When I’m not driving new cars for work, I’m playing with old cars for fun. As a result, I get a lot of requests from people who send me their old family photos, asking if I can identify the cars in them.
(And if you’re someone who complains that all new cars look alike, have a crack at differentiating a 1913 Overland from a 1916 Reo in a faded old photo!)
For most people, these pictures of ancestors with their rides are among the most highly-prized in the family album. They firmly set a moment in time—this was taken when Dad owned that old Chrysler, for example, or Uncle Frank bought that new truck—and show the pride of ownership people had in these large-ticket items. It’s even better when the person asking me is in the photo, as a small child, leaning against a fender or sitting on a running board.
And yet, most of them were just everyday transportation, bought new or used but fairly current, and not a lot different from all the other vehicles on the road. It’s that personal family touch, that link to the past, that makes them special.
No matter what you’re driving, whether it’s brand-new or a dozen years old, whether it’s a Porsche or a Pontiac, whether it’s a truck, SUV, sports car or minivan, take it out, park it in a nice spot, and take some pictures of it. Get shots of the family standing beside it—yes, the dog, too. Get the whole car in the picture.
Don’t just save it on your phone or in the cloud, because no one knows how long that will last. It’s almost impossible to crack the info on a floppy disc from the 1990s today, but you can still see and touch a photo printed during the Civil War. Take the photo to a camera shop or online service, and get it printed on real photo paper. Write all the information on the back: the date and place it was taken, everyone’s name, and the year, make and model of the car.
Then, like fine wine, put it in a safe place and let it age. You may not think anything of it right now, but in time—maybe a generation, maybe several generations—someone is going to look at it and think what a cool old car you had, and maybe see themselves, or an aunt, or a great-grandfather leaning against the fender. It may be just an everyday driver to you right now, but to them, it’ll be something truly special.