Some might even suggest "they don't make 'em like they used to", and they'd be right. Unfortunately, they also lack all the safety, comfort and convenience features we've come to expect from modern cars - and often, the performance and economy too.
The ideal solution would be to combine the style and character of classics with the best of modern technology, and this is exactly what UK green car show EcoVelocity will be demonstrating this September.
They've created what they describe as two "future perfect" vehicles based on a brace of classics - an old Volkswagen Bus (or "camper van") and a popular 1980s classic in Europe, the Ford Escort RS2000. The aim is to prove that with modern cutting-edge technology such as direct injection and stop/start, going green doesn't have to mean abandoning the cars we know and love.
EcoVelocity founder Giles Brown explains: “EcoVelocity is about real-world cars for real-world motorists and this shows that you can take cars destined for classic status and keep them running on a clear conscience".
(Author's note: As the owner of a classic Volkswagen Beetle, my conscience is clear anyway: It's sitting in pieces in my garage, making it a zero-emissions vehicle...)
The RS2000 is incredibly light by modern standards at only 1,940 pounds (not much more than a smart fortwo), but 110 horsepower and 21 miles per gallon isn't much to celebrate from a 2.0-liter engine. With Ford's new 1.6-liter Ti-VCT from the 2012 Ford Fiesta it gains variable valve timing to make as much as 120 horsepower, and in the Fiesta as much as 33mpg combined is possible. The EcoVelocity also gets stop/start technology and hybrid technology, for a further 30 percent improvement in efficiency.
The Volkswagen camper van is an all-time classic but in standard form it never offered much in the way of performance. The original flat-four made around 47 horsepower (ah, remember the days?) with a maximum speed of 72mph and only 16mpg. With Volkswagen's latest 1.6-liter, 90 horsepower TDI not only is power doubled but torque is greater too. The Bus doesn't quite have the aerodynamics of the European Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion that donated its engine, but we like to think it could get close to that car's 62mpg efficiency. With hybrid technology, it might.
Both cars would be equipped with ABS and electronic stability systems too for improved safety.
We say "would be equipped" because unfortunately, EcoVelocity hasn't actually built either car. Instead, to really push the green, low-emissions message, they're virtual concepts only. EcoVelocity insists that they could be built though - with the right budget.
For anyone interested in seeing the concepts, they'll be displayed at the EcoVelocity show at Battersea Power Station in London from September 8-11.