-away to an affluent youth. In today’s world, they are VERY low powered cars by today’s standards so the kids spends piles of cash to throw on turbos and add big motors because the cars they grew up in has no sentiment because they had little value in a disposable world. Just one man’s opinion.

“I love England. If for some reason I chose to move to another country, that’s the one I’d go for.”

Jabut, you can’t hunt there anymore unless its with a sling shot.

Another story. My wife and I were driving from London to the north country to visit our son and we were having some trouble getting used to the right hand drive and left lane driving. I pulled into a rest area with a gravel approach and a large truck (jerri) was coming at us. I was of course in the far left lane to give him room, but as the truck approached my wife screamed that I was in the wrong lane. I of course ignored her and we all passed each other without incident. I dunno, England takes some getting used to and I was happy to get back to Minnesota.

Not funny though, more than one person has been hit by looking the wrong way for traffic after experiencing the English culture.

more than one person has been hit by looking the wrong way for traffic after experiencing the English culture

That’s why they spoil the city streets with “Look Left” painted on the street at crosswalks. Too many non-right-hand-drive cultures trained from birth to Look Right before crossing stepping into traffic.

I’m not up to date on the current UK automobile tax but in the 60s I recall that an incremental annual tax on displacement took a great leap at 2,000 CCs and was astronomical above 3,000 so the luxury cars were never marketed at bargain prices to the working class when their luster was rubbed off. Taxes were somewhat similar all over Europe and also Japan.

Interesting discussion. So it’s the higher price of gasoline and the reduced speed limit and driving distances in England that makes stock restores of 30 year old econo-boxes more appealing there? Now that I think about it, that makes a lot of sense.

About the only magazine I’ve found published in the USA about the subject is “Hot VW’s” which covers 50’s - 70’s air-cooled VW restores, a lot of them stock or nearly stock. I suppose if there were lots of enthusiasts here in America that wanted to do stock restores of 1978 Civics and Corollas and Sentra, there’d be a magazine on the stands to cater to them. Paying customers is paying customers after all. Since there isn’t, you all must be spot on. Thanks for the comments.

Bing, I don’t hunt anyway. :smile:

Driving on the left is not too difficult until you make a left turn in a rush and fall back on the instinct to bear to the right. I drove several times in Japan and for a week in the USVI and it requires constantly thinking of which way to go.

And classic British cars are great toys these days… As ever.

The first day I was in New Zealand on holiday, I had to drive from the Auckland airport to the motel, about 20 miles of city & expressway driving. It was very difficult and a super-unpleasant experience. The next day I decided to have another go, this time just driving slow in neighborhoods, and eventually got the hang of it.

I have to tell you I like driving and don’t get flustered much but man oh man doing a London multi-lane round about nearly did me in. When I finally got to the hotel and parked, I never wanted to get back in that car again.

lol … understand completely …

@“Rod Knox”, I found that left turns were easy when I was in Japan. Right turns were more difficult for me. Turning left, I had no problem hugging the corner. But turning right I had more difficulty staying left when crossing the intersection. For the most part, driving on the left was easy, though. Of course, the maximum speed was 60 KPH, and there is a lot of time to correct errors at low speeds.